DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) is an XML based open standard for authoring, structuring, developing, managing and publishing content. It was actually developed by IBM Corporation in 2000. IBM donated DITA to OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) in March 2004. According to IBM Corporation “The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based, end-to-end architecture for authoring, producing, and delivering technical information. This architecture consists of a set of design principles for creating "information-typed" modules at a topic level and for using that content in delivery modes such as online help and product support portals on the Web. This document is a roadmap for DITA: what it is and how it applies to technical documentation”.dt3

DITA uses:

Topics: Whatever content we want to publish and develop, is done through the DITA topics. A topic consists of information related to a particular subject. It would guide wholly regarding the specific subject without deviating itself to some other subjects. In short, “A topic is a self-contained unit of Information”.

   Basically, DITA consists of three main topics:

dt1Task/ Information Topic: It describes a specific product.

Concept Topic: it describes how a particular product works.

Reference topic: it provides reference information which would be needed while working with the product.

Maps: DITA maps specify which topic should go into which product definition in a hierarchal form.

DITA output format: It processes DITA maps to give the final product.

Some of the features of DITA are:

Task oriented topic: Instead of writing the document as a long plain text, the document could be split into small topics in a structural format.

       The DITA map would have links to all the topics formed in a sequential way. This would not only help the customers who will read the product information but it would also ease the work load of technical writers who would need to edit and format the documents before it reaches the customers.

Topic also helps in collaborative authoring i.e. more than one author can work for the development of a single product. The topics could be divided between the authors by working on a specific topic assigned to each one of them. Had it been a single long document, the whole product would have stuck with a single person.

Single Sourcing: It allows the same content to be used in different documents and formats. Thus it saves the labour of writing the documents again and again in different formats. Once an editing is done for a single document, it can be transformed into various other formats by using the automated tools available.

Content reuse: Content reuse saves time and resources of any organization. Topics can be used in different formats, for various products, and in various documents. For example, there are some customers who would want the product information in PDF format; some would want it as an online help resource. So instead of making a document for every single purpose, it can be presented in the way as according to the demand of the customers by using the appropriate tools.

Inheritance: The most importance feature and a reason why is it named Darwin. Similar to Darwin’s theory, DITA inherits its attributes from its parent element. For example, attributes and metadata in a map can be inherited based on the structures in the map. DITA provides an inheritance based method for extending the DTD (document type definition) called specialization. Specialization refers to creating a new element based on an existing one with not many variations.dt2

Conditional processing: It refers to rapid creation of variation for special needs. It allows for filtering and styling contents based on the attributes.

The four basic attributes of DITA provided for most of the elements are:

Product: the product that is the subject of the discussion.

Platform: the platform on which the product is deployed.

Audience: the intended audience of the text

Rev: the revision or draft number of the current document (typically used for flagging only, not for filtering)

Other props: anything else

Advantages of using DITA:

  • DITA uses very less number of tags as compared to Doc book.
  • As DITA is an XML based file, hence the source file is plain text. Thus they can be used for any editor and on any operating system without causing any change in its format.
  • It makes document easy to produce for authors as well as easy to navigate for the users.
  • It encourages task oriented, minimal structured writing.
  • It is translation friendly; content can be used again and again and in various formats.

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