Documentation is important for developers. We use it for communicating with our clients and for sharing info about the software we are building. It’s also useful for other future users of the software to get acquainted with the software. Additionally, sometimes we have to keep records of how a certain part of the application works or what it looks like. In other words, documentation is necessary!
Documentation is an essential part of software development process. Every software developer wants their projects documented. Moreover, a properly written documentation saves time for a project team and makes projects easier to maintain. That’s why I want to share with you my experience in choosing good documentation tools/platforms for developers.
Going through the documentation of any software can be a tedious task. This is especially true if it’s meant for advanced users. No developer wants to read through pages and pages of documentation so they could get started with their day. That’s just not how developers like to roll.
Software documentation varies depending on the complexity of the software and the technical knowledge of the audience. For example, it can walk end-users through the basics of a piece of consumer software, assist IT and system administrators with software installation, and help software developers build or update programs.
Types of Software Documentation
There are many types of software documentation, from internal documents only accessible to software developers to user manuals for those who use a piece of software regularly. Two main types of software documentation are developer documentation and software documentation targeted toward the end-user.
Developer Software Documentation
Developers use a specific type of documentation created as part of, or in conjunction with, the software development process. These documents can include release notes that describe features and updates, README files in text documents that offer a brief explanation of the software, system documentation that describes requirements for installation, and API documentation explaining how to integrate and work with an API.
End-User Software Documentation
End-user software documentation provides information about how to install, use, or configure a piece of software. This type of documentation helps people understand how to operate a product. End-user documentation can include user guides, tutorials, troubleshooting manuals, and knowledge bases.
There are areas where the lines blur between different types of software documentation, especially when it comes to technical documentation. An example of this is the minimum system requirements for installing a piece of software. Even though it’s considered a technical document, it falls under end-user documentation because it’s written for software users.
What Are Software Documentation Tools?
Software documentation tools streamline the process of creating and managing documents by making writing or distributing documentation faster and easier.
Many documentation tools give you the ability to publish your documents once complete and distribute documents to internal teams or external users. Some documentation tools offer version control systems so your teams can track changes made over time.
BEST END-USER SOFTWARE DOCUMENTATION TOOLS
Whatfix is a Digital Adoption Platform that allows you to create step-by-step walkthroughs that act as real-time software documentation by guiding employees through your software. If you already have a knowledge base, you can display your documentation in a self-help widget.
Whatfix is redefining how software documentation is displayed and consumed, with new content embedded directly within your software applications in forms such as interactive guidance, contextual walkthroughs, self-help FAQs, popup notifications and beacons, and more. The platform also allows you to measure the usage and effectiveness of your documentation with user analytics.
Bit.ai is a documentation collaboration platform that allows you to manage all of your documents in one place. It allows you to create notes, documents, and wikis, and you can manage your company’s documentation across teams or departments.
ProProfs knowledge base software is a knowledge management tool that lets you create searchable online FAQs and help docs. In addition, you can add videos, audio, images, and infographics to your documentation to make your software documentation more interactive and compelling.
4. Dropbox Paper
Dropbox Paper is an online document workspace that lets you organize and display text, media, and files all in one place. It’s a web-based tool, so it’s accessible as long as you have an internet connection. If you’re already a Dropbox user, you can create and edit documents without leaving Dropbox.
Tettra is a tool for internal company use. It’s a wiki and knowledge management system that lets teams create content other employees can read and comment on. This tool is specifically built to work with Slack and features integrations with several other tools, including GSuite, Microsoft Teams, GitHub, and Zapier.
Tallyfy is workflow and process management software that lets you capture and automate your company’s knowledge. This software offers the ability to see the status of your tasks, and it is built to integrate into many other systems like Slack or Gmail. It also automates the process of tracking document changes.
Scribe is tool that automatically creates software documentation. It’s a Chrome extension and desktop application that captures a process you complete in a software tool, then turns your actions into instructions and screenshots in seconds.
Users can then modify instructions, edit screenshots, redact sensitive information, and more. Scribes can be shared to select people or teams, or be made available publicly. They can be embedded in a CMS, knowledge base, wiki, help center, or other platforms.
BEST DEVELOPER DOCUMENTATION TOOLS
GitHub is a cloud-based website and service that stores code and helps developers control and track changes through a version control system called GIT to host and review code. In addition to their repository, they offer GitHub Pages, a website hosting service that takes files directly from a GitHub repository and runs the files through a process that creates a website. This feature gives developers an easy way to create software documentation in plain text or Markdown.
Apiary by Oracle is a dedicated host for Application Programming Interface (API) documentation that lets you design, prototype, document, and test APIs. One helpful feature is the ability to prototype an API without written code.
10. Read the Docs
Read the Docs is open-source documentation software that helps developers build and host documents. It can also build multiple versions of your documents by creating a separate branch or tag in your version control system, which is helpful for making sure your documents stay up to date.
MarkdownPad is a full-featured Markdown editor for Windows. This tool allows you to create text-based web content, blog posts, websites, articles, READMEs, and software documentation.
Typora is a simple document reader and writer that provides support for Markdown — a plain text format that’s easy to read and write. This software appeals to developers who want to remove distractions by hiding unwanted elements, like preview windows. It also has a live preview feature to allow you to focus on your content.
Doxygen is a top-rated tool for generating documentation from annotated C++ sources, and it supports other programming languages. It can generate online documentation and offline reference manuals from specific source files by extracting information directly from the source, creating continuity between your documentation and source code.
Nuclino is a robust project documentation software that is of significant help in onboarding new employees, decreasing duplication of work, and enhancing productivity. Although Nuclino’s key focus is on internal documentation, yet, it still has capabilities that allow sharing documentation with stakeholders existing outside your organization.
✓ Instant Search
Nuclino’s search mechanism is fast and accurate. Give a seamless search experience to readers, wherein they can find relevant information quickly. ✓ Version History
Store previous versions of your document to track changes. ✓ Access Rights
Assign roles and give rights to gain full control over what users can and cannot do in your documentation. Pricing –
Available on request
15. Zoho Workdrive
If team collaboration is what you aim for, your search ends here. Zoho Workdrive is regarded as one of the best as far as managing files for teams is concerned. It helps you create a centralized and secure platform where teams can work together in collaboration. Zoho Workdrive is the right choice for bringing teams and fostering collaboration in the workplace.
✓ Team Folder Access
Assign different roles to team members and control access. ✓ Private and Public Space
Keep your folders private or public, depending on your requirements. ✓ Draft Before Publishing
Save drafts and do a quality check before publishing content. ✓ Instant Uploads
Upload bulk files instantly to your documentation. Pricing starts at:
Rs120/per 3 users/month.
Dokit offers a holistic solution to all your documentation requirements. It covers everything right from creating and organizing to sharing and collaborating. Its suitable both from employees as well as customers’ standpoint. The undisputed performance it delivers makes Dokit one of the best documentation software. It’s available both as SaaS and on-server.
✓ Easy Authoring
Its user-friendly interface is designed to help you create content, import docs, and do much more. ✓ Organization
Dokit enables you to keep full control over your documentation. Track revisions, check updates, manage versions, and more. ✓ Collaboration
Infuse collaboration in teams. Allow team members to ask questions, get feedback, and work collaboratively. Get notifications whenever there is a change. Pricing starts at:
Doccept is a versatile documentation software offered by Kensium. The software was created after doing thorough research on the significant challenges organizations face and how documentation can conquer them. Doccept is a one-of-its-kind software that focuses on the entire document lifecycle management. Catering to a wide spectrum of industries, Doccept has brought a remarkable difference in the way its clients function.
✓ Workflow Management
Keep track of your documentation, set rules, and monitor the progress of articles until they are approved for publishing. ✓ Templates
Use preformatted documents to build online documentation. Avoid mistakes and save time that would have been lost if you create documents from scratch. ✓ Dashboard
Keep a tab on what’s going on with your documentation. Check the latest updates, changes, or any other activity made on a single, centralized dashboard. ✓ Full-Text Search
Search by keyword, folder, date range, and more. Get information instantly at your fingertips. Pricing –
Available on Request.
Intellect Document Control is best suited for organizing, customizing, and managing documentation effectively. It’s feature-rich, easy to use, and helps you customize your documentation to meet your requirements. Flexible and configurable, Intellect Document Control software is the go-to option to streamline your documentation.
Customize workflows and document controls to match your requirements. ✓ Permissions
Set user permissions on the basis of documents, tasks, fields, and more. Keep track of who can access your documentation. ✓ Workflows
Set workflows to ensure quality checks before articles get approved. Pricing –
Available on Request.
Adoddle by Asite is all about cloud-based collaboration. This cutting-edge tool helps in document management and control by enabling you to store data at a centralized platform securely. Everyone involved in projects can easily collaborate and get work done, which results in a sharp decrease in errors. It also saves a significant amount of time and cost. The vast capabilities of this software make it the right choice for document creation and management.
✓ Version Control
Save previous versions of your document, compare versions, and make sure that error-free documents are in use. ✓ Scanning and Indexing
Streamline and manage documents effectively. ✓ Workflows
Create customized workflows and track progress. ✓ Document Archiving
Maintain document archives and keep track of the audit trail. Pricing –
Available on Request.
FormStack is a smart documentation tool that comprises ground-breaking features for document generation and management. It provides you a holistic solution, taking care of all your documentation requirements right from the point of creation and storing to management and publishing. Whichever industry you operate in, FormStack helps you generate impressive documents with ease.
✓ Customizable Templates
Use pre-built templates to get started with your documentation. ✓ Themes & CSS
Choose from a variety of themes, add your logo and customize content to match your brand. ✓ Multiple Users
Add multiple users and help them manage your content ✓ User Permissions
Set permissions for users and define their rights. Pricing starts at:
Designed for businesses of all sizes, Qualityze document management software helps you build documentation of various kinds, including instruction manuals, process narratives, and much more. It’s a cloud-based, configurable, and cost-effective solution that caters to a wide spectrum of industries across the globe. Whether you are a small and medium enterprise or a well-established firm, Qualityze has what it takes for effective document management.
✓ Version Control
Save previous versions and track changes made to the content. ✓ Document Archiving
Set the number of days for which a content piece should be displayed. Post that, it will be counted as obsolete and will be stored as an archive. ✓ User-Friendly Interface
Using the software and creating documentation is a cakewalk with its user-friendly interface. ✓ Workflow Management
Create workflows and track the status of content easily. Pricing –
Available on Request.
What is Software Documentation?
Once you are done with software development, you already know how each element works and have already memorized or made notes of key functions and capabilities, thus finding the process of documentation unnecessary. However, without documentation, your software is like a black box.
A black box, in terms of software, can be defined as an object or a system whose inner workings, designs or implementations are hidden from the outside world. The system works like its intended to, however, it can’t be customized to your wants and needs.
This means that if some new hire or new developer joins your team, he won’t be able to peak into the system and understand how it works easily. If the person who worked on a particular piece of software leaves, he takes that information with them.
Documentation is what turns your black box into a white box, aka a system whose internal workings and implementations can be viewed by its users and developers, making it easier to understand and customize.
Software is made of people. And, more importantly, the documentation of software is made by people. People who might not always have the best writing skills or the ability to convey their thoughts clearly. But we’re people too, and we have our own set of unique advantages when it comes to explaining technologies we rely on daily. That’s why documentation tools exist, to help both creators and consumers of software craft smoother communication and share knowledge with ease in simple terms.
It should also have options for customization and encourage collaboration. You should also ask your employees how they currently complete tasks to help you choose the right tool and improve adoption when it comes time to start using the new documentation software.