Open DITA: Let’s Make Structured Writing for Everyone

May 10, 2017 4:00:00 PM / by Søren Weimann

Søren Weimann

DITA XML makes advanced content development and management possible, but DITA XML itself is a complex thing. For some, this complexity makes DITA XML inaccessible, and for others, the complexity over time becomes a chaotic cobweb of references and dependencies. Just looking at all these tags and attributes scares some writers off.

In a recent survey, we uncovered strong indications that the complexity of DITA XML is hindering the spread of structured writing across departments. For this reason, we created the Open DITA Manifest to make a framework that allows other ways of achieving some of the most important benefits of DITA XML, even for those who do not want to work with the complexity of XML. Open DITA is meant to allow everyone access to the power of structured writing.

Open DITA is not a specific set of DTDs like DITA XML. It is a set of functional features in a content authoring and management solution. Any solution that can be said to make these features available, is an Open DITA solution.

So here it is…

Businessman standing in front of opened doors and making decision.jpeg

The Open DITA Manifest

To comply with the Open DITA Manifest, a solution:

  • CAN use a topic persistence format different from DITA XML
  • MUST comply with the rules presented below


  1. DITA map support
  2. Content references (conref)
  3. Content types: Minimum Topic, Task, Concept, Reference
  4. Generalization to generic DITA topic supported
  5. DITAVAL support
  6. Support for semantic tagging
  7. Import DITA XML
  8. Export DITA XML
  9. Support automated processing
  10. Support styling, layout and formatting through a standard styling language

Examples of Potential Open DITA solutions

  • DITA with DOCX
  • DITA with HTML5
  • DITA with JSON

Open DITA is not competing with DITA XML. We consider Open DITA to be an extension of DITA XML. It is another door into the benefits of structured authoring. For some an Open DITA implementation will deliver all the benefits they need. For some it will be the stepping stone that allows writers to grasp the concepts of topics, conrefs and multichannel publishing before they leap into a full-fledged DITA XML implementation and begin exploiting the more advance features.

Over the next couple of blogposts, we dig deeper into the rules of Open DITA to explain why, but also how the rules can be fulfilled.

Oh, and by the way, is lightweight DITA an Open DITA implementation…? Stay tuned and let’s discuss.

Topics: DITA , Open DITA

Søren Weimann

Written by Søren Weimann

Søren Weimann is an Implementation Manager at DitaExchange. In the past he has headed numerous structured writing and DITA implementations as a Technical Lead, Information Architect and Technical Writer working for both multinational corporations and smaller companies in IT.

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