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I am looking for an online service for composing and hosting software user manuals, with the following features:

  • Cloud-based (public host), reliable for long term hosting
  • Supports multiple documents with multiple sections
  • Markdown syntax (preferably GitHub flavor)
  • Easy bitmap uploading
  • Table of contents
  • Allow reader's comments
  • Export to PDF (desirable)
  • Can be free or low-cost

I was thinking on a markdown-based CMS but still cannot find the right one.

  • Jamie, This site is for recommending software rather than web sites or online services. – Steve Barnes Aug 26 '16 at 9:33
  • @SteveBarnes: Sounds on-topic to me, asking for specific features like comments and table of content. It is not just HTML hosting. – Nicolas Raoul Aug 26 '16 at 10:25
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    Gratis? What is your budget? Do you want to retain copyright? Should the content be exportable to avoid lock-in? Everything public, or do you want to keep some parts restricted to a specific group of people? Do you need hyperlinks? – Nicolas Raoul Aug 26 '16 at 10:27
  • This sounds like self-hosting and thus on-topic. Did I get it right this time? – Thomas Weller Aug 26 '16 at 11:33
  • CLARIFICATION: I don't want to self-host. That's why I mention reliable long-term hosting. I am looking for some kind of SaaS. Just found manula.com, but I don't like their non-standard markdown language. – Jaime Aug 26 '16 at 12:11
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Have you considered Read The Docs?

  • You can import your docs using any major version control system, including Mercurial, Git, Subversion, and Bazaar.
  • They support webhooks so your docs get built when you commit code.
  • There's also support for versioning so you can build docs from tags and branches of your code in your repository.
  • Hosting documentation is free and simple.
  • Document authoring in Markdown or ReStructuredText
  • Bitmaps, svg, etc., just get committed to your version control system.
  • Python Sphinx support
  • Supports multiple versions of documents
  • Supports downloads as HTMLZip, PDF or Epub.
  • You can host the source code for your books on github, bithub, etc.
  • Read the Docs is itself open sourced so you can have a test or internal instance running behind a firewall.
  • Searchable
  • It does not support comments directly but you can include links to a ticketing system on github, for example, or use Disqus.
  • Hosted by Rackspace
  • Lots of projects have their documentation hosted on Read The Docs so I expect some longevity from it.
  • Although it looks attractive to me (a developer), its proximity to github looks fairly technical for a document-editor and readers. The lack of comments supports is blocker, as I am not willing to do the integration myself, but rather I am looking for a complete 3rd party (SaaS) solution. – Jaime Aug 26 '16 at 12:23
  • @Jaime - Hold a training course for your developers on version control - I would suggest Mercurial, (hg), as it is really user friendly compared to git - once they discover that they can roll back versions, etc., your document authors and editors will love version control the editors will like the blame tool as well. – Steve Barnes Aug 26 '16 at 14:00
  • Steve, my developers know source versioning very well. Who nowadays doesn't? But developers don't write user manuals. – Jaime Aug 26 '16 at 15:51
  • @Jaime - Sorry I meant to write do a course for your authors & editorial staff. BTW You would be amazed at the number of developers that I know who think version control is simply copying there works somewhere else, often on the same machine, from time to time - I even had one who moaned that I was stopping him putting .bak files into SVN as well as .obj & .pdb files. – Steve Barnes Aug 26 '16 at 16:48
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What I have found actually works well is Github. Afterall, it:

  • Supports native Github Markdown
  • Renders Markdown when you navigate to it
  • Maintains versions
  • Offers free hosting
  • Allows comments

Many of the features you are interested in.

  • caorogjin, I may be tempted to teach markdown to the manual editors, but github is definitively a good environment for the end-users. – Jaime Aug 27 '16 at 17:56
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Make sure you check http://tome.host/

It's a SaaS plaform for writing and hosting documents/manuals, currently it's in beta.

It supports

  • multiple documents
  • multiple users in the same document
  • having a published version while you're working on a draft one
  • image support
  • exporting in different formats and some other stuff

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