Online groups, autumn 2009


One member has a set of XML-based topics that he wants to use to make reference documentation. He thinks that the DITA Open Toolkit ( is suitable, except for some formatting problems with RTF.

The RTF output from DITA is considered to be only sufficient, not high quality. RTF output has many limitations. For high-quality output, you must do work to get what you want.

Possibly, PDF is a better option for client documentation. However, if requirements are not standard, expect to put much effort into the process. Advanced PDF output is supported in the DITA community. The best results come from the PDF2 plug-in (also known as the Idiom FO plug-in). The PDF2 plug-in requires the use of the commercial XEP rendering engine (

The dita-users group on Yahoo is a good source of information about DITA.

3D illustration software

One member wants software to use at home for 3D illustrations for mechanical and electrical components. He wants to create exploded views, cutaways and ghosting effects (the outer surface is partly transparent).

Members recommended many tools:

Agile methods for technical publications

Can agile methods be used to manage documentation projects? For writing tasks, one member wants technical publication sprints that are not related to development sprints. Stakeholders include the localization team, the development team and the quality assurance team. The development sprints do not let her be as efficient as she needs to be, and they are not suitable for the needs of technical publication experts.

One member works in an organization that uses XP (Extreme Programming). The basic principles are the same as for agile methods. Putting one technical communicator in each agile team is important. Make sure that the technical communicators work in a way that lets you track their work. Typically, use a small and equivalent method to the development team. For more information about agile methods and technical documentation, read the member's blog.


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