At our last meeting, Scott Prentice, chapter webmaster and president of Leximation, Inc., presented a concise summary of the motivations and issues involved in using the Darwin Information Typing Architecture to produce PDFs. Why use DITA at all? By using XML to author in a topic-oriented structure, DITA lets you rearrange topics and reuse them easily, depending on the deliverables (paper? PDA? online help?) you want from the same source material.
Isn’t this a wonderful thing? Yes, it can certainly be, depending on the nature and size of the enterprise and the amount and different types of content required–but it is not for everyone, and you had better choose your approach carefully from the start.
The great value that Scott provided in our online session was in detailing the various options. How much “manual” control to do you need (and have the technical resources to support)? How much built-in support do you need (and have the budget for)? What is the volume of your output and projection for future need, and how many “seats” do you need licenses for? These are just a few of the questions you must ask before heading down the DITA direction, because what looks like a simpler, more affordable approach at first could turn out to be an expensive, painful trap.
For a concise listing of the products, prices, and particulars of a variety of commercial DITA applications, you can’t do much better than review the brief summary of DITA issues that Scott has provided. Read it and be wise.