How are content tables (informal tables) structured in DITA?

In DITA, content tables, also known as informal tables, offer a way to organize data in a tabular format without the complexity of formal tables. These tables are commonly used to present information clearly and concisely.

Implementing a content table involves the table element, columns and rows, cell content, optional header rows, and styling.

Table Element:

To create a content table, the <table> element is used. The <table> element is the parent container for the entire table structure.

Columns and Rows:

Within the <table> element, rows are defined using the <row> element, and columns within each row using the <entry> element. Unlike formal tables, content tables don’t require specifying the number of columns explicitly.

Content in Cells:

Each <entry> element holds the content that corresponds to a cell in the table. This content can be text, numbers, links, inline elements, or any combination thereof.

Optional Header Rows:

While content tables typically lack headers, the first row in the table can be used as a header row, visually distinguishing it from regular content. It can be styled differently, such as by adding shading, or using bold text to indicate it as a header.


Content tables are often styled using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) or other formatting options to control their appearance. Styling can include adjusting borders, cell padding, and text alignment.


Here’s a simple content table structured in DITA:

  <title>Sample Content Table</title>
    <entry>Product A</entry>
    <entry>High-quality product</entry>
    <entry>Product B</entry>
    <entry>Advanced features</entry>

In this example:

  • The <table> element encapsulates the entire table.
  • Each <row> represents a row of data.
  • <entry> elements within each row hold the content for cells.
  • The first row contains the headers.
  • The table includes a title for context.