About Structured Authoring

Abstract

Structured authoring is an XML-based approach to technical documentation that simplifies consistency, content reuse, and team collaboration. Pre-defined rules in a DTD or Schema controls the content and structure.

Paligo is a structured authoring tool, which uses a topic-based customization of the DocBook 5 XML standard. If you are completely new to structured authoring and topic-based authoring, the following sections are recommended to in order to grasp some basic concepts that will help you get the most out of Paligo.

What is structured authoring?

Structured authoring is a standardized approach to writing technical documentation where the content is controlled by pre-defined rules. The technical writer is not concerned with styling or formatting, but instead marks up the content according to what it semantically represents.

Structured authoring is defined by the following characteristics:

  • The structured content is usually based on XML.

  • The content and structure are controlled by rules. These rules are enforced in software using a DTD or Schema. Such rules can specify that a section must contain a title, a procedure must contain steps, and so on.

  • The structured content is tagged/categorized using semantic tags that reflect what kind of content it represents rather than how it should be styled.

    structured-authoring.png

    If you write a an instruction, for example, it can be represented by the very appropriate semantic tag procedure rather than a simple numbered list, and so on.

  • In structured authoring, content and layout/formatting are separated. The technical writer is not concerned with formatting, which is applied separately using stylesheets (XSLT and CSS).

  • The structure and semantic tagging enables and simplifies content reuse, increasing both consistency and efficiency in technical documentation.

  • Structured authoring also enables and simplifies the automation of publishing technical content and applying formatting separately and dynamically.

  • The structure is hierarchical/nested in nature. So, for example, a figure element can represent a unified block of content that can hold a title, an image, and a caption (etc) as child content.

  • Structured authoring also simplifies team collaboration, and the consistency it provides is a prerequisite for robust component content management.