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An API writer is a technical writer who writes documents that describe an application programming interface (API). The primary audience includes programmers, developers, system architects, and system designers.
An API is a basic library consisting of interfaces, functions, classes, structures, enumerations, etc. for building a software application. It is used by development teams to interact with and extend the software. An API for a given programming language and system may consist of system-defined and user-defined constructs. As the number and complexity of these constructs increases, it becomes very tedious for developers to remember all of the functions and the parameters defined. Hence, the API writers play a key role in building software applications.
Due to the technical subject matter, API writers must understand application source code enough to extract the information that API documents require. Some common tools used by API writers include computer software that extracts software documentation placed by programmers in the source code in a structured manner, preserving the relationships between those comments and the programming constructs they document.
API writers must also understand the software platform/product and document the new features or changes as part of the new software release. The schedule of software releases varies from organization to organization. The writers need to understand the software life cycle well and integrate themselves into the systems development life cycle (SDLC).
- Computer programming background (Knowledge of C, C++, Java, PHP, Assembly, or other programming languages)
- Knowledge of formatting standards like Doxygen, Javadoc, or DITA
- Knowledge of editors and tools, like FrameMaker
- Excellent communication and writing skills to interact with developers
API writing process
About 60% of the time spent in the writing process consists of analyzing and understanding the source code and planning the document(s). The remaining 40% of the time would typically be spent writing and reviewing the document(s). It is often the case that the analytical, planning, and writing stages do not occur in a strictly linear fashion.
A good foundation of a variety of programming skills is well-complemented by an ability to communicate effectively, especially when the writer seeks to develop a fluent level of understanding with developers.
This process is one of the most important challenges faced by technical writers. The writing and evaluation criteria vary between organizations. Some of the most effective API documents are written by those who are adequately capable of understanding the workings of a particular application, so that they can relate the software to the users or the various component constructs to the overall purpose of the program. API writers may also be at least partly responsible for authoring end-user product documentation.
API writers produce documents that include:
- API Reference Guides
- Programmers' Guides
- Developer Manuals
- Administration Manuals
- Installation Guides
- Implementation and Integration Guides