The following are some thoughts and observations I had while coming up with the initial version of this list, which has a permanent home here.The intent was to capture all CMSes that claim to be DITA-capable, and use that as a starting point to build a more robust list to aid those people seeking a DITA CMS to fit their needs. There are separate lists for DITA-capable CMSes designed for English, Dutch and Japanese technical writers. If you are seeking a DITA CMS, I also urge you to look read an article I wrote on the process of selecting a DITA CMS.
Not All CMSes are Alike
First, a word on what’s in the list: I had to start somewhere and the very basics struck me as the following:
- Name of DITA-capable CMS software
- A description (from the manufacturer’s web site) about the CMS
As I went on, I realized that a number of these systems were not what I would call a traditional CCMS (Content Component Management System) that I have the most direct experience of. Several of these CMSes are in fact ECMS (Enterprise Content Management Systems) or EAPs (Enterprise Authoring Platforms) that have had DITA capabilities bolted on. There’s also one LCMS (Learning Content Management System) in the list, which is aimed squarely at the training market.
SaaS or Standalone Systems?
Another interesting aspect I noted while doing this survey is a move towards DITA-capable CMSes that operate as SaaS (Software as a Service) and in a few cases as a fully hosted system held by the software manufacturer. For example, I had always thought that Astoria was a standalone product (and old articles I ran across supported that idea), and at least one person on LinkedIn mentioned it as such, but their website now makes no mention of anything other than their SaaS or Hosted solution.
There are still plenty of standalone systems out there for those technical documentation groups who require that these types of systems be in-house, and there are definitely advantages to both types of systems. SaaS and Hosted systems do not require the capital outlay necessary for buying servers and software, though you can expect to be tied to a service contract. Standalone systems offer the possibility of greater flexibility and security, though with the additional IT and development costs that come with it. Each documentation team and their circumstances are different, so knowing the types of options available in this area is important.
More than Just DITA?
Another aspect that stood out while doing the survey is that many of these DITA-capable CMSes were originally designed as a more general-purpose XML authoring system, so that some systems are not just DITA-capable but can also be used for other documentation specifications, such as S1000D, ATA, various flavours of SCORM and other standards. If you are looking to author in any of these other specifications the additional functionality will be a bonus.
Database, SharePoint or an XML Repository?
The type of database in which the XML information is stored is another factor that can play into the decision-making process of choosing a DITA-capable CMS. XML repositories offer the advantage of working in with DITA in its native environment where an XML topic is the fundamental unit of storage and is more readily manipulated using other XML-based languages such as XQuery, XPath and XSLT. Having said that, relational databases can often perform just as well and there are many more experienced relational database administrators out there than XML repository experts. For many organizations localization kits is already available under a corporate license, and it may make the most sense for some documentation groups to leverage what you have rather than going out and getting a system based in a database/repository that is unfamiliar.
Workflow and Localization as Built-in Features
When deploying a DITA-capable CMS, many documentation departments are not just looking to make their processes more efficient, but also to formalize them. This is where having built-in workflow mechanisms within a CMS can be a big plus.
Similarly, many firms justify their purchase of a DITA-capable CMS on the basis of localization cost savings, so having access to some mechanism that allows users to create localization kits or has some direct tie to a system where translators can work with the content is clearly worth having.
In my listing I have noted where CMS vendors have mentioned that such processes are considered part of the overall product, so ties to third-party software (which may exist and in some cases may be more suitable) are included. Also note that in some cases these features are considered “extras” which need to be paid for.
A big thank you to the folks in the DITA Awareness forum on LinkedIn who helped me fill several major gaps in my original list – this list would not be where it is today without them and their suggestions. Kudos also to several CMS software manufacturers who responded to my calls for more information, as this list would have had many more question marks in the columns without them. (As a result of the contacts made I am also planning on doing reviews of several CMSes in the near future).
Finally, if you spot something in this list that is either incorrect or absent, please let me know !