Best Self Hosted Documentation Software

Documentation is a must while developing any web or mobile application. Whether you are working in a team or as an individual, using a documentation software can significantly make your life easier. Documentation is a way of recording the design, production and development process of an app to enable anyone who needs to use it to do so with ease. Software can be fully or partly self-hosted, if it is internally hosted then it includes software hosted by a single team at an organization itself whereas if third party hosted, then it is referred to as Hosted Software.

There’s no denying the fact that every application needs documentation to describe its usage and how to get started with it. Most of the modern software products are created in such a way that it is easy to understand and use. In this article we’ll have a look at popular self-hosted software platforms and find out which one can be used as best self hosted documentation software. We’ll also see whether hosted or self-hosted solution is better for various features in popular software products like Jira, confluence, git etc.

Documentation is not an afterthought; it’s a best practice. Whether you’re in the throes of a software development project or setting up an on-premises environment, documentation is invaluable to success.

Being a developer is a wonderful job. You get to do what you love with the help of many different technologies. One common among it all is documentation software that helps keep you and your team up to date on what’s going on with the newest project, restructuring upcoming work and more while helping your team stay organized, on budget and on time. There are many different self-hosted documentation software out there to choose from. Here we have taken an in-depth look at some of the best self-hosted documentations available today.

What’s wiki software?

The software solution you can utilize to create, share, and edit content and collaborate and organize it effectively is wiki software.

You can install it on a server easily and run as a web app. All the content created inside this environment is typically stored in an efficient database. The software can also be called a wiki engine.

Companies need wiki software to create a knowledge-base and product documentation that helps users get the information they need about your product and service. It becomes a go-to guide for newbies and first-time users whose questions can easily be covered in the document.

Use cases of a wiki software

  • To store and share the knowledge and instructions for your products/services.
  • Internal wiki for team collaboration
  • Classroom wiki for teachers who can share course materials and guides with students
  • Generate ideas and publish them in the wiki so that people can add more suggestions to it
  • Work as handbooks
  • Tutorials and instructions
  • You can present email discussions in a wiki.
  • Works as a blog for CEOs, managers, and employees

Why do you need wiki software?

There are many benefits. Let’s explore some of them.

Searchable content

Wiki software lets people retrieve archived information easily with an inbuilt search engine.

Hence, even if you put tons of information inside it, users won’t have trouble accessing them. But to make that happen, you need to arrange information in a readable and proper format, so it becomes easier for people to search what they actually want to read about.

Effective collaboration

Wiki promotes collaboration where each member within your team can contribute, share their knowledge, and make efforts to improve the content as a whole.

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On the other hand, non-wiki solutions don’t give you this luxury because only the person posting the content or the editor assigned to them can only edit the content.

Quality control

In case your editor has made a mistake over a document, others in your team or community can immediately correct it. This way, the mistake will not be spotted by the end-users who might be confused about a specific instruction that may hamper your business presence.

Decentralized decision-making

A wiki allows you to take decentralized action on your documents where people get to make decisions that you can review afterward.

It’s better as compared to seeking permission every time from a centralized decision-maker who might not make decisions in a time-bound manner.

Enough theory, it’s the showtime now!

There is plenty of open-source and commercial wiki software that you can install on your server. Get a cloud VM of your choice and install any of the following solutions.

Wiki.js

Wiki.js is a powerful open-source wiki software that makes documentation a joyous ride with its intuitive interface. It is compatible with MariaDB, PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite, or MS-SQL Server, and works virtually on any platform. Wiki.js runs on Node.js, which delivers blazing-fast performance.

You get the flexibility of customizing the appearance of your documentation through dark or light mode. Make the wiki private, public, or a combination of both, whatever you feel is right. It intelligently utilizes available resources, whether it’s a high-performance VM or Raspberry Pi.

Wiki.js is easy to install within minutes through step-by-step guides. It offers wide-ranging modules that you can turn on/off based on the needs if you talk about features. For authentication, it has built-in authentication, including password recovery and self-registration capabilities.

You can also integrate third-party authentication services such as GitHub, Google, Microsoft, Auth0, LDAP, Okta, and more, along with 2FA. It has the popular markdown editor with a toolbar and a live preview, an easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor that non-techies can use, and plain HTML to import preformatted pages.

Wiki.js will also introduce content migration using WikiText editor, tabular editor, and a REST/GraphQL-optimized editor. You can track content modifications, compare versions to see the difference, revert to the past state, or even recover deleted pages or export a page version. It is available in 40+ languages and supports native RTL languages as well.

You can manage media assets, edit the images, highlight codes, generate diagrams, render math expressions, and add video and audio. Wiki.js comes with a built-in search engine, supports cloud search, Elasticsearch, and other engines like Sphinx, Manticore, etc.

Backup content using GitHub, Azure DevOps, GitLab, DigitalOcean Spaces, Google Cloud Storage, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc.

Install wiki.js on VM, Docker, Kubernetes, or prebuilt cloud images from DigitalOcean and AWS.

DokuWiki

The highly versatile DokuWiki is open-source, which is known for its simplicity and effectiveness while documenting. It does not need a database and is rejoiced by developers and users alike for its readable and clean syntax. Other points that go in favor of DokuWiki are easy maintenance, integration, and backup.

It also comes with built-in authentication connectors and access controls that make it even more useful for enterprises. DokuWiki’s vibrant community has contributed a wide range of plugins for multiple use cases beyond a traditional wiki. You can easily add new pages and update them quickly.

The developers have designed DokuWiki to be an effective tool for collaboration and maintaining a record of all the changes made. The different use cases of DokuWiki are:

  • Software manual
  • Knowledge base
  • Private notebook
  • CMS – intranet
  • Project workspace
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DokuWiki provides you with lots of advantages such as ease of installation, has fewer system requirements, lots of extensions, built-in access controls, 50+ language support, and device independence. It enables easy configuration and offers lots of templates and plugins.

If you need DokuWiki on the cloud, then you can try Kamatera, who offers one-click installation and give you an option to host in 13 datacenters worldwide.

MediaWiki

MediaWiki was created by senior scientists in the year 2002. It is an open-source and free wiki software that empowers thousands of sites, organizations, and companies. It includes popular wikis like Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, and many more.

MediaWiki helps collect knowledge, organize it, and then make knowledge available to all. The software is powerful, extensible, reliable, and multilingual. It is written in PHP, which makes it easy to get it started on the LAMP stack. It has already been deployed extensively for years; it is now one of the most robust wiki solutions available in the market.

MediaWiki comes with useful features and organization options that make it a great choice for the enterprise wiki. You have the option of customizing with the help templates and add more functionalities by installing useful extensions.

For MediaWiki hosting, you can try the A2 platform.

XWiki

Again one more open-source wiki solution for you – XWiki, which is written in Java. You can use it as a 1st generation wiki or a 2nd generation wiki. 1st-generation wikis are for content collaboration mainly, while 2nd generation wikis are for creating collaborating web apps.

The examples of 2nd generation can be blogs that communicate information and organize it with forums and tags. Such platforms enable participants to discuss valuable topics and foster task management solutions to create and distribute tasks associated with projects. XWiki features an intuitive and robust WYSIWYG editor along with wiki syntax.

The core developers and the XWiki community provide you with 600 extensions, including plugins, themes, skins, macros, and applications. From management to collaboration, it delivers everything seamlessly so you can make your documentation a great success.

BookStack

A simple platform to store and organize information using BookStack.

One of the USPs of BookStack is its simplicity; its page editor includes a simple interface with WYSIWYG. You can break content into 3 real-world groups – pages, chapters, and books. All the content in BookStack is searchable across these three groups and at the book-level itself.

Keep documentations connected by linking any paragraph directly. Configure BookStack based on your specific use case and change the logo, name, and registration fields. In addition to this, you can change the system’s visibility and choose to view it publicly or not.

BookStack is powered by the PHP framework, Laravel, with MySQL as the database. As a result, whatever VM you use, the performance would hardly be an issue. Apart from powerful linking and search features, you get cross-book sorting, image management, and page revisions.

Using the permission and role system, you can also lock down actions and content as needed. You can set your preferred language like English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, German, Dutch, etc., all thanks to their community.

Are you a Markdown fan?

Good news!

BookStack supports it in addition to live previews of whatever you are writing on your documentation. It also lets you integrate with authentication providers such as Okta, LDAP, Google, Slack, GitHub, and AzureAD.

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TikiWiki CMS

TikiWiki CMS and Groupware (src. TikiWiki)

It may look as a Wiki, but it’s not just another Wiki engine, It is a complete groupware and CMS for teams and enterprise as well as a web app development platform.

TikiWiki features include: editors, forums, form wizard control, custom fields and custom data structure management options,  calendar and events management, galleries, survey, quizzes, polls, blogs and more.

PmWiki

PmWiki

PmWiki is a lightweight open-source wiki built with PHP. It offers a spam protection, page editing, revisions, RSS feeds, search tools, page group management and dozens of themes and plugins.

This wiki is pretty straightforward that does not require a steep learning curve. Some may prefer it as a personal wiki engine.

TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki has been my favorite wiki on this list, It is an open-source portal one-file wiki that does not even require install. Despite its simple use and look, it has a rich list of features, plugins, and themes.

TiddlyWiki can be customized and modified according as required; however, some customization requires the user to dive deep in documentation and has a good coding experience.

Outline

Outline is a fairly new Wiki engine for teams which built on top of Node.JS, React and PostgreSQL.

It has a simple user-interface and rich features list with a dozen of customization options. It offers a docker install which can works seamlessly on Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Keep in mind that the project is under heavy development, which suggest more features in the near future.

Gollum

Gollum is a GitHub-based Wiki engine for developers to organize software documentation.  It uses GitHub repository for markdown files and Gollum engine to control and organize the content.

It features: RSS feed, UML diagram support,  BibTeX and citation support, macros and more.

MediaWiki

MediaWiki is an open-source Wiki engine that runs Wikipedia.  It is the oldest system in the list and some may consider it the king of Wiki engines. It supports almost all available languages as it is easy to install and use.

It is available to download  for free for users to host it at their server and start creating, editing and organizing their pages and media content.

MediaWiki has a tremendous list of customization options tips, extensions themes.

Use cases of a wiki software

  • To store and share the knowledge and instructions for your products/services.
  • Internal wiki for team collaboration
  • Classroom wiki for teachers who can share course materials and guides with students
  • Generate ideas and publish them in the wiki so that people can add more suggestions to it
  • Work as handbooks
  • Tutorials and instructions
  • You can present email discussions in a wiki.
  • Works as a blog for CEOs, managers, and employees

Conclusion

Documentation is the foundation of any good software project. If you can’t document your product, then you can’t support it. And if your product isn’t supported by its documentation, then it’s usually just a matter of time before customers complain and it falls into disuse. Therefore, developers should be investing in self-hosted documentation software.

Software is a powerful tool to start or grow your business. Generate and work with more leads, increase productivity of your workforce and convert them into customers. But despite the lack of understanding around software and its benefits, there is still a lack of software available for small businesses.

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