A documentation language should be designed not by piling escape conventions on top of a comment syntax, but by removing the weaknesses and restrictions of the programming language that make a separate documentation language appear necessary. Scribble demonstrates that a small number of rules for forming documentation, with no restrictions on how they are composed, suffice to form a practical and efficient documentation language that is flexible enough to support the major documentation paradigms in use today.
– Clinger’s introduction to the RnRS standards, adapted for Scribble
Our design for Scribble relies on a thread of language-extension work that starts in Lisp macros, runs through Scheme’s introduction of lexically scoped syntax, and continues with PLT Scheme innovations on modules, phases, and an open syntax expander. Meanwhile, LaTeX and Skribe demonstrate the advantages of building a document system on top of a programming language, and tools like JavaDoc demonstrate the power of leveraging the information available in a program’s source to automate and link documentation about the program.
Scribble combines all of these threads for the first time, producing a tool (or library, or language, depending on how you look at it) that spans and integrates document categories. We are aware of no programming system besides PLT Scheme that is distributed with tutorials, programmer guides, and detailed API documentation, all extensively and precisely cross-referenced. We also know of no other system that makes it so easy for third parties to add new documentation of all kinds with the same level of integration, to say nothing of being able to extend the documentation system itself.