Getting started with the DITA Open Toolkit

Who should attend this course?

Nearly all DITA content management systems and editors use the DITA Open Toolkit to publish output. This toolkit is, as the name implies, a flexible platform with which to build ones own preferred output styles and tailored format. Yet, Open Toolkit configuration is seen as an esoteric task, for specialists only. This course is an accessible, insightful introduction to DITA-OT programming. It is intended for two primary roles: developers or authors who need to maintain publishing stylesheets; and technically-minded team leaders.

Duration 2 Days
Price Call for details
Location Mekon House, Sutton, London, SM1 1JN, UK, or at your premises.


For those who need to maintain and extend their organization’s publishing stylesheets, the course enables you to perform simple customizations to output such as changing fonts and colours, and provides a sound grounding in the DITA-OT framework to prepare you for further learning and more complex development tasks in the future.

For technically-minded team leaders who need to co-ordinate DITA-OT development work, the course gives you valuable insight into the structure and assumptions of the DITA-OT, so that you know:

  • Which tasks require most development effort than others, and why
  • What are some sensible approaches to common development requirements, and what approaches should you avoid?
  • What do your DITA-OT developers mean when they talk about XSL templates? String variables? Attribute sets?

The course is based on DITA-OT version 2, which offers major improvements in developer efficiency and performance, and is being adopted by the major DITA tool vendors. Nevertheless, the course provides much valuable information that applies to all versions of the DITA-OT.

Included in this course

  • Overview
  • Architecture (ANT, build files, plugins)
  • Common pre-processing
  • XHTML pipeline
  • PDF pipeline & rendering engines
  • Modifying HTML output (XSLT, CSS)
  • Modifying PDF output (XSL-FO)
  • Development process
  • Scoping projects

Length of course

2 Days

Course outline

First day: morning

  • The basic components of the DITA-OT components and what they do
  • The plugin architecture and location of key files such as build files, XSLTs, string variables
  • Working through a simple modification to HTML output
  • Some XSLT basics

First day: afternoon

  • The common pre-processing steps
  • The XHTML publishing pipeline, and the implications for development effort of various customizations
  • Best practices for the development process, including directory structures, testing, and deployment

Second day: morning

  • The PDF publishing pipeline, and the implications for customizations
  • Working through simple customizations of PDF output, using development best practices
  • An introduction to XSL-FO
  • Overview of PDF rendering engines

Second day: afternoon

  • Scoping & planning development projects
  • A hierarchy of customization tasks from small to big: from basic CSS/ANT tweaks to customizing the core behavior of the DITA-OT