Doxygen is a standard tool for documenting C++ code. It works off of comments added to the code to build documentation (including web pages) describing the structure of a code and its classes and functions.

We’ll continue to work on our cxx-array repo that we just created. But to help automate things, we need to make a change to how the webpage is stored.

Using gh-pages

Our goal is to have GitHub automatically generate our website. When we do this, it is best to have the actual web page on a separate branch so we don’t have to keep merging with the regenerating web page every time we make changes. This is the purpose of the gh-pages branch. It is an orphaned branch, so it doesn’t have any connection to main.

Creating the gh-pages branch

We’ll follow these instructions for creating the gh-pages branch.

Here’s the procedure. In cxx-array/, make sure you don’t have any uncommitted work, and then do:

git checkout --orphan gh-pages
git reset --hard
git commit --allow-empty -m "Initializing gh-pages branch"

Now add an index.html in the empty directory:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">

    <meta charset="utf-8" />


<h1>C++ Array Class</h1>

<p><tt>Array.H</tt> provides a simple C++ multi-dimensional array class.</p>


Let’s also add the .nojekyll file:

touch .nojekyll

Now let’s commit these:

git add index.html .nojekyll
git commit

Finally, let’s push our branch to our repo:

git push origin gh-pages

Updating the web location on GitHub

Now we need to go back to the GitHub page for our repo and go to settings and “Pages” and change the “Source” to be “Branch: gh-pages” and “/ (root)” and save.

After a minute or so, the page should be regenerated and appear at the same URL as before.


From now on, when we want to manually make changes to our web page, we need to be on the gh-pages branch.

We can now switch back to main:

git checkout main

Doxygen configuration

Setting up:

doxygen -g

This creates a file called Doxyfile. We need to make a few edits to it:

  • We want to change PROJECT_NAME to C++ Array

  • We want to change OUTPUT_DIRECTORY to docs, since that’s where we expect our source to live

  • We’ll have Doxygen use the same that github displays as the main page for the Doxygen start page. This is done by changing:

  • We’ll turn off Latex output by changing GENERATE_LATEX from YES to NO

  • We’ve been using *.H for our header files, so we need to add this to the list FILE_PATTERNS in the Doxyfile.

    Doxygen already associates .H with C++, but just doesn’t search for it by default.


Add Doxyfile to your git repo and commit.

Annotating our code

Doxygen uses /// as the documentation comment style for C++. So we would do:

/// a function to add two numbers
double add(double x, double y);

Note that we have an empty /// before and after the documentation.

Now we can annotate our C++ Array class code. Here’s a version of array.H that we developed in class with some documentation comments.

Listing 84 array.H
#ifndef ARRAY_H
#define ARRAY_H

#include <vector>
#include <iostream>
#include <cassert>
#include <limits>

/// a contiguous 2-d array
/// here the data is stored in row-major order in a 1-d memory space
/// managed as a vector.  We overload () to allow us to index this as
/// a(irow, icol)
class Array {


    std::size_t _rows;
    std::size_t _cols;
    std::vector<double> _data;


    Array (std::size_t rows, std::size_t cols, double val=0.0)
        : _rows{rows},
          _data(rows * cols, val)
        // we do the asserts here after the initialization of _data
        // in the initialization list, but if the size is zero, we'll
        // abort here anyway.

        assert (rows > 0);
        assert (cols > 0);


    // note the "const" after the argument list here -- this means
    // that this can be called on a const Array, while the first
    // "const" refers to the return type

    /// get the number of columns
    inline std::size_t ncols() const { return _cols;}

    /// get the number of rows
    inline std::size_t nrows() const { return _rows;}

    inline double& operator()(int row, int col) {
        assert (row >= 0 && row < _rows);
        assert (col >= 0 && col < _cols);
        return _data[row*_cols + col];

    inline const double& operator()(int row, int col) const {
        assert (row >= 0 && row < _rows);
        assert (col >= 0 && col < _cols);
        return _data[row*_cols + col];

    /// return a flattened view of the data region -- this can be used with
    /// a range-for loop, e.g. `for (auto &e : a.flat()) {...}`
    inline std::vector<double>& flat() { return _data; }

    /// set the array element i in the flattened index space
    inline double& flat(int i) { return _data[i]; }

    /// return the global minimum of the array
    double min() {
        double current_min = std::numeric_limits<double>::max();

        for (auto e : _data) {
            if (e < current_min) {
                current_min = e;
        return current_min;

    /// return the global maximum of the array
    double max() {
        double current_max = std::numeric_limits<double>::lowest();

        for (auto e : _data) {
            if (e > current_max) {
                current_max = e;
        return current_max;

    friend std::ostream& operator<< (std::ostream& os, const Array& a);


// the << operator is not part of the of the class, so it is not a member

std::ostream& operator<< (std::ostream& os, const Array& a) {

    for (std::size_t row=0; row < a.nrows(); ++row) {
        for (std::size_t col=0; col < a.ncols(); ++col) {
            os << a(row, col) << " ";
        os << std::endl;

    return os;



Add array.H to your git repo and commit.

Trying it out locally

We can test out Doxygen locally by doing:

doxygen Doxyfile

The HTML will then be in the docs/html/ directory, and we can view the page as:

google-chrome docs/html/index.html


The default Doxygen generated pages look a little bland. There are themes available to make it look a lot nicer.

Setting up a GitHub action

Now create a file: .github/workflows/gh-pages.yml with the following content:

name: github pages

      - main

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - uses: actions/checkout@v3

      - name: Install pandoc and doxygen
        run: |
          sudo apt install pandoc doxygen

      - name: Setup python
        uses: actions/setup-python@v3
          python-version: '3.9'

      - name: Install dependencies
        run: python3 -m pip install -r ./requirements.txt

      - name: Build Doxygen
        run: |
             mkdir -p docs
             doxygen Doxyfile

      - name: Deploy
        uses: peaceiris/actions-gh-pages@v3
          github_token: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
          publish_dir: ./docs
          keep_files: true

This does a little more than we need for now, as it gets us prepped for Sphinx coming next.

Since we’re adding stuff, let’s add a cxx-array/requirements.txt now as well, with the following content:



Add requirements.txt and .github/workflow/gh-pages.yml to your git repo and commit.

One last thing…

We need to go back to gh-pages and now link to the Doxygen docs from our index.html.

We can do that with the following addition to index.html:

<a href="html/index.html">Doxygen documentation</a>

Finally, git push these changes back to GitHub.


If everything worked correctly, then the GitHub action should run Doxygen and copy the HTML it generated to our web page.