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python-peps / pep-0233.txt

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PEP: 233
Title: Python Online Help
Version: $Revision$
Last-Modified: $Date$
Author: paul@prescod.net (Paul Prescod)
Status: Deferred
Type: Standards Track
Created: 11-Dec-2000
Python-Version: 2.1
Post-History:


Abstract

    This PEP describes a command-line driven online help facility for
    Python.  The facility should be able to build on existing
    documentation facilities such as the Python documentation and
    docstrings.  It should also be extensible for new types and
    modules.


Interactive use:

    Simply typing "help" describes the help function (through repr()
    overloading).

    "help" can also be used as a function:

    The function takes the following forms of input:

        help( "string" ) -- built-in topic or global
        help( <ob> ) -- docstring from object or type
        help( "doc:filename" ) -- filename from Python documentation

    If you ask for a global, it can be a fully-qualified name such as
    help("xml.dom").

    You can also use the facility from a command-line

    python --help if

    In either situation, the output does paging similar to the "more"
    command.


Implementation

    The help function is implemented in an onlinehelp module which is
    demand-loaded.

    There should be options for fetching help information from
    environments other than the command line through the onlinehelp
    module:

        onlinehelp.gethelp(object_or_string) -> string

    It should also be possible to override the help display function
    by assigning to onlinehelp.displayhelp(object_or_string).

    The module should be able to extract module information from
    either the HTML or LaTeX versions of the Python documentation.
    Links should be accommodated in a "lynx-like" manner.

    Over time, it should also be able to recognize when docstrings are
    in "special" syntaxes like structured text, HTML and LaTeX and
    decode them appropriately.

    A prototype implementation is available with the Python source
    distribution as nondist/sandbox/doctools/onlinehelp.py.


Built-in Topics

    help( "intro" )  - What is Python? Read this first!
    help( "keywords" )  - What are the keywords?
    help( "syntax" )  - What is the overall syntax?
    help( "operators" )  - What operators are available?
    help( "builtins" )  - What functions, types, etc. are built-in?
    help( "modules" )  - What modules are in the standard library?
    help( "copyright" )  - Who owns Python?
    help( "moreinfo" )  - Where is there more information?
    help( "changes" )  - What changed in Python 2.0?
    help( "extensions" )  - What extensions are installed?
    help( "faq" )  - What questions are frequently asked?
    help( "ack" )  - Who has done work on Python lately?


Security Issues

    This module will attempt to import modules with the same names as
    requested topics.  Don't use the modules if you are not confident
    that everything in your PYTHONPATH is from a trusted source.



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