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Top 20 Software Documentation Tools of 2021

Top 20 Software Documentation Tools of 2021

Last updated on Dec 6, 2021

There’s so much more to your software product than just the code. In order for users to get the most out of your software, you need to provide them with useful documentation – whether that’s for other developers or end users of your product.

In order to provide the best user experience for your software, you need to invest in the right documentation tools to host your documentation. It’s no good just creating a Google Drive folder and expecting that to do the job, as your software is likely to be too complex for such a solution.

Users need straightforward instructions to understand how the software works and what they can use it for. This is where your software documentation comes in.

What Is Software Documentation?

Remember, docs or it didn’t happen. Software documentation is any written document that explains how a piece of software works, why it was built, and how it is intended to be used. Depending on the complexity of your software, your documentation can contain information on the general use of the product and in-depth dives into functions and features.

Software documentation, according to Daniele Procida, can be divided into four categories:

  • Learning-oriented tutorials
  • Goal-oriented how-to guides
  • Understanding-oriented discussions
  • Information-oriented reference material

You need all these types of documentation to provide comprehensive instructions for your software product.

20 Best Software Documentation Tools

We’ve compiled a list of the best software documentation tools out there that you can take advantage of to document your software product.

1. Document360

Document360 knowledge base portal

We’ll start with our own Document360. Document360 is our very own knowledge base solution which is perfect for creating user manuals. It offers an advanced portal for content producers with a state-of-the-art editor, category manager, and more. You can create up to six levels of categories and subcategories for your content which can easily be rearranged using the drag-and-drop UI.

The Markdown editor lets you focus on writing text-heavy documents but there is also a WYSIWYG editor for those who prefer that functionality. Both editors allow you to add links, images, videos, callouts, code blocks, and more. Never lose your work with Document360’s version history which allows you to roll back to a previous version.

Document360 comes with advanced analytics that allows you to learn where your knowledge base traffic is coming from, what your visitors are looking for and how they’re interacting with your content. Document360 also integrates with a large number of popular apps including ticketing systems like Zendesk and Freshdesk, live chat software like Intercom and Drift, as well as analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Segment.

Document360’s startup plan costs $99 per project per month.

An intuitive knowledge base software to easily add your content and integrate it with any application. Give Document360 a try!

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Document360

2. GitHub

Github
 
If you’re working in the software development world then it’s highly likely you’ll have used GitHub. It’s a popular platform with developers and a solid choice you can use for hosting your web-based documentation.
 
You have a choice between using the main GitHub platform wiki section or you can use GitHub Pages, which allows you one free page, hosting, and a custom domain. You can combine GitHub Pages with Jekyll to create modern and appealing documentation sites.
 
GitHub is free to use if your repositories are public.
 
Pros
  • It can be appealing to use GitHub if you are already using the platform for software development.
  • It’s a free platform for hosting your repositories if you choose the basic plan.
Cons
  • Requires development skills to use and maintain. May not be accessible for all members of your team.

3. MarkdownPad

MarkdownPad
 
MarkdownPad is a well-known Markdown editor for Windows. MarkdownPad offers instant HTML previews so you can view your documentation as you write it. It’s simple and as easy to use as Microsoft Word and comes with a WYSIWYG editor so you don’t even need to know Markdown to use the software.
 
You can take advantage of extensive customization options such as layouts, fonts and sizes. You can also include your own custom CSS style sheets. It comes with a CSS editor built into the platform so you can style your text to your heart’s content.
 
MarkdownPad is free for the basic plan or $14.95 USD for MarkdownPad Pro.
 
Pros
  • Free on the basic plan.
  • Allows your team to write stunning documentation in Markdown.
Cons
  • MarkdownPad doesn’t have cloud features so you won’t be able to share your docs.
  • MarkdownPad is only available on Windows.

4. Read the Docs

Read the Docs
 
Read the Docs comes with two versions – Read the Docs for open source and Read the Docs for Business. If you’re looking to invest in product documentation tools then we suggest you go with the latter.
 
Read the Docs for Business simplifies the entire process of building and deploying developer documentation. With support for Sphinx and Mkdocs, you can integrate your code and user-facing documentation using the same tools. Create beautiful documentation easily with themes, and preview every commit with Pull Request previews.
 
Read the Docs for Business starts at $50 USD per month.
 
Pros
  • The ability to write your docs alongside your software using the same tools.
  • Documentation can be public or private.
Cons
  • Requires developer resources to use and maintain.

Also Read: Create Stunning User Documentation Using Online Documentation Tool


5. Doxygen

Doxygen
 
Doxygen is a powerful software development documentation tool. It is the standard tool for generating documentation from annotated C++ sources, but it also supports other popular programming languages such as C, Objective-C, C#, PHP, Java, Python, and IDL.
 
Doxygen is a good choice if you want to provide documentation for developers. It can generate an on-line documentation browser (in HTML) and/or an off-line reference manual (in LaTeX) from a set of documented source files. There is also support for generating output in RTF (MS-Word), PostScript, hyperlinked PDF, compressed HTML, and Unix man pages. The documentation is extracted directly from the sources, which makes it much easier to keep the documentation consistent with the source code. It also works for creating normal documentation unrelated to code source files.
 
Doxygen is free.
 
Pros
  • Use Doxygen to write developer documentation extracting content directly from the source code.
  • Simple to set up and easy to use.
  • Works on all operating systems – MacOS, Windows and Linux.
Cons
  • Might be too complex for simple documentation software projects.
  • Requires development resources to use and maintain.

6. ClickHelp

clickhelp documentation tool
 
ClickHelp is a help authoring tool that enables you to publish your software documentation to a variety of outputs. It offers easy imports from Madcap Flare, RoboHelp, MS Word and Confluence. ClickHelp is cloud-based and hosts your content and authoring environment. It is a structured authoring tool that allows you to reuse content as snippets, variables and conditional content.
 
You can publish multiple projects and project versions from a single portal. Output formats include online documentation, PDF, Web Help and more. You have the ability to publish either public or password-protected documentation, all from the same portal.
 
It includes a patented full-text search engine customized for documentation search so users can easily find content they’re looking for. You have the ability to create taxonomies and search customization features. ClickHelp also offers in-depth analytics and reporting with author contribution and reader behavior reports, 30+ content metrics that include readability, time to read, word count, etc, and topic ratings based on user votes.
 
ClickHelp’s Essentials plan costs $55 per author per month.
 
Pros
  • Feature-rich help authoring tool for a very reasonable price-tag.
  • Allows you to single-source your documentation, saving time and money.
Cons
  • Might be an overly complex tool for simpler documentation requirements.

Also Read: Create Killer SaaS Product Documentation for Your Customers


7. iA Writer

IAWriter
 
iA Writer is a popular Markdown editor with a focus on writing. When you use iA Writer you will be impressed by its unique writing experience that allows you to hone and clarify your message. When writing in the editor, iA Writer highlights only the sentence or paragraph you’re working on, and uses syntax highlighting to help you spot superfluous adjectives, weak verbs, and repetitions.
 
You can export your Markdown files to HTML, PDF, and Microsoft Word file format using custom templates. The interface is minimalist, eliminating distractions, and allows you to focus purely on the text.
 
iA Writer is $29.99 on macOS.
 
Pros
  • Makes writing a breeze due to the distraction-free interface.
  • Works on MacOS, Windows, and iOS.
Cons
  • Doesn’t offer any storage for your files so you will need to integrate with another service like Google Drive.
  • Isn’t cloud-based so you won’t be able to share your documentation with anyone else.

8. SimpleMDE

SimpleMDE
 
SimpleMDE is a WYSIWYG Markdown editor built on JavaScript. It’s free and open source, so you can take advantage of this software for your documentation without paying a penny. SimpleMDE has a focus on creating simple documentation that includes autosave and spell checking.
 
If you don’t know Markdown then you can use the WYSIWYG editor to style and format your files using familiar toolbar buttons and shortcuts. The syntax is rendered while editing so you can preview the final result.
 
SimpleMDE is free and open source.
 
Pros
  • Simple editor for creating Markdown files.
Cons
  • There is no way to host your documentation for end-users to share.

9. Tettra

Tettra-Knowledge Management
 
Tettra is an internal knowledge base that organizes your scattered company knowledge so you can use it to answer your team’s repetitive questions right in Slack or MS Teams. It’s suitable for internal software documentation with a user-friendly and intuitive User Interface.
 
This software is built in a Q&A style format so users can ask questions and get answers in Tettra. With the Slack and MS Teams integration, you can answer questions directly in these platforms by linking to existing content. Tettra allows you to define knowledge experts within the interface so the right people can answer questions.
 
You have the ability to ask Subject Matter Experts to verify content according to a set schedule, so your content is never out-of-date. Teammates can also request new pages or request page updates so you can fill the gaps in your content.
 
Tettra is $8.33 per user per month for the scaling plan.
 
Pros
  • Tettra is a simple platform that streamlines all your documents in one place.
  • It makes it easy to keep documents up-to-date.
Cons
  • Drafts can only be worked on by one individual with no collaborative editing.
  • It’s not possible to create a public knowledge base for your software documentation.

10. Whatfix

Whatfix
 
Whatfix is a Digital Adoption Platform that gives you the ability to create step-by-step walkthroughs that guide your employees through your software. If you already have a knowledge base, Whatfix allows you to display your site in a self-help widget so users never have to leave the platform.
 
Whatfix helps companies to create interactive walkthroughs that display within web applications. The product increases user adoption, decreases training costs and provides self-service support for users of software applications. The form of this documentation can take interactive guidance, contextual walk-throughs, self-help FAQs and more.
 
The platform provides in-depth analytics so you can figure out how users are engaging with your content and whether they are learning from it.
 
Contact Whatfix for a pricing quote.
 
Pros
  • In-depth platform highly tailored towards user learning.
  • Flexible according to your organization’s needs.
Cons
  • Might be overkill if all you want is a simple knowledge base for your documentation.

11. Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper
 
Dropbox Paper is a good choice of software for internal documentation. You can use it to create a wiki for your employees to consult every time they have a question. You can also securely share your documents with anyone outside the company.
 
You can link documents together easily, insert code blocks, add images, audio and videos, all from within the interface. Dropbox Paper makes it easy to collaborate with your team by inviting others to share your document or folder. They can comment on your documents and you can assign deadlines or milestones as well.
 
Dropbox Paper is free if you already have a Dropbox account.
 
Pros
  • Beautiful user interface and sleek design making this software a joy to use.
  • Good integration between the web-based version of Paper and the mobile app.
Cons
  • Only suitable for internal docs and is lacking when it comes to public software documentation.
  • Limited folder system that is hard to use.

12. Bit.ai

BIT.AI
 
Bit.ai is robust technical documentation software that you can use for your projects. It’s a knowledge management tool that enables companies to keep track of their documentation and make edits, all in one place.
 
Bit documents allow developers to add code directly in the interface, and are more interactive than your standard Word docs. Bit.ai supports multiple collaborators on a document in real-time, so you never have version conflicts. It’s constructed like a wiki so users can easily interlink documents together and share knowledge properly.
 
Bit.ai supports Markdown so developers can document their code without any distractions from the editor. You can easily share the work you complete in Bit.ai with other platforms like GitHub, or export as PDFs and Word files.
 
Bit.ai’s pro plan starts from $8 per member per month.
 
Pros
  • Bit.ai is extremely easy to get up and running with an intuitive interface.
  • Comes with pre-made templates that provide a launchpad for new projects.
Cons
  • Limited formatting and design options which means you can’t match your company’s branding.

13. Apiary

Apiary
 
Apiary is a powerful software documentation tool for creating API documentation. It has a user-friendly interface that lets anyone get started with documenting their APIs, and supports powerful collaboration so teams can work together easily.
 
It has a dedicated web-based team and API blueprint management dashboard, and features role-based access control over API documents. The roles available in Apiary are Admin, Editor and Viewer roles, so you can manage who exactly has access to your content.
 
Apiary comes built-in with API Blueprint templates so you can quickly bootstrap new projects. It’s easy to transfer access between teams throughout the API design life cycle so you always have the right people contributing to the right designs.
 
Apiary is free.
 
Pros
  • Easy for users to get started documenting APIs even if they are complete beginners.
  • Supported by thorough documentation.
 
Cons
  • Not suitable for your project if you’re not documenting APIs.
  • It’s not easy to transfer ownership of API documentation once it has been created.

14. Typora

Typora
 
Typora is a minimalist Markdown editor that is perfectly suited to creating software documentation. When you open the editor it is completely clean and free of distractions, and it renders your Markdown as HTML while you type so you get a smooth viewing experience, being able to write and read in the same view.
 
You can choose from many built-in themes and download new themes from the Typora Themes page, or even create your own theme. It’s not necessary to remember all the Markdown syntax since you can insert formatting from the top menu.
Typora allows you to export your documents to PDF, HTML, Word document, RTF, Epub, LaTeX and so on.
 
Typora is free in beta mode.
 
Pros
  • Provides support for inserting diagrams and mathematics
Cons
  • Doesn’t host your documentation online so you will need to integrate with another tool.

15. KnowAll

KnowAll
 
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.
 
Pros
  • 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.
Cons
  • Customizations are limited without diving into the code.

16. Sphinx

SPHINX
 
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.
 
Pros
  • Sphinx provides extensive documentation to help you get to grips with its product.
Cons
  • 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.

17. ProProfs

Proprofs
 
ProProfs knowledge base software is one of the best online documentation tools that enables you to create software documentation right out of the box. ProProfs allows you to create both public and private knowledge bases, from end user facing documentation to internal employee software docs. You can drag and drop content and categories.
 
You can control the article status to let your team know what’s going on with your content. You can easily customize your knowledge base from within the settings, including changing the theme, adding a favicon, updating the logo, and so on.
 
One of the big advantages of ProProfs knowledge base is you can integrate it with their live chat and help desk software for a more unified support experience.
ProProfs also integrates with Google Analytics, Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Desk so you can link your existing support software stack with your knowledge base.
 
ProProfs’s essential plan costs $60 per month.
 
Pros
  • Easy writing and publishing process means it’s a breeze to get started.
  • Allows you to set different roles for the content publishing – writer, editor and administrator.
Cons
  • Integrations could be more powerful.
  • The navigation is a little confusing.

18. HelpDocs

Helpdocs
 
HelpDocs is sleek knowledge base software that enables you to swiftly create software documentation right out of the box. It offers extensive customization options with CSS, Javascript, and HTML templates. It offers a powerful search which is tolerant of typos so your users can easily find the information they’re looking for in your knowledge base.
 
You can quickly categorize your content by dragging and dropping your articles. Outdated articles can be marked as style, prompting your team to update them. HelpDocs offers a widget called Lighthouse that allows you to offer contextual help directly within your application.
 
HelpDocs comes built with robust analytics so you can keep an eye on how your content is performing. The software also integrates with several popular tools, including Slack, Front, Intercom and Chrome, so you can power up your workflows.
 
HelpDoc’s Start plan costs $46 per month.
 
Pros
  • Easy to get set up with virtually no training involved.
  • Strong support team who get back to you quickly and solve any problem.
Cons
  • 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.

19. Confluence

Confluence
 
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.
 
Pros
  • Integrations with Atlassian’s other products.
  • Has a web and mobile version so you can access Confluence on the move.
Cons
  • 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.

20. Nuclino

nuclino
 
Nuclino is a good way to organize information within teams into workspaces. You can use Nuclino to create beautiful software documentation for your employees or your customers. Workspaces can be public or private. You can bring your content to life with text, images, videos, files, tasks, embeds, code blocks, and more. Write your content even faster with Markdown or use the WYSIWYG editor.
You can collaborate in real-time so you can see the changes your team members are making as they type, which means there’s no risk of version conflicts. You can type @ inside an item to link to another page in the knowledge base and use workspaces and clusters to organize items.
 
There’s a powerful search bar that you can type into to find relevant content. Work visually by organizing your team’s content into boards and graphs. Nuclino integrates with a large number of apps including Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox and more.
 
Nuclino’s standard plan costs $5 per user per month.
 
Pros
  • Straightforward organization that helps users find the content they’re looking for.
  • Documents can be edited simultaneously, reducing the risk of version conflicts.
Cons
  • Lack of formatting options for content.
  • No ability to control access at the article level, only at the workspace level.

Final Remarks

There you have it – the top 20 tools for creating software documentation. These are all very different tools and you’ll need to conduct thorough research to find the best fit for your organization. Take advantage of the free trials available to test out the software before you buy.
 
Your software can’t be shipped without appropriate documentation. Software documentation shows your dedication to your users, whether they be customers of your product or developers. You will greatly enhance the User Experience of your software and increase adoption.

 

An intuitive knowledge base software to easily add your content and integrate it with any application. Give Document360 a try!

Get Started
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