DITA concepts – improving the documentation process

Dr Tony Self

This workshop teaches the basic principles and theory of DITA, and the techniques required to create quality DITA content.


Duration: 10 hours hour(s)

Date: Various

Cost: 850,00 + tax

About This course

DITA is a difficult thing to explain. It is difficult because we expect it to be a product or a technology, when it is actually a standard and a methodology. DITA provides an approach to technical communication that embraces best practice concepts such as modularity, single-sourcing, minimalism, and content re-use. The reasons for moving to DITA are business-focussed, not technology-focussed. This self-paced video workshop explains the principles underlying DITA, from XML to semantic markup to component content management systems. This is your chance to learn what DITA is, how it may be relevant to your circumstances, and how it might influence your writing practices.


  • The nature of open source standards.
  • The basics of XML technologies.
  • The principles of structured authoring.
  • How topic-based architecture and modularity promotes content re-use.
  • The practical benefits of separation of content and form.
  • The role of maps in organising and structuring content.
  • The effect of information typing on readability and finability.
  • How DITA specialisation works to support different content models.
  • The logic and importance of semantic mark-up.
  • How conditional publishing is enabled through metadata.
  • How DITA maps are key to document engineering.
  • The way in which DITA tools are used to manage and publish content.

I thought Tony's explanation of DITA was very clear and removed some of the mysteries about it.


This is a self-paced workshop of ten lessons totalling around 10 hours of instruction that can be completed over a four week period. Each lesson builds on the previous to build a strong fundamental understanding of the principal concepts of DITA.


  • Standards and elementary XML
    • Open Source and OASIS
    • Elements and attributes
    • Well-formedness and validity
    • DITA Open Toolkit
  • Separation of Content and Form
    • Structured Authoring vs Style-based Authoring
    • Semantic Markup
    • The importance of presentational style
  • Topic-based architecture and information types
    • Topical information units
    • Content models
    • Information typing
  • Maps
    • Collecting and organising topics
    • Manifests: Ditamaps and bookmaps
  • Modularity and document engineering
    • Repositories of content
    • Single-sourcing
    • Roles in a documentation team
  • Content re-use
    • Transclusion
    • Write Once and Once Only
    • Conrefs and keys
  • Conditional publishing and metadata
    • Audience, product, platform
    • Metadata is everywhere
    • Filtering, flagging and profiling
    • Ditaval
  • Specialisation
    • Darwin and specialisation
    • Constraints
    • Generalisation
  • Component content management
    • Editing content
    • Managing modular pieces of content
    • Working in editorial teams
  • Publishing and transformation
    • Transformation concepts
    • XSL-T, XPath, and XSL-FO
    • CSS in DITA publishing
    • Dynamic publishing


  • Any technical author, writer or editor who is ready to engage in a topic-based documentation project, especially a project based on DITA.
  • No previous knowledge of DITA is required or expected.


Tony Self has worked as a technical communicator for over 30 years, specialising in help systems and hypertext documents.  In 1993 Tony founded HyperWrite, which offers consultancy and specialised training in documentation solutions. He has previously lectured in Technical Communication at Swinburne University, and was Director of Training at tekom’s TCTrainNet. Tony is a Fellow of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communication, a member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, and holds a PhD in semantic mark-up languages, a Graduate Diploma in Technical Communication, and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. He is the author of “The DITA Style Guide”.

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