DITA For Small Teams

The DITA for Small Teams project (D4ST) demonstrates how to use free and low-cost tools to manage DITA content for authoring and delivery as appropriate for small writing teams.

The DITA for Small Teams project has the following goals:
  1. Document the fact that it is possible to set up a useful system for DITA authoring, management, and product using open-source tools and tools commonly available in enterprises.
  2. Provide a “download and use” set of tools reflecting the D4ST approach to serve as a starting point for exploring DITA generally and setting up a system for your own use.

Quick Start: If you would like to try the current Docker-based D4ST system, see http://www.dita-for-small-teams.org/d4st-docker/d4st-docker-guide/getting-started/d4st-container-quick-start-01.html.

DITA for Small Teams is an open-source project. The project is managed on Github as the DITA for Small Teams Github organization. The main project the dita-for-small-teams project, which uses the other projects as git submodules.

Authoring and managing DITA content for a team of writers requires the following minimum general facilities:
  • Distributed access to and shared management of the content so that writers can productively and reliably collaborate with each other, such that different writers may work on different maps or topics for the same publication or set of publications at the same time.
  • Version management of the content
  • Production of deliverables, such as HTML, online help, and PDF, from the DITA content. Ideally this production is automated as much as possible.
  • Integration with the authoring tools the writers use, such as the oXygen XML, XMetal, and FrameMaker editing tools.

If the content involves significant re-use or hyperlinking among publications or the volume of content is large (1000s or 10s of 1000s of topics), the team will almost certainly require assistance in finding content quickly and managing the dependencies among maps and topics ("link management").

These are all features that are offered by commercial content management systems to one degree or another. Commercial CMS systems can offer a lot of value but they also represent a significant monetary and time investment, an investment that many teams either simply cannot make or do not have budget for early in the process of adopting DITA.

Most, if not all, of these facilities—distributed access, version management, production automation, tool integration, and even link management—can be provided by free or low-cost tools and services at the cost of some time spent setting up and maintaining the system. This makes it possible for even the smallest writing team to get the benefit of sophisticated, DITA-aware content management, with a very small initial investment of time and money. Most of the money spent will be on authoring tool licenses and most of the time spent is just getting the necessary tools and services in place: none of them are difficult to acquire, install, or configure.

In most cases it should be possible, following the guidelines provided here, to set up a working collaborative DITA authoring and production environment in just a few hours.

The D4ST project’s Docker-based solution makes it about as easy as it can be to provision and use the D4ST approach. Docker makes it possible to package disparate tools together in a convenience but flexible way and manage them as a logical unit. Because each tool or supporting component is managed as a separate Docker container it is relatively easy to adapt the set of tools and configuration details to suit your specific needs. The same Docker containers can be run on a single personal machine, on a shared server machine within an enterprise, or in a hosted environment such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure with a minimum of effort.