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Automatically generating README files with jsx-readme

the_startup_cto profile image Daniel Bartholomae Originally published at startup-cto.net on ・2 min read

It's the first thing that greets you when you look at an npm package, be it on npm itself or in the source on GitHub: The README.md file. But if you are like me, then writing documentation never was your strong suite - let alone maintaining and updating it.

What if, instead of having to update the README file manually whenever your code changes, the README could just stay up-to-date auto-magically? What if instead of having to remember which badges you need to add, this would all be done for you?

Introducing jsx-readme

Here's an example of using jsx-readme:

// We need to tell the JSX transpiler that in this file,
// instead of React we use the custom createElement and Fragment
// functions from jsx-readme
/* @jsx MD */
/* @jsxFrag Fragment */
import type { Component } from "jsx-readme";
import MD, {
  BadgesFromPkg,
  CodecovBadge,
  DescriptionFromPkg,
  ExamplesFromPkg,
  Fragment,
  GithubWorkflowBadge,
  HomepageFromPkg,
  renderToFile,
  TitleFromPkg,
} from "jsx-readme";
import { Heading, InlineCode, LineBreak } from "jsx-md";
import pkg from "./package.json";

const Readme: Component = () => (
  <Fragment>
    {/* Create a header with title, badges and description inferred from package.json */}
    <TitleFromPkg pkg={pkg} />
    <BadgesFromPkg pkg={pkg} />
    {/* Add additional badges. */}
    <CodecovBadge pkg={pkg} />
    <GithubWorkflowBadge pkg={pkg} workflowName="Build and deploy" />
    <LineBreak />
    <DescriptionFromPkg pkg={pkg} />
    {/* You can use the components from jsx-md to build custom markdown. */}
    <Heading level={2}>Installation</Heading>
    Add <InlineCode>jsx-readme</InlineCode> to your{" "}
    <InlineCode>devDependencies</InlineCode> and install it. I recommend using
    it with <InlineCode>ts-node</InlineCode>. Then all you need to do is add a
    file like in the example below and run it via{" "}
    <InlineCode>ts-node</InlineCode> whenever you want to create a new version
    of the <InlineCode>README</InlineCode>.
    <LineBreak />
    <LineBreak />
    {/* Create an example section based on all files from the example directory set up in package.json */}
    <ExamplesFromPkg pkg={pkg} />
    {/* Create a section linking to the homepage from package.json */}
    <HomepageFromPkg pkg={pkg} />
  </Fragment>
);

void renderToFile("./README.md", <Readme />);

As you can see, jsx-readme uses a React-like JSX syntax to define Markdown. It is built on top of jsx-md which you can also use independently, or together with jsx-readme, depending on your needs.

Since JSX is basically JavaScript, we can do in this file whatever we want. In this simple case we just import the local package.json file to read from it, but why not e. g. query the GitHub API to figure out who contributed and then adding them to your Readme?

And since it is just a TypeScript file, you can simply run it via e. g. ts-node instead of having to learn yet another CLI tool.

So what does it look like?

The best way to understand the result of the script above is to just look at the package itself - jsx-readme uses it to create its own README.

Posted on by:

the_startup_cto profile

Daniel Bartholomae

@the_startup_cto

Daniel Bartholomae is a Berlin based founder, manager and developer. He has a faible for technology, data and self management.

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