An API documentation tool can help simplify and even automate part of the process of creating and managing API documentation. This can result in API documentation that’s easier to read, more interactive, and consistent-looking across APIs — all in less time.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of using an API documentation tool. Then we’ll check out some of the best API documentation tools and what their respective ideal use cases are.
Why Use an API Documentation Tool
Using an API documentation tool can provide many benefits. Most importantly, it reduces the time it takes for developers to write and maintain API documentation by automating or simplifying some tasks. It also helps developers create a consistent-looking set of documentation that provide a similar user experience for all their APIs.
To provide these benefits, API documentation tools come with a range of features. The best tools are capable of:
- Auto-generating documentation from API specifications
- Automatically updating documentation based on changes to source code
- Maintaining multiple documentation versions
- Enabling multiple users to collaborate on documents
- Providing customization options
Let’s take a look at some API documentation tools that offer this functionality and more.
API Documentation Tools
- OpenAPI Generator
- LucyBot's DocGen
While some of the API documentation tools are designed specifically for REST APIs, most of the tools can be used to create documentation for any type of API. Let’s take a closer look below.
Best for: Collaborating on API documentation in real time
Postman's online API documentation tool can help you create and maintain machine-readable API documentation. Postman automatically pulls your sample requests, headers, code snippets, and more to populate your documentation with dynamic examples and machine-readable instructions. It also automatically updates your documentation when you make changes to your collection.
What’s unique about Postman is its commenting feature. Using this functionality, you can provide comments and code reviews to share feedback and notify your teammates of any changes or errors in real time.
For an in-depth tutorial about how to document your APIs in Postman, check out this video:
Best for: Documenting APIs at scale
Ideal for teams and enterprises, SwaggerHub is an online API documentation tool designed to simplify and accelerate API documentation. Using the API editor, you can more easily achieve compliance with OpenAPI Specifications (OAS), previously known as Swagger, thanks to features like:
- Smart error feedback and syntax auto-completion
- Embedded API design rules that reinforce standards in real time
- Domains for cataloging and reusing common OAS syntax across APIs
- Real-time commenting and issue tracking
Best for: Previewing API documentation
Redocly’s Workflow services are designed to automate the API documentation pipeline. With serverless docs-like-code, you can treat your documentation like source code by storing it in version-control software, setting up a review/acceptance process, and deploying it to multiple environments. You can also ensure your team is collaborating securely and efficiently with Redocly’s user roles, try-it authentication, and other security features.
Another unique feature is Redocly’s preview functionality. You can preview every branch or pull request to ensure your changes are reviewed and discussed before pushing to production.
Best for: Hosting API documentation
A major advantage of this RESTful API documentation tool is that you can host your documentation on Stoplight. This not only means you don’t have to worry about managing servers yourself — it also means you can easily manage access control and measure analytics with integrations.
Best for: Turning API documentation into developer hubs
With ReadMe, you can transform your API documentation into an interactive hub for your developers. In this hub, they can auto-generate code samples, update content in the ReadMe editor, merge a suggested edit, answer questions in the support forum, and more.
One of the greatest advantages of ReadMe is that it tracks page views, API calls, API errors, and requests to different endpoints, among other metrics, so you can understand how people are using your API and API documentation over time. These usage insights can help your team know where to focus their improvement efforts.
Best for: API versioning
apiDoc is an open-source REST API documentation tool that automatically creates documentation from API descriptions in your source code. It can be used with almost any programming language (as long as it allows block documentation).
Since apiDoc·lets you attach a version number to an API, developers can see what has changed between versions. This makes it ideal for API versioning, or the practice of transparently managing changes to your API.
Best for: Creating cohesive API documentation along with API specifications
Created by API documentation authors for API documentation authors, DapperDox is designed to provide the flexibility that authors need and the usability that developers need. By enabling authors to add relevant documentation into a rendered specification page, this online API documentation tool is perfect for creating a cohesive set of documentation that includes readable guides and API specifications.
It also lets you document multiple API specifications as a suite of products and cross-reference as needed, and choose themes to present your documents in different styles.
8. OpenAPI Generator
Best for: Creating static API documentation
OpenAPI Generator is designed for generating documentation for OAS 2.0 and OAS 3.0 documents. You can customize these documents using options, custom templates, and custom generators on your classpath.
A unique feature of this online API documentation tool is that it includes multiple documentation formats including HTML and Cwiki. By converting OAS documents into HTML or Cwiki formats, you can distribute static documentation to your consumers.
9. LucyBot's DocGen
Best for: Creating custom documentation
With LucyBot's DocGen, you can more easily create and maintain interactive API documentation. This tool automatically generates documentation for every operation, parameter, and response of your API. You can set up an API Console to allow developers and users to make sample calls to your API so they can better explore, debug, and learn about what your API is capable of. You can also set up workflows, which will show users exactly what code they need to write and steps they need to take to accomplish a particular task, in the programming language they choose.
Finally, you can use Markdown or HTML to create custom documentation pages.
Best for: Creating API documentation with developers and non-developers
What’s unique about Theneo is that it’s designed for your entire team, including developers and non-developers. Any user can:
- Import API collections
- Drag and drop requests to be automatically converted into multiple programming languages
- Analyze how the API Documentation is being used
- Receive feedback from readers or API consumers
Theneo is designed to generate documentation that looks like Stripe’s documentation, with a vertical table of contents, a dark and light mode toggler, and code examples side-by-side with descriptions.
Picking the Right API Documentation Tool for You
Any of the API documentation tools above can help you create online API documentation that’s interactive, user-friendly, and easy to maintain. The right tool for you will align with your unique needs and budget so make sure you understand your must-haves and nice-to-haves when evaluating.