Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cool Stuff to Look for in future DITA publishing

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First of all a big thank you to all you Oxygen XML users who have been from the very beginning the driving force behind many of the improvements we have added into the application.

In my opinion of all the people who try an application for the first time only a few of them will ever bother to write to the application's producers and give feedback about things which do not properly work. Most of them probably suffer in silence and maybe end up abandoning the application alltogether. So feedback received from people using a trial license of Oxygen and who still bother to report a problem instead of giving up is quite valuable and we are grateful for it.

We have many Oxygen DITA users and this leads to many requests to improve the DITA Open Toolkit publishing. Our policy so far has been to contribute these improvement suggestions back to the DITA Open Toolkit so that they benefit others as well. Also we should all be grateful to Jarno Elovirta, the main DITA OT contributor, guru and developer who makes all of this possible for all of us.

So here are some of the DITA publishing improvements I'm looking forward to see in the future:
  1. The Oxygen team is actively working on a DITA Open Toolkit plugin which will use CSS to render PDF output from DITA content. The plugin could be used with commercial rendering engines like Prince XML and Antenna House which support obtaining PDF from XML and CSS. Initially the plugin will provide support only for the Prince XML engine This would mean that most PDF customizations which are currently being done using XSLT could instead be done via CSS styling which is far easier for users who are not experienced XSLT developers. I will present the general architecture of the plugin on the DITA OT Day in Munich this year. And if it proves to be succesfull we are willing to make this plugin available as an open source project or part of a future DITA OT distribution. Oxygen 16.1 which will be released in a few weeks will have an experimental version of the plugin included with its bundled DITA Open Toolkit.
  2. DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 will probably generate HTML 5 compatible output by default.
  3. DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 will generate the Index page for PDF output even when using the Apache FOP processor. The changes are already incorporated in the DITA OT distribution which comes with Oxygen, you can also incorportate them quite easily in your DITA OT by modifying an XSLT stylesheet: https://github.com/dita-ot/dita-ot/pull/1587.
  4. Using the DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 you will also be able to pass profiling attributes and values from the DITA content to the generated HTML content: https://github.com/dita-ot/dita-ot/issues/1739. This means that instead of profiling the content before it is published, you will be able to profile it at publishing time by using Javascript to show/hide parts of the content depending on the user role for example.
  5. Besides lots of bug fixes Jarno Elovirta made lots of memory and processor optimizations which also will be included in the next DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 release.

I'm also looking forward for the support for the DITA 1.3 specification which will slowly begin to be implemented in future DITA Open Toolkit releases.

So what are your ideas for future DITA OT publishing enhancements?