Tricks for generating pretty and maintainable Documentation

This week I invested some time adding documentation support for DMN files. Soon, Business Central users will be able to generate documentation describing every detail about their DMN files.

Documentation feature demo

Luckily, I noticed that Business Central had a similar feature for BPMN files. Thus I could just re-use part of the code :-)

When I thought about this documentation feature for the first time, I planned a different approach - more server-side guided. However, the current implementation is client-side full, and it works so well that I changed my mind.

The flow is super simple. When users want to see the documentation, we:

  1. Get the Diagram
  2. Process the Diagram to create the Diagram Document Model
  3. Render the Diagram Document Model into a Mustache template
  4. Open a new window in the browser
  5. Replace the window.document.body with the Mustache template
  6. And, finally, we window.print() it!

I enjoyed this strategy to print documents. With this we don’t need to hide DOM elements from our printable page; we can use CSS to customize the report; and the use of Mustache leave the door open for an eventual future refactoring, that can move the logic to a server-side service.

Finally, I’d like to mention another exciting thing I learned. There’s a world of some “unknown” CSS properties for paged media (print), like page-break-before, orphan, and window. It’s a good thing to explore.

Well, I hope you can eventually re-use some of these tips in your project :-)

Wanna talk about this post? @ me on Twitter :-)