Three Historical Assertions


Three Historical Assertions

Posted on February 2016

  1. Man will never walk on the moon.
  2. DITA is too complicated and will never be easy to implement.
  3. You can't get well-formed, valid DITA from Microsoft Word.

Let's take these one at a time.

1. Man will never walk on the moon.

I saw this on television at a time when you couldn't fake this stuff with digital animation.  In 1969 Neil Armstrong took "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."  He walked on the moon.

Result:  Myth busted on July 20, 1969.

2. DITA is too complicated and will never be easy to implement.

Well first of all, DITA is complicated, but so are machine language, cell phones, and television. Human problems are complicated, but DITA is not really a human problem.  DITA is a mark-up language and like machine language, cell phone technology, the technology of television, DITA usefulness comes from a different level.  It comes from the ability to hide the technology with an easy to use layer.  It's all about what you can do with XML when it is underneath.

Out of the box, including specializations, there are some 600 or more elements and a host of structures and facilities that someone who wants to "know DITA" needs to know (or thinks they need to know).

Now enter Lightweight DITA which offers an easy to learn incredibly useful facility for ROTO, the Rest Of The Organizaiton.  It constrains DITA to DITA Topic and DITA Map. 

Most people have an innate understanding of what a Topic is—a unit of content that can stand on its own.  And like most structured content, DITA Topics contain paragraphs, tables, lists, and images – the structures that most educated knowledge workers create every day in the published structures that information consumers require.

A DITA Map is merely a collection of DITA Topics that contribute to a larger information need or set.  It is not so hard to think about this.  Most of us have files (sort of maps) by category that contain related articles or writings on that subject.  You've been using file structures for years.

But now with a Lightweight DITA architecture, a shared repository, and modern metadata, and a broad range of publishing capabilities are readily accessible.

You can use that smart well-prepared guy's Topic in your DITA Map.

Better still, you can rely on your knowledge and experience without the confounding requirement of learning either DITA or XML.

Result:  Myth busted by newly refined approaches to DITA.

3. You can't get well-formed, valid DITA from Microsoft Word.

Last weekend at Liz Fraley & Company's TC Camp in Santa Clara I spoke with at least 5 people who were absolutely, 100%, totally and unequivocally certain that they had to dump Microsoft Word in order to implement DITA or another XML structure. Reinforcing this understanding was the knowledge that they could not allow their organization to operate in an environment of mixed tools. Clues contributing to this knowledge include the following:

Content Mapper is an authoring tool that takes full control of the MS Word User Interface. It uses style sheet transforms so that the author sees Word, but the repository sees XML. Content Mapper presents Word, but in a constrained way that is driven by the document rules, technically called a schema.

Result: Myth busted because with a product like Content Mapper, you can easily get well-formed valid XML from Microsoft Word.


Microsoft Word is an authoring tool used by a billion people. As an add-in to Microsoft Word, Content Mapper with Lightweight DITA will allow organizations to make XML and DITA a realistic enterprise architecture for content. Organizations can implement this important architecture to get control of Microsoft Word and to promote reuse and flexible publishing to the delight of the people who really matter – your information consumers.