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© 2011 Ugur Akinci
Julio Vasquez has written a great book: Practical DITA. It’s a tightly-written thin volume (only 100 pages including the Index) that has a lot of nuts-and-bolts type of practical how-to information on DITA — Darwin Information Typing Architecture.
The distinguishing characteristic of this short but comprehensive volume is the way it takes you by the hand and guides you deeper and deeper into the waters of DITA. That’s why the book starts as an easy read but gets harder and harder to follow if you insist going through it like a novel. You can’t. You need to sit down, take a pen and yellow marker, and plan to spend some time with this short book.
The chapters include:
- Getting Started with DITA
- Planning the Writing Project
- Adding Flexibility to Topics by Reusing Information
- Writing the Information
- Graphics in Your Content
- Changing the Output
- No Topic is an Island
- Helping Readers Find Information
Practical DITA is for anyone who’d like to specialize in structured authoring and single-sourcing.
My only beef with this otherwise great volume is this: as you keep reading it, you start to feel that the style is a bit stilted; that the sentences are not flowing smoothly in certain sections; that it feels almost as though the same sentence and paragraph structure was used on different pages. You sense that the book is almost TOO structured and then on the last page you realize why — the whole book itself was written by using DITA.
I believe structured authoring is a great tool for writing user assistance information and all kinds of reference materials.
But an information product like a BOOK, a traditional book at that with front and back covers, should not be written by DITA since it produces a text that does not flow easily. I think we humans still want a little bit of humor, a little spark and dance and dazzle to keep us engaged with the content. We are still not “content download” machines, yet.
With that reservation, I recommend this work to all technical communicators who’d like to expand their knowledge of DITA.