The Latest Trends in DITA XML Use in Tech Writing (Part 1)

Update January 27, 2012: Have changed the table info so that it is driven from a database — now you can sort and search the content of the tables, as well as seeing the full listing of tools in the survey.

It wasn’t that long ago when I looked at the 2011 Survey that WritersUA did of the tools that tech writers actually use and consider important. Well the JustSystem’s XMetaL is already out, and the results are in, with DITA-related tools slowly gaining more prominence in the industry.

Like last time, I’ve taken the raw data that WriterUA publishes and then plugged it into Excel to try to make some sense out of it. Here’s the 2012 listing for the Top 20 Technical Writer’s Tools for 2012 (out of a total list of 45 products listed):

Most-Used Technical Writing Tools 2012 (Writers UA Survey)

RankTool/Manufacturer# of Users
1Acrobat · Adobe517
2SnagIt · TechSmith405
3Visio · Microsoft381
4PhotoShop · Adobe291
5FrameMaker · Adobe275
6RoboHelp · Adobe240
7Flare · MadCap Software225
8Captivate · Adobe221
9Dreamweaver · Adobe199
10Illustrator · Adobe195
11Camtasia · TechSmith181
12Paint Shop Pro · Corel178
13HTML Help Workshop · Microsoft158
14InDesign · Adobe141
15Flash Professional · Adobe130
16Capture · MadCap109
17Confluence · Atlassian98
18DITA Open Toolkit · Oasis98
19Fireworks · Adobe94
20Mimic · MadCap Software81
21WebWorks ePublisher · Quadralay81
22Author-it · Author-it Software73
23CorelDRAW · Corel71
24Oxygen · SyncroSoft67
25XMetaL · JustSystems67
26UltraEdit · IDM49
27FAR HTML · The HelpWare Group48
28Arbortext · PTC46
29Blaze · MadCap Software46
30Mif2Go · Omni Systems44
31Presenter · Adobe44
32FullShot · Inbit40
33Doc-To-Help · ComponentOne39
34Flex · Adobe39
35Expression · Microsoft36
36HyperSnap · Hyperionics33
37Presenter · Articulate28
38Help & Manual · EC Software27
39Vasont CMS · Vasont26
40Morae · TechSmith24
41Document!X · Innovasys23
42HelpStudio · Innovasys17
43HelpServer · 4.ST13
44Dr. Explain · Indigo12
45HelpConsole · ExtremeEase11

Last year the DITA Open Toolkit was at the very bottom of the list at #20. This year it has risen a couple of spots to #18. This seems to indicate that DITA in general is making more of an impact, though it is still dwarfed by the number of FrameMaker users who push it to #5 in the listing. While a certain proportion of these users probably also use DITA then we might be seeing a relationship between the two sets of numbers, suggesting that just over a third of all FrameMaker users may also be using DITA. Intuition tells me that the numbers are probably not that high, but it sets a realistic maximum ratio of FrameMaker-to-DITA users.

The survey data also gives an idea as to which tools writers’ value the most, as they are asked how they rank them in terms of use. So the first chart shows you the most-used; the following one displays which of those tools are ranked the highest by technical writers:

Highest-Rated Technical Writing Tools 2012 (Writers UA Survey)

RankTool/Manufacturer# of Users
1Acrobat · Adobe370
2SnagIt · TechSmith234
3Flare · MadCap Software228
4FrameMaker · Adobe178
5RoboHelp · Adobe160
6PhotoShop · Adobe99
7Visio · Microsoft93
8Captivate · Adobe90
9Author-it · Author-it Software82
10Dreamweaver · Adobe67
11HTML Help Workshop · Microsoft52
12Paint Shop Pro · Corel50
13Flash Professional · Adobe40
14Camtasia · TechSmith39
15InDesign · Adobe35
16DITA Open Toolkit30
17WebWorks ePublisher · Quadralay30
18Fireworks · Adobe24
19Mimic · MadCap Software24
20FAR HTML · The HelpWare Group22
21Flex · Adobe22
22XMetaL · JustSystems22
23FullShot · Inbit21
24Arbortext · PTC19
25Presenter · Adobe19
26oXygen · SyncroSoft17
27Blaze · MadCap Software13
28Document!X · Innovasys11
29Help & Manual · EC Software10
30HyperSnap · Hyperionics9
31Doc-To-Help · ComponentOne8
32HelpStudio · Innovasys8
33UltraEdit · IDM8
34CorelDRAW · Corel7
35Presenter · Articulate6
36Vasont CMS · Vasont6
37Mif2Go · Omni Systems4
38Expression · Microsoft2
39HelpServer · 4.ST1
40Dr. Explain · Indigo Byte0
41HelpConsole · ExtremeEase0
42Morae · TechSmith0

The interesting thing here is how much higher the DITA-OT is ranked by technical writers: #11. So while the DITA-OT is arguably still only used by a minority of all technical writers, those who do use it rank it highly in terms of its importance to their work. What’s also interesting in this list is that JustSystem’s XMetaL just makes it to the list at #20, one spot below it (so not seen here) at #21 is SyncroSoft’s oXygen editor. So we have two competing XML editors ranked highly by technical writers, indicating significant usage within the community. Now not all XML is DITA, but it’s safe to assume a significant proportion of it is.

So has DITA taken over the technical writing world? Definitely not; it clearly has a long way to go. But there are sure signs that it is gaining prominence. Now that we have a couple of year’s worth of data, there are hints as to some emerging trends relating to the growth of DITA among technical writers. That’s what I will look at in Part 2 tomorrow.


"DITAWriter" is Keith Schengili-Roberts. I work for IXIASOFT as a DITA Specialist/Information Architect. And I like to write about DITA and the technical writing community. To get ahold of me you can email me at:

View all posts by

One thought on “The Latest Trends in DITA XML Use in Tech Writing (Part 1)

Comments are closed.