API documentation is the prime source of information on how an API works. An API Documentation Tool (ADT) is a tool that allows you to create, manage and publish documentation for your APIs. It provides a consistent way to describe your APIs and their resources.
An API documentation tool helps you reduce the time it takes for your developers to write and maintain documentation for your APIs, provide a common set of documentation that is used across all of your APIs and provide a consistent user experience for users from one API to another.
For developers, it is a guidebook that describes the purpose and advantages of APIs and best practices for integrating them. In general, well-structured documentation should contain complete details on arguments, classes, return types, and functions.
However, most developers and IT consultants will agree that integrating API documentation into your API ecosystem is anything but easy, especially when it concerns complex systems. In this case, an API documentation tool comes in very handy. We evaluated twenty-plus API documentation tools on the following factors.
- Document auto-generation from API definition
- Maintain multiple documentation versions
- Automatic documentation update
- Customization available
We have found the following API documentation tools to be the most effective based on the above factors.
Redocly sits comfortably at the top of this list because it supports OpenAPI v2 and Open API v3. It is also very flexible and highly customizable. Regardless of the activated mode, each end-user has full control over its responsiveness on mobile, color themes, fonts, and branding images.
The interface is clean and non-cluttered. The platform has been designed to focus on simplicity and functionality, which should be attractive to its users to use it regularly without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by too many features.
Users can also use a wide range of extensions with this API documentation tool. This includes project logo URL, links to code samples, and integration with a Github repository.
The API documentation tool, which is based on React JS, has both free and paid versions. It also has incorporated in it a CLI that gives you access to all Open API definitions.
Although originally designed for large enterprises, it can also be used by individuals and small teams. In general, the pros of ReDoc.ly are;
- Highly customizable
- Packed with a lot of power
- Easy to deploy and use
- Has a gallery of rich and detailed document templates
Like every other platform, it has its own fair share of cons. Here they are:
- It can be a little pricey for individuals and small brands
- The low-end plans lack features
SwaggerHub is a favorite among techies and software developers. This is no doubt in connection to its ease of use, interactivity, fully hosted, and an array of other convenient features. It is more than just a documentation tool. Putting things in perspective, it has SmartBear support, an open-source API editor, and an interactive documentation tool.
SwaggerHub is a powerful visual tool that lets API providers create interactive documentation for their APIs, letting API providers see exactly how the contract will work before integrating it into any code.
The pros and cons of Swagger are as under.
- It has a free tier for indie developers and solopreneurs.
- It is quite easy to use, even for beginners.
- SwaggerHub has the capabilities to execute API calls from the documentation
- Can deploy API to AWS Lambda and AWS API Gateway
- The team plan is $90 a month when paid annually.
- Compatibility issues with cloud microservices
Spotlight is the way to go for a design-centric developer. Spotlight makes documenting your API easy with its built-in features. With automatic updates, accurate API documentation can be generated in a timely manner without having to manually update any of it yourself! Spotlight also helps you save time on the tedious task of updating and maintaining documentation for each change made to an API.
It also allows its end users the option to choose between JSON schema and openAPI-based API designs. A big plus of Stoplight is the ability to test designs out in real-time.
- Feature-loaded API design studio
- Optimized guide design features
- The free plan has limited design options
ReadMe is another favorite among many developers, thanks to its simplicity and ease of use. The tool also has several features that make it easy to generate streamlined documents.
Readme allows you to create beautiful, interactive API documentation with the power and convenience of a drag-and-drop editor. It allows API providers to add API keys directly in the docs and auto-generate code samples. This feature allows developers to make real API calls effortlessly.
ReadMe also has a rich gallery of documentation design templates.
- Interactive and responsible API development tool
- Pretty fast way of launching APIs
- Well loaded documentation design templates
- Limited third-party service integrations
Postman’s machine-readable API documentation tool makes it quite easy for developers to publish their documents quickly and on the go.
Postman’s API documentation builder is an easy way to create interactive and machine-readable API documentation. Postman allows developers to automatically pull in sample requests, headers, and code snippets for new or existing APIs to build docs quickly. Postman makes it easy to publish documentation with dynamic examples and machine-readable instructions.
- Proper communication with machine-readable comments
- Automatic updates on all API documents
- Complicated UI
- Steep learning curve
This is your best bet for non-commercial usage. It is highly customizable for amateurs and pros because it allows them to customize the documentation pages with HTML and Markdown.
- Highly customizable
- Simple to use
- Not ideal for individuals and small enterprises
DapperDox is an OpenAPI renderer with an open-source server. You can integrate OAS 2.0 and OAS 3.0 with their OpenAPI specifications via GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM). Using the API explorer in the tool’s interface, users can tinker with the different document features available.
It is one of the easiest API documentation tools for bringing together guides, documentation, specifications, and diagrams.
- Very easy to use
- A rich gallery of themes
This API documentation tool creates API documentation from AsyncAPI 1.x, OpenAPI 2.0, and Swagger 2.0. A new feature on the documentation tool allows you to output HTML directly.
The interface shows a three-column page. The first, second, and third columns contain the explorer, description, and console, respectively. The console is a new feature on the platform for making API calls.
It has a rich lineup of templates that can be customized according to individual needs.
- Non-clustered UI
- Users can create HTML as well as markdowns
Just like the name suggests, OpenAPI Viewer is a powerful OpenAPI 3.0 and 2.0 spec, viewer. It also works with or without a framework. One of its biggest perks is its customization, branding, and personalization capacities. Putting things in perspective, one can add external contents like links, forms, images, and different forms of media to the top and bottom of their documents.
- Easily customizable
- Very easy to use
- Supports a lot of authentication like HTTP Bearer and HTTP Basic
- The free version doesn’t contain as many helpful features
RapidDoc has one of the best API documentation tools and UI interfaces. This interface is structured like that of SwaggerUI, such that you have a single column with collapsible bars. Each bar contains a console and its corresponding JSON payloads.
The flexibility of this tool allows you to customize the theme, colors, and font of your documents and UI interface. There is also a provision for embedding external HTML code in the document.
- Great looking UI
- Comes with a lot of themes
- Web component standard
- Integrated console
- Supports Markdown
- Does not support a wide range of extensions
In conclusion, there are many different API documentation tools to choose from. The best way is to test them and see which works for you the best. If you need a tool that lets you manage the entire API lifecycle, then Rakuten RapidAPI enterprise hub is a good choice. If you are looking for API documentation of an API management tool, then please get in touch with us by filling this form., We can provide a free consultation and planning session to discuss what would be best for your business goals.
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