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How to Choose the Right Documentation Software

·5 mins

How to Choose the Right Documentation Software #


Reliable and efficient documentation software is crucial in the fast-paced world of software development.

There’s an interesting dynamic when it comes to documentation. Most developers agree it’s important. However, there’s a good chance you’ve commiserated about frustratingly bad documentation in the past.

One way to improve the quality of documentation is to invest in the right software. Mermaid Chart — the platform built on top of Mermaid, the award-winning, open-source text-to-diagramming tool — is a great addition to any development team’s documentation tech stack.

The platform is simple to use, yet allows professionals to create clear, comprehensive visuals in a fraction of the time of traditional methods. Enterprise teams across departments are deploying Mermaid Chart for diagramming and documentation success. Sign up for free to see for yourself!

Now let’s discuss the world of documentation software:

What is documentation software? #

Documentation software is any tool or platform that facilitates the creation, management, organization, and distribution of software development documentation. Typically, dev teams will leverage documentation software to produce user manuals, technical guides, API references, tutorials, and more.

What are examples of documentation software? #

You’ve likely heard a few of a few of these platforms already:

Mermaid Chart: Our platform helps you easily create complex diagrams from simple code and collaborate with team members in real time. Try it out here!

Confluence: Developed by Atlassian, Confluence is a widely used documentation and collaboration tool.

GitHub/GitLab Wiki: Platforms such as GitHub and GitLab include built-in wiki functionality. Many software projects host their documentation here.

ReadTheDocs: ReadTheDocs is an open-source platform that helps users host and generate documentation.

Swagger: Specifically created for API documentation, Swagger provides tools for designing, building, and documenting APIs.

Microsoft Word: We know, we know: Microsoft isn’t specifically designed for documentation. However, some teams still use Word to create various types of documents, including manuals and guides.

The benefits of good documentation #


Let’s start with a fairly obvious statement: good documentation software helps developers create good documentation.

The process of building diagrams and documentation is often viewed by developers as a time-suck. Having the right software to assist with documentation can remove some obvious hurdles. Development teams will likely produce better documentation when the process is simple, fast, and even a little fun.

Here’s what you’ll unlock with the right tooling:

An improved customer experience #

For new projects and companies that are still developing their UX, documentation helps users get onboarded more quickly. In the case of more developed software, clear documentation can help less experienced users get up to speed.

Better developer onboarding #

Developer onboarding includes many complex processes, such as collaborating with new teams, and learning new parts of a codebase.

Enhanced collaboration #

Well-designed documentation helps QA analysts, product testers, technical writers, customer success agents, and security engineers do their jobs more easily.

More successful product marketing #

A great product and sound marketing are only part of the battle. Clear documentation can help increase conversions and ensure that free-trial users become paying customers.

What to look for when choosing documentation software #


Now that we’ve established the benefits of robust documentation software, we move on to the next step: knowing what to look for. Let’s discuss what separates the best tools from the not-so-great ones. We’ll also detail how Mermaid Chart ticks each of these important boxes:

User-friendly interface #

Documentation is supposed to make software easier to understand. The software you use to create documentation should inherently be straightforward and not overly complex.

Why Mermaid Chart: Mermaid Chart allows users to create diagrams from simple code; simply type up your code on the left side of the editor, and Mermaid Chart will render the diagram for you. The design will automatically update with each tweak to the code. If you prefer using a GUI, our Visual Editor is available to build flowcharts. You can also use AI functionality to change the diagram.

Multiple diagram types #

Documentation doesn’t have to be visually stunning. However, visual elements certainly help. Explaining complex processes often requires a diversity of visuals, especially with integrations across other products or workflows between different processes.

Why Mermaid Chart: Mermaid Chart allows you to build nearly every type of visual: flow charts, class, state, mindmap, quadrant charts, etc. Our Sample Diagram templates give you a starting point to help expedite the process.

Integration with development tools #

As software engineer Monica Powell points out in a recent post on GitHub, documentation is often most powerful when it exists inside the places you’re most likely to use it, such as within your code or IDE. This ensures that the relevant information is readily available when your audience needs it the most.

Why Mermaid Chart: We want to meet developers where they are. That’s the inspiration behind our JetBrains IDE Extension and our Visual Studio Code plugin, available in the Visual Studio marketplace.

Easy onboarding #

Developers are almost always strapped for time. Any documentation software should make it easy to sign up and get started.

Why Mermaid Chart: Creating an account is free and easy! Building your next diagram or visual is only a few clicks away.

Learn more about Mermaid Chart #

If we’re going to call ourselves the best documentation software, we better have some pretty robust documentation of our own!

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Check out our comprehensive docs site to learn about Mermaid and Mermaid Chart’s diagram syntax, deployment configuration, and more.