From the ground-up, you can easily create a comprehensive it documentation using one of the best it documentation tools. These it documentation software and tools are pushed by a growing number of industries and facilitating environments as they have become increasingly important for any organization to develop a comprehensively it documentation or build a business case from the start.
Documentation has been a point of contention for developers for many years. The average developer understands, from both a personal and professional standpoint, how valuable good documentation is. If a project cannot be understood without documentation, the project that is being worked on cannot be completed.
The Internet is filled with wonderful things to explore. However, from time-to-time you can come across an old website that appears outdated or it doesn’t work properly. Maybe there’s a new site that you’d like to check out and you don’t want to wait for pages to load in your browser when checking the source code. Or maybe you’re a developer looking for one of the best it documentation software tools to help you maintain quality and consistency throughout your projects.
Documentation has long been a necessary evil of programming processes, though the rise of modern tech companies (where less documentation is required) means that it’s no longer considered vital. However, developers and their managers who still view documentation as a vital cog in their workflow will be pleased to know that there are plenty of tools out there for them to get the job done quicker and more efficiently. As a matter of fact, there are so many tools out there to choose from it can become quite confusing to determine which one(s) is/are best from an overall standpoint — hence, this article.
What is Software Documentation?
Software documentation is any written document that explains how a piece of software is built, operates, or used. For more complex software, it typically includes a section on general use as well as sections about each of the software’s various functions and features. Documentation comes in many forms, including user tutorials that demonstrate how to perform tasks, printed manuals or books with step-by-step instructions, or knowledge bases and FAQ pages on a company’s website.
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.
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The software documentation tool you choose will depend on the type of documents you need to create. Here’s a list of twelve of the best software documentation tools for end-users and developers to help you make your choice:
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.
What are the various types of software documentation?
This question isn’t a straight-forward one. The kind of project, i.e., services or product development influences the type of documentation needed. The project phase has a bearing on the type of documentation, for e.g., the execution phase requires a different kind of documentation than a ‘Request for Proposal’ (RFP) phase.
Broadly, the following are the broad categories of software documentation:
- A proposal: A provider sends it to a prospective customer.
- Before an organization approves a project, it undertakes due diligence. A feasibility study is a document that’s produced at this point.
- Requirements analysis documents: Business analysts study customers’ business requirements and translate it into technical requirements.
- Software design documents: IT architects or analysts study the technical requirements and develop the design document. This will be an input to the development process.
- Coding documents: This is a broad category. It includes the code, comments, and constraints if any.
- Testing documents: Yet another broad category, this includes test plans, test cases, requirements traceability matrix with reference to test cases, test results, testing review logs, etc.
- Review records: Either peer reviewers or independent quality assurance professionals may produce these. They review project artifacts and note their comments.
- Guides and checklists: These can be of various kinds, e.g., coding guidelines, review checklist, etc.
- Project intellectual capital documents: Typically produced at the end of the project, these aim to enrich organizational process assets. In some cases, the organization might even want to file patent applications using these documents.
- Project management documents: This is another broad category. Anything that comes under the ‘Project Management System Summary’ (PMSS) can be considered in this category.
- Licenses: If a project procures software for the execution, the team needs to maintain licenses.
Select a Software Documentation Tools Based on Your Needs
When choosing a software documentation tool, there is no such thing as the “perfect” option.
To make sure you choose the right tool, start by creating a list of crucial features to look for — at the least, your software documentation tool should integrate with other tools to reduce friction and increase productivity across departments.
The best IT documentation software is that one that helps an IT organization stay compliant with ISO, best practices and client expectations by providing the right tools and information at the right time. The best IT documentation tools help automate repetitive tasks like deployment of server images, capture user actions to help troubleshoot incidents and collect information like reports and logs. If you’ve spent any length of time working in an IT department, you know how important it is to have good documentation. Even if the project you are developing doesn’t require a lot of formal documentation, it’s important to maintain the code and make sure that everything works as expected over time.
Cost-effective documentation software, it is not a tool that is talked about often. But it should be. A business for everyone’s benefit and at a low cost. The fast, easy and simple way to get your IT documentation software running in no time. Documentation software from a company with years of experience and best practice. Software documentation is not just about the user interface. The software’s logic and structure also need to be documented for others to understand it and maintain it. If you want to find out more about how to do this, keep reading.