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Types of Technical Documents

Posted by ClickHelp TeamClickHelp Teamin Technical Writing on 4/16/2019 — 3 minute read

Notebook on a table

The main aim of technical writing is to help users achieve their goals by using a product. It’s possible only through clear and easy-to-interpret documentation. That’s why there are so many different types of documentation. Whether you’re a novice or experienced tech writer, you should know the most popular types of documentation because every type implies different content, style and so on. Read further to learn more on how documentation types can be classified.

By Readers

Depending on who your readers are – customers or employees, two types of documents can be identified: internal and external.

Internal documentation describes information on how the review process works. It includes release process checklists, schedules, and style guides. For developers, internal documentation may consist of details on which tools to use for development, which coding practices to follow, how to use the build process, etc. It may also include details about what to do to deploy or release a product.

External documentation includes a detailed description of the design, implementation of the program features, or installation of the particular software. This type of technical documents is usually developed for customers.

The main difference between internal and external documentation is that internal documentation explains how the code works, while external technical documents describe how to use the final product/deliverable.

By Industry

Open book on a table

Technical documentation is used in different industries and it can be classified according to these criteria:


The education industry usually involves guides; for example, an eLearning guide is a comprehensive document that contains information and requirements for creating standardized guides to e-learning. It may include audio, video, and interactive elements, so all members can use one standardized book to create eLearning guides throughout the whole e-learning process.


Technical writers, who work in IT, usually create API documentation, software documentation, guides and so on. For example, software documentation is written material that can include images or video instructions that come with computer software. As a rule, software documentation explains how to use a program or a service.


However, not only technical writers create documentation; you can be surprised but nurses, for example, can also be considered technical writers because they should record a detailed history of a patient’s past illnesses, chronic conditions, treatments, medications, surgeries, therapies, and hospitalizations. This type of documents is called medical records. Medical records are critical to ensuring that patients receive proper care, so nurses must have excellent writing skills to do recordkeeping perfectly.

Moreover, typical technical documentation types like user guides, manuals are also created in this sphere to help medical personnel use new pieces of equipment correctly.

Other Types of Technical Documentation

A pile of paper

The number of classifications and lists of technical documents is endless. However, we want to provide you with more technical documentation examples, so below you’ll find other types that are essential in technical writing, in our opinion.

API Documentation

The API documentation is a technical writing deliverable, containing instructions about how to effectively use and integrate with an API. It’s usually supported by tutorials and examples with details about the functions, classes, return types, arguments, and more.

User Guides

A user guide is a document that gives assistance to the users of a particular system. It usually contains instructions on installing, using or troubleshooting a hardware or software product. It is most commonly used in the computer industry – written for computer software or hardware.

Maintenance Manuals

A maintenance manual is a technical communication document intended to give recommendations and information necessary to maintain a system effectively. A maintenance manual may include a definition of the software support environment, roles, and responsibilities of the maintenance personnel, regular activities essential to the support team, and so on.

Instruction Manuals

An instruction manual is a traditional form of user assistance. It can be distributed in a printed form (a booklet or book) or electronically. Usually, an instruction manual includes installation procedures, a guide on how to use software, licensing, and details of a helpline.


There are many types of documentation and every type has its own style. Nowadays, professional online documentation tools, like ClickHelp, have ready templates that ease the process of designing documentation. Here is the ClickHelp portal gallery where you can see how our templates can be used for different types of technical documents.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

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