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Created: February 17, 2005.
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OASIS Darwin Information Typing Architecture TC Approves DITA Version 1.0.


Update June 2005: On June 01, 2005 OASIS announced that its members had approved the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) version 1.0 as an OASIS Standard, a status that signifies the highest level of ratification. DITA defines an XML architecture for designing, writing, managing, and publishing many kinds of information in print and on the Web. 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." See the bibliographic references.

[February 17, 2005] OASIS announced that the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Technical Committee has approved DITA 1.0 as a Committee Draft and recommended its submission for public review.

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture was created by IBM in 1999-2000. In March 2004 the technology was contributed to OASIS for further development within a new OASIS TC, chartered to promote the use of the DITA architecture for creating standard information types and domain-specific markup vocabularies.

DITA, according to the specification Introduction, is "an architecture for creating topic-oriented, information-typed content that can be reused and single-sourced in a variety of ways. It is also an architecture for creating new topic types and describing new information domains based on existing types and domains. The process for creating new topic types and domains is called specialization. Specialization allows the creation of very specific, targeted document type definitions while still sharing common output transforms and design rules developed for more general types and domains, in much the same way that classes in an object-oriented system can inherit methods of ancestor classes."

In DITA, a topic is "the basic unit of authoring and of reuse. A document may contain one topic or multiple topics, and a document type may support authoring one or many kinds of topics. But regardless of where they occur, all topics have the same basic structure and capabilities. Books, PDF files, Websites, and help sets, for example, can all be constructed from the same set of underlying topic content, although there may be some topics that are unique to a particular deliverable, and the organization of topics may differ to take advantage of the unique capabilities of each delivery mechanism."

DITA topics are "XML conforming. As such, they are readily viewed, edited, and validated with standard XML tools, although some features such as content referencing and specialization may benefit from customized support."

The DITA TC's review materials for the Committee Draft are distributed in ZIP format, containing the DITA Architectural Specification and DITA Language Specification in normative PDF format and non-normative CHM format. Some sixty (60) XML Schema and XML DTD files are included, as well as catalog files. The XML DTDs and Schemas define DITA markup for the base DITA document types.

The DITA Architectural Specification provides an overview and introduction, followed by a Chapter 3 on "DITA Markup," which presents DITA topics, DITA maps, Common metadata elements, and Common attributes. Chapter 4 discusses DITA specialization, providing details on the mechanisms DITA provides for defining and extending DITA document types. The Language Specification provides explanations for each element in the base DITA document types. Chapter 1 of the language reference contains an alphabetical listing of DITA elements, each with a description and documentation on permissible attributes. Chapter 2 presents the sets of attributes by named group. The Chapter 3 'Appendix' covers xml:lang values, outputclass processing, and keyref processing.

Members of the DITA TC believe that "compared to most XML language specifications, the DITA Specification is written in a very readable manner. Both the DITA Architecture Specification and the associated DITA Language Reference were composed from DITA topics organized by DITA maps. The main new DTD design changes in the TC's version 1.0 of the specification are: (1) The DTDVersion attribute has been replaced by a namespaced DITAArchVersion attribute; (2) The former CALS-based table model has been updated to the OASIS Exchange table model, which is more widely supported by vendors. This change might require migration of DITA source that uses the spanspec element or tfoot element in tables."

OASIS Sponsor members supporting DITA development include Arbortext Inc, BMC Software, IBM, Innodata Corporation, Intel, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, and US Department of Defense (DoD). Other TC participanats include representatives from Blast Radius, Idiom Technolgies, Lucent, National Library of Medicine, and Rascal Software, along with several individual TC members.

Public review of the DITA Version 1.0 specification began on February 15, 2005 and was scheduled to end on March 15, 2005. "Public review from potential users, developers and stakeholders is an important part of the OASIS process to assure interoperability and quality. Comments are solicited from all interested parties."

Bibliographic Information

DITA Overview: Definitions and Background Concepts

Definitions and background concepts:

  • What are topics? "A topic is a unit of information with a title and content, short enough to be specific to a single subject or answer a single question, but long enough to make sense on its own and be authored as a unit.
  • What are maps? "DITA maps are documents that collect and organize references to DITA topics to indicate the relationships among the topics. They can also serve as outlines or tables of contents for DITA deliverables and as build manifests for DITA projects."
  • What is specialization? "Specialization allows you to define new kinds of information (new structural types or new domains of information), while reusing as much of existing design and code as possible, and minimizing or eliminating the costs of interchange, migration, and maintenance."
  • Structural versus domain specialization: "Structural specialization defines new types of structured information, such as new topic types or new map types. Domain specialization creates new markup that can be useful in multiple structural types, such as new kinds of keywords, tables, or lists."
  • Integration: "Each domain specialization or structural specialization has its own design module. These modules can be combined to create many different document types. The process of creating a new document type from a specific combination of modules is called integration."
  • Customization. "When you just need a difference in output, you can use DITA customization to override the default output without affecting portability or interchange, and without involving specialization."
  • Generalization: Specialized content can be generalized to any ancestor type. The generalization process can preserve information about the former level of specialization to allow round-tripping between specialized and unspecialized forms of the same content." [adapted from the DITA Architectural Specification Chapter 2, "An Introduction to DITA."]

DITA Presentations at Content Management Strategies Conference 2005

The 7th Annual Content Management Strategies Conference features a new DITA track, and is co-sponsored by IBM. Venue: Loews Annapolis Hotel, Annapolis, Maryland. April 11-13, 2005. The workshops and sessions related to DITA are presented here, extracted from the program listings. These summaries illustrate a range of DITA application scenarios and implementation issues.

  • Workshop: "Making DITA Work for You." Instructors: Don Day (IBM Corportation) and Michael Priestley (IBM) Corportation. "One of the challenges of single sourcing is easily getting multiple outputs from a single source input without changing the source information. How do you manage the dilemma of delivering to different contexts when one deliverable might be Microsoft Help, another might be a 'web' of hyperlinked HTML, another might be DOCBOOK, or JavaHelp? The DITA toolkit has a number of output transforms which allow the user of the toolkit to convert DITA source to multiple different output formats. This workshop will demonstrate some of the important transforms and show how you can modify the transforms to really make DITA work for you in your multi-output environment."

  • "Overview of the DITA Elements and Attributes." By Kay Ethier (Bright Path Solutions). "In the not-too-distant future, authoring and content management tools are going to be touting DITA support. Your company or clients may soon be asking for DITA compliant documents. Users moving to DITA need to understand what elements are available, the purpose of each element, and the role of the attributes. This lecture may also be helpful for those considering structured document publishing who are not sure how to begin creating or selecting a structure. In addition, the presentation will include a live demonstration of DITA authoring using Adobe FrameMaker 7.1."

  • "An Introduction to DITA." By Dave Schell (IBM Corporation). "This introduction to the XML Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) will describe DITA's historic roots, describe the rationale for the development necessity for DITA and describe the business benefits of DITA. DITA defines the canonical level of reuse to be the 'topic'; the rationale for that decision is discussed along with the three prototypical topic types of concept, task, and reference."

  • "A Scenario-Based Process for Information Architecture and Development with DITA." By Michael Priestley (IBM Canada). "This presentation will describe a scenario-based approach to developing information, and the ways in which DITA can be used to support that approach using DITA maps and DITA topic types. This discussion will highlight what we did right, and improvements that we need to consider in the future for both product updates and new product development."

  • "Specialization with DITA." By Michael Priestley (IBM Canada) [and Erik Hennum]. "This presentation will introduce specialization, provide a brief demonstration of how DITA specialization works on a technical level, and then describe how specialization can fit into a larger process within an organization to accommodate ongoing and distributed development of specializations across varied subject areas."

  • "Selecting an Authoring Tool for DITA — More than Just Another XML." By Don Day (IBM Corporation). "XML editors are readily available in both free (often Open Source) and commercial implementations, built to suit a variety of XML tasks from authoring data packets to book-length manuscripts. There are many that are at least somewhat suitable for writing DITA topics, but how can you find the one that is best for you? The heuristic approach described in this presentation will point you quickly to the class of editors that are best for your DITA authoring requirements."

  • "Authoring Topic-Based Content in DITA." By Amber Swope (IBM Corporation) and Visnja Beg (IBM Corporation). "A topic-based architecture provides a modular, structured architecture based on units of information called topics, regardless of the deliverable medium. DITA is a topic-based architecture and currently supports three primary topic types: Task, Concept, and Reference. This presentation explains how to produce common deliverables, such as migration information or release notes, using DITA topics as examples. It also addresses how to help Information Developers successfully implement topic-based authoring strategies."

  • "Implementing Specialized DITA in Nokia." By Indi Liepa (Nokia). "Specialization is one of DITA's major strengths as an end-to-end XML content architecture. In their implementation of DITA so far, Nokia has used both topic and domain specialization to meet user and business requirements. If you are considering using DITA as your modular XML content architecture, Indi will share Nokia's experience with implementing specialized DITA and provide you with pointers for your implementation."

  • "Editing Strategies for Content Authored in DITA." By David Steinmetz, Ronnie Seagren, and Donna Sutarno (IBM Corporation). "New technologies don't always come with the right tools and clearly defined processes for ensuring quality. For an organization to reap the XML advantages of using Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) technology, writers need guidance on task analysis, navigation, information architecture, retrievability, content reuse, and indexing. This case study examines the challenges and on-the-ground solutions for editors working with XML-based information development systems such as DITA."

  • "Reusing Content with DITA." By Nancy Harrison (IBM Rational Software). "Reuse of technical information can be thought of in terms of various paradigms. Single-sourcing allows you to use the same information to produce different output formats, for example, using the same set of files to create both online help and a printed manual or PDF file. Re-purposing allows you to start with a collection of information topics and deliver different configurations of those topics based on the varying needs of users, for example developers and system administrators. Finally, boilerplate information, such as product names or version numbers, appears in many places across a document set, but should ideally be maintained in a single location. DITA provides robust mechanisms for achieving reuse in all these situations. This presentation identifies those DITA mechanisms, demonstrates their use, and provides guidelines for using them."

  • "Leveraging Metadata for Fun and Profit." By Susan Carpenter and Tricia York Garrett (IBM Corporation). "IBM's WebSphere Application Server information development team piloted IBM's use of DITA in a large-scale automation environment through the use of open-source build tools. We managed the initial migration, deployment of two versions of the DTD, and two generations of build process design during full-scale content development of multiple concurrent releases. Our number one advice to project managers: 'Trade off to maximize forward progress by the team'."

  • "Topic Driven Applications." By Chris Hill (Innodata Isogen). "The DITA specification's topic-oriented architecture opens another door to a new model for integrating enterprise information systems: Topic Driven Applications. By designing applications around the concept of topics rather than arcane programming models, content can be exposed through knowledge models that use simple service protocols and allow higher-level integration of systems across the enterprise. DITA can be coupled with XML Topic Maps to create a powerful solution to the problem of integrating knowledge across an enterprise. In his presentation, Chris Hill will discuss how organizations can move to a topic-oriented architecture, better integrate knowledge using topic maps, and demonstrate this integration using a web service protocol."

  • "How Global Companies can Close the Globalization Gap DITA." By Bill Rabkin (Idiom Technologies). "In his presentation, Mr. Rabkin will look at the business implications of using DITA in the context of the global content lifecycle. Using real-world examples, he will discuss the acceleration of time-to-market, improving content quality, and reducing costs, and he will present his audience with practical advice and insights."

  • "The DITA Toolkit — What it is and How to Use it." By Dave Schell and Don Day (IBM Corporation). "This session will provide an overview of the DITA Toolkit and how to use it to your advantage. The contents of the toolkit will be described as well as the direction of future development. For those looking for a quick way to come up to speed in using DITA, this is a key session."

  • "Migrating from HTML to DITA." By Amber Swope and Hadar Hawk (IBM Corporation). "The benefits of XML, such as the separation of content and structure, structured format, and content reuse, are attractive to information teams. However, the prospect of migrating substantial numbers of topics from HTML to DITA can seem daunting and expensive. This presentation walks through the project steps in the migration process and identifies decision points, including what documents to migrate and when to do it. The presentation focuses on the best practices that have been successfully implemented by multiple teams who have migrated projects of various sizes to DITA. The strategies focus on determining the project goals, then identifying the most efficient migration path."

DITA as an OASIS Standard

DITA Version 1.0 after public review was balloted and approved as an OASIS Standard.

Specification References

DITA Version 1.0 OASIS Standard:

Principal References

Hosted By
OASIS - Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards

Sponsored By

IBM Corporation
ISIS Papyrus
Microsoft Corporation
Oracle Corporation


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