easyDITA: A Solution for True Enterprise Content Creation and Delivery

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logoCompanies looking to implement a solution for enterprise content creation can be doubly challenged—finding a solution that can manage the complex workflows and technical content needs, while still being accessible to and usable by non-technical staff with other content needs. easyDITA has been working since 2005 to deliver creation, collaboration, and workflow tools that support all the content needs of today’s dynamic organizations.

Among technical communicators, DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) is probably the best known standard for XML authoring. However, implementing DITA and structured authoring processes can be a daunting prospect for technical publications/content teams, much less other teams in the organization who produce content on a regular basis. The folks at easyDITA believe that anyone can author structured content, and they’ve built a comprehensive set of XML tools that prove it every day.

easyDITA Leverages XML and DITA within the SaaS Model

To achieve the company’s mission—“to future-proof content creation and delivery systems so the people who use it can enjoy all the benefits of DITA while avoiding costly and inefficient structured content implementations”—easyDITA designed a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that leverages the capabilities of XML while hiding the DITA complexity “under the hood.”

Accessed through a browser, the easyDITA tools run on any operating system, with no systems integration headaches or large upfront deployment costs. With this cloud-based solution, inexperienced writers and editors, and those outside the technical communication field, don’t face the intimidation factor of tags and brackets found in XML, because the user interface is designed using a highly familiar word processing approach.

At the same time, experts can use a fully-featured structured authoring tool with access to all the DITA elements they need, including DITA specializations like Learning and Training. The DITA code contains nothing proprietary. Content can be exported from easyDITA and loaded it into any other XML system, avoiding risk from “vendor lock-in.”

The Latest easyDITA: A Complete Solution

The easyDITA cloud-based solution includes these web applications:

  • easyDITA Editor: Full-featured DITA authoring in a WYSIWYG editor.
  • On-line Collaboration: Review, approve, discuss, and contribute content.
  • Content Manager:  a DITA CMS that stores, searches, retrieves, and manages DITA content, including DITA link management.
  • Publication Manager: Publish DITA maps to the server using the DITA Open Toolkit or other publishing pipelines, including Antenna House, SuiteHelp, and MindTouch.
  • easyDITA Map Editor: Search DITA components and compose maps by dragging and dropping topics into an outline structure.
  • Localization Manager: Export DITA content to a localization solution using XLIFF, then import localized files to manage and publish them from easyDITA.
easyDITA Editor Interface

easyDITA supports experienced technical pros and less technical writers and editors with a familiar word-processing interface, supplemented by a metadata summary, and change history.

Technical documentation is complex and never stops changing. One of the advantages of DITA is that it breaks information down into modules, so when changes happen information can be revised in one place and then automatically updated in every document that uses it. Effectively managing these “components” is difficult without some enabling technology. That’s why easyDITA combines its authoring tool with a complete component content management system (CCMS) to provide all the functionality a documentation team needs to store, find and reuse content. The CCMS is fully integrated into a single-source repository, including images and media files. The system runs in a native XML database, which can be hosted either on the customer’s servers or in the cloud. Because easyDITA is cloud-based, it opens up possibilities for collaboration across the organization, without the added costs of seat licenses and software deployment. Content owners assign jobs to authors, reviewers and approvers in easyDITA’s ticket-based workflow system, which manages review separately from content modification, and creates an audit trail for all collaboration. In addition, content can be localized more efficiently, to ensure that all languages are ready to go at the same time, which can improve time to market.

Authors can quickly and easily produce a high quality PDF, HTML5 web portal or mobile app, or export to an enterprise content management system (ECM) or wiki. easyDITA supports the DITA Open Toolkit, so authors or content managers can upload existing publishing pipelines to their servers and publish online in minutes. easyDITA’s plug-in architecture also integrates with third-party products like Antenna House, SuiteShare, and MindTouch and is expandable to address future publishing tools.

The newest release of easyDITA includes a new monitoring and reporting tool to support collaboration and workflow management.  Progress Manager captures data from Ticket Manager, as well as status updates to provide a dashboard-like approach to monitoring progress on a project.

Extending Structured Authoring and Multichannel Delivery beyond Tech Pubs

As structured authoring continues to evolve, organizations look to build, reuse, refresh and manage content across functional areas, with one goal in mind: improving the customer experience. easyDITA can display feedback from customers right on the content itself, taking the guesswork out of content development.

Socially-enabled product documentation gathers valuable insights into what kind of content customers want and helps identify and troubleshoot material that is unclear. Content that is accurate and responsive improves customer satisfaction.

Content developers aligned with marketing, product management, support and training face the same challenges and have the same needs for accurate, relevant and responsive content as technical communicators. The easyDITA solution provides an enterprise-level approach to managing content, keeping the complexity of XML authoring hidden from view, and simplifying every step along the way.

easyDITA emphasizes the need to future-proof content with features that streamline and enhance two-way delivery—of both content and customer feedback. Using W3C standard APIs and JavaScript, easyDITA is context-aware, pulling customer data (including geolocation, touch, orientation, direction and motion) directly from the device when the customer accesses content. Customers receive personalized information based on who they are, where they are, what language they speak and what device they are using. And customer feedback can be delivered directly into the content itself, to make content maintenance easier and faster.

easyDITA is committed to a product roadmap that includes continuous improvements and an annual release that contains major improvements to the customer experience and better performance under the hood. The upcoming February 2014 release includes several major functionality improvements and additions (some features are in beta as of this writing):

  • Search: extends easyDITA’s powerful full text searching to include new tagging, metadata and taxonomy features to facilitate retrieval and content reuse.
  • Map Editor: enhances the Content Manager functionality for faster searches and loads, and improves drag-and-drop capabilities for creating and modifying DITA maps.
  • Localization Manager: enables an end-to-end workflow with easier uploads and downloads to and from translation partners, as well as tight integration with the easyDITA editor and Publication Manager apps.
  • Release Management: fully supports teams that manage multiple product versions simultaneously, extending their ability to share and reuse content.

Conclusion

easyDITA has always provided documentation teams with comprehensive tools to collaborate, share, reuse, manage and publish structured technical content. That helps teams demonstrate dramatic cost savings and faster time-to-market results. Now, the company is moving to extend the benefits of structure to other business functions. Their recent white paper, DITA for Everyone, explores ways that DITA can improve content-intensive business processes in the product development, marketing, support and training departments. With an easy-to-use tool to collaboratively author and share documents, technical writers can use their DITA-based knowledge, experience, and tools to help the whole organization succeed.

Interested in giving them a try? Go to their website for a free trial.

This article and all TechWhirl articles on DITA are brought to you by easyDITA, the all-in-one DITA authoring and content management solution at easydita.com.

Connie Giordano

Connie Giordano is a partner in INKtopia Limited and editor of TechWhirl's Tech Writer Today online magazine. She has been a list member and contributor since the days when 14,400 baud was high speed communications, and Windows 95 was state-of-the-art.

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