In previous parts of the course, we focused exclusively on REST APIs. Now let’s explore native library APIs, which are more common when building native apps.
Native library APIs (also called class-based APIs or just APIs) are notably different in the following ways:
We will focus this section on Java APIs, since they’re probably one of the most common. However, many of the concepts and code conventions mentioned here will apply to the other languages, with minor differences.
Because native library APIs are so dependent on a specific programming language, the documentation is usually written or driven by engineers rather than generalist technical writers. This is one area where it helps to be a former software engineer when doing documentation.
Even so, you don’t need to be a programmer. You just need a minimal understanding of the language. Technical writers can contribute a lot here in terms of style, consistency, clarity, tagging, and overall professionalism.
You know what happens when engineers write — the content is cryptic and often incomplete. Usually the developer assumes everyone is as knowledgeable as he or she is, and any kind of extra explanatory detail, examples, cross-references, glossaries, or other helpful information is omitted.
There are many books and online resources you can consult to learn a specific programming language. This section of the course will not try to teach you Java. However, to understand a bit about Java API documentation (which uses a document generator called Javadoc), you will need some understanding of Java.
To keep the focus on API documentation, we’ll take a documentation-centric approach to understanding Java. You’ll learn the various parts of Java by looking at a specific Javadoc file and sorting through the main components.
For this part of the course, you need to install the following:
To make sure you have Java installed, you can do the following:
Also, start Eclipse and make sure it doesn’t complain that you don’t have the JDK.
(Since we’ll just be using Java within the context of Eclipse, Windows users don’t need to add Java to their class path. But if you want to be able to compile Java from the command line, you can do this.)
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© 2017, Tom Johnson