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Best Documentation Tools for Developers

Documentation is the process of recording procedures, processes, and technical details of a particular product. Hiring a team of developers and designers to collaboratively produce the best documentation tools for your business can be expensive. To save money on costly documentation tools, some people choose to create their own documentation. There are many software documentation tools for different kinds of platforms that you can use for free.

Documentation is an essential part of a software project. It can increase your productivity and it can also improve your chances at project funding. With the rising number of tools available, you might be wondering what tools are best for your needs. In this article, we will review ten documentation tools and determine the best ones based on developer popularity, language support and cost.

It is critical to have a good quality of source code and documentation in order to manage software projects. Writing high-quality documentation is as important as writing good codes at the same time because they work together to support the software development activities. It takes into consideration many factors: one of which is the need to choose them from many available tools, written using the programming language that suits you well. The tool chosen depends on how you write good documentation.

Documentation is critical to your business but often falls by the wayside. It doesn’t have to be a nightmare, though. This article highlights the top documentation tools that you can use to easily share information and guides your team to success.

What is Software Documentation? 

Software documentation is an online document that explains everything about a software product, from what it is and how it is built to how it can be put to maximum use. It uses written text along with images and how-to videos to demonstrate how to execute steps and perform tasks. With all software information meticulously arranged in categories and subcategories, the document makes it easy for users to navigate through articles and get what they need instantly. 

A software document serves both end-users and developers. While it walks end-users through the basics of the software, it helps developers update their software programs regularly. 

Whatfix

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.

Whatfix Self-help widget

Bit.ai

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.

bit-ai-documentation-example
proprofs-logo

ProProfs

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.

proprofs-screenshot-example

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.

dropbox-paper-screenshot

Tettra

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.

tettra-screenshot

 Nuclino

Documentation tool Nuclino

Nuclino is a unified workspace where teams can organize all their knowledge, docs, and projects — like a collective brain. It’s a great solution for lightweight internal documentation, but it’s not all it can do.

Nuclino offers a variety of ways to structure and visualize your documents, including a nested list, a Kanban board, and a mindmap-style graph, allowing you to collaborate on projectsplan your sprintscommunicate asynchronously, and more. You can essentially consolidate all your work in one tool, minimizing unnecessary context-switching.

Corporate wiki Nuclino board view

Nuclino is designed to eliminate as much friction from the writing process as possible. Its clean, intuitive interface makes it a great solution for both, technical and non-technical users. The editor supports a set of Markdown commands that allow you to quickly format your docs without taking your hands off the keyboard. Organizing your documentation is just as easy with wiki-style internal links, which allow you to link related documents together.

Internal links in Nuclino

Every Nuclino page can be collaboratively edited in real time without edit-save-conflict cycles, and every edit is preserved in the version history. The instant search function allows you to locate the docs you need in seconds.

If you want to create clean, consistent documentation and value ease-of-use and speed, look no further than Nuclino.

Document360

Documentation tool Document360

Document360 is a hybrid solution that can bring together your internal and customer-facing documentation.

Notable features of Document360 include built-in localization mechanisms, content review reminders, SEO features, comments, and more. Granular analytics allow you to track how the readers interact with your docs.

Despite its extensive feature set, it’s a relatively easy-to-use tool. Documentation writers can choose between a Markdown editor and visual WYSIWYG tools, tailoring the editing experience according to their preference.

Note that Document360 is less affordable than other tools on this list. Its cheapest plan starts from $99 per month and only includes customer-facing documentation features. To be able to manage both your external and internal docs in Document360, you will need to pick one of the premium plans ranging from $299 to $599 per month. While this tool may be prohibitively expensive for smaller teams, large enterprises may find that its substantial feature set is more than worth the hefty price tag.

Confluence

Documentation tool BookStack

Atlassian Confluence is one of the oldest software documentation tools on the market. Its powerful enterprise capabilities and extensive configuration options helped it amass over 60,000 customers.

Its strength lies in its seamless integration with other products in the Atlassian suite. If you are already using other Atlassian tools, such as Jira or Bitbucket, Confluence is likely to easily fit into your workflow.

It comes with a certain learning curve, but if you are looking for a documentation tool with advanced customization options and enterprise-level features, Confluence is definitely an option worth considering.

BookStack

Documentation tool BookStack

BookStack is another wiki-style documentation tool. It’s open-source, self-hosted, and highly flexible.

While the interface and navigation are fairly user-friendly, note that the initial installation may require some patience and technical skills. Once your documentation platform is up and running, however, it should be easy to bring your team on board.

If you would prefer a self-hosted documentation tool rather than a cloud-based one, BookStack is definitely worth evaluating.

GitBook

Documentation tool GitBook

GitBook is an all-in-one platform that can work as your internal documentation tool, a knowledge base for your customers, and your personal note-taking app. It’s a great option if you are looking to consolidate all your documentation — both internal and external — in one place.

It lacks certain collaboration features that other options on this list offer, such as real-time collaborative editing, but it makes up for it in other areas. GitBook stands out thanks to its seamless integration with GitHub, visual customization options, advanced version management, and more.

MarkdownPad

MarkdownPad

 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. 

Pros
  • Free on the basic plan.
  • Allows your team to write stunning documentation in Markdown.
Cons
  • MarkdownPad doesn’t have cloud features so you won’t be able to share your docs.
  • MarkdownPad is only available on Windows.

 Read the Docs

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. 

Pros
  • The ability to write your docs alongside your software using the same tools.
  • Documentation can be public or private.
Cons
  • Requires developer resources to use and maintain.

Doxygen

Doxygen

 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. 

Pros
  • 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.
Cons
  • Might be too complex for simple documentation software projects.
  • Requires development resources to use and maintain.

 ClickHelp

clickhelp documentation tool

 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. 

Pros
  • Feature-rich help authoring tool for a very reasonable price-tag.
  • Allows you to single-source your documentation, saving time and money.
Cons
  • Might be an overly complex tool for simpler documentation requirements.

Types of Software Documentation 

You can build software documentation in different ways depending on your specific requirements. Keep it internal for your developers or make it public for your end-users – it’s all up to you. 

Here are the different types of software documentation you can create for your software product:

1. End-User Documentation 

This type of documentation is created for end-users. It has step-by-step instructions on how to install, configure, and use your software. Such documents have how-to tutorials, videos, troubleshooting guides, and other resources that end-users need, to use your software. 

Let’s now look at the top software documentation tools for both developers and end-users.

2. Software Documentation for Developers 

This documentation is for internal use only. Built for software developers, it documents the software’s code, API, algorithms, and other technical details. It also includes release notes for feature or software updates, installation process, architecture description, and much more. 

Conclusion

Technical writing is the process of creating documents that other people will be able to use when learning how to use a certain product or service. These documents, called “technical documentation,” explain how to get started, get set up and use something properly.

Documentation is an essential part of software development, especially when it comes to products that will be sold or used by other developers. When creating documentation for your product, it’s important to use tools that allow you to generate high-quality content efficiently. For these tasks, the best tools are usually open source.

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