What Is DITA and What Does It Do

DITA, which stands for Darwin Information Typing Architecture, is an XML specification designed to develop, produce and distribute technical information.

IBM designed it in 1999, but in 2004 it took over OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) and since then it has been responsible for its management and the development of a group of technical experts from leading technology companies and communications market.

But what exactly is it? It is a standard; an XML-based architecture that is used to transcribe information according to principles of specialization and inheritance, hence the name of Darwin. DITA can easily carry out the maintenance and update of manuals and technical documents, making easier  the task of carrying out the process of writing, editing, publication and information exchange by topics in XML.

Through DITA, content with which it works can be fragmented into smaller units so that you can re-use and exchange it without difficulty, while minimizing the possibility of repeating the same information. Everything is arranged around single unit information (topic) that may be associated with a series of thematic types such as:

  • Task: describes the steps to follow to get a result with regard to a task.
  • Concept: definitions, rules and guidelines.
  • Reference: instructions, program code or other reference material.

Most important of DITA is its flexibility and that it can be applied in different information resources because it is based primarily on the organization of information according to a theme (topic), allowing partial or total reuse of information through references content. Something to take into account is that it can expand the number of types of themes and elements according to the needs of an organization.

Also, based on properties, it uses metadata to make the issues are more accessible and, because it uses universal attributes, it is much easier to filter and process all information.

It is definitely a very useful system.  As we have seen, it allows the streamlining, improvement and simplicity of information processing. In regard to our work (as translators or reviewers) is very useful because it will help reduce the possibility of errors by lowering the redundancy of information, consistency, etc.

Likewise, we cannot ignore the fact that it is based on XML and enables the conversion to many types of formatting, which result in savings of time and, hence, costs.