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Meeting Recap: What's New and Notable for Technical Communicators in DITA 1.3
2016, Q2 (April 27, 2016)
Meeting Recap
  • What: DITA 1.3: What's new and notable for technical communicators
  • When: April 14, 2016
Lisa Logan
Lisa Logan
By Lisa Logan, Chapter Member

Kris Eberlein, chair of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, presented changes in the new DITA 1.3 at STC Carolina’s Chapter meeting on April 14. Kris and her team are the creators of the new specifications, and Kristen started the meeting describing this complex process.

Kris’ career in structured authoring dates back to the beginnings of DITA at IBM. She is a popular DITA consultant who is heavily sought-after by many companies and information architects as a coach and developer of specializations, constraints, and DITA OT plug-ins. She is a regular presenter at DITA, XML, and technical communication conferences.

DITA 1.3 was released in December, and since then, many practitioners are excited about the updates and enhancements. Authors and information architects alike will enjoy additions to conditional processing, linking, release management, highlighting, and filtering.

Unlike the three releases before it, DITA 1.3 is delivered in three editions: Base architecture, Technical Content, and Learning & Training. The latter is the all-inclusive edition. The reason for this departure from previous releases is the emergence of new audiences, including marketing, publishing, and medical information. CTR (concept, task, and reference) doesn’t make sense to these audiences because the motivation and goals are different from those of technical audiences.

This post touches upon some of the major changes, but for a more extensive list, see the link to Kristen Eberlein’s presentation at the end of this article.

  1. Troubleshooting - The first major tweak mentioned was the new troubleshooting topic type which comes complete with the following features:
    • A new @type attribute “trouble” for the <note> element
    • A new element <step>: <steptroubleshooting>
    • A new section in <task>: <tasktroubleshooting>
  2. Steps outside task topics - You can now reuse a <steps> element in another task topic or vice versa. This solves the problem of reusing steps in an ordered list elsewhere.
  3. Easier reuse in the same topic - You can now reuse within the same topic by simply adding a period after the hashtag of a topic link. For example, you can link to an element in the same topic like this <xref=“#./figure1”>.
  4. Better filtering with @deliveryTarget - This new conditional processing attribute replaces @print and allows for more finely controlled filtering for output format in both the topic and map levels.
  5. <div> Element - The new <div> element eliminates the need to start and stop a <conref>. With the new <div> element, you can group blocks of elements for reuse. For example, you can now put a <div> element around paragraph followed by a list and a figure and reuse it all at once.
  6. Scoped Keys - Scoped keys are useful for variable texts and product names. This enables material from different companies to be combined without key collision. The key scope fences off those topics. Key scopes also allow for cross-deliverable linking which is referencing content in another root map. A use case for key scopes would be omnibus publications with multiple products.
  7. Branch Filtering - Branch filtering lets you apply multiple sets of conditional processing profiles to a single map. This ability to reference multiple DITAVAL profiles within maps will make filtering multiple deliverables more efficient. Before 1.3, only a single DITAVAL profile could be associated with a master map.
  8. Rotated tables - Tables got friendlier with more control over formatting print-based tables and the introduction of the new attributes @scope and @headers for the <entry> element.
  9. New domains (groupings of elements):
    • SVG: include SVG graphics in your DITA files
    • Equation and MathML: for mathematicians
    • XML mention: for writing about elements, attributes, and namespaces.

Kris wrapped things up by discussing what was on the horizon for DITA 2.0. A lighter version awaits DITA users who want a pared down version. This will make future DITA specifications more accessible to different audiences such as marketers and medical information writers. The downside is that DITA 2.0 will most likely not be backwards-compatible with DITA 1.x releases. Nevertheless, DITA users can enjoy the robust enhancements in 1.3 and look forward to more innovations to make DITA easier and more efficient to a broader set of users.

For a more detailed list of DITA 1.3 changes,  check out Kristen Eberlein’s presentation.

Lisa can be reached at lisalogan9 at gmail dot com. End of article.

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