How are styles and templates used in DITA publishing?

Styles and templates in DITA publishing play a crucial role in defining the visual presentation and structure of published documents.

Styles in DITA Publishing:

Definition: Styles, in the context of DITA publishing, refer to predefined sets of formatting rules and visual properties applied to various elements in the document. These rules are typically defined in stylesheets, which can be XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) files.

Role: Styles are responsible for controlling the visual aspects of content, such as fonts, colors, spacing, margins, and alignment. They ensure a consistent and branded appearance in the published documents.

Customization: Organizations often create custom styles tailored to their specific branding and design requirements. These custom styles can be applied to DITA content to achieve a unique and recognizable look.

Output Formats: Different styles may be developed for various output formats, like PDF, HTML, or mobile. This enables content to adapt to the requirements of each medium while maintaining consistency.

Templates in DITA Publishing:

Definition: Templates are predefined structures or frameworks that guide the organization and layout of content in documents. These templates include placeholders for DITA elements, specifying where topics, sections, tables, figures, and other components should be placed.

Role: Templates ensure consistency in document layout and structure. They help maintain a standardized presentation of content across different publications, saving time and effort for authors.

Reuse: Templates can be reused for various documents within an organization. For example, a company may have templates for user guides, data sheets, and product manuals, each with a predefined structure.

Efficiency: Using templates streamlines the content creation process. Authors can focus on writing content within the established framework, saving time and effort.

Integration with Styles: Templates often work in conjunction with styles. Styles control the formatting and appearance, while templates determine the overall document structure.


A technology company that uses DITA for creating product documentation implements styles and templates in their publishing process.

Styles: The company has a set of predefined styles in their stylesheets. They specify that headings should use a specific font, body text should have a certain line spacing, and important notes should be highlighted in a particular color. These styles are designed to match the company’s brand guidelines.

Templates: For each type of document they create, such as user manuals, API guides, and troubleshooting guides, they have templates. The user manual template, for example, defines the structure of the document, including the cover page, table of contents, chapters, and sections. Within the template, placeholders exist for elements like titles, subtitles, images, and tables, indicating where different content components should be placed.

Authors use these templates as a starting point for their documents. They simply insert content into the placeholders provided by the templates, and the predefined styles ensure that the content adheres to the company’s branding and design guidelines. This results in consistent and professional-looking user documentation, regardless of the specific author.