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Best Practices are Always Best

If asked by a relatively small company to recommend tools and workflows for a moderately skilled author to create, manage, and deliver a body of content that might need to be consumed on multiple devices and exchanged with corporate wikis, websites, or other content repositories, what would you recommend?

This topic has long been close to my heart!

DITA

The most logical answer these days would be DITA or some XML authoring standard. When you use something that is non- proprietary, open, and standard, you have a better chance of withstanding the pace of changing technologies and being able to integrate with other systems without blowing a gasket.

DITA authoring tools have come a long way to be fairly simple to manage and deal with. Authoring in DITA is no longer the pain point it once was. Neither is storage, as you can now use SharePoint, or a number of well priced cloud solutions, such as DocZone or EasyDITA, or traditional locally hosted CCMSs, such as Blue Stream or Ixiasoft. SiberSafe even is offering their repository for free.

The pain point for DITA is still having to custom build the output transforms or customize the workflows. You almost have to be a programmer to handle that. Most authoring groups would prefer to be able to change their own outputs. WebWorks is a more writer-friendly tool for creating output and it takes DITA inputs. The WebWorks team have a nice selection of PDF, Help, and mobile device formats. I have been wanting to try it out for quite a while now, and  I suggest contacting WebWorks to get their white paper about linking their tool to DITA.

When you use tools that make it easier to produce outputs from DITA, or when you elect to use proprietary tools, like MadCap Flare and even the Adobe Communications Suite, you have to accept that you must live within their BOX. When you try to do things that these vendors have not built into their proprietary tools, you spend a lot of time trying to build out the customizations you need.

Ultimately, it depends on the specific requirements at hand. Today, there are so many options, including documentation frameworks like Dozouki and Vook for ePub. So, in my heart of hearts, I would stick to best practices and do not skip the requirements analysis and design phase. Even if it is done casually!

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