A Brief Guide to DITA

DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) is an open standard which has rapidly gained momentum in organisations that need to communicate complex information to internal and external clients.

DITA is an XML-based, end-to-end architecture developed for authoring, producing and delivering information as discrete, typed topics. Information delivered using the DITA architecture is usually technical or scientific in nature and published as online help, through product support websites, or as print-ready PDF files.

Recent innovations include support for Markdown content and a “Lightweight DITA” which simplifies the semantic markup, making it accessible to a wider range of tooling, and a broader range of content contributers.

Use of DITA promotes:

  • information re-use
  • single sourcing
  • specialisation (the architecture is extensible by specialising dtds, domains and elements)


DITA originated and is extensively used throughout the IBM Corporation; in 2005 it was adopted as an OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) standard.

DITA is currently used in many organizations world-wide, and is supported by a growing list of commercial and open-source tools and Content Management Systems (CMS).

DITA is actively being extended and enhanced under the direction of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee (TC).


The DITA architecture, using appropriate tools, is used to:

  • Create, manage, and publish XML-based, structured information in a wide variety of environments and platforms
  • Facilitate information sharing and re-use, and collaborative writing projects
  • Reduce writing, publishing, and translation costs

The architecture has been designed around technical documentation best practice, supporting modularity, structured writing, information typing, minimalism, object-orientation, inheritance, specialization, simplified XML, single-sourcing, topic-based, semantic mark-up, conditional processing, component publishing, task-orientation, content reuse, multiple output formats, and multi-channel delivery.

The volume of benefits that flow from this architecture grow with increased exploitation of the advanced functionality: efficient information use and re-use come through semantic mark-up, conditional processing and the specialisation of types which model the business or technical domain.

DITA Open Toolkit

The DITA Open Toolkit is an implementation of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee’s specification for DITA DTDs and schemas. The Toolkit, which can be used in the Windows, Linux, and Mac OS operating environments, transforms DITA content (maps and topics) into deliverable formats.

DITA Open Toolkit supports the following publishing environments:

  • HTML Help
  • JavaHelp
  • PDF
  • troff
  • Word RTF
  • DocBook
  • Eclipse content
  • Eclipse help

Check out the latest specification on the OASIS web site here: http://docs.oasis-open.org/dita/dita/v1.3/dita-v1.3-part0-overview.html