Note: If the headline above doesn’t make sense to you – congratulations, you’ve never had to deal with DITA, which means developing content for the web probably isn’t your thing. Keep reading anyway, it’s pretty good writing.
The keystone of both MindTouch Technical Communications Suite and the MindTouch Social Documentation Solution is the Intelligent Documentation Framework (IDF). IDF was born out of the need to give technical communicators an easier way to assemble, reference and re-use their content. For readers, IDF provides an automated easy-to-use navigation that we’re so used to experiencing online. IDF is a technology/methodology hybrid, designed to deliver the fastest route to content authoring as well as the most efficient path to content discovery.
Sound familiar, TechComms? These are the same concepts that DITA set out to accomplish. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the future. DITA became a viable standard. But it also got really hard to use and follow. Ok, maybe it’s not funny, but it’s true. So true, in fact, many technical communicators are looking to alternatives. I won’t name names, but a very well known technical communicator (hint: that person is on this list) once said “I’d love a tool that allowed me to do DITA, without it being DITA”.
The Present: Knock knock.
The Future: Who’s there?
The Present: IDF.
Here at MindTouch, we develop rapidly based on customer feedback. We will continually push our development teams to deliver better products for our customers. It is a constant revolution of innovation. For technical communicators, stuck with the tools of the stagnant past, it is now Christmas every two weeks. That’s our promise to you – we’re going to continue to give you better tools and toolsets to do your job. Your time, your content and your work is too valuable to be obfuscated in a sea of links and improperly formatted pages.
In keeping with that promise, we’ve released an update to IDF, which drives even greater ease of use, discoverability and customization. To give you an overview of the update, I’m going to turn it over to Kalid, developer extraordinaire. He’s done a great write up on the newest capabilities in IDF.
Development Update: IDF
After a 2-week iteration cycle, we’re happy to announce an updated Intelligent Documentation Framework (IDF). You can see it now on our setup guide, and it will be generally available once our 10.0.3 release goes public.
Tired of a crufty layout? Are users aimlessly clicking to explore your content? No more!
We’ve made several usability improvements to the guide! Content is now laid out in a more visually appealing manner, making your content easier to find and consume:
Dynamic Guide Homepage
The new guide homepage has both an overview (Table of Contents) and a more detailed core, exposing the articles within any topic. We’re aware of the tradeoff between helpful details and information overload, and let you explore as you get comfortable.
Patience is a virtue, sure, but you shouldn’t need so much of it when navigating your documentation. The updated guide preloads its content so you can instantly switch between the guide home, tutorials, references and troubleshooting pages to find what you need.
Now you and your users can get an idea of where the newest content is. The “Recent Changes” tab gives a daily summary of changes — returning users know what’s new, and authors can get a quick summary of each other’s contributions.
Table of Contents
A common piece of user feedback – long articles are hard to navigate; we’ve included a Table of Contents template for any subpage. In the default MindTouch skin, it floats on the right and integrates with the existing “Table Of Contents” link. Your readers can now pinpoint the portion of the article they’re most interested in.
But wait, there’s more! Readers don’t get all the fun — we have some goodies for authors and admins too:
Everyone wants their guide to be a bit different — we understand. Admins can now override any of the default guide views (including the homepage, related pages, and table of contents) and plug in their own version.
Guide-level reports on community scoring and aging are now a click away, via Curation Analytics. Now, you can see community rating, aging and search performance of a particular page, with just one click. To say this is awesome would be an understatement.
Under the Hood
Several backend changes were made: related pages are now scoped to within the guide, the tab displays were made more consistent, and we’ve included bugfixes in the FAQ display.
Improvements come in iterative cycles, and we’re collecting ideas for the next version — feel free to leave feedback on other enhancements you’d like to see. Want to see IDF in action? Contact MindTouch customer service and we’ll get you a live demonstration. More of the hands-on type? Great – you can download MindTouch Technical Communications Suite here. IDF is ready to be put to the tech comm test.
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