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Testable docstrings

TensorFlow uses DocTest to test the Python docstrings. The snippet in the docstring has to be executable Python code. To enable testing, use the >>> (carets) in front of the code so that doctest can recognize it as a test and execute it. For example,

def concat():
  """Docstring for concat.

  Example usage:

  >>> t1 = [[[1, 2], [2, 3]], [[4, 4], [5, 3]]]
  >>> t2 = [[[7, 4], [8, 4]], [[2,10], [15, 11]]]
  >>> concat([t1, t2], -1)
  <tf.Tensor: id=..., shape=(2, 2, 4), dtype=int32, numpy= array([[[1, 2, 7, 4], [2, 3, 8, 4]], [[4, 4, 2, 10], [5, 3, 15, 11]]], dtype=int32)>

  <code here>

Currently, lots of code uses backticks (```) to identify code. To make the code testable with DocTest:

  • Remove the backticks (```) and use the carets (>>>) in front of each line. Use (...) in front of continued lines.

  • (```) can still be used for non-python code or code that cannot be tested for some reason.

Docstring considerations

  • Output format: The output of the snippet needs to be directly beneath the code that’s generating the output. Also, the output in the docstring has to be exactly equal to what the output would be after the code is executed. See the above example. Also, check out this part in the doctest documentation. If the output exceeds the 80 line limit, you can put the extra output on the new line and doctest will recognize it. See multi-line blocks below for the input.

  • Globals: The tf, np and os modules are always available in TensorFlow's doctest.

  • Using symbols: In doctest you can directly access symbols defined in the same file. To use a symbol that’s not defined in the current file, please use TensorFlow’s public API instead of xxx. As you can see in the example below, random.normal is accessed via tf.random.normal. This is because random.normal is not visible in NewLayer.

def NewLayer():
  “””This layer does cool stuff.

  Example usage:

  >>> x = tf.random.normal((1, 28, 28, 3))
  >>> new_layer = NewLayer(x)
  >>> new_layer
  <tf.Tensor id=52, shape=(1, 14, 14, 3), dtype=int32, numpy=...>
  • Non-deterministic output: Use ellipsis(...) for the uncertain parts and doctest will ignore that substring.
>>> x = tf.random.normal((1,))
>>> print(x)
<tf.Tensor: id=26, shape=(1,), dtype=float32, numpy=..., dtype=float32)>
  • Multi-line blocks: Doctest is strict about the difference between a single and a multi-line statement. Note the usage of (...) below:
>>> if x > 0:
...   print("X is positive")
>>> model.compile(
...   loss="mse",
...   optimizer="adam")
  • Exceptions: Exception details are ignored except the Exception that’s raised. See this for more details.
>>> np_var = np.array([1, 2])
>>> tf.keras.backend.is_keras_tensor(np_var)
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValueError: Unexpectedly found an instance of type `<class 'numpy.ndarray'>`.

Test on your local machine

There are two ways to test the code in the docstring locally:

  • If you are only changing the docstring of a class/function/method, then you can test it by passing that file's path to For example:

    python --file=<file_path>

    This will run it using your installed version of TensorFlow. To be sure you're running the same code that you're testing:

    • Use an up to date tf-nightly pip install -U tf-nightly
    • Rebase your pull request onto a recent pull from TensorFlow's master branch.
  • If you are changing the code and the docstring of a class/function/method, then you will need to build tensorflow from source. Once you are setup to build from source, you can run the tests:

    bazel run //tensorflow/tools/docs:tf_doctest


    bazel run //tensorflow/tools/docs:tf_doctest -- --module=ops.array_ops

    The --module is relative to tensorflow.python.