The Evolution of Documentation Methods and Tools

The arrival of the internet has made a lot of things in life more convenient. In fact, almost every business today relies on it, and it has made a significant impact on our lives and behaviour. One of the things that was made significantly easier is the way we manage our documentation.


Sure, as a community, we have always strived to find the most efficient way to categorize and store our important documents, so that we can fetch them once they are required. Today, the methods we use to find something are significantly different from what it was like before we had the internet in our lives. Here, we will go the evolution of documentation methods and tools.

1. Physical copies and storing

Physical Copies

Before our databases were digitized, and even some time after computers were omnipresent at every workplace, people used to use typewriters to document things. With a typewriter, you would create a document and print it afterwards. Then printers become more available, so we used computers and printers to create physical versions of documents.

These documents were stored in cabinets and we relied on an alphabetical system to store someone’s file using his name. Furthermore, we used the date when the document was created in order to place it on a corresponding case.

This was the easiest way to categorize documents, since our computers did not have enough storage space on their hard drives, and had to be cleared more frequently. So, in order to find a document, you would have to know the date and name of the person, or the name of the document, so that you would know where to look.

2. Doing research

Documentation Methods

When we have to write a paper, or a simple assignment, or something more copious and serious, we need to do extensive research. Today, the time we invest in researching a particular topic is significantly reduced compared to the old, pre-internet days.

Here are some examples of how research was done back then, when compared to now.

a. Books

If you wanted to find a book, you needed in-depth knowledge of its topic; you needed to know the name of the author clearly, and access was severely limited, because some of the books were not allowed to leave the library. So, if you wanted to be a librarian, you really had to know a lot about books, authors, and where each book is located, in order to provide a quality service.

Today, you only need to know specific keywords related to the topic and have the ability to use a search engine. Additionally, there are digital versions of the book that you can buy and access it whenever you want (plus, it’s much cheaper this way).

b. Journal articles

Much like with books, you needed to know a lot of specific information that was related to the article, including the time when it was written. If you only knew vague details like, “car crash” for example, and the year it happened, finding the right article could take hours. Access was also limited, much like with books. With digital versions, this job is a lot easier, and you can find what you need by relying on search engines and your vague knowledge.

c. Historical information

You had to visit an archive and to find a librarian or a reference in a journal to discover exactly where to look. Also, these documents were not available everywhere; you needed to find the exact place that housed them, which made the research process all the more difficult. Once digital versions were released as public documents, you had the ability to easily find what you need if you use the correct keywords in the search bar.

3. Knowledge base documentation

Knowledge base documentation

Today, documentation has reached its peak in the form of a knowledge base. By using knowledge base tools, you can easily create, share, and edit documents, and they are efficiently archived. So, people who have their own knowledge base can always find the document they need using a simple detail that they remember from the text.

This kind of development has made it possible for us to collaborate and communicate more easily online. Moreover, a lot of businesses that have more complex products, like specific software solutions for example, can allow their users to figure out how these tools can function or what to do if something goes wrong.

So, it has led to the evolution of our minds as well, and something that was regarded as complex a decade ago, can easily be categorized as user-friendly today. Moreover, a knowledge base is used to directly influence our search and to profile us, as users. Everything we do is recorded within a certain knowledge base, and that data is used to personalize the online experience.

As you can see, we heavily rely on the Internet because it has led to rapid leaps in communication and sharing of knowledge and ideas. Education, work, and a lot of services would never have been possible if it weren’t for the World Wide Web. We now manage to do a lot more work within a single day, which gives us a lot more free time for ourselves as well.