DITA Newsletter 1.4

Features in this issue

(see the web version at www.ditanewsletter.com)

DITA User Group Meetings


Boston DITA Users Group

The Boston DITA Users Group will not hold meetings in November and December.

Boulder/Denver DITA Users Group

The Boulder DITA Users Group will not hold meetings in November and December. Julie Baldwin is looking for a new User Group organizer to take over.

Silicon Valley DITA Interest Group

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 @ 7:00-9:00 pm PST - Robert Anderson, Chief Architect of the DITA Open Toolkit will discuss Customizing the Output of the Open Toolkit.

This will be a remote presentation, for information on attending remotely, contact Bob Doyle or Scott Prentice.

Central Texas DITA Users Group

No CTDUG meeting in November.

Wednesday December 12, 2007 7:00 - 9:00 pm Central - Eric Sirois, of IBM, will give a presentation from Canada via the web on Using DITA for Eclipse Infocenters and Projects

This will be an extremely valuable session for anyone who is considering using DITA to consolidate corporate information on a centralized web site, or for delivering component-based information.

Vancouver DITA Users Group

Thursday, November 15, 2007 @ 6:30-8:30 pm PST - Sophos offices at 580 Granville.

Doug Burgess will be talking about,"... common characteristics of learning/training content, from the perspective of document/information modeling. We will look at some standards that are typically used to package elearning content for presentation or interchange, and will discuss some typical use-cases for presenting learning content, before reviewing how it can be modeled using DITA. We will then discuss DITA's advantages and shortcomings as a modeling language for educational content."

Examples of Pure DITA

We salute several efforts that are entirely or almost entirely delivered with DITA. We need more such examples.

Three DITA Book Options for Tech Authors

DITA to DocBook, DITA Bookmap, and DITA to FrameMaker DITAbook

When IBM developed DITA, it was primarily for the online documentation that was replacing traditional long printed user manuals, written in DocBook or IBM's proprietary IBMIDDoc. For the past couple of years, DocBook remains strong for system and software documentation, especially in the open source community, but DITA is expanding beyond online docs and now is taking aim at traditional book form manuals.

First, basic transforms in the DITA Open Toolkit can convert DITA to DocBook and DocBook to DITA. Tech pubs group who are happy with DocBook can now have some contributors authoring in DITA.

The DITA 1.1 specification has introduced a Bookmap specialization of the DITA Map that supports long books. Bookmap has many metadata elements for Front Matter (TOC, Figure and Tables lists, Dedication, Notices, Preface, and Colophon), Content Proper (including new Parts and Chapters), and Back Matter (Index, Glossary, Notices, Appendices).

A major automation feature in DITA 1.1 is the alphabetization of structures like glossaries and indexes into multiple languages. At present, this is a very costly step for localization projects, which offer the single largest return on investment in DITA XML technology. Translation can be done piecemeal, as DITA topics are completed, without waiting for the complete book. This means faster time to market in multiple languages.

Specialization - based on the object orientation and inheritance properties of DITA architecture - was regarded by some experts as the greatest single advantage of DITA over DocBook. It is ironic but perhaps predictable that the major specialization in DITA 1.1 is a direct competitor for DocBook.

To add to DocBook and Bookmap, Adobe FrameMaker, a leading tool for long-form publications, has introduced the DITABook, generation of a Book from DITA files and a DITA Map. FrameMaker 8 lets DITA authors access the full power of FrameMaker's built-in print publishing system, with tables of contents, lists of figures and tables, and indices, plus pristine quality output to PDF that can only be achieved by competitive authoring solutions with expensive add-ons. By comparison, the DITA Open Toolkit produces lower-quality PDFs with relatively inflexible formatting.

A drawback to Adobe's DITABook is that once converted to a DITABook, the styling, indexes, figure lists, TOC, etc. are all done in FrameMaker, so modifications to the original source files do not automatically show up in publication revisions.

DITA as a Service

The new Software as a Service revolution led by Google is important in DITA. From industrial-strength DocZone and Astoria On Demand to the modest DITA Users organization that helps writers get started with topic-based authoring, online tools minimize capital investment, reducing the risk of trying the new technology.

DITA Storm Acquired by Inmedius

Log Perspective's DITA Storm has been acquired by Inmedius, a major CMS vendor in the S1000D industry. They will extend their XML expertise into the DITA structured writing space.

DITA Storm creator Alex Karezin has joined Inmedius as Senior Product Architect.

“I am pleased that DITA Storm has been acquired by a company that will help to expand its global adoption,” said Karezin. “With offices and representation on four continents, Inmedius can support multi-national companies with ease, placing them in a small minority of players in this marketplace.”

Gary L. Schaffer, President and CEO, Inmedius, said "We feel that DITA Storm’s browser-based platform with WYSIWYG-authoring is a winning strategy to greatly expand the adoption rates of the DITA XML standard. This newly acquired authoring platform fits perfectly with our strategic vision of creating XML-based solutions.”

At DITA Users we have been using DITA Storm to get newcomers started with topic-based structured authoring.

The New Troubleshooting Specialization

One of the key ideas in John Carroll's Minimalism (one of many best practices behind DITA) was that tasks should include error recovery procedures. The new DITA Troubleshooting Specialization (a plug-in to the DITA Open Toolkit) may address this deficiency.

The Troubleshooting specialization should be placed in the \plugins directory of the Open Toolkit. You should run ant -f integrator.xml on the command line from the toolkit root directory after unzipping the package. This will properly "integrate" the package.

Note that PTC offers its own troubleshooting specialization as part of their new Arbortext Service Manual Application.

Carolyn Henry of IBM explains why to use the DITA Troubleshooting specialization:

Users refer to troubleshooting information to understand a problem situation and to find out what they need to do to recover from, work around, or prevent a recurrence of a problem. Typically, troubleshooting information includes a description of the event that generated the problem, the symptoms, the environmental characteristics, the possible causes, and suggestions for recovery actions. The specialized troubleshooting topic contains tags and details to support strong troubleshooting information that will help users identify and recover from a particular problem. You can use the new troubleshooting topic for high-impact, critical problems that your users might experience. By providing this information, you will be increasing the quantity, quality, and consistency of troubleshooting information for your users, which is likely to result in increased user productivity, increased user satisfaction, and decreased maintenance costs to your organization for helping users solve problems.

More information and the plugin are available on Source Forge.

Introduction to DITA, Arbortext Edition

Comtech Services' Introduction to DITA has been produced in a new version featuring PTC Arbortext Editor and Styler.

All the great content from the original edition is there, but many illustrations are now screenshots from Arbortext Editor. Instead of the XML markup code for examples, you see the tags-on view in Arbortext Editor.

A new section (Lesson 1) describes context sensitive editing. Allowable elements that can be inserted depend on the location of your insertion point in the DITA document. Element entry automatically adds the appropriate start and end tags. You see the Document Map (structure view) and Edit View.

Lesson 9 introduces the Arbortext Map Editor, with its Resource Manager to locate topic files and a Relationship Tables visual editing interface.

Lesson 21 covers Arbortext's powerful Profiling approach to conditional processing.

The extensive coverage of the DITA Open Toolkit is gone, as publishing is now done with XSL in Styler (Lessons 22 to 25).

Once again, the steps in each task in this book are themselves DITA tasks which are then published to create the book, presumably with Styler. I am surprised that the excellent page headings that told you which Part you were in were dropped. I would like to see Part and Lesson number at the top of every page.

As I said in my review of the original edition, "this book has a strange metaphysical quality of being about itself. You are reading a line that describes the steps in a task and you suddenly realize that the very same steps were needed to generate the printed words you are looking at! It's a self-referential reference book. This book is not just about DITA. It is DITA. Talk about practicing what you preach...". Everyone starting out with DITA should read this book.

Draft DITA Tutorial and new Presentation Recordings

DITA Topics and DITA Maps are explained in a draft five-minute interactive tutorial

Several DITA presentations have recently been recorded as Flash movies to provide wider access from all browsers:

Have you given a DITA presentation? Would you like to go through it again? We can record your voice and add the presentation to our stock of tutorials to help others get started with DITA. Contact me.

The PTC Arbortext DITA Service Manual Application

PTC Arbortext has developed a custom DITA application that provides 80-90% of the work to produce a service manual for web and print publication.

Featuring a number of DITA topic specializations (SMA Task, SMA Concept, SMA Reference, and a Troubleshooting specialization), coordinated XSL stylesheets produce a manual with a standard two-column layout.

The SMA shows the competitive advantage of managing a DITA project with integrated tools from Arbortext Editor with Styler through the Arbortext Publishing Engine.

PTC reports great growth in DITA among their clients. They describe the importance of DITA in a PDF document entitled PTC Arbortext Solution for DITA

Upcoming DITA Events

November 10-11, 2007

STC UK Conference on XML/DITA/FrameMaker

Join STC UK at their 2-day training event on 10th and 11th November 2007 at the Novotel in Manchester. If you are in the early stages of a DITA implementation, or are still considering your XML options, then this is one event that you won't want to miss. Alan Houser, principal of Group Wellesley consultants, co-author of the XML Weekend Crash Course, highly experienced FrameMaker trainer, and member of the DITA Technical Committee, is visiting England to impart some of his valuable knowledge and experience to us. And Indi Liepa of Nokia will be telling it how it is from a user's viewpoint. This is a great opportunity to participate in an intensive workshop and training event.

Registration details

November 13-14, 2007

DITA Europe Conference 2007

JoAnn Hackos' CIDM and OASIS will hold the 3rd Annual 2007 DITA Europe Conference at the Stanhope Hotel in Brussels, Belgium. The conference will be held November 13-14. Meet publications professionals who have implemented DITA in their organizations and hear from representatives of key tools vendors who are actively supporting the DITA community.

DITA Europe gives you many opportunities to learn about DITA from people who are in the midst of their own implementations. Learn the benefits of managing information as topics and the pitfalls to avoid for success. Come away with an understanding of what DITA is, how it can improve your technical information, and what tools you will need to bring all of this together.

Register now.

DITA Users members contact Lovonya Thomas at lovonya at comtech-serv.com to receive a 10% member discount.

November 27-29, 2007

Gilbane Conference on Content Management Technologies

Westin Copley Place, Boston, MA

Conference program


DITA Users members use code DITA USERS to receive a $150 discount on Gilbane Conference registration.

See the DITA News Events Calendar for more events.

About DITA Newsletter

DITA Newsletter is published by DITA News, one of a network of websites in support of DITA. It is available online at www.ditanewsletter.com.


Each of our websites is optimized for some community-oriented function.


DITA Users - helping members get started with topic-based authoring using a web-based editor (DITA Storm), the Open Toolkit on the server, a personal workspace folder on the web, and a private member directory to locate other DITA Users.

DITA Infocenter - the DITA architectural and language specifications, and the Open Toolkit User Guide, in an Eclipse Help format.

DITA News - a blog aggregator, a mailing list, and this newsletter on DITA.

DITA Blog - a group blog for DITA information developers (based on WordPress).

DITA Wiki - over 600 pages of resources in a format that encourages comments and discussions (based on MediaWiki).

and a couple of other sites to come soon, including

DITA Tutor - a set of self-paced and instructor-led DITA Tutorials (based on a Moodle LMS)

Please consider joining DITA Users today. Membership is $100USD/year.

Your membership fee supports our network of websites. Discounts on DITA conferences and workshops more than offset the annual membership fee



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