The nuts and bolts of applying DITA to your documentation

DITA is just like a Lego System. It defines the content of documents in the form of Topics and Maps. A DITA topic represents the information that can stand alone and can be reused, just like a piece of Lego. A DITA map is like a TOC that combines references to different DITA Topics in a specific hierarchy to form a required document deliverable (like a finished lego house). 


The question that comes to mind is why it takes so much hassle when you are about to start working in DITA or trying to implement DITA in your enterprise.


DITA XML is a form of structured content that is optimized to create, reuse, translate, and publish documentation quickly by using topics and maps. DITA XML is also a community-maintained open standard.


There’s a lot of unpacking from that definition, so we’re going to dissect it into a series of smaller questions. 


Source: Learning Solutions

What is meant by the reuse of near-identical information?


As the picture above shows, DITA-based content is divided into topics. These topics are mapped just like in a table of contents. Therefore, these topics are independent to be used multiple times in different documents. It is done by the use of conditional coding.


Conditional coding


Topics are reused by applying conditional coding. For this purpose, standard attributes are added that are provided by DITA. These attributes are a part of the DITA schema and so it can’t be changed. Values are also set along with attributes. These values can be edited as per requirements. 


In Oxygen, condition coding includes the set of values selected for an attribute. The ones that are not selected are excluded.


Can DITA optimize the production of different outputs?


Structured documentation in DITA is a one-stop solution for producing the same document with different conditions. To illustrate, a set of conditions can be defined for the users of a specific operating system and a different set of conditions for others. These differences in outputs can be done by applying conditional coding with flagging.


Conditional coding with flagging


Conditional coding with flagging is used to highlight elements that are intended for different outputs. The ditaval <prop> element with the action=”flag” attribute is used for flagging with the help of conditional attributes. This allows the element to be highlighted with color, text styles, images, etc. for different outputs. In addition, rev attribute and rev flagging can be used for flagging a specific revision of the product.


DITA is a brilliant implementation of structured authoring, incorporating single-sourcing, content sharing and reuse, and conditional processing as core technological elements. Conditional processing is at the heart of content specificity, and metadata is its control mechanism. 


Grasping the relationship between metadata and filtering is one of the “aha!” experiences we have along the road from a linear narrative to structured authoring. It is a little epiphany that suddenly propels us forward in our efforts to get the most benefits from technology. 


Further, it makes our authoring jobs a bit easier, a lot more productive, and yes, even fun. But as you might guess, that’s not quite everything. For your DITA implementation or consulting requirements, reach out to our expert XSLT and XML development team.

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