Ekaterina Stepalina

In recent days more and more software developments tools become distributed by the SaaS (Software-As-A-Service) model alongside with ready-to-install products. The developers of task and bug tracking systems now offer their solutions by a monthly fee. For instance, JIRA Studio produced by Atlassian can be connected to a corporative domain by subscription. This scheme allows software companies to reduce costs at the project’s start and get scalable resources in future.

Software documentation systems can also be purchased by a subscription now. The effectiveness of their usage for various documentation development is interesting. There are four major types of documentation supporting the development process and resulted products: project, technical, code and user documentation. Each of this type claims specific requirements for the documentation tool. The requirement analysis shows that rented documentation systems are the most appropriate for user and technical documentation.

There are two major classes of software documentation systems:

  • Wiki,
  • DITA-oriented XML CMS.

The following wiki systems have a hosted version: commercial - Confluence, Central Desktop, EditMe, Incentive, Netcipia, PBWiki, Wikia, Wikispaces; open source - BusinessWiki, Metadot Wiki, MindTouch, Wagn, Wikidot. The richest by the functionality and plugin collection is Confluence produced by Atlassian.
The following XML CMS are offered by a SaaS model (all are commercial): Astoria On Demand, DITA Exchange. DocZone. SaaS is optionally supported in Bluestream XDocs, Siberlogic SiberSafe, Trisoft Infoshare, Vasont, X-Hive Docato.

As wiki system is a ready integrated environment for creating and publishing documentation, DITA-system consists not only of XML CMS. To deploy a DITA-system, you should have an XML editor, publisher and CMS. The listed CMS can be integrated with top DITA XML editors and provide an API to integrate with other editors. These CMS also have build-in tools to export documents in multiple formats. However, the universal component architecture of DITA-systems makes the deployment and configuration more difficult than wiki implementation.

Hosted documentation systems are offered by different prices. The offerings of top documentation systems are considered in this paper. Wiki subscription fees range from 4,95$ (EditMe) to 20$ (Confluence) per one user/month. XML CMS subscription price starts from 500$ per month and can reach 12000$ per month. These subscriptions have no fixed price; in each individual case the CMS vendor performs a specific project of a DITA-system implementation. Wiki rental costs approximate to CMS subscriptions’ costs for large number of users, 500 and more.

The advantages of renting a powerful documentation system for small and large project are the following:

  • Maximal functionality at a low affordable cost,
  • Platform independency and high system accessibility,
  • Document quality improvement at the expense of quality controlling tools application,
  • Higher effectiveness of documentation (content re-use, single source usage, automated tools for localization),
  • Organization of robust and scalable documentation process.

As the SaaS business model becomes more popular, small companies get access to powerful software documentation systems, which are too expensive to purchase a standalone license at the startup. However, the system’s access security, reliability and information confidentiality issues remain opened and controversial.

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Ekaterina Stepalina is a 2nd course master’s undergraduate at the Software Engineering Department of the State University - Higher School of Economics by the "Software Project Management" specialization.

In 2009 Ekaterina received the bachelor’s degree on the "Information systems and Technology" specialization at the Tula State University.
She has been working as a technical writer at software companies for more than 2 years.

Ekaterina is experienced in documenting software box-products as well as creating all-cycle project documentation.
Ekaterina works as an analyst and lead technical writer at the SmartLabs company specialized in IPTV solutions.