Can DITA support the delivery of documentation in multiple formats (e.g., PDF, HTML) for defense users?

Delivering documentation in multiple formats, such as PDF and HTML, to defense users is a capability well-supported by DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture). DITA’s structured authoring approach and separation of content from presentation make it versatile for generating various output formats while maintaining content consistency. Here’s how DITA can support multi-format documentation delivery:

Structured Content Authoring

DITA encourages authors to create structured content using specialized elements that represent different types of information, such as concepts, tasks, and references. The content is stored in DITA XML files, which separate the content from its formatting. This separation allows authors to focus on the content’s structure and meaning, making it easier to adapt the same content to different formats.

Transformation and Styling

To deliver documentation in multiple formats, DITA relies on transformation processes. Transformation involves converting DITA XML source files into the desired output formats, such as PDF or HTML. Stylesheets and templates are used to define the formatting and layout for each output format. For instance, XSL-FO (Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects) can be employed to generate PDFs with specific page layouts, fonts, and styling, while HTML output can be generated using HTML5 and CSS.


Here’s an example of how a DITA map can specify different output formats for defense documentation:

  <title>Defense System Manual</title>
  <topicref href="introduction.dita" format="pdf html" />
  <topicref href="overview.dita" format="pdf html" />
  <topicref href="maintenance.dita" format="pdf html" />
  <!-- More topic references -->

In this example, the “format” attribute of each topic reference indicates that the content should be transformed into both PDF and HTML formats, enabling the delivery of documentation in multiple formats to cater to diverse defense user requirements.