api-documentation

API documents help us to customize an application. The volume of API documentation has increased in recent years due to rapid growth of companies engaged in software product development. Today companies know that they need the services of professional technical writers for API guides.

Organizations save a lot of money in terms of support services by making use of good API guides. Individuals responsible for creating API guides must be efficient to transform technical information into easy-to-follow end-user workflows. In recent years, the demand for API writers has increased.

To become an expert in API documentation, you need not be perfect in FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Doxygen, or JavaDoc, but you must have an analytical mind, basic programming skills, and a desire to explore and learn new technologies.

Introduction

Among the initial lessons for technical writers is “Whatever you see, document it”. Technical writers are expert in documenting the things they see. But can you imagine documenting something: – Which you can’t see easily. – Without any GUI. – Without any screenshots. – Written very systematically with limited number of words. – For which you need to brush up with programming skills. If yes, then get ready as you could be among those who will be contributing as an application programming interface (API) writer.

API is an interface through which user interacts with software and is also able to customize an application.

API documentation is to customize the working of an application. API guides are used by programmers and other professionals and sometimes, these guides are also used by students.

Skills required

The basic skills required to master the art of API writing are: –

  • Ability to understand languages like C, C++, Java, VB.NET, etc.
  • Basic understanding of programming concepts
  • Ability to think like a programmer
  • The basic understanding of Unix or Linux operating system and the man pages (help provided by Unix and Linux operating systems) will be an added advantage.

Trends of API documentation

Generally programmers and SMEs write API documents. Technical editors edit the documents for grammar, punctuation, and style-related issues. Finally, tools like JavaDoc and Doxygen are used to generate the required output. The volume of API documents was not very high, since the documents were meant for high-tech professionals only. No one bothered about the overall quality. But in recent years the companies have realized the importance of the presentation and overall quality of these guides, and this change in trend provides an opportunity to all the technical writers.

Auto- generation tools

Auto-generation tools are used with source code files to generate the API guides. Auto-generation tools helps to restrict the content (from the source code files), written by the developers and SMEs, based on the template designed by you. These tools must be customized according to the needs and requirements of the users. There are a few limitations with these tools, such as: –

  • No direct contribution from technical writers
  • Language inconsistency
  • They do not provide great look and feel options

Challenges and opportunities in API documentation

API documentation has increased due to rapid growth in companies engaged in software product development. This provides both opportunities and challenges to all the technical writers such as: –

  • Technical writers should brush up on the skills required to write the API guides
  • Technical writers with programming skills will be in demand
  • Developers with good writing skills may switch to this field
  • Technical writers with domain experience will be in demand