Are there best practices for naming keys in DITA?

Naming keys in DITA is a crucial aspect of creating a robust content reuse and conditional content mechanism. Using consistent and meaningful key names ensures clarity, maintainability, and effective content management.

Best Practices:

  1. Use Descriptive and Meaningful Names:

    Choose key names that are descriptive and indicate the purpose or content to be referenced. This makes it easier for content authors to understand the key’s significance.

    Example: A key that marks safety warnings should use a name like “safety_warning” instead of a vague abbreviation like “sw.”

  2. Follow Naming Conventions:

    Adopt a consistent naming convention for keys to ensure uniformity across DITA content. Conventions can include capitalization rules, word separators (e.g., underscores or hyphens), and naming patterns.

    Example: Keys related to warnings might start with “warning_” followed by a unique identifier: “warning_electrical,” “warning_fire,” etc.

  3. Be Consistent:

    Maintain consistency throughout DITA content when naming keys. If a particular naming style or pattern is chosen, apply it consistently across all topics to avoid confusion.

    Example: If camelCase is used for key names, ensure that all keys follow this convention, like “safetyGuidelines” and “importantSafetyInfo.”

  4. Avoid Special Characters:

    Keys should not contain special characters, spaces, or symbols that might cause processing issues. Stick to alphanumeric characters and, if needed, underscores or hyphens for word separation.

    Example: Avoid key names like “warning&Safety” or “attention#1.”

  5. Keep Key Names Short:

    While being descriptive is essential, try to keep key names reasonably short. Excessively long key names can make DITA files less readable.

    Example: Use “productSpecs” instead of “detailedProductSpecificationsIncludingTechnicalDetails.”

  6. Document Key Usage:

    Maintain documentation or guidelines within the organization that specify the naming conventions and the purpose of commonly used keys. This helps content authors understand how to use keys consistently.

    Example: In the organization’s content guidelines, specify that safety warnings should be marked using keys starting with “warning_” followed by a brief description of the warning type: “warning_electrical,” “warning_fire.”