Friday, May 16, 2008

“DITA”: The Buzzword in Technical Writing

A lot is being talked about DITA these days—most job descriptions in technical writing require it. Read on to know what it is all about.

DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture), pronounced as Di-tah, was first developed by IBM in the 1960s. It is a data model used for structuring and authoring technical content. But you might ask, why Darwin as a part of its name? Named after the environmentalist Charles Darwin, and based on his theory, DITA uses the principles of specialization and inheritance while developing the information.

So, what’s special about DITA? DITA reduces the developing costs associated with developing a technical documentation. It uses the topic-based architecture. Therefore, it helps you to develop smaller chunks of content instead of developing large portions of content as compared to traditional form of documentation. DITA helps you to classify the “complex” and “complicated” information into small chunks that can be easily understood by the user. It allows you to alter the current documentation, and then reuse it elsewhere. It allows you to concentrate on providing the task-based information to the end-user—it helps the user to do or learn something quickly. It allows you to design new information more easily and consistently.

DITA is based on various features, which have been a base of research for decades in the methods of technical communication, such as:

  • Its topic-based architecture offers flexibility in the content by ordering or reordering the topics in order to create any kind of documentation for the product.
  • It provides topic specialization, which is a process by which DITA lets you define your own topic types from existing ones.
  • It helps you to save time of manually creating the style sheet.
  • It allows you to leverage the advantages of XML architecture in various areas such as content or format separation, consistency in the content structure, and portability.
  • It allows you to write content in the form of modular topics, as compared to the conventional book. This helps you to easily reuse the topics in different deliverables.
  • It includes extensive metadata, which enables the users to find the topics easily.

Deliverables Produced by DITA

The DITA Open Toolkit released by IBM helps you to convert the content developed in DITA into various formats. Some of these formats include:

  • PDF
  • Microsoft Compiled HTML Help
  • Eclipse Help
  • Java Help
  • Oracle Help
  • Rich Text Format

The Future is bright!

Today, DITA is a popular industry standard for technical communication. Sooner or later, it will become a de facto standard for not only technical publications but also for content management and dynamic publishing applications including XML-based dynamic publishing.

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DITA”: The Buzzword in Technical Writing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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