Introduction to DITA—Second Edition

CIDM

August 2011


From the Director


CIDMIconNewsletter JoAnn Hackos, CIDM Director

Introduction to DITA—Second Edition

The Second Edition of Introduction to DITA is hot off the press and available to order from the Comtech Services, Inc. website <http://www.comtech-serv.com/publications.shtml>.

July 31st should be the date we will ship your copy of the new Second Edition of our best-selling Introduction to DITA. If you already own the first edition, you’ll be pleased that we follow the same practice of step-by-step tutorials throughout the book. The tutorials, which do not rely on any XML editing system, help writers, publishers, and information architects develop DITA topics and maps and put them into production. If you’re new to the Second Edition, you find a wealth of advice, explanation, and best practices to lead you to a successful DITA implementation.

We’ve added a lot to the Second Edition—about 100 pages worth of new content (and for the same price as the first edition). It’s been a big job, started long before the official release of the DITA 1.2 specification in late 2010. As a founder and member of the DITA Technical Committee, I have long known about the new additions to the DITA framework that would especially interest communication professionals.

The Second Edition adds discussions and exercises relating to features introduced in the DITA 1.1 and 1.2 specifications:

  • Bookmaps
  • Glossary topics
  • Content reuse mechanisms, including conref push and range and keyref
  • Authoring environment modifications, including document-type shells, constraints, and controlled attribute values

In addition to the new DITA mechanisms, we reviewed all content in the first edition in light of emerging best practices in the use of DITA. We modified examples and exercises that conflicted with current accepted standards and inserted recommendations to guide you in developing good habits from the start.

Recognizing that many use this guide as a tutorial, we also enhanced the end-of-lesson review questions, taking advantage of DITA 1.2’s learning and training assessment topic and its supported question types.

Finally, taking into account comments and suggestions from readers of the first edition, we clarified confusing concepts and expanded exercises to include more commonly used elements. All content was tested and verified with the DITA Open Toolkit.

I also decided to expand on the Roadmap to DITA that we published last year in comics form. Find a downloadable copy of the Roadmap at <http://www.comtech-serv.com/DITARoadmap.pdf>

How do you get started with DITA?

One of the best ways to get started using the OASIS DITA standard is with a combination of workshops and the lessons in the Second Edition. However, a DITA implementation is actually part of a much larger organizational change. We recommend that you follow a DITA roadmap that encompasses the following activities:

  • Build your business case by evaluating current costs of information development and localization, and demonstrate how DITA will help reduce those costs.
  • Investigate minimalism to ensure that you move forward only with the content that customers find valuable. Create an information-architecture team to develop a targeted Information Model for your organization. Your Information Model provides the rules your team members must follow and specifies which parts of the complete DITA information architecture you intend to use.
  • Evaluate your legacy content and decide what you need to move forward into DITA. Rarely will you want to convert everything, especially at the beginning. You are likely to discover that your current content needs reshaping to work in an information-typed, structured-authoring environment.
  • Specify your publishing requirements so that you are ready to develop stylesheets to support PDF, XHTML, Help, and other output types. If you need help in developing your publishing pipeline, consider those who are expert in the DITA Open Toolkit and stylesheet development, including Comtech Services.
  • Focus on a small but important pilot project. During the pilot project, refine your Information Model, develop your DITA authoring guide, concentrate on structured authoring, help everyone learn the DITA templates and tags, and develop your localization and publishing pipeline.
  • Consider the need to purchase a component content management system, one that specifically recognizes DITA and enables you to manage the details of your XML content and publishing and localization requirements. Recognize that you do not need a content management system to work with DITA, but once you have thousands of topics, a content management system will quickly become essential.
  • Measure your success with your pilot project and with subsequent organization-wide and enterprise-wide rollouts. Compare your results with the return on investment promised in your original business case.

Our next planned project for the Introduction to DITA is to add a Learning and Training addendum to the Second Edition. We hope to encourage organizations to adopt the DITA 1.2 Learning and Training specialization, which fosters collaboration between documentation and training and the joint development of content. CIDMIconNewsletter

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JoAnn