How do DITA publishing tools handle reused content in different output formats?

DITA publishing tools play a critical role in handling reused content across various output formats. These tools ensure that the integrity of content reuse is maintained during the transformation of DITA documents into formats like PDF, HTML, or other media.

Three common tools are the DITA Open Toolkit, content management systems, and custom styling and template design. Each has different approaches to handling reused content.

DITA Open Toolkit (DITA-OT): DITA-OT is a widely used open-source tool for transforming DITA content into different output formats. It allows specifying how reused content should be handled during the transformation process. This is done with conref resolution, conditional text, and content chunking.

  • Content Conref Resolution: DITA-OT resolves content references (conrefs) by including the reused content in the output. This ensures that reused content appears correctly in various formats.

  • Conditional Text: DITA-OT supports conditional processing, allowing an organization to include or exclude content based on conditions. When handling reused content, DITA-OT respects these conditions, ensuring that only relevant reused content appears in the output.

  • Content Chunking: DITA-OT can be configured to chunk or split content into smaller sections, which can be beneficial for generating responsive HTML output. Reused content is chunked alongside the surrounding context.

Content Management Systems (CMS): Many organizations use CMS platforms to manage DITA content. These systems often come with publishing modules that handle content reuse in different output formats. These make use of conditional text and content variants.

  • Conditional Text Handling: CMS solutions allow managing conditional processing attributes in DITA content. This ensures that the conditions set for reused content are applied consistently across all output formats.

  • Content Variants: CMS tools provide options to define and manage content variants, which are essential when handling different output formats. Variants can be specified for reused content to adapt it to specific media requirements.

Custom Styling and Template Design: To maintain consistency in different output formats, organizations create custom styles and templates. Reused content is styled according to the design guidelines for each format, ensuring that it integrates seamlessly.


A pharmaceutical company using DITA to document drug manufacturing procedures publishes content in both PDF (for regulatory compliance) and HTML (for internal knowledge sharing) formats. They might handle reused content with:

  • DITA-OT Transformation: When generating PDFs, the DITA-OT ensures that reused content, such as safety warnings and manufacturing steps, is correctly resolved and included in the PDF output. It respects conditional processing, including or excluding content as needed.
  • HTML Output: For their HTML knowledge-sharing platform, the company uses DITA-OT to generate responsive HTML. Reused content is chunked to fit various screen sizes and devices, maintaining a consistent reading experience. Conditional text controls which content variants appear on the website.
  • CMS Integration: They use a CMS for content management, which streamlines the publication process. The CMS allows them to manage and maintain conditional processing settings, ensuring that reused content appears correctly in both PDF and HTML outputs.