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Do You Know DITA?
by Terralíngua      Posted in  May 8, 2014
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Do You Know DITA?Do you know nothing about DITA? There are many technology acronyms out there, but is DITA one worth knowing about? It is if you are interested in content management.

What Is It?

DITA — or Darwin Information Typing Architecture — is a cost-effective and efficient way of managing business content.

It was originally developed by IBM, who then passed it on to OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). OASIS developed the system further and released it in 2005 to the general public.

Who Uses It and Why?

DITA has been heartily embraced by software companies like Adobe, Quark and Codex, who produce technical writers’ content editing tools. However it has also been adopted by many companies who produce instructional content and training material, as well as by translation companies who have been using DITA to reduce costs, increase productivity and make localization more efficient.

There are of course other systems in the marketplace that manage business content, but DITA provides something the others do not — the use of XML and its ability to adapt to other formats.

XML is the primary language used to create what we see on the web. Using DITA means that content can be created and then converted to other platforms if necessary, including Open Office, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF, which saves time and money.

DITA uses topics to manage your content. These topics are like individual content building blocks, so when you put the blocks together you have a whole piece with sections that can be easily manipulated. The blocks can then be separated, the individual pieces of content can be adapted and new blocks can be added in order to make another topic.

Content can be efficiently reused by selecting previously written sections in order to create brand new content, without having to copy and paste or rewrite.

DITA and Localization

Content is not the only thing that these building blocks keep. All the information including colors, font sizes, graphs and charts are all stored separately from the content. Using DITA as part of the translation process ensures that all of the localization considerations for your documentation are already in place.

Once the translator has completed his or her work, the content can be localized by DITA. Color, format and style are all very important cultural considerations. Different countries use different styles, and colors may have negative or positive connotations depending on the target region. Ensuring your content is tailored to appeal to local audiences is vital. Once the format has been set for each intended audience, it can be reused in future campaigns to save time and ensure consistency.

When the time comes to update your content for a new campaign or product, you will only need to translate the new content blocks, which can provide significant savings in both time and money. Translation providers can repurpose the translated content in the translation memory.

Getting to Grips with DITA in the Workplace

Interested in learning more about DITA? Many training courses are available on how to use DITA and they can provide a roadmap from the content writing stage to publishing. It is essential that your entire team knows how DITA maps, topics and formats are used and stored before implementing the system.

Topics are the instructions, the steps needed to carry out the instructions and the conclusion. They are the building blocks that make up the body of the document.

Formats are the layout colors, fonts, and styles according to the platform used to publish the content. DITA adapts the format to suit web content, mobile devices or print copy.

Maps are used to develop content and contain various topics which may or may not be used in the same document. Maps cross reference and play an important part in the reuse of content.

Along with these essentials, an understanding of the translation tools used in the process and in the content reuse is also helpful. Know how and where DITA will be stored and accessed when making your translation and publishing choices.

Ease of use comes once the principles of DITA have been mastered. The investment in training is offset by the long term time and cost savings that will result by implementing DITA for your content management.

We hope this article has provided helpful information regarding DITA and how it may assist in advancing your company’s content management standards.

Terralíngua is a professional localization agency who implements DITA and can assist in your company’s global communication. We have worked with many of the world’s industry leaders. Please visit our website for further information.

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