Your software product is so much more than just the code. You must offer users helpful documentation, whether for other developers or end users of your product, to get the most out of your software.
You must make the best technical documentation tool investments to host your documentation to offer the best user experience for your software. It will not be suitable to simply create a Google Drive folder and expect that to accomplish the task because your software is too complex for such a solution.
For users to understand how the software functions and what it can be used for, there needs to be clear documentation. This is where the best free documentation tools come in.
What is Software Documentation?
Software documentation is an online source that offers comprehensive details about your software, including its features, functionality, operations, and use cases. Thanks to the carefully organized and highly searchable document, users can quickly locate all the information they require.
The documentation includes written text, flowcharts, diagrams, and videos demonstrating each process step. It also offers troubleshooting advice to help users use your software product to its full potential.
Benefits of Software Documentation
SaaS companies should implement software documentation as a powerful strategy to maintain happy customers and highly effective internal teams. Using software documentation can benefit your company in a wide range of ways.
Let us examine the most notable ones:
Errors are inevitable when humans are involved in a process. The good news is that thorough software documentation can help you reduce mistakes and guarantee flawless results.
The steps outlined in the documentation will be followed precisely when every team member can access the same information. This improves team accountability and brings consistency to how a software development process is carried out.
Enables New Developer Onboarding
It takes a lot of time and effort to onboard new developers and acquaint them with your software development process. You can onboard new developers to the team by giving them simple access to all the technical information and training materials required in an internal software document.
Software documentation instructs novice programmers on all crucial features of your software, including how it was created, the steps it went through, and even the parties involved in the development process. This enables them to grasp your current procedures quickly.
Reduces Support Tickets
Customer-focused software documentation can significantly reduce the number of support tickets you receive. Customers can instantly obtain all the assistance they require whenever they encounter problems with your product because it is a highly searchable document.
Customers are discouraged from filing tickets for trivial concerns due to the simple convenience of handling problems as they happen. This lowers the number of tickets submitted to your internal support team.
Offer customers in-app assistance.
With software documentation, you can give users immediate in-app assistance within the software itself. Modern software documentation tools provide an in-app help widget where you can show help documents and customers how your software functions. Customers can quickly search for advice while using your software and consult the instructions. This helps them stay on the right track and closer to their goals.
Best free documentation tools to add support documentation for your product
Using GitHub is very likely if you work in the software development industry. It's a platform that's well-liked by developers and a good option for hosting your web-based documentation.
You can use GitHub Pages, which gives you access to one free page, hosting, and a custom domain or the main wiki area of the GitHub platform. Jekyll and GitHub Pages can be used to build aesthetically pleasing and up-to-date documentation sites. If your repositories are public, GitHub is the best open-source documentation tool.
Read the Docs
The entire process of creating and deploying developer documentation is simplified by Read the Docs for Business. You can integrate your code and user-facing documentation using the same tools if Sphinx and Mkdocs are supported. Themes make it simple to create beautiful documentation, and Pull Request previews let you see each commit before you commit.
The monthly price for Read the Docs for Business is $50.
Nuclino is an excellent tool for organizing information within teams into workspaces. With Nuclino, you can design appealing software documentation for your staff or clients. There are public and private workspaces. Text, pictures, videos, files, tasks, embeds, code blocks, and other things can all be used to make your content more engaging. Write your content even faster with Markdown or use the WYSIWYG editor.
There is no chance of version conflicts because you can collaborate in real-time and see the changes your team members are making as they type. Workspaces and clusters can be used to organize items, and you can type @ inside of an item to link to another page in the knowledge base.
You can use the robust search bar to enter keywords to locate pertinent content. By arranging the content from your team into boards and graphs, you can work visually. Nuclino integrates with a wide range of applications, including Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, and others.
The standard plan for Nuclino costs $5 per user per month.
MarkdownPad is a well-known Windows Markdown editor. You can view your documentation as you write it with MarkdownPad's instant HTML previews. You do not need to know Markdown to use the program because it is as simple and user-friendly as Microsoft Word and has a WYSIWYG editor.
Numerous customization options are available, including layouts, fonts, and sizes. Additionally, you can add your own unique CSS style sheets. You can style your text to your heart's content because it has a built-in CSS editor. The basic version of MarkdownPad is free, while MarkdownPad Pro costs $14.95.
One of the best project documentation tools that enables you to produce software documentation right out of the box is ProProfs knowledgebase software. With ProProfs, you can create knowledge bases that are both public and private, ranging from user-facing documentation to internal employee software docs. Content and categories can be dragged and dropped.
You can manage the article status to keep your team updated on the status of your content. You can easily change your knowledge base's theme from the settings menu, add a favicon, update the logo, and other settings. You can integrate ProProfs' knowledge base with their live chat and help desk software for a more seamless support experience, which is one of its key benefits. ProProfs also integrates with Google Analytics, Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Desk to connect your existing support software stack with your knowledge base. The monthly cost of the ProProfs essential plan is $30.
Doxygen is a potent tool for creating software development documentation. In addition to C, Objective-C, C#, PHP, Java, Python, and IDL, it also supports other well-known programming languages like C, Objective-C, and Python. It is the industry standard for creating documentation from annotated C++ sources.
If you want to offer developer-specific documentation, Doxygen is a good option. From a collection of source files with documentation, it can produce an offline reference manual in LaTeX or online documentation tools in HTML. Creating output in RTF (MS Word), PostScript, hyperlinked PDF, compressed HTML, and Unix man pages is also supported.
Since the documentation is taken directly from the sources, maintaining consistency between the documentation and the source code is much simpler. It also works when producing regular documentation that has nothing to do with code source files. Doxygen is also one of the best free documentation tools.
iA Writer is a popular Markdown editor that focuses on writing. You will be amazed by iA Writer's distinctive writing experience, which enables you to hone and clarify your message. When writing in the editor, iA Writer uses syntax highlighting to highlight only the sentence or paragraph you are working on and helps you identify redundant adjectives, flimsy verbs, and repetitions.
You can export Markdown files in HTML, PDF, and Microsoft Word formats using personalized templates. You can concentrate entirely on the text because the interface has no unnecessary distractions. On macOS, iA Writer costs $29.99.
Software like Dropbox Paper is a good option for internal documentation. You can use it to build a wiki that your staff members can access at any time. You can also safely distribute your documents to anybody outside the organization.
From within the interface, linking documents, entering code blocks, and adding images, audio, and video is simple. Dropbox Paper enables team collaboration by allowing you to share a document or folder with others. They can offer feedback on your documents, and you can set deadlines or other objectives. If you already have a Dropbox account, Dropbox Paper is one of the best free documentation tools.
Bit.ai is a powerful technical documentation software that can be used for your projects. It is a knowledge management tool that enables businesses to manage their documentation in one location and keep track of changes.
Bit documents are more interactive than standard Word docs, allowing developers to add code directly to the interface. There will never be version conflicts because Bit.ai supports multiple collaborators on a document in real time. Its wiki-like design makes it simple for users to link documents and properly share knowledge.
Bit.ai supports Markdown so developers can write code documentation free from editor interruptions. The work you complete in Bit.ai can be easily exported as PDF and Word files or shared with other platforms like GitHub. The pro plan for Bit.ai costs $8 per member per month.
Gitbook is a tool to build your product's documentation. It works in a 'git' oriented manner where to add every change you add a commit. The UI is great but there can be occassional glitches in syncing with their servers.
The product boosts user adoption, lowers training expenses, and offers software application users self-service support. This documentation's format options include text, images, embedded videos and API documentation. The platform offers good features and even a free plan. Gitbook is now also adding a marketplace of apps on their platform.
The hardest part of the process is having to make a decision. You might enjoy using several tools, or you might not like any of them. The issue worsens when you have your eye on a few different tools but are still deciding which one to buy. This issue has an easy fix. Determine what you truly want first. What issues is your company trying to resolve? Which group do you want to reach—developers or customers? What characteristics are your top priorities? Find the answers to these questions to narrow your list of the best free documentation tools. Make your criteria even more specific. Consider factors like product reviews, pricing, and ease of use to make the final choice.