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Alternatives to Docusaurus for Software Product Documentation

Alternatives to Docusaurus for Software Product Documentation

Product documentation is essential to every product launch because it gives users the information they need to understand, use, and troubleshoot a product properly. This article is a follow-up to our previous one on the top five open-source tools for developing documentation.

Docusaurus is a popular open-source documentation tool primarily designed for product documentation and other technical documentation needs. It was first released in 2017 by Facebook Open Source (now Meta Open Source). Just recently, Docsaurus version 3.0 was released.

One of the highlights of Docusaurus is that it is built on top of modern web technologies, such as React and Markdown. This makes it easy for users to create documentation sites that are responsive, interactive, and easy to read. Secondly, it is extensible with plugins — users can easily add new features and functionality to their documentation site.

Why Docusaurus Alternatives?

Docusaurus isn’t perfect, however. Let’s take a look at some reasons for considering alternatives.

  • It lacks real-time co-editing, which can be crucial for teams working together on documentation.
  • It has a more difficult learning curve than other tools, especially for non-technical users.
  • It’s built for static site generation, which can lead to performance limitations for large documentation sites with many users.

In this article, we’ll explore some alternatives to Docusaurus. Below are some of the significant factors that will likely influence your decision.

Technical criteria:

Ease of use: How easy is setting up and using the tool? Does it require coding experience, or is it geared towards non-technical users?

Performance and scalability: Can the platform handle large amounts of content and users without compromising performance or stability?

Content creation and management: What formats does the tool support for content creation? Does it offer features for version control and allow collaboration?

Search and navigation: Does the tool have powerful search capabilities and an intuitive navigation system?

Community size and activity: Does the tool have a vibrant and active community that provides support, resources, and ready-made plugins or themes? A larger community indicates wider adoption and faster troubleshooting.

Open-source license: Does the platform offer free and open-source software (FOSS) licensing, allowing for customization and contribution?

GitBook

GitBook is a well-known online platform for developing, sharing, and publishing technical documentation. Although it’s not open source, it offers free and paid plans, with the free plan having limited features and functionalities. The paid plans unlock more features, such as custom domains, team collaboration, and advanced analytics.

GitBook has an easy-to-use interface, a broad feature set, and a growing community, making it a good choice for independent developers and teams.

GitBook homepage

GitBook makes it simple to create content by allowing you to format, embed media, and bring your documentation to life with its intuitive WYSIWYG editor. You can also work with your team in real-time and view edits as they happen.

Aside from providing an intuitive editor and real-time collaborating environment, GitBook supports various content types, including text, images, code snippets, and diagrams.

Also, interactive elements like quizzes and polls allow comprehensive and engaging documentation creation.

It offers various deployment options, including cloud hosting, self-hosting, and static site generation. Users can choose the best deployment method for their needs and technical expertise.

Similarities with Docusaurus

GitBook is similar to Docusaurus in the following ways:

  • They both support the Markdown language for content creation, making it accessible to technical and non-technical users.
  • Themes allow users to tailor the documentation's appearance to their specific branding and needs; they have several theme customization options.
  • Both connect with Git for version control and have active communities supporting and contributing to their continuous development.

Differences

GitBook and Docusaurus differ in the following ways:

  • Gitbook has a WYSIWYG editor; however, Docusaurus mainly uses Markdown to edit content.
  • While Docusaurus offers a more focused group of features optimized for speed and performance, Gitbook provides a wider range of built-in features, including analytics and interactive aspects.
  • Docusaurus focuses more on creating static websites, whereas Gitbook provides self-hosting and cloud-hosting solutions.
  • Docusaurus is free and open source, whereas GitBook has a free plan with some restrictions.

Migrating from Docusaurus to GitBook can be smooth, especially for teams comfortable with Markdown and familiar with web-based documentation platforms.

However, this can be difficult when collaboration procedures, version control, and specialized plugin functionalities are a priority. While both offer collaborative functions, their methodologies differ. For example, while GitBook offers extensive analytics and SSO connectivity, it still lacks specific functionalities you can use with Docusaurus.

GitBook is frequently updated; the last update was on June 26, 2023. It is Apache-licensed and has a GitHub community where users can learn about the latest release and other vital information.

GitBook is an interesting alternative to consider if subscription fees are not a problem and ease of transition, a robust ecosystem, a user-friendly interface, and other features like custom domain analytics and SSO are essential to you.

The following companies use GitBook as their documentation tool.

  • Qubitro
  • Airbnb
  • Tech stack
  • Mailchimp

MkDocs

MkDocs homepage

MkDocs, according to AlternativesTo, is the most popular open-source and self-hosted alternative to Docusaurus.

It is a static site generator focused on building product documentation. It emphasizes simplicity and ease of use; developers who love clarity prefer MkDocs because of its minimalism.

Its documentation source files are written in Markdown, configured with a single YAML config file, and have a straightforward directory structure.

It is super fast and can generate a complete documentation site in seconds, making it suitable for large projects and websites with a large amount of material.

Similarities with Docusaurus

MkDocs is similar to Docusaurus in the following ways:

  • They both heavily use Markdown language in content creation, making it simple and easy for technical and non-technical users.
  • They integrate smoothly with Git for version control and provide theme customization possibilities, allowing customers to generate documentation exactly how they want it.

Differences

MkDocs and Docusaurus differ in the following ways:

  • MkDocs focuses on minimalism and lightweight functionality, whereas Docusaurus focuses on performance and extensive capabilities.
  • MkDocs is more straightforward to understand and use, whereas Docusaurus may need more technical expertise for advanced features and customization.
  • MkDocs, like GitBook, focuses primarily on static site generation, but Docusaurus provides other deployment choices, such as cloud hosting and server-side rendering.

MkDocs is BSD-2-Clause licensed and has a vibrant community; GitHub Discussion is used for questions and high-level discussion, while the Gitter/Matrix chat room is used to discuss less complex topics. These communities provide essential resources and support.

It is frequently updated and maintained, and the most recent release was on September 18, 2023

Migrating from Docusarus to MkDocs is simple because both technologies support the Markdown language. It may be difficult because Docusaurus permits multi-user editing, which MkDocs currently lacks. If collaborative editing is critical, we must identify and incorporate external technologies.

MkDocs is an excellent choice if a team needs a straightforward tool to set up, is familiar with Markdown, and when team-based editing is not required. The documentation is centered on clear writing.

The following companies and projects use MkDocs as their documentation tool.

  • Atlassian
  • Microsoft
  • Red Hat
  • Kubernetes

Docsify

Docsify homepage

Docsify is another open-source alternative to Docusaurus, according to AlternativeTo. It creates your documentation website in real time but does not generate static HTML files, unlike GitBook. Instead, it intelligently reads and parses your Markdown files before displaying them as a webpage. All you have to do is create an index file.

It is lightweight and straightforward to use, and like Docusaurus, it is primarily built for document creation. It also supports Markdown for content development and prioritizes speed and performance. It also has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface for non-technical users.

It streamlines content creation with multi-user editing, perfect for smaller teams, and offers basic version control.

It offers search and navigation, making it ideal for smaller projects with less sophisticated material and a growing community with fewer resources than other solutions.

Similarities with Docusaurus

Docsify is similar to Docusaurus in the following ways:

  • Both platforms utilize Markdown for content creation, making them accessible to a wider audience.
  • They offer seamless integration with Git for version control and can be extended with add-ons, plugins, and extensions.

Differences

Docsify and Docusaurus differ in the following ways:

  • Docusaurus documentation requires an internet connection, while Docsify allows offline access with Progressive Web Apps.
  • Docusaurus has built-in search functionality that allows users to search through the documentation content; Docsify depends on external search plugins to enable the search feature.
  • Docusaurus offers various deployment options, while Docsify, just like GitBook and MkDocs, primarily focuses on static site generation.

Depending on your situation, migrating from Docusaurus to Docsify can be straightforward or challenging.

It could be simple because both programs support the Markdown language, and Docsify's clean and user-friendly design makes it easy to navigate for those already familiar with Docusaurus.

It is challenging because, unlike Docusaurus, Docsify doesn't have built-in version control; thus, backing up content changes would have to be done manually. Also, Docsify's plugin ecosystem is still growing. If you depend extensively on Docusaurus plugins, you may need to find alternative solutions or develop custom features.

Docsify is frequently updated; the latest release was on June 24, 2023, and the most recent update was on December 17, 2023. It is MIT-licensed and has an active Discord community.

Docsify, with its drag-and-drop interface and simple collaborative feature, can be an excellent choice for non-technical teams who want to deploy simple documentation quickly.

The following companies use Docsify as their documentation tool.

  • Huawei
  • Cyber Alliance
  • KVIKYMART

Archivy

Archivy homepage

Archivy is a self-hosted knowledge repository that allows you to securely save meaningful content that contributes to your personal, searchable, and expandable wiki.

Archivy is specifically built to handle massive documentation sites with excellent scalability. Another core feature of Archivy is saving webpages locally by simply bookmarking the page. It offers robust search and navigation but might be less familiar to non-technical users.

It is free, open-source, MIT-licensed, and accessible to individual developers and organizations with small budgets. It is intended for experienced users and requires technical expertise for setup and configuration.

Similarities with Docusaurus

Archivy is similar to Docusaurus in the following ways:

  • Both platforms generate static HTML files for fast loading times and efficient content delivery.
  • Both platforms support Markdown for content creation and integrate seamlessly with Git for version control.

Differences

Archivy and Docusaurus differ in the following ways:

  • Docusaurus has an active community with many resources and support, while Archivy has a growing community with limited resources and support compared to Docusaurus and other established tools.
  • Docusaurus is static site generation-based; it pre-renders the entire documentation before deployment. Archivy uses a dynamic server-side rendering architecture that dynamically renders content, considerably boosting performance for large documentation sets.

Migrating from Docusaurus to Archivy can be appealing for managing large documentation sites. However, that process is challenging due to substantial underlying structures and operations differences.

For instance, while both platforms support Markdown, some syntax differences exist. You may need to modify the Docusaurus Markdown files to make them compatible with Archivy's style.

Archivy is often updated; the most recent update was on July 25, 2023, and the most recent release was on January 7, 2023. Archivy is committed to developing open and high-quality knowledge base software through collaboration and community, as evidenced by its issue board and Discord server community.

If the team has some technical experience and the documentation will be large, involving complex information and high traffic, Archivy will be suitable.

The following companies use Archivy as their documentation tool.

  • Mozilla
  • DigitalOcean
  • Elastic

Conclusion

In the post, we discussed Docusaurus and its top alternatives and highlighted their strengths, similarities, and differences. Given their distinct features and advantages, selecting the finest documentation generator to replace Docusaurus is not straightforward. Your unique demands and requirements will determine the ideal option for your project.

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Resources

The following resources might be useful.


About the author

Software Engineer and Technical Writer

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