Project management is an essential part of your business. Without its help, you won’t be able to organize the project and take care of the project documents. Even if you hire some other person or company to create project documentation, it will still be important for you to have some generic documentation tools in your toolbox. After all, there may come a time when that job falls into your lap or you need a quick reference source at a moments notice. You might even need to send a document out to a client of yours that they requested as part of the final project delivery process.
Project documentation is an essential part of project management. Every time you start a new project, customers face a lot of risk. It’s the duty of software developers to minimize this risk by preparing best tools for documentation. You have to prepare your schedule, budget, estimate and assign resources to tasks in short-term and long-term manner. All of these are essential components of a project. As part of this article, we’ll talk about common methods used for documenting processes that are then embedded into the software product.
If you’ve ever had to use a piece of software you’re not familiar with, you understand the importance of helpful technical documentation. You don’t have time to guess how to use a piece of software when you have work to get done. You need straightforward instructions to help you complete your tasks.
Documentation is an integral part of any software product. It explains what the software does, how it works, how to integrate it into other tools, and provides a peek under the hood. There are several different types of software documentation, and they can all benefit from specialized tools that make creating them more manageable.
Best Software Documentation Tools in 2022
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.
Confluence is one of the oldest software documentation tools on the market and has over 75,000 customers. One of the main strengths of Atlassian’s Confluence is its integration with other Atlassian products such as Jira and Bitbucket, so you can fit this software into your existing workflows. Confluence is a remote-friendly workspace for knowledge and collaboration. You can build, collaborate and organize work using Confluence’s wiki-like system for sharing documentation. Confluence is best-suited for internal wikis but can be adapted to offer a public site. Confluence comes equipped with best-practice templates so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can also integrate Confluence with other popular apps such as Trello, Slack and Microsoft Office. You can control user permissions so only certain people have access to particular content, making it easy to keep certain documents confidential.
- Integrations with Atlassian’s other products.
- Has a web and mobile version so you can access Confluence on the move.
- Confluence is more of a collaboration tool so you might find it difficult to use for extensive software documentation.
- Lacks customization options to fit your business’s brand.
- Easy to get set up with virtually no training involved.
- Strong support team who get back to you quickly and solve any problem.
- Documents can only be exported as a PDF or Excel file and not in an editable format.
- A few bugs in the editor such as adding an extra bullet point to a list.
Sphinx is a python documentation generator that makes it easy to create beautiful and intelligent documentation. It was originally created for the Python documentation but supports documentation creation in a range of languages. Documentation is written in reStructuredText which is a powerful and flexible markup language. Sphinx supports output to HTML (including Windows HTML Help), LaTeX (for printable PDF versions), ePub, Texinfo, manual pages, and plain text. Sphinx is free and open source.
- Sphinx provides extensive documentation to help you get to grips with its product.
- Sphinx requires development knowledge to install and use.
- You can’t use Sphinx to host your documentation – you’ll need to integrate with another tool.
KnowAll is the most popular knowledge base solution on WordPress and you can use it to create your technical documentation. The main advantage of KnowAll is that is a WordPress theme so you can create all your content using this familiar platform – it’s as easy as creating a blog post. It comes with Google-grade search so users can search for the content they need, also combined with auto suggest, making the searching process much quicker. You can restrict user access and require a login for users to view your site. You can customize the theme to make it match your company branding, and the software supports complex content hierarchy with multiple categories. You can customize the way categories are ordered, making them alphabetical or ensuring that the most useful articles remain at the top. KnowAll costs $149 per year.
- KnowAll comes with a wealth of analytics options to help you gauge your content’s performance.
- Takes advantage of the popularity of WordPress as a Content Management System.
- Customizations are limited without diving into the code.
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.
Benefits of API Documentation Software
Having a set of descriptor documents for your API allows people to
- Reduced Need for Support: A well-written and simple set of API documents helps users find their way around the API and not rely on API development support for external customers and internal use.
- Higher Adoption Rate: Documenting helps improve the user experience throughout the API lifecycle and allows users to start working with your API much sooner.
- Non-Engineering Usability: Most documentation software produces reference documentation and other material that people with no software engineering experience can easily understand.
- Better Product Maintenance: Documentation provides developers a bird’s eye view of the entire API structure. This allows for better maintenance and updates and quicker improvement cycles.
- API Specs Agreement: Creating complete documents for API allows developers and stakeholders to agree on specifications such as the data, attributes, endpoints, and more.
Software documentation is essential for a successful project. When programmers do their work well, the documentation will be automatically generated, and when there are bugs in the product or it’s missing some features, the documentation will be updated by itself, without even involving any other team members.
These days, every organization wants to run a successful project. However, more than 50% of these projects fail because of poor documentation and administration processes. This failure is not intentional but due to lack of knowledge about the tools used for documentation.