Free Open source documentation tools in 2024

Discover the Best Free Open-Source Documentation Tools of 2024! Streamline your documentation process with these leading, cost-effective solutions.

Apr 26, 2024
Free Open source documentation tools in 2024
Ever built a fantastic software program, but worried no one understands how to use it? Imagine your software as a treasure chest – brimming with potential, but locked tight without a clear map.
That's where documentation tools come in-they're like magic wands for crafting easy-to-understand guides that empower users and fuel collaboration around your project. These handy helpers, created by the community, are like your trusty guides through the wilderness of code.
Documentation Tools like Sphinx, MkDocs, and Read the Docs are here to make your life easier. They translate the complex world of code into plain English, so you can understand what's going on and get things done without tearing your hair out.
Do you know?                                                                                                                             According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the typical worker dedicates nearly 20% of their work week to seeking out information or colleagues who can assist them in their tasks. This has been sorted out using the Software Documentation Tools.
Do you know? According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the typical worker dedicates nearly 20% of their work week to seeking out information or colleagues who can assist them in their tasks. This has been sorted out using the Software Documentation Tools.
So, if you're ready to make sense of the world of open-source software documentation, buckle up and let's dive in together!

What are documentation Tools?

Before moving into the different types of open-source documentation tool, let’s grasp the basic definition of Documentation tools.
Documentation tools improve and simplify your organization's procedures, making it quick and easy to create and manage documents. They boost team efficiency by automating the documentation process, enabling rapid creation, updates, and sharing. Centralizing documentation in a shared location ensures easy access to information for you and your team.
Types of Documentation Tools
Not all documentation tools are alike; some facilitate faster document creation, while others serve as central repositories for all your documents. There are various types of documentation tools:
  • Knowledge bases: These function as documentation libraries, storing process documentation, SOPs, how-to guides, and frequently asked questions.
  • Creation tools: These tools, which can be apps or browser extensions, assist in document creation and editing.
  • Collaboration tools: These allow real-time document editing and collaboration with others.
It's important to note that some platforms combine these main types of documentation tools, and in certain cases, you may require all of these types to ensure effective documentation.

Best Open-Source Documentation Tools

When you're stuck with a cumbersome, sluggish editor, an erratic search function, and a confusing interface for every document task, it's no wonder that documentation becomes a constant source of irritation.
However, a quality documentation tool can significantly improve your perspective on writing docs. To simplify your choice, we've assessed numerous documentation tools and compiled a list of the top 10 tools with the free open-source documentation tools.

1. GitBook

GitBook is a versatile and open-source platform for internal documentation, customer knowledge bases, and personal note-taking. It's ideal for centralizing all your documentation, though it lacks some collaboration features found in other options. GitBook excels with GitHub integration, visual customization, advanced version control, and more.
What users say about GitBook:
"Before GitBook our documentation was limited and very hard to find. It is really easy to get started with and the best part is that it supports Markdown. Writing documentation in Markdown is way easier and GitBook makes it easy to organize the content. β€” (Capterra review)

2. BookStack

BookStack is a versatile wiki-style documentation tool, offering an open-source, self-hosted solution. Although its interface is user-friendly and navigation is smooth, the initial installation may demand technical skills and patience. However, once your documentation platform is operational, it becomes straightforward to onboard your team.
If you favor a self-hosted documentation tool over a cloud-based one, BookStack is certainly worth considering.
What users say about BookStack:
"The stock interface design has a modern feel and is simple for new users to use. Granular permissions can be set up for specific roles on a per-content basis and permissions will waterfall down to child content. "
β€” (Slant review)

3. Read the Docs

Read the Docs is a free tool for software documentation. It streamlines the process for developers by handling tasks like building, versioning, and hosting technical documents. It works well with Sphinx docs in reStructuredText format, automatically handling document building and versioning. The platform prioritizes user-friendly and straightforward documentation.
Read the Docs
What users say about Read the Docs:
β€œThe whole idea is that you can manage your documentation just like you maintain the code. Their build and hosting make is simple to just add docs and get them online. The project template gets you started super fast and your online docs look good.” β€” (G2 review)

4. Apiary

Apiary is a specialized platform for API documentation, offering tools for designing, prototyping, documenting, and testing APIs. It enhances teamwork by creating a project blueprint and offers real-time feedback during API development. Apiary also supports both API Blueprint and OpenAPI formats.
What users say about Apiary:
β€œApiary has the best UI I have ever discovered. This makes it easy to use and understand. Within the platform, you can push changes to your existing repository. I also love the ability to create a team within some individuals as editors or viewers.” β€” (G2 review)

5. Doxygen

Doxygen is an open-source tool that produces documentation from annotated source code in languages like C++, C#, Java, and more. It can create online HTML documentation and offline LaTeX reference manuals directly from the source files, ensuring consistency between code and documentation.
What users say about Doxygen:
β€œDoxygen can generate documentation from formatted comments in the source code. This is extremely useful when writing detailed man pages. Doxygen is compatible with multiple languages. β€” (Slant review)

6. Google Docs

Google Docs is the leading free online document management system. It's cloud-based, so you can store and access your documents from any browser with a Gmail account. It offers efficient control and management of your files, and allows unlimited users.
Google Docs
What users say about Google Docs:
β€œSuper easy to use since it's just like Microsoft Office. Great if your device doesn't have Office and you need to use the same platforms.” β€” (GetApp)

7. Bitrix 24

Bitrix24, a top-notch free document management system, is accessible both on the cloud and on-premises. It boasts data centers in the USA and Ireland for hassle-free file storage and management. It supports various intranet services like calendars, galleries, wikis, and offers WebDAV support for improved functionality.
What users say about Bitrix24:
β€œI like being able to correctly plan tasks, have a clear timetable, and promptly obtain help with the work process. What I like best is that it is an all-in-one tool that helps with work management and team interaction, and it also includes video conference capacity.” β€” (G2 review)

8. OpenKM

OpenKM is a popular electronic document and record management system based on open-source technology. It works well with browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. The free version of OpenKM allows for customized automation of documentation processes and supports various file formats including text, office, open office, XMS, PDF, HTML, JPEG, and more.
What users say about OpenKM:
β€œWe have had a good experience, the software fulfills its purpose even with plenty of features, just with a couple of customer service problems. We feel comfortable with the application.” β€” (GetApp)

9. Nuexo

Nuxeo, an open-source document management system, is readily available for free download and can be used on various platforms, alleviating concerns about compatibility. This software boasts excellent support and advanced features, ensuring a user-friendly experience
What users say about Nuxeo:
β€œNuxeo Platform's "Open Source" nature helped make us very comfortable with their architecture and capabilities. While Nuxeo Platform is open and free for use, it's ultimately the Nuxeo Studio product which costs money, and we believe it to be well worth it.” β€” (Capterra)

10. LogicalDoc

LogicalDoc is a versatile document management software, offering both professional and community editions. The community edition, available for free download under the GNU license, provides a range of features for efficient document and file management.
What users say about LogicalDoc:
β€œWe were looking for a friendly and robust application to handle version control of several kinds of documents and LogicalDOC has fully satisfied our expectations.” β€” (GetApp)

Limitation of Open source documentation tools

While there are numerous open-source documentation tools available, many of them present challenges and here are few:
  • Complexity: Some open source documentation tools can be complex to set up and use, especially for users who are not familiar with coding or command-line interfaces. This complexity can be a barrier for beginners or teams with limited technical expertise.
  • Limited Support: While many open source projects have active communities providing support, the level of support may not be as robust as that offered by commercial documentation tools.
  • Feature Set: Some open source documentation tools may lack certain features or functionality found in commercial alternatives.
  • Collaboration Features: Some open source documentation tools may lack advanced collaboration features found in commercial tools. Features such as real-time editing, commenting, and version control may be limited or require additional setup and configuration.
  • SEO Optimization: Open source documentation tools may not provide built-in SEO optimization features, such as sitemaps, metadata customization, or SEO analysis tools. Users may need to rely on third-party plugins or manual optimization techniques to improve search engine visibility.
  • Integration Challenges: Open source documentation tools may not always seamlessly integrate with other software or systems used in the development process. Compatibility issues could arise when trying to integrate with proprietary tools or platforms.
In contrast, tools like, Notion, Document 360 and more, are designed to specifically address these concerns for documentation development.
Build complex documentation effortlessly with seamless collaboration. Know more
Bullet allows you to store all your data in Notion and it also offers fantastic features such as real-time collaboration and easy customization, allowing you to create and update your documentation seamlessly in just minutes. Here is a great feedback got from the bullet user:
Now being everything present in Notion, everyone can update the production documentation seamlessly and we have the benefits of SEO. Bullet just made our lives easier. - Sachin Jain, CEO @ Requestly

Discover the most suitable Documentation tool for your team

This list does not attempt to cover all the available documentation tools, as there are numerous alternative solutions, with many of them closely resembling each other.
Furthermore, it's crucial to remember that selecting the appropriate tool is just part of the equation. The true challenge lies in fostering a culture of documentation and cultivating effective habits. Nevertheless, a user-friendly documentation tool can significantly simplify this task. We trust that this list helps you in making the ideal decision for your team.