How are custom keys and attributes used in DITA specialization for content reuse?

Custom keys and attributes play a significant role in DITA specialization by allowing organizations to extend the standard DITA framework to meet their unique content needs. They enhance content reuse, enabling organizations to manage and present information in a way that aligns with their specific requirements.

Custom Keys:

Custom keys are user-defined metadata or labels that can be applied to DITA elements. They serve as markers to categorize or identify specific content components within DITA topics. These keys are created based on an organization’s specific needs.

Custom Attributes:

Custom attributes, like custom keys, are user-defined properties that can be added to DITA elements. They provide additional information or context to content components, allowing for further customization.

Role in Specialization:

When an organization specializes DITA, custom keys and attributes are used to introduce domain-specific metadata or semantics. For example, in a specialized “Medical Documentation” DITA domain, custom keys and attributes may be introduced to classify content as “Symptoms,” “Diagnosis,” or “Treatment.” These customizations enable precise content tagging and retrieval.

Content Reuse:

Custom keys and attributes enhance content reuse by enabling more granular and meaningful categorization of content components. This, in turn, makes it easier to search, filter, and repurpose content across various documents.


In a specialized DITA domain for “Legal Contracts,” custom attributes can be added to DITA elements. For example, a custom attribute “Jurisdiction” may be used to specify the legal jurisdiction associated with a particular clause. This metadata helps in content organization and searching, ensuring that the relevant legal clauses are reused accurately in various contracts, taking into account the applicable jurisdiction.