DITAToo Helps You Focus on Benefits that DITA Brings rather than on Problems It Introduces

We are always interested to know what our users think about DITAToo.

We ask them to share their experience of working with our product and tell us what else they would like to see in DITAToo or what they’d like to improve. We are receiving many suggestions, but there is a message that all users are conveying to us very clearly: “With all new features, please keep DITAToo a simple and straightforward tool with a clean user interface as it is now”.

That’s right. DITAToo is all about simplicity. Installing DITAToo and doing initial configuration (setting up user accounts and access permissions, building a structure of the content repository, specifying a default DITA editor, etc.) is takes, probably, half an hour. There’s no complicated and lengthy configuration of workflows and the repository. You don’t have to configure DITAToo to make it work with specialized topics and maps. Making DITAToo to use your own customizations of the DITA Open Toolkit is a matter of a few clicks.

The one can say that simplicity some at the expense of capabilities. It’s true, DITAToo doesn’t have some features that you would see in powerful and expensive DITA CMSs, like dynamic publishing, online content review, workflow management, or translation memory integration. If you are looking for these features, probably it makes more sense to look into vendors of these really powerful CMSs. I’ll tell you honestly – don’t take DITAToo, you are ready for a more sophisticated solution.

Our goal is different.

We help small documentation teams, especially those who are just thinking about moving to DITA, focus on benefits that DITA brings by solving challenges rather than on problems it introduces.

We want to lower the entrance barrier to the DITA world. Our task is to help you start with DITA gradually, without investing many thousands of dollars upfront. As a consultant who has implemented DITA in many organizations, I can tell you that DITA never comes for free. You have to invest into re-training your team, re-designing your information architecture, re-structuring legacy content, converting legacy content, evaluating authoring and publishing tools, and so on. I don’t even mention costs of customizing output formats. Buying special tools will only increase your budget.

But, DITA users begin to face new challenges almost immediately so they do need “little helpers”.

How to find content that you need among thousands of individual topics? How to manage links to images and other topics if you want to change your folder structure? How to track in which maps a topic is used if you want to update it and understand the implications? How to keep control on using conditional attributes in a map and easily filter conditional content?

Many documentation teams need to find a solution for just these challenges in first place. Like buying a truck for a weekend shopping isn’t the most effective solution for everyone, deploying a full-scale expensive CMS doesn’t bring a return-on-investment to everyone. This is exactly where DITAToo comes into the picture. We are providing a very simple tool that helps you solve essential needs without spending too much money. We don’t even call DITAToo a content management system. We call it a DITA automation tool because this is precisely what DITAToo does. It helps you get rid of boring and time-consuming tasks that you have to do on a regular basis. For example, DITAToo features include:

* Link management (all references are automatically updated whenever you move or rename a file referenced by other topics)

* Map builder (you can arrange topics into maps from within DITAToo, no DITA editor is required – this potentially opens DITA for non-technical writers who want to pick up topics and assemble them into deliverables as they need)

* Publishing profiles (you can store combinations of conditional attributes and their values as profiles and use them to generate deliverables targeted at different audiences)

* “Where used” feature (you can see maps and topics that refer the selected topic)

* Metadata-based and full-text search

* Conversion of unstyled Word documents to valid DITA

* Traditional check-in/check-out and version control

… and many other features. You can see a full list on the official website of the DITAToo DITA automation tool.

You can even use DITAToo on early stages of your DITA adoption. Instead of struggling with problems that DITA brings, like searching among tons of individual topics, controlling multiple content variations, and tracking reuse cases (this is what DITAToo will take care of), you’ll be able to concentrate on evaluating benefits that DITA introduces.

Yes, eventually, you might grow up, and then taking a truck for a weekend shopping will become the right solution indeed. Implementing a CMS doesn’t make any difference. DITAToo doesn’t introduce any proprietary formats so you are not locked in. Even if at some point you decide to go with a full-scale DITA content management system, you won’t have to redo anything you’ve already done.

But at least, you’ll understand the real value of DITA and not throw it away because of issues that can be resolved with a tool like DITAToo.

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