OASIS backs reusable content spec for docs

OASIS this week said it has formed a technical committee to advance Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), an XML-based document creation and management standard for authoring reusable content in documents.

Through DITA, content reuse is built into the authoring process. The XML architecture defined by the newly formed OASIS DITA Technical Committee will be used to design, write, and publish technical documentation in print and on the Web, OASIS said.

DITA would be used in products such as help systems and technical manuals, said David Schell, senior manager at IBM responsible for authoring tools for information development groups and convener of the OASIS technical committee.

DITA, which is being submitted to OASIS by IBM, will be a standard for the interchange and sharing of content, Schell said. The first meeting of the technical committee is planned for next month. It has no timetable yet for specific deliverables.

DITA will extend existing content markup techniques to represent domains of specialized markup that are common across sets of topics, such as hardware versus software. Larger documents can be created by aggregating topic units. Content referencing combines several topics into a single document or allows content-sharing among topics, according to OASIS.

"Authors write individual topics as opposed to doing a linear book. In DITA, we have a methodology to recombine those topics," Schell said.

By enabling definitive semantics, DITA allows for processes that can be more automated, consistent authoring, and better applicability to specific industries. Through a common specification, DITA content owners will benefit from industry support, interoperability, and reuse of community contributions, OASIS said. Through specialization, content owners can address specific requirements of a business or industry.

With DITA, the distinction between reusable content and reusing content disappears because DITA features a unified content reuse mechanism that enables an element to replace itself with content of a like element elsewhere. Reused content can exist in a valid XML file with a DTD, enabling reused content that is validated at authoring time rather than at reuse time.

OASIS DITA Technical Committee members include representatives of Arbortext, Innodata Isogen, IBM, and others.

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