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!”).

In normal DITA map processing for Web-based output, the topicref relationships in the map are copied into the resulting HTML pages as links that establish the reading order and local parent/peer/child associations that you might want a reader to know about. But for the times when that processing is not provided by the tools or when you want to be more explicit about materials available for a particular topic, related-links gives you a place for those bonus links, and the link element encodes the specifics of each such resource. Other elements (linklist and linkpool) provide more structured groupings for your links, but the link element itself is always a pointer, similar to a cross-reference element (xref) but maintained as a form of metadata associated with the topic instead of as part of the content.

Did you know?

You might say that the link elements are sort of like business cards that you can group and sort in various ways to help you quickly retrieve contact information as needed during a conversation. This information may not be part of the conversation itself (where xrefs would be used) but it leads you to the next person you may want to talk to. It’s about “link as context” rather than “link as content.”

Deep Dive

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