We hear several related questions from national standards bodies (NSBs), standards development organizations (SDOs), and other organizations that publish standards:

Q. Should we adopt XML to publish standards?

A. Yes, you should! Using XML has many benefits, such as making it easier to publish your standards in multiple formats to multiple channels; making your content come alive with better internal and external linking; and improving content quality through integrity checks that can be difficult in a traditional workflow, but are easy to do with an XML workflow. Even better, with a well-constructed XML publication workflow, you can reduce time to publication and create new products and features, such as automatically showing differences between any two versions of a standard (not just the two most recent versions).

Q. We’ve heard that both DITA and STS are used to publish standards. Which do you recommend? 

A. We recommend choosing STS over DITA, because you want an XML model that is itself a standard itself and, more importantly, is designed for standards. Get all the details on why STS is the right choice for standards organizations on the Inera blog!

Q. Which version of STS is the right one for us—ISO STS or NISO STS?

A. That depends!

Both ISO STS and NISO STS are based on JATS, the Journal Article Tag Suite (ANSI/NISO Z39.96-2015), and part of the “JATS family” with JATS and BITS (Book Interchange Tag Suite). A major difference between ISO STS and NISO STS is that the latter is a formal standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.102-2017), whereas ISO STS, originally designed just for NSBs, is not a formal standard. 

However, because ISO STS has been widely adopted in the NSB community, the NISO STS working group made sure that NISO STS is fully backwards compatible with ISO STS. This means that an organization that adopts NISO STS can still accept content marked up in ISO STS without compatibility issues.

Some key improvements in NISO STS make it much more flexible than ISO STS:

  • NISO STS has dramatically expanded metadata capabilities, designed to cover the needs of any standards organization.

  • ISO STS has only the TBX model for Terms & Definitions. In contrast, NISO STS can accommodate both the TBX and Term Display models. This addition allows for a more display-focused modeling of the XML and can reduce the burden of creating stylesheets to render in multiple environments.

  • NISO STS offers a new recursive model for adoptions.

  • NISO STS accommodates both XHTML and CALS tables, and both MathML2 and MathML3. In contrast, ISO STS supports only XHTML and MathML2.

If your organization is an NSB, you probably want to start with ISO STS, but follow ISO’s lead about when to move to NISO STS. We expect ISO to upgrade to NISO STS in 2019 or 2020.

If your organization is not an NSB, you should adopt NISO STS from the start. This approach offers 100% backwards compatibility with ISO STS documents (if needed) as well as additional functionality and improved metadata capabilities out of the gate.