Open DITA: Let’s Make Structured Writing for Everyone

DITA XML makes advanced content development and management possible, but DITA XML itself is a complex thing. For some, this complexity makes DITA XML inaccessible, and for others, the complexity over time becomes a chaotic cobweb of references and dependencies. Just looking at all these tags and attributes scares some writers off. In a recent survey, we uncovered strong indications that the complexity of DITA XML is hindering the spread of structured writing across departments. For this reason, we created the Open DITA Manifest to make a framework that allows other ways of achieving some of the most important benefits of DITA XML, even for those who do not want to work with the complexity of XML. Open DITA is meant to allow everyone access to the power of structured writing. Open DITA is not a specific set of DTDs like DITA XML. It is a set of functional features in a content authoring and management solution. Any solution that can be said to make these features available, is an Open DITA solution. So here it is… The Open DITA Manifest To comply with the Open DITA Manifest, a solution: CAN use a topic persistence format different from DITA XMLMUST comply with the rules presented below. Rules DITA map supportContent references (conref)Content types: Minimum Topic, Task, Concept, ReferenceGeneralization to generic DITA topic supportedDITAVAL supportSupport for semantic taggingImport DITA XMLExport DITA XMLSupport automated processingSupport styling, layout and formatting through a standard styling language Examples of Potential Open DITA solutions DITA with DOCXDITA with HTML5DITA with JSON Open DITA is not competing with DITA XML. We consider Open DITA to be an extension...

Open DITA: Making DITA Reuse More Accessible

One of the main drivers in Open DITA is allowing writers with little or no XML skills to benefit from the most important reuse capabilities of the DITA standard. So let’s cherry pick from the rules of the Open DITA manifest and explain how they achieve reuse of your content. But before we get to that, let’s take a step back and consider WHY we want to reuse. Let’s be honest. Reusing content creates a certain amount of complexity. For that reason we had better make sure that this complexity is worth our while. Oh, and by the way – very often that level of complexity is already there, it’s just not always technical. Very often writers know that if they update a section describing a feature in one product, they must also update the documentation for variations of that product. If a legal note is rephrased, they need to find all the places it is used and copy/paste. The complexity is already there, and at the end of the day, the technical dependencies can actually help you manage these dependencies and ensure that none are missed. This leads us to one of the main benefits of reuse: consistency. Let’s keep it simple and stick with the most important benefits: Consistency across your documentation – When you reuse a topic, a piece of text, or an illustration, this minimizes ambiguous interpretations of the content. Honestly, if people are looking to enjoy variety in language, they will pick up a novel rather than my documentation.Less content to maintain and update – The second benefit is also the most popular among business cases for structured writing projects....