ISTC Meets: Stories of Structured Authoring Tools

This presentation started as an unexpected opportunity to present at the ISTC Meets. Usually, the sessions are planned many months in advance.

My initial proposal was to compare Markdown, Asciidoc, and reStructuredText with DITA, aiming to advise writers in picking up one of those writing formats. I started by recovering and converting the slides from a mythical 3-hour class that I delivered at ISCTE in 2015, focusing on my experience in using different tools in specific scenarios. When I started to plan the actual presentation, I felt I would run out of time to reflect on the four formats and to create a mature and insightful presentation.

Suddenly it felt much easier to go with the flow of the 2015 presentation, where I reflected on several concrete experiences in a structured way: rationale for the solution, sample inputs and outputs, and outcomes. So, I took my previous experience with structured writing tools, and added the experience at Farfetch, some of which became publicly available with the 2021 FTalk.

Nine people attended the presentation, and a few others could not attend. Thankfully, these lunchtime presentations are recorded and openly shared.


Joaquim Baptista will share his professional experience with structured writing tools since 1996, in the context of small writing teams in need of sophisticated tools:

  • LaTeX and LinuxDoc SGML for a University job (1996-1998), the learning opportunities that paved the way for what came next.
  • Custom XML and DITA XML for Altitude Software (2000-2014), including the generation of DITA topics, localization, and training materials.
  • DITA and Open API for Farfetch (2017-2024), including automated modular builds, two developer websites, and the curation at scale of references written by developers.

This session is suitable for anyone interested in structured content and the tooling that supports it.


Joaquim is a principal technical writer and manager that worked at Farfetch and Altitude Software. He has documented large and evolving software products that require industrial writing instead of just writing craftsmanship since 1997. Before tackling documentation, Joaquim worked as trainer, programmer, system administrator, and academic researcher. He is a member of IEEE PCS, and a leader at ISTC, APCOMTEC, and EuroSIGDOC.