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The Documentation System

The Grand Unified Theory of Documentation

– David Laing

There is a secret that needs to be understood in order to write good software documentation: there isn’t one thing called documentation, there are four.

They are: tutorials, how-to guides, technical reference and explanation. They represent four different purposes or functions, and require four different approaches to their creation. Understanding the implications of this will help improve most documentation - often immensely.

About the system

overview of the documentation system

The documentation system outlined here is a simple, comprehensive and nearly universally-applicable scheme. It is proven in practice across a wide variety of fields and applications.

There are some very simple principles that govern documentation that are very rarely if ever spelled out. They seem to be a secret, though they shouldn’t be.

If you can put these principles into practice, it will make your documentation better and your project, product or team more successful - that’s a promise.

The system is widely adopted for large and small, open and proprietary documentation projects.

Video presentation

If you'd prefer to watch a video covering this topic, here is it (courtesy of PyCon Australia 2017).