Annotated EXPRESS syntax (draft)

This is a living specification for Annotated EXPRESS.


EXPRESS is a data modelling language offered in a code-like syntax.

As in typical source code, you can insert comments that do not get parsed or interpreted by the compiler. For example, in C, block comments are realized wth /* …​ */.

In EXPRESS, the remark tag syntax is (* …​ *), indicating that anything in the …​ is considered documentation.

Annotated EXPRESS is a set of rules that build on top of the EXPRESS remark tag syntax for documentation and description of EXPRESS code. It can be considered in the same category of Doxygen for C, JavaDoc for Java, RubyDoc for Ruby.

Annotated EXPRESS accepts Metanorma AsciiDoc as content.

Basic syntax

Annotated EXPRESS uses the "named remark tag" syntax described in the EXPRESS language manual.


Where: * NAME is a "tag" that references an EXPRESS object, such as a schema, entity, property, function, or rule.

A tag looks like schema_name.entity_name.property_name.

Given this schema action_schema:

SCHEMA action_schema;
  ENTITY action;
    name : label;
    description : OPTIONAL text;
    chosen_method : action_method;
    id : identifier := get_id_value(SELF);

The tag references would be:

  • to the schema: "action_schema"

  • to the entity action: "action_schema.action"

  • to the property name: ""

  • to the derived property id: ""

  • to the where rule WR1: "action_schema.action.wr:WR1"

Types of remarks

Basic objects

In Annotated EXPRESS, there are a few types of named remarks:

  • (*"{TAG}" …​ *) refers to the description of EXPRESS object {TAG}

  • (*"{TAG}.__note" …​ *) refers to a note that applies to EXPRESS object {TAG}

  • (*"{TAG}.__example" …​ *) refers to a usage example that applies to the EXPRESS object {TAG}

  • (*"{TAG}.__figure" …​ *) refers to a figure that applies to the EXPRESS object {TAG}, which can be re-used within its notes or examples.

  • (*"{TAG}.__table" …​ *) refers to a table that applies to the EXPRESS object {TAG}, which can be re-used within its notes or examples.

These different types of remarks can be in multiple instances, for example, multiple (*"{TAG}" …​ *) remarks can be made in an EXPRESS file to describe the particular object.

These named remarks are not bound to any particular location in an EXPRESS file. For example, they can be made immediately after the declaration of the EXPRESS object, or collected at the top or bottom of the EXPRESS file.

STEPmod remarks

In STEPmod, which is the STEP modules library, two additional types of named remarks are used.

  • (*"{SCHEMA_TAG}.__fund_cons" …​ *) describes the "Fundamental concepts and assumptions" of a schema. It is a ISO 10303 convention to describe the concepts and assumptions of the schema. The tag must reference an EXPRESS schema.

  • (*"{SCHEMA_TAG}.__expressg" …​ *) provides EXPRESS-G diagrams relevant to the EXPRESS schema. These diagrams can describe an architecture view that involves the named schema. The tag must reference an EXPRESS schema.

Content syntax


Annotated EXPRESS (in its current form) accepts Metanorma AsciiDoc. The syntax of Metanorma AsciiDoc is described at

There are several extensions to Metanorma AsciiDoc for the documentation of EXPRESS.

EXPRESS object cross-references

In Annotated EXPRESS remark content, it is often necessary to cross-reference other EXPRESS objects.

In the generated EXPRESS documentation, these references become links to the definition of the target EXPRESS objects.

The syntax is:



<<express:{TAG},{RENDER TEXT}>>


  • {TAG} is the EXPRESS named tag, e.g. action_schema.action_method

  • {RENDER TEXT} is the desired rendering text, if different from the named tag, e.g. action methods


Application on schemas

Let’s take action_schema.exp as an example.

The subject of the *action_schema* is the description of actions, the reasons
for these actions, and the status of these actions.

Action information can be attached to any aspect of product data.

Reasons for action include evolving user requirements, manufacturing problems
and difficulties that arise when a product is in use.


* <<express:basic_attribute_schema>>; 1
* <<express:action_schema>>; 2
* <<express:support_resource_schema>>; 3
  • Content in (*"action_schema" …​ *) provides a basic description (and purpose) of the schema.

  • Content in (*"action_schema.__fund_cons" …​ *) describes the concepts and assumptions in creating this schema.

  • Content in (*"action_schema.__example" …​ *) describes an example on how the schema can be used.

  • Content in (*"action_schema.__expressg" …​ *) provides a graphical diagram (in Metanorma AsciiDoc syntax with an svg here) relevant to the understanding of the schema.

Application on entities

Entities inside the schema are accessed using the {schema}.{entity} syntax (potentially multiple dots).

For example, the action_schema.supported_item entity is documented like this:

The *supported_item* allows for the designation of an
<<express:action_schema.action_directive,action_directive>>, an
<<express:action_schema.action,action>>, or an

This specifies the use of an

Notice that within the named remark action_schema.supported_item.__note, there is an [express:…​] link which references another EXPRESS object action_schema.action_resource.

Application on other EXPRESS objects

Annotations can be made to any EXPRESS objects that are referencable, including:


    • properties

    • DERIVE properties

    • WHERE rules

    • IP: Informal proposition rules

  • TYPE


    • LOCAL variables