Bernard Aschwanden, founder and President of Publishing Smarter provided an informative and entertaining presentation on the lifecycle of a DITA project from planning through production and publishing to various formats. This meeting drew a good number of people “in-house” as well as many remote visitors from around the country, and one person from Malaysia.
Bernard starts off by scoping and planning the project with a spreadsheet (see Estimates.xlsx) which lists the topic type, file name, title, short description and other properties of each file to be created. This not only helps in the planning process but with a little setup (and programming) you can use this information to generate the map and stubs for all topics and a prototype of the documentation deliverable in whatever formats are needed. This initial prototype can be used as the first draft of the document to be signed off by all those involved. You can use the spreadsheet to track progress (or the lack thereof) throughout the project.
Bernard demonstrated that with DITA, “content is king,” and the tools used for authoring and publishing aren’t as important as they were before XML authoring. He worked with the files in his sample project in a number of editors, and outlined the strengths and weaknesses of each tool (oXygen, XMetaL, FrameMaker, and Serna Free). Because your content lives in XML, you’re free to mix and match editors as needed for your workflow. Different authors may have different needs, and DITA can accommodate that quite nicely as long as you’re working with a DITA-compliant editor. He then imported the content into a CMS (easyDITA), to show the potential benefits of a browser-based editor.
Be sure to check out Bernard’s website, in particular the resources area ..