Saturday, September 4, 2010

DITA tools - 4 (Authoring)

I've had quite a few of my friends say, "Well, yes, we can do the information typing and we also totally get the semantic tagging concept of DITA but when we get down to actually writing in DITA, it is a bit of a hassle trying to remember all the tag names and where they are allowed. Is there a free WYSISYG editor for all this?"

In a previous blog post I had mentioned one such DITA authoring tool. In this blog post, I will talk about another.

The Serna XML Editor has a free edition that I've been using the past couple of weeks to do some personal stuff in DITA. For DITA authoring, I really like it and for the following reasons:
  • It comes bundled with the DITA open toolkit. I don't have to download and install the OT separately.
  • It also has DocBook (which is next on my personal ToDo list).
  • Its validators will not let you insert a DITA tag at a place where the tag is not allowed. You will be shown a list of allowable tags, with hovertext for each tag.

    To see a larger image, click on the image
  • It lets you define the attributes of any element through an element-specific wizard page.

    To see a larger image, click on the image
  • It lets you drag and drop elements. This is something we (writers) take for granted in our word-processing software but not many free XML editors have this feature.
  • It is WYSIWYG - not only in terms of DITA tags but also for output previews. To my knowledge, no other free XML editor gives a preview of the output.

    To see a larger image, click on the image
  • It comes bundled with a transform engine (that's how it has the inbuilt output preview feature). This means you don't need a separate software for running the transforms. You do, however, need the JRE (if you want to publish to XHTML) and FOP (if you want to publish to PDF) - both of which are free to download and easy to install

The Syntext Serna Free XML Editor can be downloaded from

Some of the 'cons' that I've noticed thus far (I am not sure if these are a restriction for the free edition):
  • The glossary specialisation, though supported, does not result in transformed XHTML files.
  • Bookmaps, though supported, don't get transformed.


Lethallogic said...

Do you know of any tool that could transform a lightweight markup language such as "AsciiDoc" to DITA compliant XML?

"AsciiDoc" outputs DocBook but my company uses DITA, and I want to use simple markup to write my documents (for readability reasons)

Anindita said...

DITA is XML. When you write in DITA, you write in XML, so I am not sure I understand when you say you want something in DITA compliant XML.