DITA: One Cool Document Format

DITA provides major benefits as a structured-authoring solution:

  • It's designed from the ground up for reuse.
    • All content is divided into "topics"
    • A tutorial, man page, PDF, HTML page, help topic, printed book, and training course can all use the same topic
    • Fixed transclusions (content references, or conrefs) let you reuse boilerplate without having to rewrite it
    • Variable transclusions and conditional metadata let you single-source a topic for multiple versions, products, audiences, and deliverables.
  • It separates presentation and content
    • Authors work with styling that lets them see what they're doing, without worrying about page breaks or branding.
    • Final branding and styling is done at publishing time.
  • It's easily extensible (or "specialized", in DITA terms.
    • New topic types can be defined by extending old ones
    • New element types can be created within them, to create semantically-relevant tags.
    • Existing editors and publication tools work without change, defaulting to the parent.
    • Examples:
      •  The standard DITA types (Content, Reference, and "Task", or procedure) are extended from the base type, Topic.

      •  An FAQ type is a specialization of Concept. It allows for a definition list, but calls it "faqlist". It allows for a term entry, but calls it "question", and it allows for a definition entry, but calls it "answer". Other element types that would ordinarily be legal in a Concept topic are outlawed, so an FAQ topic contains only questions and answers. Note that anything legal in a definition entry is legal in an answer. Meanwhile, any DITA-aware production system or editor handles the new elements without difficulty.

  • It fits easily into my design thinking, and allows for some very cool futures, including

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