Software documentation is any written text, drawings, or video that describes software to its users. A user can be anyone, from a programmer, system analyst to any end-user.
Multiple documents for different users may be produced at various phases of development. Software documentation is an important part of the whole software development process.
Documentation is often divided into the following categories:
- Installation Guides: Describes how to install a program or device but not how to use it.
- Reference Guides: These are detailed descriptions of the software components. These guides are meant to be used by users who are already familiar with the product but need precise information on specific subjects.
- Tutorial: Teaches a user how to use the product. Tutorials move at a slower pace than reference manuals and generally contain less detail.
Use cases and Examples
Some examples of documentation include but are not limited to:
User handbooks: contain instructions and processes describing all the features of the software available to the end-user.
API Documentation: provided to developers looking to use APIs a software provides.
Design Document: provides detailed descriptions of how all the software components are interconnected and sometimes why such decisions were made. This type of documentation is a lot more useful to the developers working on the software and not soo much to the end-user of the software.
It includes features such as data flow diagrams, entity connection diagrams, and so on.
Requirements Document: Defines the list of things needed to run the software.
The whole plan of the software development or its instructions guide can come under the umbrella of documentation.
For the most part, developers working on the software are usually the ones also responsible for its documentation. For larger software solutions or where there is a need for a user-friendly documentation, teams and companies delegate this to a technical writer instead.
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