Choosing the Right Tool for Effective Documentation

Choosing the Right Tool for Effective Documentation

Balaji Jayaraman 

Choosing a good tool based on the documentation requirements of your company improves the documentation efforts of the team, allowing them to focus on the quality of the content, thereby, adding value to the end users. The content specialists or technical writers should be able to avail the entire benefits of the chosen tool and get the maximum value for the money invested in that tool. 

An effective tool should offer the following benefits:

  • Manage documentation workflows and publishing activities in a better way.  Writers can author, review, edit, publish, and maintain all documents seamlessly, thus, putting their main  focus on quality content.
  • Avoid migration due to lack of specific features and save cost in content migration efforts.
  • Avoid excessive workarounds to meet a certain need of a specific user. If required, the content should be easily customizable, without creating an extra maintenance overhead to keep one vendor satisfied.

Finding the right tool for your documentation needs can be an exhausting task. While there are no hard and fast rules in choosing an ideal tool for your documentation needs, the following factors can help finalize a documentation tool. 


  • Cost
  • Learning Curve
  • Output Formats
  • Additional Overheads
  • Context-Sensitive Help
  • Widget
  • Chat Integration
  • Password Protection or Personalized Accounts
  • Internationalization Support
  • Other Factors


The cost of the tool plays a major role in deciding the right tool for your team . While exploring a tool, it is necessary to get the approved price range from your cost center. Fixing a cost range helps you shortlist the tools available in the market. Depending on your usage, like the file size and the number of active users, the cost could be either fixed or variable. Remember, the exact cost is always inclusive of your local taxes!

Learning Curve

The learning curve of the software should not be steep. Gauge the tool by its features and the average time taken by a new user to understand the workflow. Ensure you have enough bandwidth to train your team members on the new tool.

Output Formats

You may need various output formats, such as HTML5, PDF, or FAQ articles. Pick a tool that renders a desired output for your company without the need for post-processing. Also, check the feasibility of transferring the source files from one platform to another. When the source files are .xml, .md or .html files, you can use them on multiple platforms. This helps in mitigating the risk of locking your source files on a single platform. The best practice is to procure a tool with interoperable source file compatibility.

Additional Overheads

Check whether the tool requires extra resources, such as server and version control systems as these are often considered in the total cost estimation; it adds to the overhead cost to the company; For example, documents hosted on a cloud environment bear more cost.  Also, you may notice a spike in the cost when you expand your documentation site using the new tool.

Context-Sensitive Help

Does your software application require context-sensitive help? Context-sensitive help usually requires development and maintenance effort. Ensure that the context-sensitive help integrates within your application and you get adequate engineering support in your company during the implementation.


The tool should meet the following widget-related criteria:

  • Does the software need an inline help? 
  • Does the widget work within your software or require an extra engineering effort to do that? 
  • Does the widget offer search functionality?
  • Does the widget display the right page to the user based on the context?
  • Does the widget have security issues with your existing application? 
  • Can you customize the widget to match your organization’s standard colors?

Chat Integration

To assist your users, you can include an integrated chat in the documentation widgets. Users can either read the documents through the widget or seek help from the live chat agents. It enhances the user experience, causing the number of support tickets to take a nose-dive in the long run. 

Password Protection or Personalized Accounts

Does your organization release technical content only to its registered users or restricted customers? Then, you may need a personalized account or a simple password-protected page for your users. If you need an integration using SSO (Single Sign-on), check if your tool supports the relevant feature.

Internationalization Support

A software offered in various international languages (i18n) needs a documentation site with multi-language support. Ensure that the tool supports different language outputs and versions for all supported languages.

Other Factors

The following factors are not mandatory, but are good to have in a tool.

  • Third-Party App Integration: Support for third-party app integration lets you use your existing tools in the documentation platform. For instance, tagging a JIRA user, integrating a comment add-on, or embedding a chart or video adds great value to your documentation site. 
  • Automation: Explore the various possibilities of creating automation workflows within the documentation tool. It is good to have automated triggers and status changes based on the state of the document. Collaboration tools within a tool improve communication in teams. 
  • AI Integration: AI has become an indispensable part of the software development world. If your tool can leverage the power of AI in the documentation workflow, it can greatly enhance your documentation. AI can automate workflows, provide suggestions, and verify  the readability of articles.
  • Platform API: Documentation API access enables your company to use documentation across all its mediums. APIs integrate documents with products and display single-sourced content.

Selecting a documentation tool is a one-time maneuver that pays you in the long run. Plan the implementation in phases to have a documentation tool that works best for your team!

About the Author

Balaji Jayaraman has a background in software development and worked extensively in technical documentation of software products. He is passionate about automating release notes and has worked on different tools to improve the software documentation process across different companies. He is also experienced in evaluating suitable documentation portals for startup companies.

Current RoleLead Technical Writer
Company: CYGNVS
City: Chennai, India

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