Frequently Asked Questions

A few things people often ask about DITA and DITA Open Toolkit.

What is DITA?

DITA is the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, an XML standard for authoring modular documents with an emphasis on reuse, maintained by the DITA Technical Committee at OASIS.

What is DITA Open Toolkit?

DITA Open Toolkit (DITA-OT) is an open-source publishing tool used to convert DITA content from XML into various output formats.

How do I use DITA-OT?

You can download, install and build output on the command line for free using the dita command.

If you prefer a graphical user interface, many of the best-known XML editors, enterprise authoring solutions and commercial content management systems rely on DITA-OT to publish XML content.

For example, Oxygen XML Editor provides a visual means to run the bundled DITA-OT using a concept called transformation scenarios.

What version should I use?

In most cases, you should download the latest release: DITA-OT 4.2.3.

If you’re using other software that hasn’t yet been updated for the latest version, earlier versions are also available on the Download page.

What output formats does DITA-OT support?

The default transformations include several HTML-based formats, PDF, and Markdown.

The toolkit’s extensible plug-in mechanism allows you to add your own transformations and install additional formats from the plug-in registry at

How does DITA-OT work?

DITA Open Toolkit uses Ant, XSLT, and Java libraries to transform DITA maps and topics into different deliverable formats. The modular pipeline-based architecture allows processing to be extended via plug-ins.

All of the default output formats are implemented as plug-ins, and you can create new plug-ins to add new publishing capabilities or customize processing without modifying the core code.

What are plug-ins for?

Plug-ins allow you to extend the toolkit in a way that is consistent, easy to share, and safe to upgrade. Plug-ins can customize publishing stages, add new formats, or extend an XML catalog to support new specializations and document-type shells. A wide range of extension points allow you to integrate your changes into the core code.

Once you have created a plug-in, you can install it using the automated installation procedure.

How do I customize the HTML output?

For simple branded HTML pages, you can adjust the look and feel of the default output to match your company style by setting parameters to include custom CSS, header and footer branding, or table-of-contents navigation. (These changes do not require a custom plug-in.)

In addition to the basic modifications that can be made with parameter settings alone, you can create custom HTML plug-ins that bundle custom fonts, JavaScript, and stylesheets; modify the HTML markup, or override other aspects of HTML processing.

How do I customize the PDF output?

DITA-OT includes a free PDF plug-in that converts the original DITA content to XSL-FO and generates a PDF file using Apache FOP. You can also install and use commercial PDF processors like Antenna House or RenderX XEP.

You can adjust various aspects of the default PDF output by changing parameter settings.

As of DITA-OT 4.0, you can easily customize PDF output using theme files. The --theme option takes a path to a theme file and changes the styling of the PDF output without requiring changes to XSLT stylesheets.

For more complex customizations, you can create custom PDF plug-ins.