Having a set of documents that describe your API is invaluable, especially if you have created it with a diverse audience in mind. However, because APIs are complex technical products, they require more than just a spec sheet to describe them. That's where API documentation software comes in.
In this article, we'll go over the top 6 API documentation software that you can use in 20201, as what benefits you can get with API Documentation Software, as well as how to choose the right software for your needs.
Let's get right into it.
6 Best API Documentation Software Systems in 2021
Having a documentation system for all your APIs is good, but having a structured formatting tool that makes the same purpose a lot more streamlined is even better.
Here are the top 6 API Documentation Software Systems that you can use to create structured and detailed API documents.
SwaggerHub tops the list of API documentation tools for its combination of interactivity, ease-of-use, and compendium of helpful features.
More than a documentation tool, SwaggerHub is a complete platform that combines features such as Swagger UI (interactive documentation tool) and Swagger Editor (open-source API editor). Plus, it has SmartBear support.
This provides both enterprises and individuals a unique set of Rest API documentation functionality in a single ecosystem, improving the overall usability.
Pros and Cons
Here are the positives and negatives of SwaggerHub:
- Complete open-source toolkit for API documentation
- Automated document generation
- Fully customizable with open source code
- Range of collaboration and real-time team management tools
- Support for Python, Ruby, HTML, and more
- Can be expensive for individuals
- Not as much usability with cloud microservices
- Free: $0 (single user, limited functionality)
- Team: $96 per month (three users, extended functionality)
- Enterprise: As per client requirements (a minimum of 15 users)
For more information and to subscribe, visit SwaggerHub.
DapperDox is an OpenAPI renderer with support for OAS 2.0 and OAS 3.0, as well as an open-source server for OpenAPI server specs.
The tool allows users to integrate diagrams into their OpenAPI specifications via GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM). Additionally, users have the option to experiment with different document features from inside the documentation, using an API explorer.
DapperDox is known for its ability to seamlessly bring together diagrams, guides, documentation, and your API specifications.
Pros and Cons
Here are the positives and negatives of DapperDox.
- Clearly-written and user-friendly documents
- Optimized for new users and smaller enterprises
- More streamlined and simpler documents
- Lets you create rich, interactive websites for the APIs
- Limited compatibility with other APIs
- Not all third-party extensions work with the tool
Free download available on the website.
For more information and to download, visit DapperDox.
Redocly is the full-suite version of Redoc, which is an OpenAPI-based reference document software that allows integration with a variety of open-source tools.
Designed for larger enterprises and more diverse API needs, Redocly provides an OpenAPI specification compliant method of building interactive and visually pleasing documentation that can be deployed seamlessly into any continuous integration that's currently existing.
This ability extends from the very start and continues on to the end of the API lifecycle.
Pros and Cons
Here are the positives and negatives of Redocly.
- Creates attractive and engaging API documents
- Allows easy deployment throughout the API lifecycle
- Contains highly usable document templates
- Provides automated updates in the cloud
- Can be expensive for smaller enterprises
- Not enough features on the less expensive packages
- Starter: $0 per month (reference documentation access only)
- Basic: $69 per month (added integration and deployment features)
- Professional: $300 per month (full software functionality)
- Enterprise: Customized packages, based on enterprise needs
For more information and to subscribe, visit Redocly.
Stoplight is a design-centric API documentation software that's optimized for the modern API workflow.
With an intuitive interface that's primed for the needs of the more design-heavy API, Stoplight offers a quick and easy solution to designing attractive APIs that are suitable for both technical and non-technical audiences.
The software also lets stakeholders collaborate on JSON schema and OpenAPI-based API designs, while also featuring mock servers that you can use to test the designs out in real-time.
Pros and Cons
Here are the positives and negatives of Stoplight.
- A beautiful developer experience
- Fully equipped API design studio
- Ability to scale with consistent updates
- Optimized style guide design features
- High-end functionality can be expensive for smaller companies
- The free package has very limited design options
- Free: $0 per month (limited functions)
- Starter: $99 per month (up to 5 users)
- Professional: $399 per month (up to 10 users)
- Enterprise: Customized pricing (based on enterprise needs)
For more information and to subscribe, visit Stoplight.
Postman is an API documentation tool that provides a machine-readable API document creation platform for singular developers and developer teams.
The software lets you publish documents easily and quickly. it can automatically populate documentation pages with machine-readable instructions and dynamic examples by pulling code snippets, headers, and sample requests.
Furthermore, Postman lets developers share their APIs with their audience with fewer steps. Additionally, the internal collaboration features let bigger developer teams work together and improve documents through code reviews and real-time comments.
Pros and Cons
Here are the positives and negatives of Postman.
- Automate updates to all API documents
- High level of share-ability with the 'Run In Postman' button
- Easy communication with machine-readable documents
- Some instances of software malfunction when sharing multiple API documents
- Has a bit of a learning curve
- Free: $0 per user
- Team: $12 per user/month (billed annually)
- Business: $24 per user/month (billed annually)
- Enterprise: Customized packages, based on enterprise needs
For more information and to subscribe, visit Postman.
ReadMe is another design-focused documentation platform that features a simple and easy-to-use interface and a variety of options that help develop beautiful and streamlined documents.
The software lets developers add API keys directly in the relevant documents, easily create API calls, and generate code samples automatically.
Additionally, ReadMe has some of the best documentation design templates that you can find.
Pros and Cons
Here are the positives and negatives of ReadMe.
- Helps create documentation and launch APIs quickly
- Ability to develop interactive reference guides
- A fully interactive API development platform
- Very expensive enterprise packages
- Some limitations with third-party service integrations
- Free: $0 per project/month
- Startup: $99 per project/month
- Business: $399 per project/month
- Enterprise: $2,000 per project/month
For more information and to subscribe, visit ReadMe.
Benefits of API Documentation Software
Having a set of descriptor documents for your API allows people to
- Reduced Need for Support: A well-written and simple set of API documents helps users find their own way around the API and not have to rely on API development support. This is for both external customers and internal use.
- Higher Adoption Rate: Documenting helps improve the user experience throughout the API lifecycle and allows users to start working with your API much sooner.
- Non-Engineering Usability: Most documentation software produces reference documentation and other material that can be easily understood by people with no software engineering experience.
- Better Product Maintenance: Documentation provides developers a bird's eye view of the entire API structure. This allows for better maintenance and updates, as well as quicker improvement cycles.
- API Specs Agreement: Creating complete documents for API allows developers and stakeholders to agree on specifications such as the data, attributes, endpoints, and more.
Additionally, APIdocs act as API blueprints and usage tutorials laid out in simple language. Readers don't need to have developer experience to understand the full capabilities of the API.
Choosing the Right API Documentation Software
The existence of so many high-quality documentation tools has made it easier for technical writers to learn how to write API documentation.
However, there's still the matter of finding the right API documentation software for your needs.
Here are some things you can do to ensure you have the right API documentation software for optimally describing what your API is all about.
- Focus on simplicity and ease of use. Developers shouldn't have to create code snippets for every added feature and the tool should integrate automatically with multiple third-party services.
- Choose a platform that accommodates API documentation with several programming languages and syntax.
- Check if the platform can display your API documentation and allow you to review it with key stakeholders.
- Make sure the software can integrate an external search service such as Google Custom Search, Algolia, or Swiftype.
- Confirm if the software leaves some budget open for third-party hosting and documentation services, or if it offers an in-built deployment option.
- Ensure that you get a platform that gives you a lot of technical leeway while still allowing you to make good API content.
- Emphasize the design as the primary quality of documentation software when looking to subscribe. Good API design will allow developers to create more visually-appealing documents that can explain API capabilities better.
- Good documentation improves user satisfaction to a very high degree. The satisfaction is not limited to a narrow audience either, as people of all technical expertise levels can read and use it.
In addition to these pointers, make sure that the software pricing is suited to your short and long-term budget, and that it doesn't have any bloat or extra functionality that you won't need at the start.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
What is API documentation software?
It's a software system that lets developers create documents based on the inner workings of an API, how it functions, and what it's able to do. It basically develops and stores a reference manual for both technical and non-technical staff to be able to read and understand, as well as making adjustments as the development process progresses. Additionally, the software makes it easy to explain to new users and customers how to use the API to its full potential.
What does API documentation consist of?
API documents contain detailed descriptions of the API, including its functions, workflows, return types, arguments, and classes. Typical API documentation set consists of several elements such as a quick start guide, explanations for every API request, authentication info, request, return, and code samples (with response descriptions and error messages), as well as SDK examples.
What are some API documentation best practices?
Whether you're creating documentation for web or RESTful APIs, make sure to plan ahead for the documentation process. This includes knowing the capabilities, purpose, and scope of the API, as well as wh the documentation is for (the target audience). Furthermore, avoid jargon as much as possible and make the documentation easy to understand even for non-technical users. Lastly, include as many interactive examples and visual aides as possible.
How much does an API documentation software cost?
Different software companies have different prices for their API documentation and deployment tools. The tools mentioned in the list range from free-to-use to $399 a month. It's important to note that some firms offer an enterprise pricing and service package that's based on the needs of the client enterprise. These packages usually have the highest amount of functionality (for bigger enterprises) and cost more than a standard monthly package.
What is the best API documentation software?
The software tools mentioned in the list above are all capable of easily producing high-level API documentation. For now, SwaggerHub ranks at the top of the list due to its ideal combination of enterprise-grade features, an extensive range of tools for personnel with all levels of technical knowledge, and support for a number of programming languages. That said, the overall quality of an API documentation software depends on your specifications and your documentation needs.
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