How are indexes created for content with complex data tables or diagrams?

Creating indexes for content that includes complex data tables or diagrams in DITA XML can be a challenging yet essential task to enhance the usability of technical documentation. Complex data tables and diagrams often require specialized indexing techniques to help users quickly locate and navigate the relevant information.

Use of Descriptive Captions

One effective strategy is to provide descriptive captions for complex data tables or diagrams. DITA allows you to add descriptive text using elements like <shortdesc> or <desc>. These captions should succinctly explain the content and purpose of the table or diagram. Additionally, consider using cross-references with <xref> elements to link the captions to relevant sections in your documentation, ensuring that users can easily access detailed explanations or instructions related to the content.

Interactive Tables and Diagrams

To create interactive indexes for complex data tables or diagrams, consider utilizing DITA’s support for interactive content. You can use DITA’s <table> element to create tables with interactive features like sorting and filtering. For diagrams, DITA’s <image> element can be used to include interactive diagrams with zooming or clickable elements. These interactive elements enhance user engagement and simplify the exploration of complex data.


Here’s an example of how to provide descriptive captions and create interactive tables for complex data in DITA XML:

<topic id="sales_data">
  <title>Sales Data Analysis</title>
  <shortdesc>Analysis of monthly sales data.</shortdesc>
    <title>Monthly Sales Report</title>
          <entry>Sales Amount (USD)</entry>
          <entry>Profit (USD)</entry>
        <!-- Add more rows of data as needed -->
  <desc>This table provides a monthly sales analysis, including sales amounts and profits for each month.</desc>
  <xref href="analysis_details" format="text">For detailed analysis and insights, refer to the full report.

In this example, a DITA topic includes a descriptive caption for a monthly sales report table. The table provides an interactive experience, allowing users to explore sales data. The <desc> element explains the purpose of the table, and a cross-reference links to more detailed analysis in another topic.