The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based architecture for authoring, producing, and delivering technical information. DITA divides content into small, self-contained topics that can be reused in different deliverables. The extensibility of DITA permits organizations to define specific information structures and still use standard tools to work with them. DITA is often compared against DocBook, a similar XML schema.
The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) provides a way for documentation authors and architects to create collections of typed topics that can be easily assembled into various delivery contexts. Topic specialization is the process by which authors and architects can define topic types, while maintaining compatibility with existing style sheets, transforms, and processes. The new topic types are defined as an extension, or delta, relative to an existing topic type, thereby reducing the work necessary to define and maintain the new type.
Microsoft has a lot of information on their sites about these products. Unfortunately, I can never find it. I usually only know it’s there when I stumble on it months after I really needed to know it. The steepest part of the learning curve is at the start. Likewise with another program I use occasionally—DITA. DITA is an xml schema used for writing documentation.
Stem sentences in technical communication have long been considered a standard practice to introduce new content, especially steps in a task. The task stem sentence, generally consisting of a partial sentence such as “To start the machine:” is not supported by any explicit DITA element in the DITA Task information type.
The process of creating and maintaining product documentation is, like most other business processes, under pressure to reduce costs, reduce cycle times, and support companies as they compete on a more global scale; in general, the need to do more with less. How are companies to address these conflicting needs? The purpose of this white paper is to identify specific processes that can be enhanced to yield meaningful efficiencies and several strategies for attaining such improvements.
To streamline the product documentation process, many technical publication teams are moving to Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). Learn best practices for applying this information model, and hands-on techniques for improved content creation and publishing with JustSystems XMetaL.
What does structured authoring mean to you? Structured authoring is a publishing workflow that lets you define and enforce consistent organization of information in documents, whether printed or online. What it means to me: defining a goal and assembling architected topics to help the reader achieve that goal.
Here’s the thing about DITA, and structured writing in general: It commodifies technical writing. And while that might not be a bad thing, we have to acknowledge that if we go to a fully-structured writing world, one of the consequences is that we turn tech writing into a commodified skill, making it easier for everyone to write acceptable documentation.
This article explores ideas related to subsetting and customizing the DITA specification without the addition of new elements. Instead, we explore taking default rules and adapting them to meet the needs of specific writing and publishing environments. Introductory information about the DITA specification and the difference between subsetting and specialization is provided.
Metrics. It’s a word that can strike fear into the heart of even the most hardened technical communicator. We sometimes need to prove the merits (in terms of dollars and cents, or whatever your local currency is) of adopting a new technique or technology. Especially if that technique or technology has an impact on the content of the entire organization. But DITA Metrics 101 by Mark Lewis is a solid introduction to the subject, and it provides a practical roadmap for gathering the metrics that you need to justify the adoption of DITA in your enterprise.
Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is a sweeping revolution in technical writing and training. DITA introduces a different way of writing; a way that satisfies the ways users look for information and is therefore more usable. Additionally, authors work more efficiently by being able to easily single source and re-use content. The overall user experience is more consistent because format is completely separated from content (format is handled on publish only, not by the authors). Consider carefully, and if you choose to make the switch to DITA, it’s already time to start planning.
Specialization is the process by which new designs are created based on existing designs, allowing new kind of content to be processed using existing processing rules.Specialization allows you to define new kinds of information (new structural types or new domains of information), while reusing as much of existing design and code as possible, and minimizing or eliminating the costs of interchange, migration, and maintenance.
This top ten list is based on interviews conducted by TheContentWrangler.com with technical writers at more than 20 software companies—tech writers that are actually using DITA to create documentation today.
In the past few years, we have implemented both DITA-based and custom XML solutions for our customers. Given the right set of circumstances, DITA provides an excellent foundation for structured content. But I seem to be in significant disagreement with DITA advocates about how often the "right set of circumstances" is present.
This article offers the reader a basic understanding of what a task topic is along with a few tips on how to write an effective task topic. Task topics are one of three topic types in DITA.
A primary factor behind the enormous interest in XML is the support it provides for transforming documents to meet the needs of information-processing applications as well as human readers working with HTML, print, and other presentation media. This case study reviews the issues we confronted, the tools we implemented, and the procedures we adopted to transform a documentation set from one XML document type to another, and from XML to HTML and Adobe PDF. The documentation set for Xalan, the Apache XSL transformer based largely on code donated by Lotus/IBM, is written in XML, using document types shared by the projects on the Apache XML website. To present Xalan reference releases to IBM project groups, the Cambridge Advanced Technology Group has set up build procedures to transform the Xalan XML documentation to DITA, an extensible XML information typing architecture currently under development in IBM. After verifying that the DITA output conforms to its declared document type, the build publishes the DITA documentation set as HTML and as PDF.
One technical communication team delivered answers to user questions in two clicks with a help file created in DITA XML, using structured writing, different tools and a new information architecture. Content was linked one-to-one with application elements. Hyperlinks in one area of each screen make user access easy. The communicators established a linking strategy, used natural language for guided navigation and developed a reuse strategy involving references instead of duplication of content. The result was delivery of an InfoCenter that's easy to maintain and to expand, which a portion of the team will be doing for the next 20+ years.
When you and your team, and even your boss, come to the conclusion that “there’s got to be a better way” to author technical content, your research will most likely point to DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) as the alternative to the word processing, copy-and-paste, formatting, and versioning nightmare you’ve worked in for so long. But before you jump on the bus to the DITA Promised Land, remember that there are viable alternatives to DITA that may actually better suit your needs.
Perhaps the true measure of a good idea is its persistence, even though folks are slow to pick up on it. SGML is a good example. It seemed like a great idea, but for a long time, had trouble getting traction in the general tool space. Then it started showing up at technical communication conferences wearing a name badge that said, “Hi, my name is DITA,” and suddenly, it’s a hit!
This article discusses main challenges that documentation team faces when it decides to use DITA as a source format for Eclipse Help documentation. It also explains how DITAworks documentation tool plans to address these challenges.
The need for us to customize BSM solutions by integrating different software solutions, combined with the maturation of tools for XML-based authoring, make this an ideal time to implement a new information development strategy. After researching materials about content management and studying success stories from companies who have implemented structured authoring, we launched a pilot project.
This post describes creating a watched folder that runs DITA transforms on content that is copied into the folder on a shared server. It also gives instructions for using this "transform engine" to output both PDF and CHM files using the default DITA Open Toolkit transform files. I devised this set up so that we could test our prototypes while we model our existing content, and I wanted to share it with others who are getting started with DITA on a small scale.
Many of today’s instructional developers face a significant dilemma. Learners have minimal time to comprehend and effectively use complex products and systems. To drive time-efficient learning experiences, developers must provide high-quality training content, customized to specific learner roles and delivered in a timely manner. At the same time, many instructional development budgets are shrinking. In short, learners have less time and money to learn what they need to know, and developers have less time and money to deliver what those learners need. One way developers can address this dilemma is to become more efficient at reusing content. For many developers, the best way to achieve that efficiency will be the Learning and Training Content Specialization, soon to be released in version 1.2 of the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) standard.