Plan Your DITA XML Output Strategy First

Unfortunately, even after you learn to author in DITA XML, after learning to create the format instructions, after finding a translation agency that treats your new topics the way they deserve, you are not done. No time for a victory lap. Time to engage your output strategy.

Even more unfortunately, if you have not done those things you ought to have done continuously throughout the process, your output strategy will be more of an output mess. You must plan for and begin your output strategy at the beginning.

Plan, plan, and then plan some more

Since you are using a Task, Concept, and Reference format, decide in advance which type of topics will be Concept and which will be Reference. This is not always clear or easy to distinguish. Are all your introductory paragraphs a Concept topic? How about explanatory sections that don’t have any tables or reference type information, are they concept or reference? Hash these details out with the entire team beforehand and make sure everyone is on the same page. Do not assume everyone thinks the same way. We definitely don’t.

Are the illustrators on board? Have they worked out a style for the callouts? Have you planned for maintenance instructions that are almost completely illustrations and how do you make these topics appear consistent with text topics? Are you using a standard resolution or will you have to use conditional text or another DITA device to provide one illustration for the PDF output and another for HTML output? Has anyone considered mobile device outputs?

When writing the online help topic for a sub window, for example a dialog box with window-level help, do you repeat the main window section or create a subset of information? How do you handle examples? Is someone in charge of reviewing the daily output for consistency of style? Is that person clear on what the styles should be? Design all these information types in advance of starting the project.

Since you are using topic-based authoring, you are going to have a lot of files. Have you determined how to keep track of all these files? Do you have a useful file naming convention or are you using a Content Management System? If you want to reuse a particular file, are you going to be able to find it? Have you worked out which information bits, such as Notes, Cautions, and Warnings, will be used repeatedly?

Meet early and often

Most projects involving more than a single writer have some sort of kick-off meeting to establish duties and schedules. Add philosophy of DITA to this meeting. Make sure everyone understands how DITA works, how to use topic-based authoring, and how to write using a minimalist style. Minimalism isn’t mandatory to this process but it is smart. Have follow- keluaran hk   up meetings, maybe even daily, to make certain everyone is staying on track and keeping within the styles set for each part of the document or user interface instructions. Have the person who is monitoring styles bring up the issues from the previous day’s output.

Set up realistic and beneficial translation schedules

Set up a translation schedule at the first meeting and update the schedule constantly. This may be the most difficult adjustment for both your group and the translation agency. Translation agencies are used to receiving the bulk of files toward the end of the project with corrections and additions in the last couple of weeks or so.


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