I read this recent conversation on the author-it-users Yahoo Group with interest. I haven’t had a need to author DITA topics with Author-it, so I have to rely on others for information on how it works. With Mike Stockman’s and Tony Watkin’s permission, I’ve written their Q&A as a blog entry.
Tony: What are your experiences with using Author-it for DITA output?
Mike: The DITA output is partial. That is, they don’t support a lot of DITA features, so that most table definitions are not passed through, bookmaps aren’t supported (although ditamaps are), reflinks aren’t supported, syntax diagrams aren’t supported, and so on. However, it’s definitely usable, so that AIT puts out the four DITA topic types (task, reference, concept, and base) properly structured, index entries are supported, tables and images are handles correctly, and so on. The best test would be to publish to DITA and see whether the results are what you’re expecting.
Tony: Is there a mechanism provided by AuthorIT for being able to search within the DITA XML generated output afterwards from within the browser when accessing the DITA output directly from the browser (i.e. not via AuthorIT)?
Mike: There is no mechanism provided by AIT for viewing DITA output. Once you have the DITA output, you can either view the XML code, or transform it into something more viewable, such as XHTML or PDF. Grab the DITA Open Toolkit, available at <http://dita-ot.sourceforge.net> for all of the tools you’ll need to transform the DITA into something else.
Tony: Also, does AuthorIT just output XML when publishing DITA or does it also produce corresponding XHTML?
Mike: AuthorIT publishes DITA by first publishing to XHTML, and then transforming that to DITA. It does not, however, leave the corresponding XHTML behind, so you can’t view it. Your choices for viewing XHTML would be to either publish from AuthorIT to XHTML directly, or transform the DITA to XHTML.
Mike’s final comments
AuthorIT’s DITA is not a fully-developed DITA solution, so don’t expect it to be. Instead, AuthorIT’s DITA output is great when you have a need for single-sourced output to multiple formats, such as if you needed Word, XHTML, *and* DITA. Where I work, for example, we use AuthorIT’s Word output for our printed docs and PDF, and use the DITA output to create our online help. If you need the advanced features of DITA that AuthorIT doesn’t support, I’d suggest going to an all-DITA authoring environment and avoid AuthorIT altogether.