Martin Probst's weblog

DITA - Darwin Information Typing Architecture

Thursday, March 17, 2005, 16:25 — 2 comments Edit

I just stumbled across DITA, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture. It’s an XML application for software documentation. While I just gave it a very quick read (I’m mainly blogging this so I don’t forget to check on that later) it seems to differ from DocBook in two points:

The second point sounds interesting. DITA mainly consists of a central XML DTD which describes a “topic”. Every information collected in the system has to be hierarchically below a topic. And while DITA provides a basic topic-DTD it’s intended to be extended or restricted by it’s users. E.g. the user would create a new DTD which only contains a subset of the DITA syntax to ensure that information using this topic DTD only contains specific elements. She could also write a new DTD which brings more elements to describe information specific to her application domain.

Now I just wonder why they use DTDs?

The IBM team that started DITA development did it five years ago, and at that time DTD was it for available standards.

Since they were determined to do it in a standard-compliant way, they used DTDs.

(Asked one of the developers that same question at a talk.)

Dear Technical Communication Professional,

You are cordially invited to attend the 14th Conference of the Transalpine Chapter of the Society of Technical Communications (STC) from 28 September to 30 September 2005 at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, Germany. This three day event, which is hosted by local members of the chapter in cooperation with the Embassy of Canada, will bring technical communicators from Europe and North America together to learn about the latest developments in our field and to assess the changing nature of our profession.

Our workshop leader is Michael Priestley, Information Developer for the IBM Toronto Software Development Laboratory, who will will conduct a one-day workshop about the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) on Wednesday. This workshop will give you an introduction to this open format and show you how to author technical information with the XML-based architecture.

Sessions on Thursday and Friday are jam packed with great speakers on a wide range of interesting topics for technical writers, and anyone interested in improving their writing skills.

For more details, see the attached pdf file and our new Conference website at

Hope to see you there.

Best regards,

Glenn Lea