A common query from standards organizations is whether DITA or STS is a more appropriate XML model for markup of international, national, and consensus standards.

DITA in Brief

Maintained by OASIS, DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture or Document Information Typing Architecture) was designed for publishing workflows that reuse the same text segments (“topics”) in multiple contexts. For example, DITA is ideal for vehicle owners’ manuals: different vehicles may use many of the same components, and DITA facilitates creating a master document for each vehicle can be created by combining the appropriate topics (components).

STS in Brief

Maintained by NISO and formally known as ANSI/NISO Z39.102-2017, NISO STS (Standards Tag Suite) describes an XML model for normative standards documents produced by standards organizations (international and national standards bodies, standards development organizations, consortia, and others). NISO STS is an extension of an earlier model, ISO STS, which was developed for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and is designed to to provide a common format in which standards bodies, standards producing organizations, publishers, commercial vendors, and archives can publish and exchange standards documents.

Why Choose STS Over DITA?

For organizations that produce and/or publish standards, it makes sense to implement STS rather than DITA because

  • STS offers a more compatible document model, including specialized structures for complex document elements (such as figure groups and figure permissions); heavily nested sections; and bibliographies and normative reference lists.

  • STS makes internal cross-reference links easier to establish and maintain, as the entire standard is in a single XML file.

  • STS is explicitly designed to facilitate document interchange between standards organizations of all kinds; in addition, NISO STS is fully backwards compatible with the earlier ISO STS.

  • STS (or a model substantially the same as STS) has been adopted by international and national standards bodies (NSBs) including ISO, IEC, CEN, BSI, DIN, DS, NEN, SN, AS, ASI, SFS, and SIS; and by standards development organizations (SDOs) including ASTM, ASME, ASCE, IEEE, API, and SAE.

In addition, STS is ideal for organizations that also publish other types of documents such as journal articles or books, because STS shares a common set of modules with JATS and BITS, ensuring that anyone who is familiar with one will immediately be familiar with the other.

For more details on the NISO STS XML model and the benefits of STS over DITA for standards organizations, see here.