Best Documentation Software Shortlist
Here’s my list of the best documentation software:
- Confluence - Best for documentation templates
- Dropbox - Best for internal teams
- Nuclino - Best for teams who want visual content
- GitHub - Best for coders and developers
- MarkdownPad - Best for customization
- Doxygen - Best for documentation from source code
- ClickHelp - Best for its powerful search capabilities
- SimpleMDE - Best for basic documentation
- Whatfix - Best for walkthroughs
- Apiary - Best for API documentation
- Notion - Best for businesses that want rich media in documentation
- Zoho Learn - Best for creating comprehensive knowledge bases
I know it can be challenging to locate and access important information if it’s not properly structured, stored, and organized. That’s why I recommend using documentation software that lets you create, manage, and share manuals, guides, instructions, and procedures.
To help you find a reliable solution from the many tools available in the market, I’ve examined the best software for your specific use case and shared where these tools excel in this article.
What Is Documentation Software?
Documentation software systems help you publish documentation notes for internal and external users. They have editing functionalities, customizable templates, search features to find what you are looking for, and version control so you can access previous versions of a document.
Overviews of the 12 Best Documentation Software Tools
Here’s a brief description of the documentation software tools that made it to my top 12 list. For this list, you will find information on each tool’s best use case and its essential features.
1. Confluence - Best for documentation templates
Atlassian Confluence is a remote-friendly product for creating content like knowledge bases, product requirements, and research reports.
Why I picked Confluence: I chose Confluence because of its wide range of templates. There are templates for project documentation, incident communication, software architecture review, incident postmortem, and more. You can even create your own templates. If you’re going to write documentation of similar formats repeatedly, like a technology roadmap or strategic roadmap, then templates can be a great time-saver.
Confluence Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that impressed me include its fine-grained page and space permissions, Whiteboard and sticky notes to visualize your workflows, and commenting and alerting functionalities on pages. I also appreciated the simplicity of editing templates with the built-in editors that allowed me to adjust the layout, text, and tables of my custom templates without fuss.
Integrations are available natively and include popular tools like Jira Service Management, Trello, Miro, Balsamiq, Google Calendar, Asana, monday.com, and Slack.
Trial: Free for 10 users, no trial period
- Collaborative features like in-line and page comments, likes, emojis, and GIFs
- Real-time editing and version history
- Can create cross-links between documents to create a comprehensive documentation
- Navigation can take time to get used to
- Syntax can be confusing
2. Dropbox - Best for internal teams
Dropbox is a cloud-based service that allows teams to store, share, and collaborate on internal documentation in real time.
Why I picked Dropbox: For me, Dropbox is a great solution for internal teams because it’s easy to use. Team members can simultaneously access and edit documents, add comments and annotations, and share feedback. It also uses advanced security measures to protect documents and files with two-factor authentication, role-based permissions, and remote wipe capabilities.
Dropbox Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I feel internal teams will love are that it offers a mobile app with the full functionalities of a web or desktop Dropbox app. It has a Smart Sync feature that allows users to see and access all files and folders without occupying their hard drives; this can be helpful for teams who work with large files or have limited storage capacity. Like Google Docs, it has Dropbox Paper for better team collaboration on documents and a file preview feature where users can see the file without downloading it.
Integrations are natively available, including GSuite, Microsoft Office, Nitro, Adobe Acrobat DC, Canva, IFTTT, Prezi, and Monday.com. Zapier is also available.
Pricing: Starts from $9.99/user/month
Trial: Free forever for 2GB storage + 30-day free trial on other plans
- Robust tag-based searching
- Can create custom folders and sub-folders
- Offline access and version history
- Limited storage for free accounts
- Limited customization
3. Nuclino - Best for teams who want visual content
Nuclino is a team’s collective brain and collaborative wiki that allows teams to easily create, share, and collaborate on documents. It offers features like a visual editor, version history, and the ability to link between documents.
Why I picked Nuclino: I selected Nuclino for my list because of its powerful visual editor. You can bring boring technical documents to life by adding images, videos, screenshots, code blocks, embed, file attachments, quotes, markdown commands, and Mermaid diagrams.
Nuclino Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I think are the most impressive are its ability to adapt knowledge in different views like list, board, graph, and table view so you can manage and search information easily. Nuclino allows teams to customize their workspaces with their logo, color scheme, and appearance, making it easy to create a visually appealing and cohesive documentation hub.
Integrations are native for Slack, Microsoft Teams, YouTube, Google Calendar, Grammarly, Typeform, Figma, Canva, OneLogin, and Miro. APIs are available.
Pricing: Starts from $5/user/month
Trial: Free forever plan with basic features + 14-day free trial to test advanced features
- Real-time collaboration
- Can search and filter information easily
- Flexible permission options
- May not be able to handle large databases
- Mobile version can be glitchy
4. GitHub - Best for coders and developers
GitHub is a platform that allows developers to host and share code with other developers. It also has many tools that help you host and share documentation for open-source or private projects.
Why I picked GitHub: I recommend GitHub for coders and developers because of GitHub Wikis, a collaborative documentation platform and part of the GitHub repository. Wikis are particularly useful when you want to save and share information on your project, like how to use it, how the project was designed, and its fundamental principles. You can format wikis by adding images, tables, expandable sections, and quotes.
GitHub Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I believe developers would like are its offering of GitHub README files that store essential project information like how to get help on a project and who is handling and contributing to the project. Further, they can publish their documentation page as a website with GitHub pages. All tools have powerful text formatting with simple syntax.
Integrations are available as built-in options, including Slack, Microsoft Teams, Terraform, and Jira. Includes a robust API that allows you to integrate with third-party tools.
Pricing: Starts at $3.67/user/month
Trial: Free forever plans for limited features + 30-day free trial for advanced features
- Markdown support
- Built-in code highlighting, which makes it easy to read and understand code snippets
- Community-driven, so it’s easy to get feedback and suggestions from other coders
- Security can be a concern
- Pricing gets high for large teams
5. MarkdownPad - Best for customization
MarkdownPad is a feature-rich Markdown editor for Windows that allows you to write, preview, and publish your markdown documents.
Why I picked MarkdownPad: If you’re a user who wants a neat and clean UI for writing documentation but also wants plenty of customization options, I would recommend MarkdownPad. You can see how your documents look in HTML as you write them. If you happen to stop your work, the LivePreview option automatically takes you to the location you’re editing. You get a lot of keyboard shortcuts and toolbar options too.
MarkdownPad Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that impressed me during my assessment are that you can customize colors, fonts, sizes, and layouts. You can completely change how your HTML pages look with CSS with a built-in CSS editor. MarkdownPad also supports various languages like Chinese, German, Italian, and Spanish.
Integration is natively available for GitHub.
Pricing: $14.95 one-time fee/user
Trial: Free forever plan with limited features
- Can convert Markdown files into PDF
- Syntax highlighting
- Spell check available
- Image uploader available only for Pro users
- Copying rich text is difficult
6. Doxygen - Best for documentation from source code
Doxygen is a documentation generator tool that extracts documentation directly from the source code, making it easy for developers to keep their documentation up to date.
Why I picked Doxygen: What I like about Doxygen is you can create source code documents for code written in popular programming languages such as C++, Java, and Python. Then, you can generate documentation in multiple formats like HTML, LaTeX, and RTF from the source code itself. This process is helpful when new developers want to onboard and contribute quickly to the project.
Doxygen Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I appreciate about Doxygen are that it has markdown functionality that lets you add paragraphs, headers, block quotes, formulas, lists, code blocks, horizontal rulers, links, and images. It can even generate graphs and diagrams for code structure. You can do all this in its GUI frontend called Doxywizard, which eases the editing and is available on Windows, Linux, and MacOSX.
Integrations include native options like Eclipse, Visual Studio, Automake, and CMake.
Pricing: Open-source, so free to use
Trial: Free forever
- Can generate links to other documents
- Powerful features like comments and code snippets for documenting code
- Enables customization of the output by modifying the configuration file
- Learning curve is steep
- Since it’s primarily for technical documentation, it may not be the best option for user-facing documentation
7. ClickHelp - Best for powerful search capabilities
ClickHelp is a modern documentation system for technical writers and teams to create and manage all kinds of content, including manuals, user guides, tutorials, and API documentation.
Why I picked ClickHelp: I selected ClickHelp for this list because of its patented full-text search (FTS) engine, designed solely for documentation search. It provides accurate results for exact matches and even for queries with typos or partial matches. The FTS engine can also interpret user queries to offer helpful suggestions for related searches.
ClickHelp Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that impressed me about its FTS engine are that it has predictive search and indexes content to add words that are not in the article so that readers can find what they want with the indexed terms. It also groups results, tags other pages where you can find the same result, and restricts password-protected documents from entering the search results.
Besides these, ClickHelp also lets you add rich media content like videos, quizzes, feedback forms, and surveys, and you can even track how your documentation is being used and what needs improvement with analytics.
Integrations are natively available, including Zendesk, Bing, Disqus, Google Analytics, JotForm, Vimeo, Youtube, and Salesforce. APIs are available.
Pricing: Starts at $175/2 users/month
Trial: 14-day free trial + Demo available
- Can customize the look and feel of your online documentation with themes and templates
- Supports multiple formats for migration, including HTML, PDF, DOCX, EPUB, and CHM
- Flexible roles and permissions settings
- Expensive compared to other options
- UI may not be intuitive
8. SimpleMDE - Best for basic documentation
Why I picked SimpleMDE: A compelling reason for me to choose SimpleMDE is that it's easy to use. It supports syntax highlighting, autosaves every 10 seconds, and you can even change the autosave intervals. It also comes with a spell-checker, and you can add images, lists, quotes, images, tables, and codes—everything in a clutter-free UI.
SimpleMDE Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I feel will appeal to users who like a minimal interface while documenting are that you can hide the tool and status bar to type without distractions. You can use keyboard shortcuts that make it faster to perform common tasks. Further, it can also automatically wrap long lines of text and display a live preview of the markdown content.
Integrations are not available directly, but you can use SimpleMDE in your WordPress editor, Ruby on Rails applications, and React and Angular applications.
Pricing: Free to use
Trial: Open-source, so it’s always free
- Ideal for users and teams desiring a minimalist aesthetic
- Users with no Markdown experience can also use it
- Includes a syntax guide of Markdown elements, making it easier to write Markdown text
- Users who want advanced features will find it too simplistic
- Limited features for collaborative editing
9. Whatfix - Best for walkthroughs
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that you can use to create technical documentation in an interactive and engaging manner. It helps users adopt your software and its workings quickly, especially if you have robust and comprehensive software that users may need help understanding.
Why I picked Whatfix: If you’re looking for a visual way to guide your users through your app, I would definitely suggest Whatfix. With Whatfix, you can create step-by-step walkthroughs without coding so users can understand how to use your product. You can create your in-app guides in multiple formats, like videos, slideshows, GIFs, and PDFs.
Whatfix Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I want to highlight here are Whatfix’s ability to create flows in the documentation for contextual guidance and give prompts if you want users to take specific actions. You can highlight, circle, and zoom on particular parts of the screen and alert users with essential notifications about any upgrades, events, or changes. With its analytics, you can also track user behavior and optimize your content.
Integrations are natively available, including Salesforce, SAP, SurveyMonkey, Confluence, Workday, Slack, and PowerBI.
Pricing: Pricing available on request
Trial: 14-day free trial + Demo available
- Supportive account management team
- Self-service feature for common tasks
- Supports multiple languages
- Needs more customization
- Steep learning curve
10. Apiary - Best for API documentation
Apiary is a collaborative API development platform offering comprehensive documentation features and an interactive interface.
Why I picked Apiary: If you’re searching for a tool that lets you collaborate on API documentation, Apiary is a great choice. I picked Apiary because it comes with a dedicated API Blueprint management dashboard that helps you to easily track and manage API design and development lifecycles. You can include role-based access over your API document and even manage team members in the API design projects.
Apiary Standout Features and Integrations:
Integrations are available natively, including Travis CI, GitHub, JIRA, and APIs to connect to third-party tools.
Pricing: Pricing available on request
Trial: Has a free trial but doesn’t mention the number of days
- Mock servers to test APIs
- Clean interface
- Admin, editor, and viewer roles
- Limited customization options for documentation style
- Pricing plans are not clear
11. Notion - Best for businesses that want rich media in documentation
Notion is a productivity app that allows you to create and organize notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to use as a wiki or documentation tool.
Why I picked Notion: My reason for choosing Notion is that it lets you add rich media like images, videos, links, audio files, code snippets, and even embeddable files from Google Drive, Figma, and Dropbox to your documents. This lets you create a more flexible, interactive, and engaging structure for your team wikis and documentation.
Notion Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I appreciate about Notion and that will help you create visually engaging documentation are a variety of templates so that you don’t have to start from scratch, different table views to help you customize your data layout for your wikis, and various elements for page layouts like headers, subheaders, lists, and more.
Integrations are available natively, like Figma, Slack, GitHub, Adobe XD, Canva, Asana, Box, ClickUp, Jira, Loom, and APIs to create custom integrations.
Pricing: Starts at $8/user/month
Trial: Unlimited free trial
- Real-time collaboration
- Easy to organize and filter information
- Customizable templates
- Possible performance issues
- No robust security features
12. Zoho Learn - Best for creating comprehensive knowledge bases
Zoho Learn allows organizations to create, store, and manage knowledge base articles, FAQs, and user manuals with customization options for branding and layout. However, it is much more than just documentation software, as it is a complete employee training and development solution.
Why I picked Zoho Learn: My primary reason for choosing Zoho Learn is its ability to be a central repository of all the documentation your business needs. For example, you can create product documentation, handbooks, reports, manuals, roadmaps, wikis, strategies, FAQs, compliance documents, and more and store them in a neat and organized way.
Zoho Learn Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that I believe teams who want a robust knowledge base software will appreciate are that you can collaborate with other users on your documentation, save standard formats of manuals as templates, and track versions. I also liked that you can make shared workspaces to keep similar documentation in one place and offer feedback with comments and mentions.
Integrations are natively available with G Suite and Microsoft Teams, and you can use Zapier and open API for custom integrations.
Pricing: From $1/user/month
Trial: 7-day free trial + Free demo available
- Can track user engagement on the documentation
- Affordable pricing plans
- Many customization options available
- Learning its navigation can take time
- Limited support for language translation
Here are a few more options that didn't make it to the best documentation software shortlist but still deserve to be shared:
- HelpDocs - Best for tracking how end-users are engaging with the documentation content
- tl;dv - Best for documentation of virtual meeting notes
- Zendesk - Best for online help documentation
- Read the Docs - Best open-source documentation software
- Scribe - Best documentation software for automatically capturing your actions as screenshots and instructions of a process
- Tettra - Best for teams that use Slack extensively
- NinjaOne - Best for fine-grained access controls and permissions
- ITBoost - Best for real-time dashboards that display various metrics, customer feedback, roles and permissions, and domain tracker
- IT Glue - Best for interlinking multiple documents in an organized way
- Document360 - Best for creating user manuals
Selection Criteria For Documentation Software
Here’s how I decided to include the best documentation software in my top 12 list:
I assessed all the software for these core functionalities:
- Simple to use without complicated menus
- Feature-rich editors to create engaging documentation
- Ability to add visual elements like images, videos, quotes, or code blocks
Features that I especially evaluated for my options are:
- Permission controls
- Customization abilities
- Search capabilities
I experienced the solutions I mentioned here as a new user and analyzed how intuitive they were. I also checked that if I had to teach this to others, would it be easy?
What are some examples of documentation?
What are the benefits of documentation software?
Where is documentation used?
Choosing the best documentation software ultimately depends on specific needs and preferences. It’s important to evaluate multiple options and consider factors such as cost, support, and integration with other tools before making a final decision.
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