What is a topic in DITA?

The topic is the core working piece of DITA.  Some people may call a topic an article.  Like an article, it has a title and content all pertaining to one subject or “topic.”  Most of the time a topic covers one step in a process.  A topic is part of an organized collection of related topics which can be delivered in different output formats.  For instance, you can organize the topics to become an instruction manual in PDF, online help, or HTML website.  That’s the lovely thing about DITA, the information is transferable across different mediums and can be reused and distributed among several different projects. 

Topic-based writing is advantageous to both the user of your products and the writing team itself. 

A topic has the following characteristics:

  • Meaningful titles
  • Ability to stand along from other content
  • Logical organization
  • Links to other topics with related information

DITA supports topic-based writing.  DITA stands for Darwin Information Typing Architecture.  The “Darwin” part refers to the hierarchy and structure of parent topics and child topics.  The Information Typing refers to the three types of topics:  task topics, conceptual topics, and reference topics.  Or at least that’s the way I surmise this.  Architecture refers to the mapping and organizing of many topics housed in one building of sorts.