Cryptography and SSL/TLS Toolkit

OpenSSL documentation policy

This document describes the code documentation and commenting requirements for the OpenSSL project.

The project’s documentation is all about making the libraries and tools more accessible to our users and making the code more maintainable. This policy applies to new submissions, existing code is below par and will be gradually improved.

Chapter 1: Command line commands and arguments

All new or modified arguments to the commands must be documented in the doc/man1 directory. This documentation is in POD format.

All new commands must be documented in the doc/man1 directory. This documentation is in POD format.

Chapter 2: Public symbols in the libraries

All new public symbols must be documented in a POD manual page in the doc/man3 directory. This includes both macros and functions.

The allowed exceptions are:

  • guard macros preventing a header file being included twice
  • new symbols generated automatically via make update (errors, objects, etc)

Chapter 3: Overviews, conventions, et al

Where additional user facing information is required, it should be included in the doc/man7 section. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • descriptions of data structures and their usage
  • provider calls and call backs
  • algorithm descriptions and parameters
  • descriptions of architectural decisions

Chapter 4: Internal functions, structures, globals and macros

Internal functions and macros are those defined in the include/crypto and include/internal directories.

These should all be documented at the point of implementation. A comment describing their purpose and the input and output arguments and return value for functions suffices.

For trivial items, where their operation is obvious from their implementation, the documentation requirement is not mandated. The following are generally representative of trivial items, however it is quite possible for any of these to be non-trivial in specific instances and therefore require documentation:

  • OSSL_DISPATCH tables
  • upref functions
  • free functions
  • simple getter/setter functions
  • wrappers for other functions (a function that calls a more recent _ex variant or a group of functions that call a common internal routine)

For structures, each of the fields should be commented stating its purpose. Again, a trivial exception applies where the purpose is obvious. Some representative examples:

  • OSSL_LIB_CTX *ctx; where there is only one library context referenced in the structure.
  • struct *next; in a linked list implementation.
  • CRYPTO_REF_COUNT refcnt;

Chapter 5: Static functions and globals and local structures and macros

These are functions, structures, globals and macros local to a specific C file or defined for a single directory as part of a local .h file.

These should all be documented at the point of implementation. Follow the rules and exceptions listed above. In some cases slightly more leniency with respect to trivial can be tolerated.

Chapter 6: Code comments

Comments in code should explain what the algorithm is doing and why. It should not parrot the effect of each statement. As the complexity of the code increases, the size and detail of comments should also increase.

Chapter 7: Assembly code

Assembly code should include a good description of the algorithm and approach being used. This should be followed by a performance comparison and then the assembly code itself. The assembly code should be well commented, but it isn’t necessary to comment every line. A comment describing each block of code suffices.

There are no trivial exceptions for assembly code.

Chapter 8: Configure options

New options added to the configuration scripts must be documented in the file.

Chapter 9: Changes and news

Significant modifications should be documented in the CHANGES file.

Very significant features and changes should be documented in the NEWS file.

In both cases, the added note should be short and to the point.

Chapter 10: Automated sanity checking

The make doc-nits command should be run before submitting a pull request and any problems it locates must be addressed.

Chapter 11: Language

The language used for documentation shall be British English. In general the language, abbreviations, layout and formatting should also correspond to the LDP guidelines.

Chapter 12: Common sense

Comments in the code are to improve readability and comprehension. Where the code is obvious, there is no need to include a comment. However, common sense applies. Always err in favour of including more comments than less or none. Code that you’ve just written that is obvious will not necessarily be to someone else two years later.