The reltable element

For Valentine’s Day, what could be more appropriate than a tryst with DITA’s relationship table? It was suggested to me that “Like real relationships, they are difficult to understand sometimes and even more difficult to build….” So let’s all hum “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you” as we open this Valentine card.

If the “rel” stands for “relationship” then a reltable obviously is not about lists of relatives or product releases. DITA’s design enables you to manage your content separately from both its presentation and its context (its network of links). Your topic will have parent/child/peer relationships with other topics in the same map, but how do you indicate links to other topics of interest to the reader but which are not directly included in the map? The relationship table lets you express these networks of related links within the map itself so that you don’t have to maintain them in each topic. You might say that reltable is a little black book that allows you to have all those relationships without getting personally involved. C’est la vie!

Did you know?

A reader cannot tell if the links in a web page were authored in place in the original document or inserted by processing when the DITA topic was built into HTML. If you had ten web pages that linked to one particular related page, and for some reason you needed to rename or remove that page, you would need to edit all 10 pages to repair those changed links. In the DITA way of managing external link relationships, you just adjust the reltable and rebuild the set, and all 10 links get fixed by the 1 change. You might say that once you get the hang of the DITA Way, your problems 10 to 1 away.

Deep Dive

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