Best Documentation Tools for Software
Documentation is the best of all requirements. While it is not always a necessity, having proper documentation for your application makes deploying and using it a lot easier. Using documentation tools for software can help you create those extra notes and guidance information easily when developing web and mobile applications. In order to document everything from setting up a server to tailoring your application to fit your specific needs, you will need good documentation tools for software.
An effective software documentation tool is a must for any organization that has complex software applications. While open source and freemium software tend to have pretty good documentation on their own now, there are still many organizations that need professional software documentation tools to help their internal and external teams create content.
We all know that good documentation is critical for the usability of any software but there will always be a dilemma about what the best way to go for documentation is. The ultimate question is which platform does one choose when it comes to documenting your software product. This article highlights the best tools I have used in documenting my software.
Software documentation has been a common focus of software development organizations, especially the large players. It is easy to see why. No matter how great your developers are, your customers will have questions and require assistance with your product. Good customer service means answering these questions quickly, clearly and without additional fuss. But good documentation is not just about helping the customer find answers to their questions — it is also about providing a direction for new users on how to use your product. Your customer service team can help with this but shouldn’t be burdened with having to answer questions which can be easily answered with simple, concise and clear instructions. A good user guide should allow the customer to get some basic familiarity with your product and its capabilities in the shortest time possible.
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.
List of Best Software Documentation Tools Out There
To make the process of software documentation as easy for you as possible, we have curated a list of some of the best software documentation tools on the market.
These tools will not only provide you with all the tools needed for faster software documentation but will also make this seemingly boring process, a bit more fun! Let’s dive in, shall we?
1. Software Documentation Tool: Bit.ai
Bit.ai is new-age software documentation and knowledge management tool that helps teams to collaborate, share, track, and manage all company knowledge in one place.
Bit documents, unlike your standard Word Docs, are interactive. This means developers can easily add code blocks to a document with a single click!
Whether your team is creating software documentation, technical specs sheets, training manuals, best practices, client support material, etc. they can easily add code blocks or embed snippets of GitHub Gists and Pastebin code directly into a Bit document. It’s a smart way to add context to the code snippets you are sharing.
Multiple people can simultaneously collaborate on a Bit smart document in real-time. It’s a great way for software developers to handle different aspects of the software together under a single roof. Bit’s sleek, minimal, and distraction-free editor makes a great tool for documentation. Users can also make use of Bit’s wiki features to interlink important documents, making it easier to share knowledge across documents.
The best part is Bit’s support for Markdown which allows developers to quickly create and format text without any distractions. Markdown is supported by GitHub and other software development tools, making it easy to share the work you do inside of Bit with other platforms. Once you are done creating your documents, you can easily export them as PDFs, Word files, Markdown, etc. or can even embed your Bit docs on your company website or blog!
Bit allows users to manage edit permissions and information access that suits your organizational needs. It supports features like document tracking, client portals, data rooms, password protection, access restrictions, etc. depending on your organization’s needs.
We recommend that developers use video recording tools like CloudApp and Loom to bring their video screen-sharing video tutorials directly into their technical documents. It’s a smart way to share screens and provide direction to your team, future employees, and customers you’re working with.
Bit works with these two applications along with 50+ other integrations to make sure your technical documentation brings in various types of digital content.
Bit provides a common workplace for software developers to collaborate, document, share their knowledge, brainstorm ideas, store digital assets, and innovate together. The best part is that this knowledge is safely secured in your workspaces and can be shared (or kept private) with anyone in your organization or the public!
Along with robust features and collaborative functionalities, Bit offers some beautiful, fully responsive templates for software developers to make the process a lot more fun.
2. Software Documentation Tool: ProProfs Knowledge Base
Employee onboarding is something you cannot ignore, especially in the case of remote workers who are spread across geographies and only have a certain idea of your firm and the work you do. This makes onboarding all the more crucial for remote employees.
The first few days of new employees are extremely crucial, as that’s when they have the time to invest in learning about your organization and the roles they are hired for.
For optimum utilization of this time, it’s best to use a tool like ProProfs Knowledge Base software – simple, powerful, and feature-rich.
This tool helps you create an online employee handbook to familiarize new hires with your firm’s work dynamics, policies, vision, mission, and, most importantly, the role that remote employees are going to play in your organization.
You don’t want your new hires to get bombarded with emails on the very first day of their joining. So, it’s best to offer them a platform that provides them all the relevant information they need to get started. ProProfs Knowledge Base software helps you achieve this with ease.
It’s an excellent tool to create a company-wide knowledge platform, more like an employee handbook, that can be accessed easily on multiple devices, including laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. The software’s compelling features, such as its MS Word-like editor, Google-like search functionality, customization options, workflows, and more, work together to provide you an unmatched experience.
Even minute tasks like adding text to multiple pages at a go, creating toggle content, adding your firm’s logo and brand name, etc. can be easily done with this powerful tool.
All in all, it’s a great tool to keep emails at bay, calls at a bare minimum, and provide remote employees with a smooth and hassle-free onboarding experience.
3. Software Documentation Tool: GitHub
If you work in the software world, the chances of you not being familiar with GitHub are next to nil. GitHub is a community for developers to host and review code, manage projects, and build software alongside 28 million developers.
GitHub believes in the power of quality documentation and knows that every healthy software project needs one. On GitHub, you can create well-maintained docs use GitHub pages and Wiki features.
GitHub pages let you convert your GitHub repositories and documents into a visually appealing website to showcase your portfolio, documentation, or your projects easily. GitHub pages provide you with one free webpage, GitHub hosting, and the ability to route a custom domain. Use Jekyll (a tool that converts plain text files into websites) and easily create an elegant web page.
If you don’t want a separate website for your documentation, every GitHub repository comes equipped with a section for hosting documentation, called a wiki. Wiki is the place to store details about your project- how to use it, how it’s been designed, and so on. It’s a great way to quickly store all the critical information about your project for others to use.
4. Software Documentation Tool: MarkdownPad
MarkdownPad is one of the most famous markdown document editors for windows. You can use MarkdownPad to write articles, READMEs, and of course, software documentation.
With instant HTML previews, users can quickly see what their documents look like in HTML as they create them.
MarkdownPad offers a lot of customizing options like color schemes, fonts, sizes, and layouts. It even supports your custom CSS stylesheets and has a built-in CSS editor. Users can easily convert their written text into HTML or even export their documents as PDFs.
With a simple, easy to use user interface, MarkdownPad is a great document editor for software documentation. However, the lack of cloud features and the fact that it’s only supported on windows can be a bummer for a lot of you out there.
5. Software Documentation Tool: Read the Docs
Read the Docs is a free platform for software documentation, used by millions of developers worldwide. Read the Docs simplifies software documentation by automating building, versioning, and hosting of your docs for you. Read the Docs hosts your software documentation for free and currently supports over 90,000 projects.
Apart from hosting your software documentation, you can even convert and view your documentation as PDFs, a single page HTML, and eReaders. without the hassle of any additional configuration. Developers can even host multiple versions of their docs easily on the platform. Read the Docs is free and is funded by its strong community of supporters!
6. Software Documentation Tool: Doxygen
If you want to generate automatic documentation from your C++ code, Doxygen is a great tool. Recently, Doxygen has also started documentation support for other popular programming languages such as C, Objective-C, C#, PHP, Java, Python, IDL Fortran, etc.
Doxygen directly extracts the documentation from the sources, making it easier to keep the documentation consistent with the source code. Users can then export the documentation in RTF (MS-Word), PostScript, hyperlinked PDF, compressed HTML, and Unix man pages. Users can even generate graphs and diagrams from the source code, making it a highly customizable and feature-rich tool.
Doxygen is free for use and works on all top operating systems- macOS, Linux, and Windows.
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.
Why are software documentation tools important?
For enterprises, documentation tools provide a repository for detailed instructions for technical procedures and make the distribution of employee information simpler.
Thorough process documentation
Process documents help reduce silos between departments. If every employee has access to process documents, everyone will know the same set of directions.
Step-by-step details for technical processes
Documentation helps developers and engineers navigate advanced dev tasks, including software installation and design. It’s useful for other teams, such as an editorial department that needs detailed instructions for publication processes.
Easier employee onboarding
A repository of content that clearly explains company processes, with videos and helpful popups, allows new team members to learn business processes and expectations and refer to the documents whenever they need a reminder.
Enterprises often need external articles, too. They help businesses:
- Assist customers with any tasks or problems with user-facing applications.
- Provide details about their products and services.
Failing to update documentation can mean a significant waste of employees’ time, as they’re forced to hunt down information on their own. This is a widespread problem, too, according to tech journalist Jack Wallen: even major companies like Kubernetes don’t always keep their documentation up to date.
If you are working as a software engineer, your responsibilities do not end after the completion of coding. Software documentation is also very important. Documentation helps a person new to software to learn how the software works and delivers the functionalities supported by it. It also assists the person to make use of various functionalities of a particular software in accordance with their requirements.
Documentation is an incredibly important task in the software industry. That’s because proper documentation helps developers quickly and easily work on software, which, in general, means less time programming and more time designing innovative and quality product features, which leads to increased customer satisfaction, which can improve sales, which increases revenue. Proper documentation translates into happy customers and more sales. Without good documentation, it’s hard to develop good software which can affect your company positively or negatively.