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8 code documentation tools you must know about

8 code documentation tools you must know about

Tabnine Team /
7 minutes /
March 20, 2024

What are code documentation tools? 

Code documentation tools enable developers to generate and maintain documentation. They’re an indispensable part of the software development process, providing clear explanations of a codebase and its functionality. These tools are designed to streamline the process of documenting code, saving time, reducing errors, and enhancing the maintainability of software projects.

Good code documentation outlines what the code does, how it does it, and why it was programmed in a particular way. Documenting large codebases can be a challenging task, and code documentation tools help by standardizing and automating many parts of the process.

Key features of code documentation tools 

  • Syntax highlighting: Code documentation tools often provide syntax highlighting, which is a form of secondary notation that uses color to convey information about the code. It enhances the readability and context of the code, making it easier to understand.
    1. Automatically generating docs from comments: This feature allows developers to generate documentation from comments in their code with minimal effort. It analyzes the code and extracts information such as class definitions, variable names, function signatures, and comments, which are then organized into a structured document.
    2. Support for multiple languages: Many code documentation tools offer support for multiple programming languages. This can be useful for teams using multiple technologies and frameworks. 
  • Custom templates and themes: The aesthetics of documentation can play a significant role in its readability and comprehension. Some code documentation tools offer a variety of templates and themes that developers can use to customize the look and feel of their documentation, improving navigation and user experience.
  1. Version control integration: Most code documentation tools offer integration with popular version control systems such as Git. Version control integration allows developers to keep their documentation in sync with their code. Every time a change is made to the code, the documentation is automatically updated to reflect the change. 
  2. Generative AI: Modern generative AI systems use large language models (LLMs) to generate human-like text. It can read your code and generate understandable and useful documentation without any manual intervention. This is a game-changer in the world of code documentation.

Notable code documentation tools 

1. Tabnine

Tabnine is the AI coding assistant tailored to you and your teams, and that works within the IDEs you already use. Tabnine eliminates mundane tasks so you can focus on the things on more interesting and more valuable work.  Beyond code generation, Tabnine also helps developers by answering coding questions, explaining syntax and structure, and can even be used to teach new languages. Tabnine can automatically generate documentation for selected pieces of code, saving time for developers and improving the maintainability of the code in the future.

Tabnine integrates with your integrated development environment (IDE). As you type in your IDE, Tabnine analyzes the code and comments, predicting the most likely next steps and offering them as suggestions for you to accept or reject.

Tabnine utilizes an LLM trained on reputable open source code with permissive licenses, StackOverflow Q&A, and even your entire codebase (Enterprise feature). This means it generates more relevant, higher quality, and more secure code than other tools on the market. 

Tabnine has recently released Tabnine Chat, which is an AI assistant trained on your entire codebase, safe open source code, and every StackOverflow Q&A, while ensuring all of your intellectual property remains protected and private. Tabnine Chat integrates with your IDE and can help you generate comprehensive and accurate code documentation with low effort. 

In addition, Tabnine offers Enterprise-grade security, privacy, hosting, and additional capabilities. Get Tabnine today for free.

2. Nuclino

Nuclino is a collaborative workspace that allows you to create, share, and organize code documentation with ease. 

Nuclino lets you invite your team members to collaborate on a document, and any changes they make will be immediately visible to everyone. It has an intuitive interface with a minimal learning curve. 

Source: Nuclino

Nuclino lets you create and organize your documents visually and easily link related documents together for easy navigation. Lastly, it offers a powerful full-text search function that allows developers to quickly find the information they need.


3. Document360

Document360 is another excellent tool for code documentation. It’s a knowledge base platform that can manage the full process of creating, managing, and sharing code documentation.

Source: Document360

Document360 provides an editor that supports Markdown, which is a straightforward and efficient way of writing code documentation. It also offers a rich text editor. All documents have a full version history, meaning you can easily track changes made to your code documentation, which is a crucial feature when you’re working with a team.

In addition, Document360 provides a robust search function, allowing developers to find the information you need. It searches both the content of your documents and their metadata.


4. Confluence

Confluence is a collaboration tool developed by Atlassian. It’s designed to help teams work together more efficiently and is often used for code documentation.

Source: Atlassian

Confluence is often used as part of a DevOps toolset, and integrates with other Atlassian products like JIRA, which can be a significant advantage if these tools are already part of your workflow.

Confluence also offers a wide range of templates that can help you get started with your code documentation. It also supports Wiki Markup, a text-based format that’s similar to Markdown. Another key feature is the use of labels, which can help you organize your code documentation in a way that makes sense to you.


5. GitBook

GitBook is a documentation tool that’s been designed with developers in mind. GitBook features a Markdown editor, which is useful for code documentation. It also supports the use of diagrams, which can be a great way to visually represent complex concepts or processes.

Source: GitBook

An important feature of GitBook is its versioning capabilities, which let you track changes made to your code documentation. It also integrates seamlessly with GitHub, GitLab, and other development tools so you can sync your documentation with your code, ensuring that they remain consistent with each other.


6. Apiary

Apiary is a code documentation tool that’s specifically designed for API documentation. It has a powerful editor that supports both Markdown and API Blueprint, a high-level API description language.

Source: Apiary

A unique feature of Apiary is interactive documentation. It allows you to interact with an API directly from your documentation, which can be a great way to demonstrate how your API works. Apiary also provides collaboration features — you can invite your team members to collaborate on your documentation, and their changes are immediately visible.


7. Scribe

Scribe makes it easy to document code by generating helpful, human-readable documentation automatically from comments in your codebase. You only need to write your comments in a specific format, and Scribe will do the rest. Scribe supports a variety of languages, including PHP, Python, and Java.

Source: Scribe

Like Apiary, Scribe lets you generate interactive documentation. Users can not only read your documentation but also try out your API directly from the generated documentation.


8. Read the Docs

Read the Docs is another popular choice for code documentation. This tool is particularly well-suited for teams working on open source projects, thanks to its integration with version control systems like Git, Mercurial, and Subversion.

Source: Read The Docs

Read the Docs is more than a documentation generator — it’s a complete platform that hosts your documentation, making it accessible for anyone on the internet. It also supports multiple versions of your documentation, allowing users to switch between different versions of your project effortlessly.

An important feature of Read the Docs is its support for Sphinx and reStructuredText. These tools allow you to create complex, professional-looking documentation. In addition, it supports standard Markdown format.

Automate code documentation with Tabnine

Given the challenges of traditional code documentation, recent advances in generative AI can be a big help to development teams. Tabnine is an AI-powered coding assistant that can predict and generate code completions in real time, and can also automatically generate relevant, context-sensitive documentation. 

Large development teams can’t function effectively unless everyone commits to writing thorough documentation, the thing is most developers would rather be writing code than documenting it. Tabnine makes generating documentation easy. Simply highlight the code you want to document, and then ask Tabnine through your chat window to create documentation. With local and global context awareness enabled Tabnine will generate documentation that’s in alignment with your coding standards and formatting. 

Get a 90-day free trial of Tabnine Pro today or talk to a product expert.