DITA Becomes a Standard (Now What Is It Exactly?)

The standards organization OASIS recently approved Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) version 1.0 as an OASIS Standard — a “status that signifies the highest level of ratification.”

So what exactly is DITA?

According to the press release, “DITA consists of a set of design principles for creating “information-typed” modules at a topic level. DITA enables organizations to deliver content as closely as possible to the point-of-use, making it ideal for applications such as integrated help systems, web sites, and how-to instruction pages. DITA’s topic-oriented content can be used to exploit new features or delivery channels as they become available.”

Still not clear?

I’m afraid this is one of those standards that only an information architect could love. Fortunately for me, I did have the benefit of an Idiom presentation on DITA recently. The presentation illustrated how the standard will aid in managing content across languages as well as across departments and media (Web, print, mobile).

And there is a real need among enterprises for an XML standard that allows them to “chunk” content in a way that allows for such wide-scale reuse and translation. I’ll know more when I see some real-world success stories, of which there are none as of yet. But I’m sure the folks at Idiom and Arbortext are writing up their case studies as we speak.

So where will we be seeing DITA commercially?

Here are the principal vendor supporters: Idiom, Arbortext, BMC, IBM, Intel, Nokia, Oracle, and Sun. The ones to watch are not just these folks but also the folks not on the list, particularly Documentum, Interwoven, and Vignette. It will be interesting to see if other CMS vendors jump on the DITA bandwagon.

If you want to learn more, and have a few hours to spare, here are the tech specs on DITA.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

1 thought on “DITA Becomes a Standard (Now What Is It Exactly?)”

  1. Regarding this comment: “I’ll know more when I see some real-world success stories, of which there are none as of yet. But I’m sure the folks at Idiom and Arbortext are writing up their case studies as we speak.”

    Within the compendium of published DITA resources you cited at http://xml.coverpages.org/dita.html, I’ll point out that you can find case studies from IBM (Michael Priestley, Susan Carpenter, Ian Larner), Ixiasoft (France Baril), Nokia, and others. In fact, among the references is a Gilbane whitepaper commissioned by Idiom about their work with IBI on a DITA implementation. Also there are links to a series of Arbortext articles which examine DITA from a vendor’s point of view. More case studies should be forthcoming once new adopters start to get firm experience with using a topic-oriented writing discipline.

    Because DITA is scaleable from individual and SMB levels of use on up to enterprise, everyone in this chain of users can exchange data interoperably. This makes a lot of sense for delivering component-level documentation that integrates into larger products or deliverables, or that is shared among same-interest communities.


    Don Day
    Chair, OASIS DITA Technical Committee
    IBM Lead DITA Architect

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