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Darwin Information Typing Architecture

DITA stands for Darwin Information Typing Architecture. The purpose of DITA is to standardize the architecture of XML data modeling in technical writing, according to the OASIS DITA Technical Committee. In documentation planning it is important to have a standardize model of XML data especially when using XML languages with different programs.

DITA is not a tool but there are tools that support DITA. The use of DITA topic-oriented architecture may influence document planning because it is only accessible in certain programs. Therefore, if DITA is being used in a project this would mean that you may not be able to use Microsoft Word for the document because DITA isn’t available in that program. In choosing programs that enable DITA architecture three names come to mind, Adobe FrameMaker 9, DITA FMX and DITA for Publishers.

Why Use DITA?

Before thinking about the pros and cons of DITA, we, as a company must look at if we could implement DITA and reuse the contents of the documents. DITA’s reuse feature is key to many projects because, it will save us time in building style guides and distributing them. The content is built into the tool and can be built on and reused and even changed. DITA is uniform so it is great for multi-language and multi-format documents. In the long run using DITA will save the company a lot of time and money (Wlodarczyk, 2014).

Of the many reasons to use DITA out there, the main reason that would benefit our company would be that DITA supports information sharing. Some of the other reasons to use DITA are as follows:

  • DITA unifies XML Language
  • Topic-based DITA offers flexibility in content organization by allowing you to order, reorder and nest topics to create any kind of information product.
  • You can reuse the Modularity and topics can be used in more than one deliverable at once.
  • Topics can be presented one at the time in a simple flat online help system, or together in a complex multi-level book structure.
  • You can adapt the tag vocabulary to fit your own specific needs.
  • New topic types can be created from existing ones, which allows for evolution over time.
  • One of DITA’s main advantages is that adding new topics does not make previous projects incompatible with new ones(Baril, 2006).

When DITA Fails to Prevail

DITA, is reliable if the structure is reliable. The team has to be strong and have a fail proof structure for their content. DITA will fail only if the team isn’t being thorough with content or planning. Below are some of the reasons why DITA would fail:

  • Failure to plan:This includes charging ahead without requirements and an ROI framework, but also under-budgeting, not appointing a project lead, not setting aside time for meetings or training, etc.
  • Publishing:plug-in, publishing pipeline, and style sheet development all require skills that are not widely available, so to find someone competent you are almost required to work with a consultant or software vendor.
  • Bad, weak, or missing content strategy.
  • Misguided reuse strategy
  • Specialization too early in the project.
  • Failure to constrain DITA: Simpler is better(Wlodarczyk, 2014).

Analysis of DITA Tools

Adobe FrameMaker: FrameMaker also allows you to generate online output by installing the DITA Open Toolkit and the FrameMaker plug-in that adds the Generate Output menu option. Although FrameMaker is adaptable, there are errors in DITA topics. Sometimes, FrameMaker displays red text when it encounters something it can’t deal with in a DITA file. Usually, the problem is that you have opened a file that has been formatted to look pretty (“pretty print”) in an XML editor such as Oxygen. (Terry, 2008) FrameMaker allows you to insert elements where they are not allowed by the schema. Sure, it will raise a warning when you try to save a file that violates the schema. Then you can try to fix the issue, if Adobe doesn’t crash first, or if you don’t need to resort to editing the XML. Some other con’s to Adobe FrameMaker are:

  • You lose undo history after saving a file.
  • There is no raw XML view–the closest is an option to view the open file in Notepad.
  • It pollutes the markup. For example, it adds attributes for tables and images.

This tool is good for learning DITA because it forces you to fix all of the bugs before you implement the DITA. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a quick and easy DITA tool FrameMaker isn’t the one you need.

DITA FMX: . DITA FMX is a plugin for Adobe FrameMaker. Adobe is a trusted name when it comes to technical writing. This being said when using frame maker one of the best features, is being able to create PDF files. DITA FMX plug-in improves upon the DITA support provided with Adobe FrameMaker 8 and FrameMaker9, including increased coverage of the DITA 1.1 specification and improvements to the authoring experience. (Alan, 2010). It allows you to create PDF’s in FrameMaker. DITA FMX allows Frame Maker Users to enjoy using FrameMaker for all of your DITA needs without as many bugs.

DITA for Publishers: DITA for Publishers is a community forum to enable publishers to learn how to use and implement DITA. Some of the features of DITA for Publishers are:

  • Allows users to use the Toolkit plugins to process publication maps
  • Use the Word-to-DITA transformation framework to convert consistently-styled Word documents into DITA maps and topics.
  • Use the DITA-to-InDesign transforms to generate InCopy and InDesign documents from DITA source.(DITA for Publushers, 2013)

DITA for Publishers is a great tool for learning DITA and implementing DITA in maps and publications. This program provides a great start up for using DITA in all documentations not only technical writing. It is cost effective and a great tool for publications.


Choosing the Right Program

Looking at the three programs I have compared, the best option for our company to go with is, the DITA FMX program. Although, DITA for Publishers is a very cost effective program it isn’t a professional program. There isn’t the ability to reuse information or create Multilanguage DITA files. Adobe Frame Maker alone has a great DITA program but there are many bugs associated with the program that are easily fixed with the DITA FMX plug in. Since two of our writers are already working in Adobe FrameMaker the DITA FMX plug in will enhance the features they are currently using as well as enable them to create PDF documents. The PDF documents will enable quick viewing from portable devices and easy editing. Adobe Frame Maker has the capability of file sharing which will make sharing our work over long distance less complicated.

Works Cited

Alan. (2010, January 6). LEXIMATION RELEASES DITA-FMX 1.1. Retrieved from groupwellesley:

Baril, F. (2006, April 13). Benefits of using DITA. Retrieved from DITA XML . Org:

Colborn, B. (2012, January 10). FrameMaker is a Real DITA Editor.. A Very Poor One. Retrieved from

DITA for Publushers. (2013, April 21). Retrieved from DITA 4 Publishers:

Terry, S. (2008, November). DITA Authoring in FrameMaker 8. Retrieved from Slideshare:

Wlodarczyk, P. (2014, February 16). How to Decide if DITA is Right for You and Where to Learn More. Retrieved from Easy DITA:


Post Author: alisaatkinson