DITA Open Toolkit

Single-Source Publishing with DITA Open Toolkit

DITA Open Toolkit (DITA-OT) is an Open Source solution to automatically render DITA source data into multiple target formats including PDF, HTML5 and various office and help formats. Layouts can be freely influenced using standards like XSL-FO, XSLT and CSS. DITA is mainly aimed at Technical Documentation in the sense of manuals or online help, but there are several extensions to enable specialized markups for training material and other applications.

DITA and DITA-OT do not necessarily require a CCMS or PIM back-end, but due to the very modular character of real-world DITA data (a manual can easily contain more than 1,000 modules plus images) managing such data in the file system is practically impossible, not to speak of how to handle versioning, release cycles, translation and variant management. Thus, using DITA is practically linked to using a CCMS or in some cases, a PIM for organizing the DITA source data.

DITA-OT has a reputation of being suitable for simple PDF and HTML layouts only, while anything more sophisticated needs Adobe® InDesign. This is not true, though. PDF layouts can be controlled by easily accessible parameters for common layout properties. This makes it relatively easy to influence basic settings like fonts, styles, borders, number of columns or the table of contents. However, if more complex layouts are required, DITA-OT allows to replace entire layout sections with custom code. We have experience with very complex DITA-OT PDF styles, including challenges like:

  • One-column and two-column sections on the same page
  • Manuals with several language versions of the documentation, each having their own table of contents and the whole manual with a table of contents pointing to the language versions
  • Complex positioning rules for varying numbers of content blocks on one page
  • Multiple table styles with complex layout

The use case for Adobe® InDesign is not for complex layouts, but for output that should be automatically created, but allow editing and fine-tuning in InDesign. This is often true for marketing material like product catalogues or brochures.

What we can do for you

  • Provide consultancy to decide whether DITA-OT or rather publishing tools like Adobe® InDesign or the Open Source alternative Scribus should be used.
  • Build DITA-OT styles for PDF, HTML and other targets.
Last modified 21 months ago Last modified on Sep 22, 2022, 12:57:42 PM
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