But with dozens of software documentation tools available in the market, which one(s) to pick?
In this guide, we've prepared a comprehensive list of the 18 best software documentation tools available in the market right now.
If you just want to skip the read and get your hands on the best software documentation tools, here's a quick overview:
TL;DR: The top 18 software documentation tools
- ProProfs Knowledge Base
- Dropbox Paper
- Read the Docs
- iA Writer
- MarkdownPad 2
Before we dive into the nitty and gritty, let's first understand more about software documentation.
What is software documentation?
Software documentation is the process of creating written or visual materials about a software product. The primary purpose of these materials is to explain how the software operates, how to use it and to provide users or developers with a reference that can guide them in navigating the product, understanding its features, and performing tasks with or on the software.
For end-users, software documentation is often designed to help them become self-sufficient and proficient in using the application. Whereas, for developers, software documentation serves as a crucial reference and guide for understanding the codebase, architecture, APIs, and more.
Here's an example of a good software documentation. It's a Configuration Guide for Cisco IOS Release 15.1S:
Software documentation tools like Scribe make creating, storing, managing and distributing important internal and external documents streamlined and more efficient.
Create visual and user-friendly software documentation for free ➜
Types of software documentation
The three most common types of software documentation include:
- User documentation tells end users how to use the software. It includes user guides, tutorials and help files.
- Developer documentation explains how software is designed and implemented. It consists of design documents, code comments and API documentation.
- System documentation (for system administrators) describes how software is installed, configured and maintained. It includes installation instructions, configuration guides and troubleshooting manuals.
Other types of documentation include:
- Requirements documentation.
- Design documentation.
- Testing documentation.
- Deployment documentation.
- Support documentation.
🎓 Essential Reading: 7 Types of Software Documentation and How to Create Yours + Template
While there's no fixed number of the number of hours developers spend creating documentation about their software, it's a LOT. Some companies even hire dedicated people who collaborate with the developers to create software documentation.
The right software documentation tool can save time, effort and money. Let's understand what a software documentation tool is.
What is a software documentation tool?
A software documentation tool is a software or platform that streamlines the process of creating, organizing, storing and sharing software documentation. These tools provide features that reduce the number of hours spent on software documentation, facilitate collaboration among team members, build visually-appealing and easy-to-understand software materials, organize these materials for easy access and retrieval, and enhance the overall quality of the documentation.
For example, Scribe, our AI-powered software, captures the processes you perform while recording your screen and automatically turns them into visually-appealing step-by-step guides. So, suppose you want to create a troubleshooting document, all you need to do is just start recording your screen with Scribe and perform the troubleshooting steps. Once done, Scribe will automatically turn these steps into a step-by-step guide.
Here's an example of a troubleshooting guide created using Scribe:
Benefits of using software documentation tools
The key benefit of software documentation tools: productivity.
Reducing the time spent creating and finding documents makes it easier for everyone on your team.
Additional benefits of software documentation products include:
- Improved quality and process control: ensures your processes are completed the same way each time.
- Increased clarity with a single source of information: creates a single source of truth, providing transparency and reducing confusion.
- Easier onboarding and training: clear instructions create opportunities for self-service onboarding and training, improving the processes.
- Reduces knowledge loss: does everyone on your team know how to perform tasks correctly? A documentation tool provides instruction regardless of experience level.
Key features of software documentation tools
Documentation tools can be simple or feature-rich, but there are a few key features to consider:
- Content creation: a good software documentation tool should have a robust and user-friendly content creation interface that supports the inclusion of different content types such as text and images. Also, makes it super-easy to export this content.
- Cloud storage: choose a documentation tool with cloud storage functionality. Otherwise, you'll have to do a lot of back and forth via email or use a third-party knowledge management software.
- Organization: look for a tool that offers strong organizational features like tagging, categorizing, and indexing, which make it easier to sort, search, and retrieve information quickly. This way you can reduce the number of times you receive those, "hey, where can I find the user manual for our platform?" messages from your team members.
- Collaboration and feedback. a tool with built-in collaboration features makes it easier to ensure all team members contribute to the documentation process.
- Version control: a good software documentation tool makes it easy to update the same document, track changes and switch back to a previous version, if required.
- Intuitive search: choose a documentation tool with an easy-to-use search feature that delivers accurate results.
- Customization: a good software documentation tool makes it a breeze to customize your software documents to match your branding elements like color and theme.
- Accessibility and sharing: permissions or sharing settings make it easier for everyone to get the information they need without having access to the information they don’t.
- Integrations: look for a tool that directly integrates with third-party software like CRMs, helpdesk systems, or software development platforms.
That being said, let's finally dive into our top software documentation tools list.
18 best software documentation tools to make your life easier
Here are the top documentation tools to check out:
Scribe automates the documentation process by instantly creating shareable step-by-step guides. If you've got a desktop cluttered with screenshots, or a Google doc that's miles long, Scribe is your go-to software documentation platform.
All you need to do is:
- Turn on the extension.
- Go through your process.
- Watch Scribe instantly create a visual guide—with text and screenshots.
In just a few seconds, you’ll have a step-by-step guide to share, embed or combine with AI to build SOPs, training manuals and more.
Cons: While Scribe's free plan offers rich capabilities and quick customization, branding is only available for the Pro plan. Screenshot annotations and redactions are also only available for Pro subscribers.
"Previously, I was spending hours in my operations role documenting long and complicated digital processes.
Due to the manual nature of this, it was very common for steps to be missed. Scribe has totally solved this issue. The software makes it so easy to record and document these processes without missing a step. I'm winning back multiple hours a week and the guides look so much better than our previous SOP template." — Josie K.
Nuclino is a “collective brain” for your team, providing a modern, simple, and speedy way to collaborate on knowledge, documents and projects in a unified space. It’s primarily used for internal documentation and knowledge sharing but can also act as a project management system and planning tool.
Pros: Nuclino's clean interface makes it an easy-to-use tool. Supervisors and managers can create processes without depending on a technical user. Team members can edit and save in real time, making it easy to get feedback and input from key stakeholders as you go.
Cons: Users report that the simple formatting doesn't allow you to brand the content or control what it looks like. Nuclino can be expensive if you have too many users. People have also reported issues with editing and exporting longer documentation pages.
"My colleagues and I have been searching for an easy-to-use wiki / knowledge base to keep track of our projects, store data, and collaborate, and so far we've been fairly satisfied with Nuclino.
The design of the software is so fantastic that it's really a great experience writing new notes / docs in the app. If you'd like to share material or details and update it easily, I highly recommend this resource. It's the same for working in groups, editing files online, and setting up collaborative units with colleagues." — Anonymous
3. ProProfs Knowledge Base
ProProfs Knowledge Base is a simple yet versatile tool with out-of-the-box features that work together to help you create a knowledge base, documentation, user manuals, and more. You can set the documentation’s access as public or private depending on your target audience.
Pros: The tool's intuitive interface requires no specialized training to get started. Choose from a wide variety of expert-designed templates and extensive customization options to tailor your documentation.
The rich authoring system lets you create content and structure it in a logical way for easy navigation. Compare article versions to keep an eye on all changes made to your document. You can gauge content performance by measuring KPIs and uncovering improvement areas with the reporting system.
Cons: ProProfs Knowledge Base offers a 15-day free trial, which may not be long enough to evaluate it for your needs. Users report that the templates all have the same structure and are not as comprehensive as needed. They also report that the mobile version isn't as user-friendly as the desktop version.
"ProProfs Knowledge Base lets me create and edit content using a simple and intuitive editor.
I can also use templates, fonts, colors, logos, and more to customize the look and feel of my knowledge base. Another interesting aspect of the tool is its collaboration features that let my team members work together, initiate discussions through comments, and closely track every change happening in the knowledge base." — Uttam Kumar
Notion is a flexible workspace that allows teams to customize pages, databases, tables, and more to fit their unique needs.
Pros: Notion gives teams full control over how they present their documentation. This is a great solution for companies with diverse teams and different needs who want to use a single documentation tool.
Cons: Notion’s flexibility can actually be a con. While it’s easy to create static text pages with embeds, tables, images, and more, it's not as intuitive as some more straightforward tools. Notion also doesn’t offer analytics or additional insights.
"I love everything about Notion, and have been a devoted user personally and professionally for years.
It has a wonderful UX design and provides so much flexibility that you can manage literally anything you need to effectively. I have linked together custom tables and useful views for our changelog, software requirements, taskboard, product roadmap, and development documentation that makes managing my engineering teams needs super easy.
Notion provides wonderful tools and templates to build a collection of documentation for anything you can imagine." — Tim N.
Document360 is a knowledge base platform that easily creates self-service documentation for both internal and external stakeholders.
Pros: The advanced editorial portal makes it easy to produce and review content while incorporating analytics, managing categories and designing rich pages complete with multimedia blocks.
Document360 also features a document difference viewer that lets you quickly see changes made to a page, who made those changes and the ability to roll back to previous editions. Analytics help you keep an eye on what documents are being viewed most frequently to gain insights into where your team might need additional support or direction.
Cons: Document360 doesn’t offer a template library for new content, making it difficult to follow a specific format or to ensure consistency. Only one person can edit a document at a time, locking the documentation. Users also report that the tool can be expensive.
"Document360 is easy to use and allows my team to quickly create, review, and publish documentation for software instruction, newsletters, and more. I also love how attentive the Doc360 team is, meeting with me regularly to demonstrate updates or how to use features that I'm unsure about.
Also, my rep is very responsive to all of my queries, responding immediately. I researched many solutions before we decided on Document360 and I still believe it is the best solution for our needs." — Susan R.
Confluence is an enterprise-level documentation tool that is part of the Atlassian suite, making it a perfect tool for teams that already use Trello or Jira.
Pros: Confluence makes it easy to build, organize and collaborate with employees and teams, regardless of where they are physically located.
Confluence prioritizes collaboration, making communication simple right within the platform. Users can tag, comment, share updates, and give instant feedback so all documents are up-to-date and accurate. Confluence also comes with built-in templates that make it easy to get your documentation process up and running.
Cons: Users report Confluence can be difficult to organize and manage users, roles and permissions. The search function returns too many results, making it difficult for users to find information. Users also report the UI is challenging to learn.
GitBook is a documentation tool designed for software teams to share knowledge and information with users and other team members.
Pros: GitBook makes it easy to publish clean, user-friendly docs using a simple but powerful editor. Docs are already designed and easy to publish, so users without design or layout experience can create appealing pages to share.
On the back end, GitBook allows for user comments and async collaboration so team members can give input and insights to make creating documents a team effort. Powerful search makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for in just a few seconds.
Cons: Users report that GitBook has limited customization options, making it difficult to create complex layouts. It offers limited export options, making it challenging to export in a specific format or migrate. Some advanced features and capabilities require a paid subscription, so cost may be an issue if you need these features.
"The product is so easy to learn, and the shortcuts built in make the process of creating detailed, beautiful-looking documentation a breeze.
I'm so impressed with the ease with which we got up and running, with dedicated spaces for internal documentation, API documentation, publicly-available docs, and customer-specific private spaces where we can serve our enterprise customers with bespoke documentation." — Robin B.
Bit.ai is built for teams and individuals to create, collaborate and organize knowledge and software documents, wikis and guides.
Pros: Using fluid workspaces built around projects, teams or clients, you can keep all your information easily accessible and easy to find. You can share or move documents across different workspaces.
Bit.ai also has notification features and mentions to update specific team members on updates or new content they need to review. Add visuals like web links, rich media, videos, graphics, social media posts, and even surveys or file attachments. Co-editing and real-time comments also make collaboration easy so documentation can be a group process.
Cons: The tool offers limited formatting and design, and can't be changed to fit your branding. Users also report that pricing is high compared to other software documentation tools.
"I like how the interface looks so clean and the tools are organized perfectly for a better use of them and boosting productivity.
I also like how the customization of the workspaces is outstanding and allows for them to be adjusted the way I prefer, and I can bookmark my most used and visited workspaces to help me prioritize them and have quick access to them." — Carlos B.
9. Dropbox Paper
Dropbox Paper is a co-editing tool that keeps everyone organized, helps solicit feedback and makes displaying all forms of content easy.
Pros: Dropbox Paper lets you link to videos, GIFs and images, but also Pinterest boards, Google Maps and SoundCloud, so you’re not restricted in what kind of information you can share in your documents. You can also integrate with Invision, Sketch or a Dropbox file.
Dropbox Paper makes creating beautiful pages simple with a smart formatting feature. You can easily create visually appealing layouts—and automatically turn pages into professional-looking presentations.
Cons: Users report limited functionality, formatting options and task layouts. The offline feature is not available on the web version, so you'll have to download it to use offline. Dropbox Paper also has limited storage, so you may end up paying for additional storage space if you work with a number of large files.
"Dropbox paper is a well-designed document editor that sets the bar for doc editing pretty high. It includes features like ready-made templates for lists, plans, strategies, presentations, etc. The tool allows easy sharing and is very simplistic in UI and UX. It helps to avoid any distractions from the real work being done — whether it is authoring, editing, or publishing documents." — Anonymous
Tettra is an internal knowledge base that integrates with communication tools like Slack or MS Teams to make answering frequently asked questions easier.
Pros: Tettra makes it easy to share documentation where questions are being asked, keeping communication smooth and processes moving forward. Employees can also submit new questions they need to be answered and an expert can give a reply in their own time.
Tettra alerts you when pages are unowned, stable or need a refresh, helping you stay on top of your documentation and eliminate anything that is no longer necessary. You can identify knowledge gaps with page requests or allow team members to point out where information might be missing.
Cons: Tettra's simplicity means there aren't a lot of features for users—which may make it hard for smaller teams to justify the cost. Users also report issues with formatting, limited app integration and difficulty updating documents.
"Tettra makes knowledge sharing easy by making their experience seamless and easy to use, even if you have never done any documentation before!
You can get started without needing any expertise in Knowledge management and even share docs directly in communication channels like Slack to better promote your referenced information.
The clean UX also makes information visually stimulating and easy on the eyes." — Neal T.
Tallyfy is a workflow and process management software that makes it a breeze to capture + automate processes in a company. It's not a traditional software documentation platform in the sense of creating product manuals or help documents, but it can be used to maintain and organize documents as well as measure engagement.
Pros: Tallyfy is a great software documentation tool as it offers several features like ability to organize your software documents, track version changes, create re-usable snippets to be referenced later, measure the engagement and ROI of your software documentation efforts.
Cons: Tallyfy is not a traditional documentation software, instead offers features that can make the documentation process easier.
ClickHelp is a cloud-based software documentation tool packed with several features that make the entire documentation process streamlined for everyone involved. The platform offers more than 20 integrations, the ability to smoothly migrate from RoboHelp, MadCap Flare, Confluence, MS-Word and other platforms, in-depth analytics and reporting and several other features.
You can reuse content as variables, snippets and conditional content. The platform also offers a patented full-text search engine to help users find the content they're looking for without facing any challenges. It's also possible to make your documents public or private (by adding a password-layer protection).
Pros: ClickHelp is a top-tier software documentation tool with a lot of organizational features. And the platform makes it super-easy to store, edit and manage all your software documents in one roof.
Cons: If your documentation requirements aren't complex, then you may be better off without this tool. Use it only if you create, manage and want to store a lot of software documentation - both for users and in-house employees. Also, the platform is super-expensive.
If you're in the software development industry, it's very likely that you know about GitHub. Developers use it to store code, collaborate on projects, and manage versions of their software. Essentially, GitHub is a platform that provides hosting for software version control using Git.
Pros: GitHub is free to use and you'll have full control over the look and feel of your web page. The platform offers a lot of flexibility in terms of customization. And since GitHub is widely-used, developers are already friendly with its interface.
Cons: A big problem with GitHub Pages is that your website is static. Unless you're a developer, using GitHub Pages is a bit complicated and has a steep learning curve. It's not an ideal fit if you're looking for an all-in-one, easy-to-use software documenation tool with dozens of features to make your software documentation streamlined and accessible to and by anyone and everyone.
14. Read the Docs
- G2 Review: 5/5
- Capterra Review: NA
- Read the Docs Pricing: Starting at $50 per month. For open-source and community projects, it's free to use.
Read the Docs lets you build, host and share software documentation, all under one platform. The platform offers integrated support for MkDocs, Sphinx and Jupyter Book. Read the Docs also has amazing version control capability, making it super-easy to build versions from any branch or tag.
Pros: You can import your existing projects from GitHub repositories. Read the Docs gives users the ability to update documentation as soon as you push changes, verify them during review, translate them into different languages, track version history, customize them to fit your needs and so much more.
Cons: Unlike many other platforms in this list, the platform doesn't offer a free version.
- G2 Rating: NA
- Capterra Rating: NA
- Doxygen Pricing: Free
Imagine being able to generate documentation from annotated C++ sources. Doxygen lets you do that. Aside from this, Doxygen also supports other languages like Objective-C, C, C#, Java, Python, and more.
Pros: With Doxygen, you can extract the code structure from undocumented source files. You can also use it to generate an off-line reference manual in LaTeX and/or on-line documentation browser in HTML from a group of documented source files. It's also possible to create normal documentation.
Cons: The platform has a steep learning curve and may be too complex for simple documentation needs. Moreover, Doxygen's interface may seem outdated when compared with commerical software in the space.
16. iA Writer
- G2 Rating: 4.4/5
- Capterra Rating: NA
- iA Writing Pricing: Platform-specific pricing
iA Writer is a widely popular markdown text editor. The platform is recognized for its minimalistic design that emphasizes a distraction-free environment for writing.
Pros: The best thing about iA Writer is the distraction-free design. You can just focus on the writing. The text editor supports Markdown language. You can easily export your project to Medium and WordPress. iA Writer is easy to use, has a user-friendly interface and is inexpensive.
Cons: iA Writer isn't a full-fledged software documentation tool with advanced organizational and collaboration features. Think of it as a Markdown text editor.
17. MarkdownPad 2
- G2 Rating: NA
- Capterra Rating: NA
- Pricing: Starting at $0
MarkdownPad is another Markdown text editor with a simple and intuitive interface. The platform offers a free plan, so you can take it out for a test ride before opting for the paid version (if needed).
Pros: MarkdownPad lets you work with tabs, like in a web browser. You can move the split-screen around to see more or less on each side. It's also possible to change how the text looks by choosing different styles or by using your own CSS (a way to design web pages).
Cons: Not a full-fledged software documentation tool. It's a good Markdown editor, but other than that don't expect more. On top of this, MarkdownPad doesn't offer cloud features and is only available on Windows.
Apiary is a great software documentation tool best suited to create API documentation. So if you want to document your APIs, Apiary is the tool for you.
Pros: Apiary has a dedicated API blueprint management dashboard. The platform offers role-based access control over API documents. You can also choose from API Blueprint templates to quickly get started.
Cons: Apiary is just a great API documentation tool. If you're not looking to document APIs, you may be better off with other tools.
Software Documentation Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
1. What are the different types of software documentation tools?
Here are four of the most popular types of software documentation tools:
- Standalone documentation generators generate documentation from source code. These tools can be very efficient for generating large amounts of documentation, but they may not be flexible or user-friendly.
- Text editors and word processors create and edit documentation files. These tools are versatile and easy to use but may not have the features to create complex or technical documentation.
- Knowledge management platforms store and manage knowledge within an organization, and you can use them to create and store documentation, track changes and collaborate on documents.
- Online documentation tools create and publish documentation online. These tools can be a good option for projects that need to be accessible to a broad audience.
2. How do I choose the right software documentation tool for my project?
Here are a few things to consider:
- The size and complexity of your project. Small projects may not need a complex tool, but you'll need a tool that can handle the demands of a large or complex project.
- The target audience. Are you creating documentation for end users, developers or both? The target audience will affect the type of tool you need.
- Budget. Software documentation tools can range in price from free to hundreds of dollars per month.
- Skill levels. Some software documentation tools are easy to use, while others require more technical expertise.
- Features. Choose a tool that offers the features that are important to you and your business.
3. How do I create effective software documentation using these tools?
- Write for your audience. Consider your audience's needs and write in a way that they will understand.
- Be clear and concise. Avoid using jargon and technical terms that your audience may not understand.
- Use examples and illustrations. This can help people understand the concepts you are trying to explain.
- Keep the documentation up-to-date. As the software changes, make sure the documentation reflects those changes.
4. How often should I update my software documentation?
- Small and simple software projects: You may only need to update your documentation once or twice a year.
- Large and complex software projects: Update once a quarter or even once a month, if they change frequently.
- For non-technical audiences: Update more frequently. Non-technical users often need more help.
- If the software is changing rapidly: Keep the documentation up-to-date with the latest software changes.
5. How can I ensure that my software documentation is accessible to everyone on my team?
- Promote your documentation so your team knows can find and use it.
- Use a search function to make it easy to find specific information.
- Readable on different devices like desktops, mobile and tablets.
- Accessible in different languages if your team members speak different languages.
6. What are some best practices for using software documentation tools?
- Choose the right tool for your project's size, complexity, target audience and budget.
- Test your documentation to make sure it's accurate, complete and meets the needs of your users.
- Get feedback from users to identify areas that need improvement.
- Keep your documentation up-to-date. Update as your software changes.
- Make your documentation easy to find and use. Provide clear instructions on how to find and use it effectively.
Track changes to make it easy to revert to previous versions of your documentation.
Make documentation easier with a software documentation tool!
Software documentation tools make it easy to create and manage the documentation process. The one(s) you choose depends on your unique needs and preferences.
At Scribe, we've made sure to implement all the necessary features to make the end-to-end software documentation feel like a cakewalk for just about anybody - from solopreneurs to enterprises.
But don't take our word for it.
Take Scribe out for a test ride yourself.