5.1 Introduction to documentation work

Our documentation tries to adhere to our Documentation policy. This policy contains a few items which may seem odd. One policy in particular is often questioned by potential contributors: we do not repeat material in the Notation Reference, and instead provide links to the “definitive” presentation of that information. Some people point out, with good reason, that this makes the documentation harder to read. If we repeated certain information in relevant places, readers would be less likely to miss that information.

That reasoning is sound, but we have two counter-arguments. First, the Notation Reference – one of five manuals for users to read – is already over 500 pages long. If we repeated material, we could easily exceed 1000 pages! Second, and much more importantly, LilyPond is an evolving project. New features are added, bugs are fixed, and bugs are discovered and documented. If features are discussed in multiple places, the documentation team must find every instance. Since the manual is so large, it is impossible for one person to have the location of every piece of information memorized, so any attempt to update the documentation will invariably omit a few places. This second concern is not at all theoretical; the documentation used to be plagued with inconsistent information.

If the documentation were targeted for a specific version – say, LilyPond 2.10.5 – and we had unlimited resources to spend on documentation, then we could avoid this second problem. But since LilyPond evolves (and that is a very good thing!), and since we have quite limited resources, this policy remains in place.

A few other policies (such as not permitting the use of tweaks in the main portion of NR 1+2) may also seem counter-intuitive, but they also stem from attempting to find the most effective use of limited documentation help.

Before undertaking any large documentation work, contributors are encouraged to contact the lilypond-devel mailing list.

LilyPond Contributor’s Guide v2.25.18 (development-branch).