How does DITA help tech writers?

Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) makes large document writing more efficient and flexible to reuse across different types of content deliverables.  Chris Benz’ article “What is DITA and Why Should You Care?” in Learning Solutions Magazine, explained the perfect scenario where DITA was used to save time and money for a training course.

“In a test project for the DITA L&TC (Learning and Training Content) Specialization, a team at IBM studied content reuse in an existing training course.  They discovered that 50% of the course content had been copied from the product documentation.  Using the Specialization, they were able to automate much of that reuse, not only avoiding the cost and potential errors of manual copying and pasting, but also providing an efficient way to synchronize content updates between product documentation and training materials, and saving on the cost of translating essentially the same content twice.”

In the following posts, I’m going to attempt to learn and explain how DITA works.  So far, I know this much:  DITA uses topics, DITA maps, and output formats.  You write your DITA topics, use DITA maps to assign which topics go into which deliverable, and then you process those maps to DITA output formats to create the final deliverable.