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Building Docs for Appium Extensions

Once you've built a driver or built a plugin for Appium, you will hopefully want to document how that extension works for your users. The most basic way of doing this is to write up a quick and keep it in the root of your project's repository. However, this can involve a lot of duplication of effort, especially when documenting things like Appium commands.

Let's say your driver implements ~25 of the standard WebDriver protocol commands. You could write up a description of these commands, how they map to the protocol, what parameters they take, and what behaviour will result on your particular platform. But this information is already more or less stored in your code, as the command implementation (and any docstrings or comments). Having this information in two places creates an opportunity for the docs to get out of sync with the reality of the code. Wouldn't it be nice to generate command reference documentation straight from the code?

Another problem with the basic single file approach is that many extensions might want a whole set of documents including longer prose guides (like this one). It might be nice to have code examples where you can toggle between different programming languages. It might be nice to be able to add a project-specific logo. And so on.

The Appium project has built tools to do all these things, and we've packaged up these tools so our ecosystem developers building drivers and plugins can also use them. The best way to get going with these tools is probably to look at an existing Appium driver repo to see how it's done, for example the XCUITest driver repo. But this guide will outline the basic approach.

Conceptual architecture

Appium settled on MkDocs as a Markdown-based documentation site generator. It uses a Python toolchain (and not Node.js), but it turned out to be the best option for our purposes. You can adjust this, but by default Appium's utilities also assume that you'll be using the mkdocs-material theme/extension for MkDocs.

From here, building a basic docs site is as easy as collecting your Markdown files together and creating a sort of manifest file defining how you want them to be organized.

The other main piece is automatic documentation generation from your code files. Appium maintains a plugin for TypeDoc. This plugin is incorporated into our doc utility. When you give it an entrypoint for you driver or plugin, it will scan and parse all your code files looking for Appium command implementations. A set of Markdown reference files will be generated for these commands, which will then be included in your docs site.

Note: Implementing an extension in TypeScript is not a requirement for generating documentation, but for automated doc generation to work, you will need to apply TypeScript-supported JSDoc-style docstrings to your JS codebase. See "JS Projects Utilizing TypeScript" for more information.

In order to make different versions of your docs available (one for each minor release of your extension, typically), we also bundle Mike.


To take advantage of Appium's documentation utilities, you'll need to install:

  • Python v3+
  • pip (this may be installed automatically with Python)
  • The @appium/docutils package:

    npm install --save-dev @appium/docutils

Initializing an Extension for Building Docs

To prepare your extension for generating documentation, run the following command:

npx appium-docs init --entry-point <my-entry-point.js>

...where <my-entry-point.js> is the source entry point to your extension. If you are not transpiling your code via TypeScript, Babel, etc., this is typically the same as the value of the main property in package.json. If you are transpiling, this is typically different. For example, your main property may be dist/index.js, but your source entry point is src/index.ts.

This will:

  1. Create a tsconfig.json if one does not already exist. This is necessary even if your extension is not written in TypeScript.
  2. Create a typedoc.json with the necessary configuration for TypeDoc.
  3. Create a mkdocs.yml with the necessary configuration for MkDocs.
  4. Modify your package.json to add a typedoc.entryPoint property with a value of your entry point (as specified above).

Documenting Your Extension

At this point, you can begin documenting your extension. You don't need to do this all at once, but you should make the following changes, at minimum.

newMethodMap and executeMethodMap

The static properties newMethodMap and executeMethodMap may be present on your extension's main class. If they are not, then you can skip to the next section. If they are, you will need to make the following changes, depending on your extension's language.

// note: this is equivalent to the TypeScript example below

class MyExtension {
  static newMethodMap = /** @type {const} */({
    // ...

  static executeMethodMap = /** @type {const} */({
    // ...
class MyExtension {
  static newMethodMap = {
    // ...
  } as const;

  static executeMethodMap = {
    // ...
  } as const;

Driver Constraints

Note: Plugin authors can skip this section.

Your driver may have a property desiredCapConstraints. It should also follow the same pattern as newMethodMap and executeMethodMap above. For example:

class MyExtension {
  desiredCapConstraints = /** @type {const} */({
    myCapability: {
      presence: true,
      isString: true
    myOtherCap: {
      isBoolean: true

(For extensions written in TypeScript, use as const as before.)


The documentation for a command, as defined in your extension, comes from multiple places. These sources are then combined as needed into the final output.

In Appium, new commands are defined in newMethodMap and execute methods are defined in executeMethodMap. The value of these properties are used to build your documentation. In particular, parameter names and optional/required status override whatever method implementation does. So for example, if your newMethodMap contains:

class MyExtension {
  static newMethodMap = /** @type {const} */({
    '/session/:sessionId/myThing': {
       * Does my thing
      GET: {command: 'doMyThing', payloadParams: {required: ['a', 'b']}},    

...and your doMyThing method implementation looks like this:

class MyExtension {
   * Doesn't do my thing
   * @param {any} a - Whatever
   * @param {number} d - Some number
   * @param {boolean} c - Some boolean
   * @returns {Promise<boolean>} Some other boolean
  async doMyThing(a, d = 1, c = false) {
    // ...
    return true;

The documentation will show that the doMyThing method accepts required parameters a and b. Even though b is named d in the implementation--and it's optional--it will be ignored. Likewise, since the definition in newMethodMap knows nothing about c, it too is ignored.

In addition, the description from the docstring in newMethodMap overrides the description in the method implementation; it will describe the command doMyThing as "Does my thing".

The @param tags and @returns tag from the method's docstring provide information about the expected and returned types, as well as a description of each. This is not expressible via newMethodMap and executeMethodMap alone; it provides more information for your extension's users.

Note for TypeScript users: while the types will already be present, providing @param and @returns tags is still useful for providing descriptions.

All commands must be async, so they will return Promise<T> where type T is the type of whatever the Promise fulfills with. In the generated documentation, the Promise is ignored, and only T is reported. So for doMyThing, the return type of the command, as output in the documentation, will be boolean.

This is because while extensions must be written in JavaScript, we're documenting an API which can be called from any language; that language likely won't have a concept of a Promise. Likewise, undefined or void types will be output as null (since that is a concept that translates well to multiple languages).


If you have a, it will be pulled in to the generated docs site automatically. This behavior can be disabled by adding the following to typedoc.json:

  "readme": "none"

Next Steps

Appium provides type definitions for extension authors; these are available via Appium itself and the @appium/types package.

Of note, drivers should both extend BaseDriver and implement the ExternalDriver interface exported by @appium/types. This will help ensure that your driver's implementation is correct and usable by different clients.

You're encouraged to look at the official test/example extensions, @appium/fake-driver and @appium/fake-plugin for canonical examples of how to use these types.


How to type more complex return values or parameters is beyond the scope of this document. For more information, see:

Likewise, refer to the MkDocs documentation for further information on how to customize your MkDocs output.


At this point, you can use the appium-docs CLI tool. Run this tool with no arguments to get the full help output and see all the available subcommands and parameters. Here are a few usage examples:

# Generate reference and build the mkdocs site into the site dir
npx appium-docs build

# Same as build, but host the docs on a local dev server
# and watch for changes and rebuild when files change
npx appium-docs build --serve

# Build the docs and deploy them with mike versioning to the docs-site branch
# using the included commit message and rebase strategy on the branch.
# This is particularly useful for pushing content to a GitHub pages branch!
npx appium-docs build \
  --deploy \
  -b docs-site \
  -m 'docs: auto-build docs for appium-xcuitest-driver@%s' \