If you have a tech product, chances are that you intend to release your documentation software with it. Free documentation software is the best way to provide immediate and intuitive guidance for users who might be encountering your products for the first time. In addition, best tool for documentation helps to reach and impress a larger audience. Documenting your product is an essential part of your business development and marketing campaign.
There’s so much more to your software product than just the code. In order for users to get the most out of your software, you need to provide them with useful documentation – whether that’s for other developers or end users of your product.
In order to provide the best user experience for your software, you need to invest in the right documentation tools to host your documentation. It’s no good just creating a Google Drive folder and expecting that to do the job, as your software is likely to be too complex for such a solution.
Users need straightforward instructions to understand how the software works and what they can use it for. This is where your software documentation comes in. Documentation software is any type of application that allows individuals and groups to create, store, update and share the documents. Good documentation software should be able to store all the assets together. Although the list of available options is pretty big, sometimes it’s just not enough.
What Is Software Documentation?
Remember, docs or it didn’t happen. Software documentation is any written document that explains how a piece of software works, why it was built, and how it is intended to be used. Depending on the complexity of your software, your documentation can contain information on the general use of the product and in-depth dives into functions and features.
Software documentation, according to Daniele Procida, can be divided into four categories:
- Learning-oriented tutorials
- Goal-oriented how-to guides
- Understanding-oriented discussions
- Information-oriented reference material
You need all these types of documentation to provide comprehensive instructions for your software product.
We’ll start with our own Document360. Document360 is our very own knowledge base solution which is perfect for creating user manuals. It offers an advanced portal for content producers with a state-of-the-art editor, category manager, and more. You can create up to six levels of categories and subcategories for your content which can easily be rearranged using the drag-and-drop UI.
The Markdown editor lets you focus on writing text-heavy documents but there is also a WYSIWYG editor for those who prefer that functionality. Both editors allow you to add links, images, videos, callouts, code blocks, and more. Never lose your work with Document360’s version history which allows you to roll back to a previous version.
Document360 comes with advanced analytics that allows you to learn where your knowledge base traffic is coming from, what your visitors are looking for and how they’re interacting with your content. Document360 also integrates with a large number of popular apps including ticketing systems like Zendesk and Freshdesk, live chat software like Intercom and Drift, as well as analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Segment.
Document360’s startup plan costs $99 per project per month.
An intuitive knowledge base software to easily add your content and integrate it with any application. Give Document360 a try!Get Started
Nuclino is a good way to organize information within teams into workspaces. You can use Nuclino to create beautiful software documentation for your employees or your customers. Workspaces can be public or private. You can bring your content to life with text, images, videos, files, tasks, embeds, code blocks, and more. Write your content even faster with Markdown or use the WYSIWYG editor. You can collaborate in real-time so you can see the changes your team members are making as they type, which means there’s no risk of version conflicts. You can type @ inside an item to link to another page in the knowledge base and use workspaces and clusters to organize items. There’s a powerful search bar that you can type into to find relevant content. Work visually by organizing your team’s content into boards and graphs. Nuclino integrates with a large number of apps including Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox and more. Nuclino’s standard plan costs $5 per user per month.
- Straightforward organization that helps users find the content they’re looking for.
- Documents can be edited simultaneously, reducing the risk of version conflicts.
- Lack of formatting options for content.
- No ability to control access at the article level, only at the workspace level.
If you’re working in the software development world then it’s highly likely you’ll have used GitHub. It’s a popular platform with developers and a solid choice you can use for hosting your web-based documentation. You have a choice between using the main GitHub platform wiki section or you can use GitHub Pages, which allows you one free page, hosting, and a custom domain. You can combine GitHub Pages with Jekyll to create modern and appealing documentation sites. GitHub is free to use if your repositories are public.
- It can be appealing to use GitHub if you are already using the platform for software development.
- It’s a free platform for hosting your repositories if you choose the basic plan.
- Requires development skills to use and maintain. May not be accessible for all members of your team.
MarkdownPad is a well-known Markdown editor for Windows. MarkdownPad offers instant HTML previews so you can view your documentation as you write it. It’s simple and as easy to use as Microsoft Word and comes with a WYSIWYG editor so you don’t even need to know Markdown to use the software. You can take advantage of extensive customization options such as layouts, fonts and sizes. You can also include your own custom CSS style sheets. It comes with a CSS editor built into the platform so you can style your text to your heart’s content. MarkdownPad is free for the basic plan or $14.95 USD for MarkdownPad Pro.
- Free on the basic plan.
- Allows your team to write stunning documentation in Markdown.
- MarkdownPad doesn’t have cloud features so you won’t be able to share your docs.
- MarkdownPad is only available on Windows.
ProProfs knowledge base software is one of the best online documentation tools that enables you to create software documentation right out of the box. ProProfs allows you to create both public and private knowledge bases, from end user facing documentation to internal employee software docs. You can drag and drop content and categories. You can control the article status to let your team know what’s going on with your content. You can easily customize your knowledge base from within the settings, including changing the theme, adding a favicon, updating the logo, and so on. One of the big advantages of ProProfs knowledge base is you can integrate it with their live chat and help desk software for a more unified support experience.
ProProfs also integrates with Google Analytics, Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Desk so you can link your existing support software stack with your knowledge base. ProProfs’s essential plan costs $60 per month.
- Easy writing and publishing process means it’s a breeze to get started.
- Allows you to set different roles for the content publishing – writer, editor and administrator.
- Integrations could be more powerful.
- The navigation is a little confusing.
6. Read the Docs
Read the Docs comes with two versions – Read the Docs for open source and Read the Docs for Business. If you’re looking to invest in product documentation tools then we suggest you go with the latter. Read the Docs for Business simplifies the entire process of building and deploying developer documentation. With support for Sphinx and Mkdocs, you can integrate your code and user-facing documentation using the same tools. Create beautiful documentation easily with themes, and preview every commit with Pull Request previews. Read the Docs for Business starts at $50 USD per month.
- The ability to write your docs alongside your software using the same tools.
- Documentation can be public or private.
- Requires developer resources to use and maintain.
Doxygen is a powerful software development documentation tool. It is the standard tool for generating documentation from annotated C++ sources, but it also supports other popular programming languages such as C, Objective-C, C#, PHP, Java, Python, and IDL. Doxygen is a good choice if you want to provide documentation for developers. It can generate an on-line documentation browser (in HTML) and/or an off-line reference manual (in LaTeX) from a set of documented source files. There is also support for generating output in RTF (MS-Word), PostScript, hyperlinked PDF, compressed HTML, and Unix man pages. The documentation is extracted directly from the sources, which makes it much easier to keep the documentation consistent with the source code. It also works for creating normal documentation unrelated to code source files. Doxygen is free.
- Use Doxygen to write developer documentation extracting content directly from the source code.
- Simple to set up and easy to use.
- Works on all operating systems – MacOS, Windows and Linux.
- Might be too complex for simple documentation software projects.
- Requires development resources to use and maintain.
ClickHelp is a help authoring tool that enables you to publish your software documentation to a variety of outputs. It offers easy imports from Madcap Flare, RoboHelp, MS Word and Confluence. ClickHelp is cloud-based and hosts your content and authoring environment. It is a structured authoring tool that allows you to reuse content as snippets, variables and conditional content. You can publish multiple projects and project versions from a single portal. Output formats include online documentation, PDF, Web Help and more. You have the ability to publish either public or password-protected documentation, all from the same portal. It includes a patented full-text search engine customized for documentation search so users can easily find content they’re looking for. You have the ability to create taxonomies and search customization features. ClickHelp also offers in-depth analytics and reporting with author contribution and reader behavior reports, 30+ content metrics that include readability, time to read, word count, etc, and topic ratings based on user votes. ClickHelp’s Essentials plan costs $55 per author per month.
- Feature-rich help authoring tool for a very reasonable price-tag.
- Allows you to single-source your documentation, saving time and money.
- Might be an overly complex tool for simpler documentation requirements.
9. iA Writer
iA Writer is a popular Markdown editor with a focus on writing. When you use iA Writer you will be impressed by its unique writing experience that allows you to hone and clarify your message. When writing in the editor, iA Writer highlights only the sentence or paragraph you’re working on, and uses syntax highlighting to help you spot superfluous adjectives, weak verbs, and repetitions. You can export your Markdown files to HTML, PDF, and Microsoft Word file format using custom templates. The interface is minimalist, eliminating distractions, and allows you to focus purely on the text. iA Writer is $29.99 on macOS.
- Makes writing a breeze due to the distraction-free interface.
- Works on MacOS, Windows, and iOS.
- Doesn’t offer any storage for your files so you will need to integrate with another service like Google Drive.
- Isn’t cloud-based so you won’t be able to share your documentation with anyone else.
- Simple editor for creating Markdown files.
- There is no way to host your documentation for end-users to share.
Tettra is an internal knowledge base that organizes your scattered company knowledge so you can use it to answer your team’s repetitive questions right in Slack or MS Teams. It’s suitable for internal software documentation with a user-friendly and intuitive User Interface. This software is built in a Q&A style format so users can ask questions and get answers in Tettra. With the Slack and MS Teams integration, you can answer questions directly in these platforms by linking to existing content. Tettra allows you to define knowledge experts within the interface so the right people can answer questions. You have the ability to ask Subject Matter Experts to verify content according to a set schedule, so your content is never out-of-date. Teammates can also request new pages or request page updates so you can fill the gaps in your content. Tettra is $8.33 per user per month for the scaling plan.
- Tettra is a simple platform that streamlines all your documents in one place.
- It makes it easy to keep documents up-to-date.
- Drafts can only be worked on by one individual with no collaborative editing.
- It’s not possible to create a public knowledge base for your software documentation.
Whatfix is a Digital Adoption Platform that gives you the ability to create step-by-step walkthroughs that guide your employees through your software. If you already have a knowledge base, Whatfix allows you to display your site in a self-help widget so users never have to leave the platform. Whatfix helps companies to create interactive walkthroughs that display within web applications. The product increases user adoption, decreases training costs and provides self-service support for users of software applications. The form of this documentation can take interactive guidance, contextual walk-throughs, self-help FAQs and more. The platform provides in-depth analytics so you can figure out how users are engaging with your content and whether they are learning from it. Contact Whatfix for a pricing quote.
- In-depth platform highly tailored towards user learning.
- Flexible according to your organization’s needs.
- Might be overkill if all you want is a simple knowledge base for your documentation.
13. Dropbox Paper
Dropbox Paper is a good choice of software for internal documentation. You can use it to create a wiki for your employees to consult every time they have a question. You can also securely share your documents with anyone outside the company. You can link documents together easily, insert code blocks, add images, audio and videos, all from within the interface. Dropbox Paper makes it easy to collaborate with your team by inviting others to share your document or folder. They can comment on your documents and you can assign deadlines or milestones as well. Dropbox Paper is free if you already have a Dropbox account.
- Beautiful user interface and sleek design making this software a joy to use.
- Good integration between the web-based version of Paper and the mobile app.
- Only suitable for internal docs and is lacking when it comes to public software documentation.
- Limited folder system that is hard to use.
Bit.ai is robust technical documentation software that you can use for your projects. It’s a knowledge management tool that enables companies to keep track of their documentation and make edits, all in one place. Bit documents allow developers to add code directly in the interface, and are more interactive than your standard Word docs. Bit.ai supports multiple collaborators on a document in real-time, so you never have version conflicts. It’s constructed like a wiki so users can easily interlink documents together and share knowledge properly. Bit.ai supports Markdown so developers can document their code without any distractions from the editor. You can easily share the work you complete in Bit.ai with other platforms like GitHub, or export as PDFs and Word files. Bit.ai’s pro plan starts from $8 per member per month.
- Bit.ai is extremely easy to get up and running with an intuitive interface.
- Comes with pre-made templates that provide a launchpad for new projects.
- Limited formatting and design options which means you can’t match your company’s branding.
PDFelement Pro – An Excellent PDF Document Management Software
PDFelement Pro is the best PC document management software available to users to manage and organize PDF documents. This software can be downloaded to your Windows PC or Mac. It can edit, convert and securely share PDF Files and also deal with scanned documents via OCR technology. This DMS manages PDF Files if well equipped to tackle all types of PDF documents.TRY IT FREE
Key features of This Document Manager Software:
- Editing text, images, or pages individually or in a batch.
- Highlighting, stamping, signing, crossing out, underlining, adding sticky notes, text boxes, etc., or freehand drawing on a PDF File is made possible.
- Converting a PDF to any other file format, combining PDFs, or splitting them into different PDFs.
- Filling an online PDF Form or creating one is an easy task with PDFelement Pro.
- This free program provides password protection and secure sharing options, as well as watermark capabilities.
- You can bookmark PDFs, as well as customize content and add bates numbering.
Schools and companies have been using best product and software in their work for years. You can also use these software to create a documentation of your own. If you need to do documentation for some time, you will find yourself at loss without having the right tool to do your job properly.
With the development of modern technologies, documentation software is getting more and more popular. Documentation software is very helpful in creating a high-quality documentation that not only has accurate content, but looks visually attractive as well.