Monday, June 27, 2016

Guided DITA Authoring Solution Overview

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We've had past blog posts about how Oxygen can be used to impose various editing behaviors for your team. In this blog post, we are going to try to bring all of these solutions together in a comprehensive overview.

Learning to Work with DITA and Oxygen

You can find useful links for learning to edit DITA using Oxygen in this previous blog post:

Migrating to DITA

There are multiple reasons why you would want to migrate from unstructured content to structured:

This older blog post details some possibilities of migrating Word documents to DITA: You also have ways to migrate from XML-based standards (like DocBook or XHTML to DITA) using a set of predefined transformation scenarios.

Implementing Your own Style Guide

Let's say you are a team of technical writers collaborating on a DITA-based project and suppose that you have your own various best practices in regards to which elements to use and when to use them. So, at some point you gather a set of HTML resources that explain how various DITA elements should be used, you store them on an internal server, and you want all your team members to have access to that set of HTML resources directly from Oxygen. This blog post provides more details and useful links to help you get started:

Imposing Controlled Attribute Values

If you want to impose DITA attribute values that need to be set for profiling or general use, this blog post should cover all you need to know about this:

Restricting the Visual Editing Experience

The entire visual editing experience using the Author editing mode in Oxygen is CSS driven. Oxygen has support for defining various CSS layers that can be applied when editing DITA content. For example, if you choose to create a Lightweight DITA topic in Oxygen, it has a special editing layer that allows it to be edited with a combination of buttons, hints, and form controls.

Imposing Business Rules and Structure Restrictions to the DITA Content

In most cases, instead of relying on people to memorize numerous internal documentation style rules, you can convert many of these rules to Schematron and allow the application to automatically signal the content author when a rule is violated. You can also add quick fixes to show authors various ways to rectify the problem. This blog post contains more details about this:

Running Batch Validation Checks on all of Your DITA Content

The Validate and Check For Completeness tool available in the DITA Maps Manager view performs a lot of different consistency checks on all your DITA topics. It can also be used to apply Schematron business rules on all of your topics:

Sharing DITA Editing Customizations with Your Team

Most of the custom editing behaviors, toolbar, and menu buttons that are available when editing DITA content are defined in the DITA framework configuration. A framework configuration's general anatomy is described here:

The framework configuration can be shared with all of your team members. For example, here is a way to restrict team members from using certain DITA elements: Furthermore, here is a way to distribute new DITA file templates to your team:

Sharing Global Application Settings with Your Team

Let's say you want all of your team members to enable the automatic spell checker when writing documentation, or you want all of them to use a custom term dictionary or a custom set of learned words. This older blog post offers some hints about how global Oxygen settings can be distributed to your team members:

Collaboration, Content Management, and Version Tracking

All major Component Management Systems (CMSs) have plugins that can be installed in Oxygen to provide access to the CMS: Even if you lack the funds to buy a commercial CMS, there are still plenty of open source version tracking solutions that allow collaboration for a single DITA project: For example, the Oxygen User's Manual is written in DITA and we use a GitHub private repository to collaborate on it:

Allowing Subject Matter Experts to Review Content

Many technical writers are interested in having their content reviewed by the subject matter experts who are directly involved in building the tools. Oxygen has support for change tracking and adding comments directly in the edited content. Subject matter experts do not necessarily need to have the standalone version of Oxygen installed. The Oxygen Web Author is an online editing and reviewing solution that allows them to add comments and propose changes directly in the DITA content by using any device with a web browser (laptop, tablet, phone):

I hope this overview will help you to implement a complete guided authoring experience using Oxygen. As usual, if you have any questions or suggestions, they are welcome.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Enable Massive Contributions with oXygen XML Web Author and GitHub

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Early in 2016, a new product was added to the oXygen XML set of tools - the oXygen XML Web Author. It leverages the power of oXygen XML Author (which basically runs on the server side) and provides access to XML authoring from any modern device that supports a browser capable of rendering HTML5+JavaScript, including desktops and mobile devices like your smart phone or tablet.

The real power of web-based XML authoring can be seen when it is integrated as part of a workflow, simplifying it by reducing a large number of steps to just a few. This is what the GitHub connector provides!

If you have XML content on GitHub, you can then provide a link that will open a file in the oXygen XML Web Author and anyone will be able to review or edit it just by accessing the link and saving (a GitHub account is of course required).

When you save a file, assuming you do not have commit access on that repository, the GitHub connector will automatically:
  • fork the project into your account, if it is not already
  • create a new branch from the edited branch
  • commit your changes on this newly created branch
  • create a pull request from your newly created branch to the originally edited branch
  • switch the editor to your branch so further save operations will just add new commits to your branch, thus updating the pull request with new changes
This is a great simplification of the contribution process, a contributor just follows a link and saves the file, and all the magic to create the pull request happens automatically.

If the XML source is published, then it is possible to include an "Edit this page" link on the published format that will allow immediate access to the editor. An example of such access is provided for the DITA-OT documentation project. The development branch is published at and every page contains an "Edit this page" link at the bottom that gives immediate access to the DITA topic that page is generated from.

For example, the page shows the DITA 1.3 support in DITA-OT and the "Edit this page" link will send you to the DITA_v1-3-support.dita topic. If you edit a file and then save it, a pull request with your changes will be automatically generated. Content contribution cannot be easier than this!

Next, we plan to have the "Edit this page" link available in every page of the oXygen documentation, which is also hosted on GitHub at
Hope you find this useful!

Guided Authoring: Enforcing Editing Rules

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Webinar - Guided Authoring:
Enforcing Editing Rules

This webinar presented a way of imposing various rules that your content authors need to follow, such as grammar rules, document structure guidelines, business requirements, style preferences, or rules for the generated output. 

When editing documents there are various rules that you want your content authors to follow, such as grammar rules, document structure guidelines, business requirements, style preferences, or rules for the generated output. To enforce these rules, companies often use grammar checking apps, custom schemas or best practice guides.

For content authors, there are usually too many rules to remember them all when writing content. The best approach for this challenge is to signal the user when a rule violation is detected and offer suggestions to help them solve possible rule problems and maintain integrity in their documentation.

A recording of the event, sample files, and slides are available on our website: 

Discover the technology behind the fix proposals for business rules by attending our next webinar: Understanding and Developing Schematron Quick Fixes - Jul 14, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

DITA-OT Day 2016

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Oxygen XML Editor is happy to organize the 3rd edition of the DITA-OT Day event, which will take place this year in Munich, Germany, on November 13:

This is a great chance to meet the main DITA-OT developers, Jarno Elovirta and Robert Anderson, as well as other contributors and users of the most used project in the DITA community!

More, there is no registration fee, it is a free event!
Because lunch and coffee breaks are provided, we need to know how many of you will be there, so registration is required:

The DITA-OT Day shares the same location as DITA Europe, the Hilton Munich City hotel, and it takes place the day just before DITA Europe.  It is also two days after the TCWorld conference, which takes place in Stuttgart, so it is very convenient to attend DITA-OT Day if you also plan to go to DITA Europe or/and TCWorld.

We are working on putting together the agenda for this year and we are collecting proposals for interesting topics. If you want to contribute please submit a proposal as described at:

If you did not attend the DITA-OT Day event before, check out the agenda and recordings of the previous events:

Hope to see many of you at DITA-OT Day 2016!