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DITA Usage Survey

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A week or two ago I opened a survey about various ways in which people are using DITA. The survey was taken by more than 50 distinct DITA users and I think it indicated quite clearly some trends in the industry. As I said from the beginning,

I will try below to sum up some of the results:

GIT is on a roll

GIT overcomes Subversion to be the most popular open source solution for version control used in DITA projects. Although most users who responded seem to use open source solutions for version control, there is a solid portion of them using commercial CMSs probably specialized in DITA content. I suspect that people with small to medium projects prefer open source solutions because they are more affordable for their small group of writers.

PDF is still the most popular output format

Most of the participants identified PDF as being their primary output format. Most of them output both to PDF and XHTML but the choice of PDF as the primary output format looks very clear.

Indirect addressing is becoming the main way of reusing content

Plain content references are still used more than content key references but key references are strongly used as well so it seems that indirect ways of addressing content win this game.

DITA 1.3 features

Besides the use of key scopes and branch filtering (which comes as no surprise) it would see that the troubleshooting topic and use of SVG embedded directly inside DITA content come as strong needs that DITA 1.3 fulfills.

Popular image formats

The fact that PNG is the most popular image format comes as no surprise. But SVG coming in as a close second identifies an increasing trend of using vectorial images in technical documentation. Besides the benefit of being vectorial and not losing information when scaled, SVG allows you the unique capability of translating various parts of the image.

Major DITA frustrations

It would seem there are two major DITA frustrations:
  • PDF Customization difficulties. This in my opinion wins the cake in this category. Customizations for the standard PDF output are hard, they required knowledge of XSLT, XSL-FO and of the PDF plugin architecture. But alternatives do exist:Possibilities to obtain PDF from DITA
  • "DITA is perceived as too complex for casual users." This quote says it all, the entry level is high. There are also complains about linking, filtering and reuse. All these come from the DITA flexibility and the fact that each new version adds new elements and ways of working with content. And although DITA can be specialized and reduced as a vocabulary, I suspect not many people are doing that.

That's all I wanted to cover in this post, so go ahead, enjoy the survey results and any comments are as usual welcomed.