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Display Custom Documentation

Overview

If you create a toolbox that works with MathWorks® products, even if it only contains a few functions, you can include custom documentation in the form of HTML help files. Custom documentation for your toolbox can include figures, diagrams, screen captures, equations, and formatting to make your toolbox help more usable.

To display properly, your custom documentation must contain these files:

  • HTML help files — These files contain your custom documentation information.

  • info.xml file — This file enables MATLAB® to find and identify your HTML help files.

  • helptoc.xml file — This file contain the Table of Contents for your documentation that displays in the Contents pane of the Help browser. This file must be stored in the folder that contains your HTML help files.

  • Search database (optional) — These files enable searching in your HTML help files.

To view your custom documentation, open the Help browser and navigate to the home page. At the bottom right of the home page, under Supplemental Software, click the name of your toolbox. Your help opens in the current window.

Create HTML Help Files

You can create HTML help files in any text editor or web publishing software. To create help files in MATLAB, use either of these two methods:

Store all your HTML help files in one folder, such as an html subfolder in your toolbox folder. This folder must be:

  • On the MATLAB search path

  • Outside the matlabroot folder

  • Outside any installed hardware support package help folder

Documentation sets often contain:

  • A roadmap page (that is, an initial landing page for the documentation)

  • Examples and topics that explain how to use the toolbox

  • Function or block reference pages

Create info.xml File

The info.xml file describes your custom documentation, including the name to display for your documentation. It also identifies where to find your HTML help files and the helptoc.xml file. Create a file named info.xml for each toolbox you document.

To create info.xml to describe your toolbox, you can adapt this template:

<productinfo xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" 
    xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="optional">
    <?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl"href="optional"?>
     
    <matlabrelease>R2016b</matlabrelease>
    <name>MyToolbox</name>
    <type>toolbox</type>
    <icon></icon>
    <help_location>html</help_location>
  
</productinfo>
You can also create info.xml by using the template info_template.xml included with the MATLAB documentation. To create and edit a copy of the template file in your current folder, run this code in the command window:
copyfile(fullfile(matlabroot,'help','techdoc','matlab_env',...
'examples','templates','info_template.xml'),pwd)
fileattrib('info_template.xml','+w')
edit('info_template.xml')

The following table describes the required elements of the info.xml file.

XML TagDescriptionValue in TemplateNotes
<matlabrelease>Release of MATLABR2016bIndicates when you added help files. Not displayed in the browser.
<name>Title of toolboxMyToolboxThe name to display for your custom documentation in the browser Contents pane.
<type>Label for the toolboxtoolboxAllowable values: matlab, toolbox, simulink, blockset, links_targets, other.
<icon>Icon for the Start button (not used)noneNo longer used, but the <icon> element is still required for MATLAB to parse the info.xml file.
<help_location>Location of help fileshtmlName of the subfolder containing helptoc.xml and the HTML help files for your toolbox. If the help location is not a subfolder of the the info.xml file location, specify the path to help_location relative to the info.xml file. If you provide HTML help files for multiple toolboxes, the help_location in each info.xml file must be a different folder.
<help_contents_icon>Icon to display in Contents panenoneIgnored in MATLAB R2015a and later. Does not cause error if it appears in the info.xml file, but is not required.

You also can include comments in your info.xml file, such as copyright and contact information. Create comments by enclosing the text on a line between <!-- and -->.

When you create the info.xml file, make sure that:

  • You include all required elements.

  • The entries are in the same order as in the preceding table.

  • File and folder names in the XML exactly match the names of your files and folders and are capitalized identically.

  • The info.xml file is in a folder on the MATLAB search path.

      Note:   MATLAB parses the info.xml file and displays your documentation when you add the folder that contains info.xml to the path. If you created an info.xml file in a folder already on the path, remove the folder from the path. Then add the folder again, so that MATLAB parses the file. Make sure that the folder you are adding is not your current folder.

Create helptoc.xml File

The helptoc.xml file defines the hierarchy of help files displayed in the Contents pane of the Supplemental Software browser.

You can create a helptoc.xml file by using the template included with the MATLAB documentation. To create and edit a copy of the template file helptoc_template.xml in your current folder, run this code in the Command Window:

copyfile(fullfile(matlabroot,'help','techdoc','matlab_env',...
'examples','templates','helptoc_template.xml'),pwd)
fileattrib('helptoc_template.xml','+w')
edit('helptoc_template.xml')

Place the helptoc.xml file in the folder that contains your HTML documentation files. This folder must be referenced as the <help_location> in your info.xml file.

Each <tocitem> entry in the helptoc.xml file references one of your HTML help files. The first <tocitem> entry in the helptoc.xml file serves as the initial landing page for your documentation.

Within the top-level <toc> element, the nested <tocitem> elements define the structure of your table of contents. Each <tocitem> element has a target attribute that provides the file name. File and path names are case-sensitive.

If your HTML pages include anchor elements, you can refer to an anchor in the target attribute of a <tocitem> element. In HTML files, anchors are of the form <a name="anchorid">Any content</a>. In the helptoc.xml file, you can create a link to that anchor using a pound sign (#), such as

<tocitem target="mypage.html#anchorid">Descripive text</tocitem>

When you create the helptoc.xml file, make sure that:

  • The location of the helptoc.xml files is listed as the <help_location> in your info.xml file.

  • All file and path names exactly match the names of the files and folders, including capitalization.

  • All path names use URL file path separators (/). Windows style file path separators (\) can cause the table of contents to display incorrectly. For example, if you have an HTML help page firstfx.html located in a subfolder called refpages within the main documentation folder, the <tocitem> target attribute value for that page would be refpages/firstfx.html.

Example helptoc.xml File

Suppose that you have created the following HTML files:

  • A roadmap or starting page for your toolbox, mytoolbox.html.

  • A page that lists your functions, funclist.html.

  • Three function reference pages: firstfx.html, secondfx.html, and thirdfx.html.

  • An example, myexample.html.

Include file names and descriptions in a helptoc.xml file as follows:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding="utf-8"?>
<toc version="2.0">

    <tocitem target="mytoolbox.html">My Toolbox
        <tocitem target="funclist.html">Functions 
            <tocitem target="firstfx.html">first</tocitem>
            <tocitem target="secondfx.html">second</tocitem>
            <tocitem target="thirdfx.html">third</tocitem>
        </tocitem>
        <tocitem target="myexample.html">My Example
        </tocitem>
    </tocitem>

</toc>

This helptoc.xml file, paired with a properly formulated info.xml file, produced this display in the Help browser.

Build a Search Database

To make your documentation searchable, create a search database, also referred to as a search index, using the builddocsearchdb command. When using this command, specify the complete path to the folder that contains your HTML files.

For example, suppose that your HTML files are in C:\MATLAB\MyToolbox\html. This command creates a searchable database for those files:

builddocsearchdb('C:\MATLAB\MyToolbox\html')

builddocsearchdb creates a subfolder of C:\MATLAB\MyToolbox\html named helpsearch-v3, which contains the database files.

You can search for terms in your toolbox from the Search Documentation field in the Help browser.

Beginning with MATLAB R2014b, you can maintain search indexes side by side. For instance, if you already have a search index for MATLAB R2014a or earlier, run builddocsearchdb against your help files using MATLAB R2014b. Then, when you run any MATLAB release, the help browser automatically uses the appropriate index for searching your documentation database.

Address Validation Errors for info.xml Files

What Are XML Validation Errors?

When MATLAB finds an info.xml file on the search path or in the current folder, it automatically validates the file against the supported schema. If there is an invalid construct in the info.xml file, MATLAB displays an error in the Command Window. The error is typically of the form:

Warning: File <yourxmlfile.xml> did not validate.
...

An info.xml validation error can occur when you start MATLAB or add folders to the search path.

The primary causes of an XML file validation error are:

  • Entities are missing or out of order in the info.xml file.

  • An unrelated info.xml file exists.

  • Syntax errors in the info.xml file.

  • MATLAB is trying to access an outdated info.xml file for a MathWorks product.

Entities Missing or Out of Order in info.xml

If you do not list required XML elements in the prescribed order, you receive an XML validation error:

Often, errors result from incorrect ordering of XML tags. Correct the error by updating
the info.xml file contents to follow the guidelines in the MATLAB help documentation.
For a description of the elements you need in an info.xml file and their required ordering, see Create info.xml File.

Unrelated info.xml File

Suppose that you have a file named info.xml that has nothing to do with custom documentation. Because this info.xml file is an unrelated file, if it causes an error, you can safely ignore it. To prevent the error message from reoccurring, rename the unrelated info.xml file. Alternatively, ensure that the file is not on the search path or in the current folder.

Syntax Errors in the info.xml File.

Use the error message to isolate the problem or use any XML schema validator. For more information about the structure of the info.xml file, consult its schema at matlabroot/sys/namespace/info/v1/info.xsd.

Outdated info.xml File for a MathWorks Product

If you have an info.xml file from a different version of MATLAB, that file could contain constructs that are not valid with your version. To identify an info.xml file from another version, look at the full path names reported in the error message. The path usually includes a version number, for example, ...\MATLAB\R14\.... In this situation, the error is not actually causing any problems, so you can safely ignore the error message. To ensure that the error does not reoccur, remove the offending info.xml file. Alternatively, remove the outdated info.xml file from the search path and out of the current folder.

Related Examples

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