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The Tools

Although DITA is only just exploding on to the technical writing scene, a number of tools are already available for authoring with DITA, and for outputting documents into various formats. And more are on the way.

Because DITA is based on XML, any text or XML editor can be used to author DITA documents. One popular application is the free XEmacs text editor. When combined with psgmlx (an add-on to XEmacs that makes working with XML easier), XEmacs becomes a powerful DITA editor.

Another good editor, which has both free and for-pay versions, is XXE. While originally conceived as an editor for DITA’s competing language DocBook, XXE has been extended and is now a pretty good editor for DITA documents.

XMetaL is a well-established XML editor, and the developers have put together a DITA-specific edition of the software. And the venerable Arbortext editor—long a popular tool for authoring in XML—has excellent support for DITA.

While FrameMaker is a de facto standard for writing and publishing documentation, it too is feeling the squeeze from DITA. Adobe, the developer of FrameMaker, included some DITA capabilities in version 7.2 of the software. Adobe also released a DITA Application Pack in September 2006. While the application pack is still beta software, it greatly enhances FrameMaker’s DITA capabilities.

Authoring using DITA is one thing. But how about converting DITA files to a usable format? Arguably, the most popular tool is the DITA Open Toolkit. This open source tool is easy to use and comes with a set of XSLT stylesheets to transform DITA content to HTML, XHTML, PDF, Eclipse Help, or RTF. There’s also a free adapter for the DITA Open Toolkit that enables writers to use FrameMaker as a rendering engine for DITA documents that are written in any XML editor.

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