Podcast — DITA: From the Perspective of Someone Actually Using It

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Duration: 42 min.

DITA is a topic I’ve wanted to do a podcast on for a long time. When I heard a local technical writer express her enthusiasm about how she was using DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) at her company, I knew I found the right person.

In this podcast, Marlene Martineau of New Dawn Technologies explains why they adopted DITA, how they adopted it, the benefits they’re experiencing, and the reasons why she’ll never go back.

If you’re unfamiliar with DITA, it’s a way of tagging your content so that the DITA Open Toolkit can transform it into a number of outputs, such as HTML and PDF. The tags conform to a specific XML architecture, and your information is chunked into small topics that can be arranged in different tables of contents (“maps”).

DITA is quickly becoming the XML standard for technical writers. New XML editing tools are sprouting up that allow you to more easily write DITA content without dealing with code. But Marlene says that she was on a budget; they opted for a more basic XML editor and actually write all their documentation in native XML. Rather than cumbersome, she says it’s quite easy and only takes about a week before the writers become accustomed to it. The XSLT transforms posed more difficulties, she says, but nothing insurmountable.

Topics in this Podcast

Topics in this podcast include the following:

  • DITA
  • XML and XML editors
  • DITA Open Source Toolkit
  • topic-based authoring
  • single sourcing
  • XSLT and transforms
  • Implementing DITA
  • adopting DITA

Helpful Resources

To contact Marlene Martineau, send an email to mmartineau@newdawntech.com. We love to hear feedback, so if you enjoyed the DITA podcast, let us know.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for a gamification company called Badgeville in the Silicon Valley area in California. I'm primarily interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication (video tutorials, illustrations), findability (organization, information architecture), content development (DITA, testing), API documentation (code examples, programming), web publishing (web platforms, Web design) -- pretty much everything related to technical writing. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog either by RSS or by email. To learn more about me, see my About page. You can also contact me if you have questions.

13 thoughts on “Podcast — DITA: From the Perspective of Someone Actually Using It

  1. avi

    Topic-based authoring and single-sourcing are technology independent. They could be implemented with RH, Word and probably other “legacy’ tools.
    My impression is that DITA is for the unlucky among us who are forced to use FrameMaker… :

    avis last blog post..Blog-like communication

  2. Dan

    i can relate to this. we don’t have a large team too but we do get the job done. Flare helps quite a bit

  3. Jess

    I think DITA is still too mysterious for wide-spread adoption. What are the formats to which writers publish? – print and online. If you have a tool that allows you to produce both print and online documentation from one source (single sourcing,) you’re in business. If you want a really complicated way to do this, choose DITA.

  4. Shweta Shetye

    Hi Tom,

    This was the first Podcast I ever listened too, and I loved it. We in our organization use Epic Editor with a customized DTD and stylesheet for publishing the final outputs (PDF and CHM). I also use Framemaker (Unstructured) and agree with Marlene when she defines how limited the flexibility is with FM. Using Epic (I do not know if it qualifies as DITA) is much less cumbersome.

    I love working on it and recommend to others, if you have an open outlook to technology. Thanks for this amazing podcast:)

    Shweta

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  6. Janet Swisher

    I have a question for Marlene: You made a comment along the lines of “People think they need to have a content management system in order to use DITA”. Does that mean that you’re not using a CMS? In that case, how do you organize your source files?

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  10. Julie

    Thank you for this most imformative podcast. I am embarking on a DITA implementation using Adobe’s Tech Comm Suite and DITA. The benefit of DITA is that it is designed to make the creation of software content consistent and reusable. DITA is not a tool. It is a schema, a methodology for writing. The benefit of structured FrameMaker and DITA is that FrameMaker enforces the DITA structure.

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