Home > Technology > My Adventures in DITA, part 3

My Adventures in DITA, part 3

Long time since the last update. Life got in the way. But hey, I promise to refund all money you paid me personally for reading my blog.

I sort of forgot to explain why would people care about another unfamiliar acronym in the tech world. So let me do that now, before carrying on. After all, the business side has to be convinced that a technology is worthwhile before they agree to spend money on it, right?

DITA offers a lot of benefits. I will just highlight the ones that are attractive to me.

  • Control of layout and format.
    If you have a pubs department with a bunch of FrameMaker or Word templates, that is great. But unless you have some really esoteric things going on with these templates, individual content creators can always decide that something in the template looks stupid, and that you should be able to list seventeen tasks in a row with a mix of bullets and numbers in the task items, and you don’t need to explain why you are doing each task, because it is so OBVIOUS.
    DITA, based on XML, enforces structured authoring strongly. You can’t get usable output out of it unless you conform to the template set up by your template controller. You can’t not describe what a task does. You can’t put pictures on the title page. And so on. And so on.
  • Single sourcing.
    Write once, reuse in multiple places. Your text can be marked up to only be published to a certain stream (PDF, online), or to only a certain business purpose (marketing versus help manual overview). This saves a lot of time when you are updating existing text. There aren’t five or six documents floating around out there, there are one or (at most) two.

There are other ways to get this. FrameMaker has its structured authoring environment, and some limited DITA support. Other tools also allow you to edit and create single source material (e.g. AuthorIT, Madcap Flare, RoboHelp). But these all cost money.

DITA, at least to install to play around with, is very low cost. Download it. Download and install the JDK. Start playing around.

At the enterprise level, of course, nothing is free, not even open source software. The question of whether implementing DITA versus buying something off the shelf is not something I am going to directly cover here, but I will infer it as I go through the mechanics of getting DITA running.

Tags: architecture DITA

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