DITA Standard

Explanations from Don’s perspective on the design and history of the DITA standard.

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The topicref element

A wallet stuffed with credit cards, gift cards, library cards.
Andrew Huff / Foter / CC BY-NC

Among the cards you carry with you daily, you are likely to have credit cards, loyalty cards, insurance and library cards, and more. Each one is associated by your name or other identifier to a member profile in a database. Besides your unique identifier, each profile of yours also records your level or role of membership in a group, your address, possibly some value or role that you represent to the respective group, among other data. A profile is a unique member record that describes how you relate to other members and to the group itself. You are a resource, and the profile is your resource description. And like a profile, a topicref is also a resource description. What kind of resource? Well, don’t let the name fool you. Topicref is DITA’s most versatile element!
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The linkinfo element

One of the elements that is unique to the linklist structure is also one of the least understood: the linkinfo element. The DITA 1.2 Spec itself merely says that it lets you “place a descriptive paragraph after the links that are contained in a linklist element.” But a linklist already allows the title and desc elements to provide description, so how does this element add anything more to the design? Naturally, there is something more to this story, something we can trace from the foundations of human culture, as it were.  (more…)

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The link element

“It’s 10 P.M.. Do you know where your children are?” This public service announcement has rung out on American airwaves since the late 1960s, reminding parents of their accountability for childrens’ whereabouts. Likewise, DITA’s link element helps keep track of child and peer topic relationships in the neighborhood where you are reading. Sort of like the Den Mother checking off each boy’s name at the weekly Cub Scout meetings I used to attend (which all of us present responded to by saying, ever so cleverly, “President!”). (more…)

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The related-links element

If three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, why is it still so easy for me to lose things in that correspondingly smaller amount of land? It seems like I’m always looking for misplaced things. If all those lost things just had a proper storage place, and I knew where that was, it would be so much easier to account for all my gear–especially missing car keys! (more…)

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The body element

To what can we compare the body element in DITA? It’s not fluff, as in “hair with body.” There’s no inertia as in Newton’s First Law of Motion, “a body in motion tends to stay in motion.”  There’s no official entity as in a corporate body. But it is a collection of information, as in “a body of evidence.” And that thought image leads to some interesting explorations. (more…)

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