Open Source Tools for Software Documentation

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You may wonder why someone would be talking about open source documentation tools on a software development blog. This blog is not only devoted to software development; it’s one of the greatest places online to find information about best open source tools used by professional developers in almost any area — including documentation tools.

If you are worried about your software being abandoned by users and a subsequent fall in subscriptions, here is a solution for you. A software documentation tool helps you provide straightforward, step-by-step instructions to users on how to use your software the right way. 

Writing software documentation is essential, as it showcases the product you have built to the world. When a user downloads your app for the first time, they’re left scratching their heads with no explanation of what this product does and how it should be used. With proper software documentation up-front, you show that interest in your work that would otherwise have been unseen.

A very powerful and useful tool in any design project, documentation can be defined as a way to pass on knowledge about the project from person to person, team member to team member. We will be discussing various types of Software Documentation Tools that help a developer create technical documentation for a product. 

What is Software Documentation?

what is software documentation

Software Documentation is the process of creating documentation for software in order to make it more intuitive and easy to use.It is a document that has general information about how the software was built, how it operates, and other details. Software documentation is an important aspect of software development. As a part of the software life cycle, it makes up a significant portion of the effort when building software applications. The goal of documentation is to provide technical and functional information that will help people use your product.

What are the types of software documentation?

types of software documentation

Documentation is a crucial part of the software. There are mainly five types of software documentation. 

  • Requirements – Identifies attributes, capabilities, characteristics, or qualities of a system. 
  • Architecture/Design – Overview of software. Includes relations to an environment and construction principles to be used in design of software components.
  • Technical – Documentation of code, algorithms, interfaces, and APIs.
  • End user – Manuals for the end-user, system administrators and support staff.
  • Marketing – How to market the product and analysis of the market demand.

Importance of Software Documentation

Software documentation is an essential element of any software development project. Although the importance of documentation may not be immediately apparent to some, the benefits of creating a comprehensive and detailed set of instructions for developers and end-users alike are significant. When properly executed, software documentation can help to expedite the process from idea to implementation, reduce time-to-market and increase customer satisfaction.

While writing documentation for software products is not a new phenomenon, it has become more important than ever as technology continues to advance and software becomes increasingly complex. Simply put, the demand for documentation has grown exponentially over time. It can be a daunting task to write good documentation, but with the right tools and techniques in place, anyone can produce clear and concise documentation that will benefit both your users and colleagues alike.

Which Software Documentation Tool is Right for You? 

Now comes the time to decide which software documentation tool you should invest in. 

Let’s start on a blank slate and first figure out who your target audience is – developers or end-users. As you can see above, there are two types of software documentation tools. One is designed for end-users, and the second type is specifically meant for creating internal documents for developers. 

Each tool mentioned above is unique yet similar in various ways. For example, all of them offer a good authoring system, but if you ask about security and granular permissions, not every tool has a feature for that. 

If you need an all-inclusive tool that can be used for both developers and end-users, ProProfs Knowledge Base can work well for you. Its out-of-the-box features let you build both public and private software documentation with equal ease. 

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If you want software documentation in the form of in-app help, Whatfix is a wonderful option. And if you are looking for open-source software documentation tools for your developers, you can give Read the Docs a shot.

What are the tools used for software documentation?

Software documentation is the process of creating and maintaining any form of informational support for a software application. It may be in the form of text documents, images, video, or audio recordings. The purpose of documentation varies; it may be intended for designers, developers, clients, or end-users of the software application.

 Let’s see the top software documentation tools together;

1- Document360

Document360 software documentation tool

Document360 is a documentation tool that helps companies in the process of software development by providing support with their processes and workflows.

Document360 provides support in the process of software development by helping companies with their processes and workflows. This documentation tool supports projects from conception to deployment, showing everyone on the team what’s coming next, who’s working with what, and when it’s due. Document360 is an innovative product designed to manage your documents.

2-UserGuiding

UserGuiding can be used to turn software manuals into interactive guides, and the resource centers widget can be integrated with knowledge bases to offer in-app browsing of the knowledge base. With UserGuiding, you can create interactive guides for your software. Guides are an easier way to learn software than reading long manuals and help make the process of learning new software less painful.

UserGuiding software documentation tool

UserGuiding is a site that allows users to create and share guides on any topic imaginable. The high demand for guides inspired the idea with deep insight into specific topics. Guides of this nature are often hard to find or expensive due to the immense time and effort it takes to compile such rich information. 

UserGuiding can be used to turn software manuals into interactive guides, and the resource centers widget can be integrated with knowledge bases to offer in-app browsing of the knowledge base. With UserGuiding, you can create interactive guides for your software. Guides are an easier way to learn software than reading long manuals and help make the process of learning new software less painful.

With UserGuiding, you can create:

  • Interactive Product Tours,
  • Tooltips and Hotspots,
  • User Onboarding Checklists,
  • Resource Centers,
  • NPS Surveys,
  • And custom user segments.

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3- BitAI

BitAi software documentation tool

Bit.ai is a workspace and document collaboration platform. It allows you to create, organize and share files with your team or colleagues in real-time online. It provides the ability to access information from any device at any time, anywhere. For example, you can view a file while on the go via mobile device while working on something else back at the office on your desktop computer. Bit.ai has Github integration, Cloud File Integrations, and many more. Documents have been created for an enhanced user experience both for the creator and the receiver. They are easy to share, searchable, interactive, and dynamic documents that can be made available on a website or mobile device. 

4- ClickHelp

ClickHelp software documentation tool

ClickHelp is a cloud-based documentation tool that helps your business create, manage and publish online help desk content. With ClickHelp, you can customize the reader experience with UI templates, visual settings, and CSS. ClickHelp is an online documentation tool that enables businesses and individuals to create, edit and share step-by-step guides. Now you can create helpful ‘how to’ guides for customers in a snap. 

What You Get:

# Marketing-friendly Features

# No Installation or Server Setup Required

# Completely Cloud-Based Solution

5- MarkdownPad

MardownPad software documentation tool

MarkdownPad  is a high-quality, easy-to-use software documentation tool that makes creating READMEs and other documentation as simple as writing in plain text.

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MarkdownPad helps you focus on the essential parts of your writing. It’s a new way to write that keeps track of what you write and brings all the tools you need for editing and formatting in-line. This makes it much easier to see how your document will look when it’s published or exported. MarkdownPad is a free and open-source markdown editor for Windows. They offer extensive customization options such as layouts, fonts, and sizes. Plus, you can add your custom CSS to sheets. 

6- ProProfs

ProProfs software documentation tool

ProProfs is a SaaS platform that helps you create beautifully designed, easy-to-understand documentation. With ProProfs, you can add images and videos to your articles and include live code snippets and interactive guides. You can also set up configurable email notifications so users will receive automatic emails when new content has been added to your site. 

  • Enhance searchability of content
  • Create mobile-friendly documents
  • Explain technical terms & concepts 

7- Tettra

Tettra software documentation tool

Tettra is a lightweight documentation tool for software developers that makes creating and updating documentation easy. It’s suitable for both technical and non-technical content. It does not require any programming experience to use Tettra, and it can be used to build technical or marketing documentation. It features an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. This makes it a great choice for technical writers, developers, and editors looking for a tool to create elegant, high-quality tech docs that help them communicate effectively with the rest of the team.

8- Confluence

atlassian software documentation tool

Confluence builds a knowledge base for documentation & product requirements. There are advanced search and page tree options and dozens of templates that are ready to use. Plus, you can connect your plans to development work with Jira integration. They have multiple plans available for you; free, standard, and premium.

Confluence is a great way to keep your team on the same page. It helps you get work done faster, better, and more efficiently. By bringing together all of your organization’s data sources into one place, Confluence allows you to easily share information and ideas with your entire company in real-time.

9- Doxygen

Doxygen software documentation tool

Doxygen is a documentation system for C, C++, Java, Objective-C, Python, IDL (Corba and Microsoft flavors), Fortran, VHDL, and to some extent, PHP. It can be used to create both online readable documentation and printed manuals. Doxygen offers point-and-click support for creating references and links in the generated documentation.

10-  Helpjuice

HelpJuice software documentation tool

HelpJuice is a platform that allows you to create engaging, effective, and easily shareable tutorials and guides. Helpjuice is a cloud-based WordPress help desk software that allows businesses to provide exceptional customer service by streamlining the support process. The best thing about Helpjuice is that it doesn’t require any coding skills or website modifications. Their lite plan starts with $199 per month up to 4 uses with all features, customer care, and expert customization options. Lite

11- Whatfix

Whatfix software documentation tool

WhatFix is a next-generation software onboarding tool that allows you to provide interactive, omnichannel documentation and support via your team’s onboarding process. WhatFix is a free tool that takes the hassle out of creating interactive product documentation. They help you create awesome content in just a few clicks and make it easy to add videos and images. They have custom pricing according to customers’ needs. 

12- Tallyfy

Tallyfy software documentation tool

Tallyfy is a cloud-based documentation and automation tool mainly between co-workers and clients. Tallyfy is modern and proven software that lets anyone document and automate any process without complex flowcharts and ineffective docs. They have a 14 day trial for free. 

13- Typora

Typora software documentation tool

Typora is an open-source text editor that supports real-time collaboration, live previewing of web pages and documents, and lets you instantly publish on the internet. What makes Typora special is the focus on creating a clean and distraction-free writing environment while also offering all the features one needs to produce clean copy (including images, mathematical equations, and tables). They remove the preview window, mode switcher, syntax symbols of markdown source code. Instead, it provides a real live preview feature to help you concentrate on the content itself.

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14- SimpleMDE

SimpleMDE software documentation tool

SimpleMDE (or Simple Mind Document Editor) is an open-source web application for creating rich text documents. It was written in JavaScript using the jQuery library, and it runs on Node.js. This software documentation tool is open source & its repository can be forked from GitHub. 

15- Sublime Text

sublimetext software documentation tool

Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, markup, and prose. You’ll love the slick user interface, extraordinary features, and amazing performance. The tool is available for OS X, Windows, and Linux. It uses a custom UI toolkit optimized for speed and beauty while taking advantage of native functionality on each platform to provide a stable experience and be lightweight and fast. 

Sublime Text focuses on efficiency and minimalism without compromising functionality or usability.

16- Apiary

Apiary software documentation tool

Apiary  Is a web-based API documentation tool. Apiary lets you create, organize, and easily share your APIs. An open standard that makes it easy to describe an API’s capabilities and get immediate access to code samples in dozens of different programming languages. The most crucial feature is the ability to prototype an API without written code. There are three plans; free, standard, and pro. Whether you have 5 or 50 contributors, inside or outside your organization, Apiary gives you the necessary tools to manage complexity. Apiary is a software development tool that helps you plan, build and manage your APIs. It allows you to design your API visually, adding documentation and testing features. 

When it comes to software documentation tools, there are a lot of factors that you’ll have to consider. This article reviewed the top 16 options for writing your software documentation efficiently and effectively.

Whether you’re new to the process or a seasoned professional, these tools can help you create great documentation that will be used by your clients and customers alike. Hope you find this post helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns

Advantages of software documentation

1. Tracking: The main objective of documentation is to keep track of all parts of a software project.

2. Maintenance: While you have documentation, the maintenance of the project is easier.

3. Understanding: Documentation makes it easier for learners or programmers other than the developers to understand the codes and working of the software.

4. Quality: Documentation obviously improves the quality of the software.

5. Assistance: The documentation process assists users during user training.

6. Knowledge sharing: Since everything is documented, it ensures knowledge being shared and understood by everyone. Anyone can read the documentation and easily track all the work and usage of code snippets at different parts of the software. This will cut down costs and efforts made in training new people if someone leaves the organization.

Conclusion

Open source tools for software documentation have gained huge traction in the recent years and I am totally not surprised why. Documentation is extremely important and plays a key role in marketing software products.If you are working on your new open source documentation tool, or creating a documentation for awesome product, or want to learn open source tools for software documentation, then this article will definitely be helpful.

Software documentation may be a tedious task, but it is essential to take it seriously and avoid putting it off. Documentation is not so much about pretty interfaces as about providing users with a real understanding of how to work with your software product. Sometimes, all you need is a plain text editor, but there are other times when you will want to try out some of the best open-source tools for software documentation.

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