Some time ago I stopped using traditional help authoring tools because I found them too restrictive and separated from mainstream web development. Instead, I switched to Jekyll.
Jekyll is one of the most popular static site generators used today. Static site generators are database-free websites that populate all the pages with content locally before you publish the files on your web server. Jekyll is open source, free, easy to use, and extremely flexible.
You can use Jekyll to author and publish your help docs instead of using a traditional help authoring tool like Flare, RoboHelp Author-it, or a DITA-based tool such as Oxygen XML. You can do just about everything with Jekyll and more. Whether you need conditional filtering, content re-use, variables, multiple outputs, multiple sidebars, templates, or even PDF output, you can accomplish it using Jekyll, particularly when using the Documentation theme for Jekyll I developed. For more details, see the list of supported features.
If you want to read a series comparing Jekyll with DITA, see the series of posts here.
Doc sites using Jekyll
The following are a small list of documentation sites that use Jekyll or another static site generator.
- Stack Overflow blog
- Github docs
- Jekyllrb docs
- SendGrid docs
- Atlassian Design
- Cloud Cannon docs
- Wistia help center
- Balsamiq support portal
- devo.ps documentation
- Mongo DB
For help in setting up and installing the Documentation theme I created, see the theme instructions here.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation if you're looking for more info about that. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates below. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.