Benefits of Software Documentation Tools

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Founder, robot with feelings. From planet Aiur.

We'll teach you about the benefits of software documentation tools and how they can help you create accurate, consistent, and up-to-date documentation.

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There are no rules on how to compose software documentation. Technically, you could just use Notepad++ or even keep printed copies filed away.

However, neither of these approaches would be very productive. How would you ever collaborate on the documents?

Would they be secure? Would you be able to record changes or have version control?

These actions might be challenging with Notepad++ and printed paper, but they’re all standard features of documentation tools.

If you’re interested in all the benefits of software documentation tools, keep on reading. By the end of the article, you might just switch to a documentation tool for your documentation needs.

Having All Documentation in One Place

Imagine if you were unsure of how the newest codebase addition functions, so you looked up the details in the documentation.

Having found that, you might want to remind yourself of your company’s testing strategy.

However, you can’t find it. The testing documentation isn’t in the same folder as the software documentation, nor anywhere nearby.

Frustrated, you send one of the testers a message and wait.

Unfortunately, you might wait a while.

Take a look at these statistics:

Statistics about employees who spend to much time waiting for information
Illustration: Archbee.com / Source: Panopto

Instead of being able to track down information independently, employees frequently have to ask around and depend on others to obtain the knowledge they need.

With a documentation tool, you’re unlikely to experience these situations.

These tools are dedicated resources reserved exclusively for documentation, so you’ll know exactly where to find the texts you need.

In other words, texts won’t be needlessly dispersed, and your employees should be able to find any document instantaneously in the documentation tool—a huge benefit.

This Reddit user agrees, pointing out the perils of scattered documentation:

The perils of scattered documentation
Source: Reddit

By investing in a documentation tool, you should be able to avoid such unpleasant situations and create a centralized, reliable documentation repository.

With such a system, your employees (and you) won’t have any issues finding the files they need. After all, there won’t be many options, as they will be located in your documentation tool.

Advanced Search

While collecting all your documentation under one roof is hugely helpful, this characteristic is only the tip of a documentation tool’s capabilities.

A centralized documentation hub is a great starting point, but you’ll also need to navigate this repository. What good is a documentation collection unless you know your way around it?

In fact, research has revealed a significant amount of time is spent looking for information.

Here are the numbers:

Significant amount of time is spent looking for information
Illustration: Archbee.com / Source: IDC

Employees spend almost a third of the workday looking for intelligence, wasting hours that could be devoted to more productive tasks.

So, how to reduce these unnecessary operations? A McKinsey study uncovered a possible solution:

A McKinsey study
Illustration: Archbee.com / Source: McKinsey

With an advanced enough search engine (a staple in documentation tools), users can find exactly what they’re looking for and won’t have to comb through the entire documentation.

Instead of scanning each article, a few keystrokes reveal the intelligence they need.

This topic also came up in a Reddit thread:

Reddit post about maintaining documentation in a sensible structure
Source: Reddit

By this user’s reasoning, a quality search engine is more beneficial than a minutely planned out documentation structure.

That’s because even the best documentation structure requires manual digging, whereas a strong enough search engine will always provide results.

A search engine simply guarantees speed.

Your employees should automatically have additional hours to focus on more critical tasks—all thanks to the documentation tool’s advanced search engine.

Easier Collaboration Within Documents

Maintaining software documentation is a collaborative effort. Depending on each developer’s specialty, there are multiple candidates for authoring documentation.

In fact, texts are often composed by more than one engineer.

Furthermore, some organizations employ technical writers to collaborate with developers. It also isn’t unusual for product managers to contribute to some documents.

There are countless possible software documentation authors, which can easily cause confusion.

One Reddit user illustrated this concept nicely:

Reddit post about documentation becoming obsolete
Source: Reddit

Simply put, the multiple writers and lack of collaborative strategy generate chaos. Because of the haphazard workflow, organizations wind up with unreliable texts.

Nicolas Carlo, a legacy code specialist, explained the concept well:

Nicolas Carlo explained the concept
Illustration: Archbee.com / Source: Understand Legacy Code

This is why documentation tools are so beneficial: they eradicate this friction.

These resources often come with helpful collaborative options, which ensure the documentation is up-to-date and accurate.

For example, here’s one of Archbee’s collaborative features:

Sharing Lambda Layers
Source: Archbee

You can comment on the text in the article itself, so everyone reading the document will see your remark.

Furthermore, you can even tag your teammates in these comments. They will then receive a notification and will know the document requires attention.

With these documentation tool features, updating and reviewing documentation is an easy, transparent process for all contributors.

If you use Archbee, collaborating on documentation is effortless, and keeping your texts reliable and current is a breeze.

Proper Version Control

Ideally, software documentation should be a living document.

Think about it—software is constantly changing, with new functionalities being added and bugs being fixed, and the documents describing the software should reflect that.

This adaptive approach is a staple in Agile, a popular software development methodology that emphasizes continuous progress.

In that same vein, software documentation should also constantly evolve to reflect the current software state. Otherwise, you risk out-of-date documentation.

Consequently, software documentation has a similar lifecycle to Agile software.

Take a look:

Software documentation have similar lifecycle to Agile software
Source: Archbee.com

Just like software, documentation should be continuously edited to ensure it will never become obsolete.

However, you shouldn’t discard the old documentation versions entirely.

You might remove a software feature and delete it from the documentation, but stakeholders can easily change their minds and want to re-implement that same feature.

Most documentation tools offer version control, providing insight into all changes made to a document, as well as the ability to undo any changes and retrieve older versions.

For example, here’s how that functions with Archbee:

Example of version control in Archbee
Source: Archbee

Archbee offers a complete document history, noting every change made.

This detailed record lets you see all of the iterations of your files and easily retrieve any information omitted in the newest document version.

In fact, if you want, you can even restore a document’s old version. This method allows you to easily edit your texts and ensures the current document version is also the correct version.

Improved Sharing Capabilities

Different employees use software documentation for different purposes.

A Product Owner defines requirements, some developers use the files to help them build software, and others to maintain it.

The graph below illustrates nicely why different parties use documentation:

Graph that illustrates why different parties use documentation
Source: International Journal of Computer Science Issues

This diagram shows everyone in a development team needing access to the documentation.

However, the graph could easily be more complex, as other departments also benefit from these texts.

For example, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Support can all leverage the documentation for their tasks, and Project Managers typically also periodically consult such documents.

Consequently, software documentation needs to be easily shareable. That way, all relevant parties can quickly view the information they need,

However, unfortunately, a recent study reported the following:

Graph with employees having trouble with document sharing
Illustration: Archbee.com / Source: Nintex

Almost half of the employees struggle with document sharing, automatically slowing down information flows.

However, one easy way to mitigate these challenges is investing in a documentation tool.

These resources are often optimized for advanced sharing capabilities, allowing team members to view documents in a few clicks.

After all, all the texts are stored on the same platform, so access shouldn’t be difficult.

Some documentation tools also offer access control: advanced settings determining who exactly can view a document.

With this feature, you can easily share documentation across entire teams, ensuring everyone has the information they need.

Stronger Document Security

Software documentation frequently contains sensitive information.

After all, these texts detail the inner workings of your software product, often referencing the source code, software architecture, and even future feature plans.

All such information should be confidential and restricted to only your organization.

You don’t want outsiders accessing your entire codebase, or learning about your upcoming plans, as they could steal this intellectual property.

Unfortunately, such situations have become real threats as cyberattack frequency grows.

Here are the numbers to prove it:

Graph with real threats as cyberattack frequency
Illustration: Archbee.com / Source: CyberEdge Group

You don’t want to find yourself as part of these numbers. Cyberattacks can result in significant data and information loss—especially if your documentation falls into their hands.

To protect your documents (and their data) as much as possible, it’s wise to invest in a documentation tool, as their security protocols are usually quite robust.

For example, most such solutions offer HTTPS encryption. The more secure version of HTTP, HTTPS masks text and data, rendering the content into nonsensical characters.

This protects the information being sent, bolstering privacy.

The below visual is an excellent visual of how HTPPS functions:

Excellent visual of how HTPPS functions
Source: Cloudflare

The HTTPS renders the content into gibberish, making it unreadable.

With your documentation tool offering such encryption, as most do, you can rest assured your texts are safe and sound, secure from prying eyes.

Reliable Backup and Recovery

Cyberattacks aren’t the only danger to your software documentation.

Software outages, hard drive crashes, and power failures are equally threatening, as these situations can all cause data loss.

In those instances, the documentation can’t be accessed anymore. The texts are completely gone from your server.

Consequently, it’s hugely important to maintain a reliable backup and recovery strategy.

With a strong backup plan, you can often recover your documentation even after such unfortunate events.

For example, Brijesh Parikh, a Cloud Infrastructure Senior Architect at Commvault, explained how Commvault handles documentation backup:

Every once in a while, we receive requests for files or emails that people have lost and those files are in SharePoint or OneDrive. We have the ability to restore it within 30 days directly from the portal.

SharePoint and OneDrive are older tools yet advanced enough to offer backup options. Newer technologies are often even more capable.

Nowadays, most documentation tools perform daily backups and can restore texts within an hour. This is chiefly possible because of their cloud-based infrastructure.

In other words, with the proper documentation tool, you won’t even have to manage backing up your texts—your chosen solution will do it for you.

Based on recent research, this feature is a huge benefit:

32% of IT Admins Do Not Test Backup Solutions for Effectiveness
Illustration: Archbee.com / Source: GFI

Employees don’t consider backup and recovery plans a worthwhile activity, despite the many dangers associated with a lack of said plans.

However, with a documentation tool, you won’t have to worry about backing up your documents whatsoever.

Instead, the tool will handle everything and ensure your texts are always recoverable, no matter what.

Ability to Integrate With Third-Party Tools

Let’s say you want to draw a diagram of your software’s architecture, or maybe you need to include code snippets.

It would be pretty difficult to perform these actions in Word or Notepad++, wouldn’t it?

Another great benefit of documentation tools is their easy integration with other software. Not every solution will allow for diagram creation, but it’ll probably support a Mermaids integration.

Furthermore, if you have content hosted on GitHub, why rewrite everything? Wouldn’t it be easier just to import the code?

By integrating with third-party software, documentation tools accelerate the creation process. While you design the document, the integrations will do the dirty work for you.

In fact, Reena Bhatia, the CEO of BidExecs, recommends doing precisely this:

Reena Bhatia recommandation
Illustration: Archbee / Source: Forbes

By focusing on your documentation’s content and relying on third-party software for the technicalities, you should create documentation quickly yet effectively.

This topic also appeared in a Quora thread, with one user stating the most useful integrations:

Quora post about integration
Source: Quora

Integrating with source code management tools would be particularly helpful, as you would be able to easily edit the documentation while working the codebase.

Furthermore, project management software would be invaluable when updating project documentation, as the texts would always remain current.

Integrating your documentation tool with third-party software allows you to easily maintain your documents while ensuring all your workspaces are fully aligned.

Conclusion

Investing in a documentation tool is the easiest method to host, create and manage your software documentation.

With these benefits of software documentation tools, you’ll have complete control over your documents.

Not only should the editing process be facilitated, but you’ll also have peace of mind regarding security and recovery options.

Furthermore, these solutions are created with teams in mind; your employees can easily collaborate on your documents.

Compared to older technologies such as Notepad++ or SharePoint, it’s easy to see modern documentation tools' advantages.

In today’s fast-paced world, these solutions are invaluable for the software documentation process.

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FAQ

What are the benefits of software documentation tools?

Some of the benefits of software documentation tools are: having all documentation in one place, advanced search, easier collaboration within documents, proper version control, improved sharing capabilities, stronger document security, reliable backup and recovery, ability to integrate with third-party tools.

Why you should have all documentation in one place?

Storing all documentation in one central location provides easy access, consistency, collaboration, organization, and accessibility, improving team productivity and efficiency.

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