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My situation is such that I will be looking for a new job next week as this contract ends. For a tech writer, it is good to have DITA on the ole' resume. So, I just wanted to know if anyone has a site or book or tutorial on how to learn Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). Thanks all.

  • I think this question is about programming, not writing. What do our tech writers think? Leave this open or close it? – Neil Fein Feb 22 '15 at 21:54
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    @NeilFein DITA is an information architecture/organizational scheme; while it's definitely on the geeky side and was presumably influenced by software principles, it's a tech-writing thing and IMO on-topic. – Monica Cellio Feb 24 '15 at 19:37
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I don't know how much benefit you'll get on a resume from having read about, as opposed to used, DITA, but some knowledge is better than none.

DITA is both a specific framework and an approach. My documentation group is currently working through the book DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing, and Architecting in DITA by Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey, and Jenifer Schlotfeldt and we're finding it a good introduction so far. We are not planning to migrate to the DITA framework, but we've been trying to apply a similar approach on our own and we're finding the book helpful for pointing out issues we haven't necessarily thought enough about. The book contains a lot of information specific to the framework too, so it should be even more helpful for somebody who's going all-in on DITA.

The book is under 300 pages and not terribly dense, so you should be able to absorb it in less than a week.

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    Thank you so much Monica. I will definately look into the book DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing, and Architecting in DITA by Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey, and Jenifer Schlotfeldt. DITA is much more involved and complicated that I realized. – Linda Lawson-Bruton Feb 24 '15 at 19:35
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I don't know if this will be way too late but still, here's a free tool I found for learning DITA:

http://www.learningdita.com/

I'm currently following the course, although it's dropped down my todos a bit. I'm already familiar with most of the content from my own reading and from that perspective I'll say it's very comprehensive and thorough.

Although I already have the basic ideas I would recommend this for beginners, it definitely starts simple.

Here's the complete styleguide which explains in detail how to use each element if you're diving in and trying it out:

https://www.oxygenxml.com/dita/styleguide/webhelp-feedback/index.html

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For a more hands-on introduction, you might consider downloading and installing the DITA Open Toolkit. After you have set up the toolkit, you can:

  1. Take a look at the DITA XML source for a real publication, namely the DITA Open Toolkit user's guide. The source is located in the docsrc folder, but you can also access it on GitHub.
  2. Use this source to build the final output, for example, HTML or a PDF. To do this, see Rebuilding the DITA-OT documentation (or Chapter 20 in the PDF version).
  3. Open a .dita topic file. Try to find that topic in the document by searching for its title. Notice how the XML follows a specific topic structure. In DITA, a topic is the basic unit of authoring.
  4. Open a .ditamap file and compare what you see to the table of contents in this publication. Notice how it uses DITA map elements to organise a series of topics.
  5. Make a small change to the title of a topic (perhaps after making a backup copy) and rebuild the publication. Notice how your change is rolled into the new version of the document.
  6. At this point, you'll realise that it could be quite a challenge to write a document in DITA without some additional tool support. This is where "DITA-aware" tools such as Oxygen XML Author come in to provide editing support. Note that Oxygen comes bundled with the DITA Open Toolkit. There is a list of tools that use the DITA Open Toolkit on dita-ot.org. See also this list of DITA-related software tools.

Section 2.2.1.2 of the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Oasis standard contains more on the benefits of topic-based authoring.

For more examples of DITA-based authoring, check out the list of Open Source DITA Collections on oasis-open.org.

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