Literate Programming Using Noweb

Noweb is a tool designed to enable a programmer to write documentation and code at the same time, with the goal of producing code that is easy to understand and maintain.

In general, a literate program takes more time and effort to initially produce. However, since much of this initial effort is devoted to explaining each part of the program, the author is likely to produce a better quality program in the end, because she has put more thought into the program's design at each stage of the game. Additionally, by investing in the extra effort of creating a well-documented program, the time spent later in maintaining and upgrading the program is considerably lessened.

In terms of documentation and explanation, the ability to describe components as they come into play in the design of the program—rather than in the order they must occur for the compiler or interpreter—is a vast improvement over traditional commented code. In addition to the benefits of improved code and easier maintenance, literate programs can also serve well as teaching tools.

Availability and Notes

Andrew Johnson is currently a full time student working on his Ph.D. in Physical Anthropology and a part time programmer and technical writer. He resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his wife and two sons, and he enjoys a good dark ale whenever he can. He can be reached at

Brad Johnson is currently pursuing a degree in Statistics at the University of Manitoba.