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Technical Writing
April 28, 2020
xx min read

DITA Reuse, Pie, and How Copy-Pasting Content Is Copy-Wasting Time

You’ve heard about reuse being one of DITA’s most formidable time-saving capabilities, but do you truly know what it looks like? It’s as easy as pie.

I love pie. My grandmother makes great pies and has this old handwritten recipe book she’s kept for a long time. Now, even with the different types of pies out there, most share some of the same essential ingredients that most baked goods call for; flour, eggs, sugar, milk, butter, etc.Gran had hand-copied these same ingredients, even down to the same measurements, to her confection lexicon each time the recipe called for it. No matter how often the same ingredients and measurements were duplicated (which was a lot of places) she would hand-write the copy. I wonder if she’d ever thought about how neat it would be to write those ingredients once and have them appear in each recipe they were called for. Were she developing her recipe book with DITA XML, the reuse capability would allow her to do that and more. Write once, reuse everywhere, as fast as the click of a button. We’ll hang on to grandma’s recipe book as we unpack the rationale behind DITA reuse, what it looks like, and how it’ll save you time.

Structured Content Is Made For Reuse

Structured content is constructed in components, which requires you to think of content a little differently. Where linear content will have you thinking of a whole pie recipe as the one piece of content itself, component content will have you thinking about the individual pieces that make up the recipe. For instance, eggs would be a single content component; able to exist by itself and stand-alone without depending on surrounding contexts. The same is true of sugar, flour, butter, etc. When those individual components are pieced together with the other component ingredients, you build a piece of content, your complete pie recipe. Yet, each individual component can exist on its own. This component independence allows you to reuse those components in whatever recipe they’re needed. When grandma has 25 pies that all have those basic ingredients, she only has to write them as components once and they can be published and reused wherever needed. At least she would if she had DITA XML on her side. That sure beats copy-pasting or rewriting in 25 different recipes, doesn’t it?

With Easy Translation & Localization, Reuse -- Like Pie -- Is Great In Any Language

DITA reuse allows you to translate and localize your content components quicker than ever before. The structure of DITA content lends itself to efficient internationalization by making bite-sized pieces of content easy to translate, rather than one long document. The basic ingredients in grandma’s pies aren’t changing from one place to another, but recipe languages and standards for measurement will. When these ingredients and their measurements are developed as individual components, they can be reused and translated where needed with click-button ease. Because content is organized in topic components, a DITA Component Content Management System (CCMS) allows those components to be packaged, sent off, and translated into whatever language and locale we want to share pies with. This isn’t the case with translating linear content, which needs to be translated line-by-line, just like it was written.

Reuse > Copy-Paste

Copy-pasting is good for when you want to pass off a funny tweet as your own because you’re not clever enough. It has its place in content, too, but it’s hardly a sustainable solution as your content library grows.Reuse is good when you don’t want to rewrite or copy something that’s the same in several pieces of content in your library. Reuse ensures that you have something correctly recorded in one place, ready to deploy everywhere it’s needed, fast and worry-free.Reuse goes a step further by being a powerful tool for leveraging your componentized content. DITA XML is reuse ready, giving you the power and freedom to write once, reuse endlessly, edit at will, and publish everywhere. If you’re looking for more tangible ways to solidify the value of a DITA solution, reuse is just the beginning. To learn more about the capabilities of DITA XML, check out these links:

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