How are output formats customized to meet specific requirements?

Customizing DITA output formats involves tailoring the appearance and behavior of content to meet specific requirements beyond standard publishing templates. This allows organizations to maintain a unique brand identity, adhere to industry standards, and optimize content delivery for their audience.

DITA output customization includes stylesheets and CSS, templates, conditional processing, specialized output processors, content reuse strategies, and integration with external systems.

  • Stylesheets and CSS: One way to customize DITA output formats is through the use of stylesheets and cascading style sheets (CSS). Stylesheets define how content is presented, while CSS allows for fine-grained control over formatting. For example, a software company might customize the appearance of their online help system with a unique visual style and layout by creating custom CSS.
  • Templates: DITA publishing tools often support templates and transformation scenarios. These provide a framework for defining how DITA content is processed and transformed into output formats. Organizations can create custom templates and scenarios to achieve specific content rendering requirements. For example, a legal firm could create a specialized template for rendering legal documents from DITA content.
  • Conditional Processing: DITA allows for conditional processing based on various criteria, including audience type or product versions. Customizing output formats might involve specifying which content is included or excluded for different conditions. This enables content personalization. As an example, a medical device manufacturer could customize user manuals to include different content based on the regulatory requirements of specific countries.
  • Specialized Output Processors: In some cases, organizations develop custom output processors or rendering engines. These specialized tools interpret DITA content and generate output formats tailored to unique needs. For example, a scientific journal could use a custom output processor to transform DITA content into a format suitable for publication.
  • Content Reuse Strategies: Customization can also encompass content reuse strategies. By defining how reused content is presented in different contexts, organizations can ensure consistency and clarity. For example, a technology company may customize how common product descriptions are presented across various product manuals.
  • Integration with External Systems: Organizations may need to integrate DITA content with external systems, such as content management or translation tools. Customization can involve developing interfaces and connectors to facilitate this integration. For example, an e-commerce platform could customize DITA output to seamlessly feed product descriptions to an online store.


A multinational automobile manufacturer uses DITA to manage its documentation, including user manuals and service guides. The company wishes to customize its DITA output formats to meet specific requirements:

  • Stylesheets and CSS: The manufacturer employs custom CSS to maintain its brand identity. They use unique colors, fonts, and page layouts that reflect their corporate design guidelines. For example, they ensure that their online user manuals have a consistent appearance that matches their website.
  • Templates and Transformation Scenarios: They create specialized templates and transformation scenarios for different vehicle models. This allows them to include model-specific information in user manuals. For example, each user manual includes content unique to the particular vehicle model, such as specifications, features, and maintenance instructions.
  • Conditional Processing: The manufacturer uses conditional processing to tailor content for various regions and languages. Content that’s specific to certain markets is included or excluded based on the location and language settings of the user. For example, the Canadian version of a manual might include content relevant to Canadian regulations.