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I'm looking to buy some software for technical document authoring with DITA. The tech writing group will have at least 5-10 users, writing 100-pages long documents for several products in various languages, sharing a moderate amount of content between documents, and requiring professional styling.

What is the average pricing of state-of-the-art software for this technology? What cost per user can I expect, and is it better to go for on-site single-payment license or a SaaS solution? We're trying to assess whether moving to this kind of solution is makes sense from a budget point for a department this size, and pragmatic information of the actual costs involved is woefully difficult to get without prior experience.

  • writelatex.com – CLockeWork Dec 18 '14 at 14:50
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    LaTeX is an output typesetting solution, not a DITA authoring tool. – Hobbes Dec 19 '14 at 11:41
  • Did you select a solution and begin to author your documents? Could you please share your experience with us? – Montag451 Nov 4 '15 at 9:37
  • I've been exploring using a regular CMS with an extension for fragment-based documents, like Drupal with its integrated Book module. Even if DITA still looks like it would be the best technical solution, the upfront cost of migrating our existing documents to a DIY solution and the high costs of commercial tools are not worth the price for the moderate amount of reuse we would get from the shared content. – TuringTest Sep 29 '16 at 16:12
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DITA is an XML format, so any editor or IDE that supports XML will work for you. Options with good XML support range from Eclipse (free) to Oxygen and Epic (several hundred dollars per seat). Of course, anybody who's comfortable getting up close and personal with the XML can use Emacs, vim, or Notepad++, too. (Don't laugh; I write all my XML and HTML in Emacs.)

Aside: MadCap Flare has some support for DITA, but it's not a complete solution. I use Flare for HTML projects and find it a good tool, but for DITA I would look elsewhere.

If you have several writers working on the same document suite, I hope you are already using source control. If you aren't, you should factor in those costs. Source control can be free (git) or not (svn, Perforce). If source control is already being used in-house, try to leverage that.

Doc tools and source-control products are frequently offered with both per-seat and enterprise licenses. The pricing break-even points vary, so you'll need to evaluate those options individually once you've decided on a tool set.

Finally, if you are setting up source control or a build system (to produce published docs from the DITA source) for the first time, you'll need to factor in the cost in someone's time to set that up and administer it. On the other hand, you'll no longer lose so much time to the costs of "informal" management -- someone has the document on the shared drive open so you can't edit it now, or two different people made conflicting edits to their own copies of a document, etc.

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You can approach this from two directions:

  • DIY, as outlined in Monica's answer. Use basic XML tools and the DITA Open Toolkit. Up-front cost can be low, but expect to spend a lot of time getting it to work the way you want. Support for content reuse will be minimal.
  • Get an integrated solution. The one I know of is Author-it. This combines an authoring tool with a CMS and a translation support system. It's available as onsite software or as SAAS. You're trading cost for implementation time: it costs a few thousand, but you spend much less time getting it up and running.
  • Did you use Author-it, and if yes how was your experience? – Montag451 Nov 4 '15 at 9:39
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    Yes, I've been using Author-it for several years now. The combination of CMS and authoring tool makes it easy to reuse text. The job of the writer changes a bit: you have to plan for reuse of your content. Once that's done though, creating new documents that reuse existing content becomes quick, easy and far less error-prone than copy&paste. There is some overhead, it's a more complex tool than e.g. Word, so there's a cost/benefit analysis to be done. But when your documents have a reasonable amount of reused content, it's worth the investment. – Hobbes Nov 4 '15 at 20:02

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