What is a DITA map, and what role does it play in DITA documentation?

A DITA map is a high-level document that serves as a container for organizing and linking DITA topics, helping structure content and define its hierarchy in DITA documentation. It plays a pivotal role in content organization, navigation, and assembly for various outputs.

The DITA map is a fundamental concept in DITA that serves as a crucial structural and organizational element in DITA-based documentation. It acts as a container or a table of contents for DITA topics, allowing authors to organize and manage structured content. The primary role of a DITA map is to define the structure and order of topics within a document, creating a hierarchical outline of the content.

The role of DITA maps includes content organization, reusability, navigation, conditional processing, and output generation.

  • Content Organization: DITA maps help authors logically organize their content. They determine the order in which topics are presented to readers, enabling a coherent flow of information. This is especially important in user manuals, online help systems, and other forms of structured documentation.
  • Reusability: DITA maps allow for efficient content reuse. By referencing topics in different maps or across various documents, authors can maintain consistency and reduce redundancy. This is particularly valuable in scenarios where the same information needs to be included in multiple documents.
  • Navigation: DITA maps provide a navigational structure for readers. In web-based or electronic documents, they serve as interactive tables of contents, helping users quickly locate and access the information they need.
  • Conditional Processing: DITA maps enable the application of conditional processing attributes at the map level, allowing authors to control which content is included or excluded based on specific conditions or variables. This is valuable for delivering tailored content to different audiences or output formats.
  • Output Generation: DITA maps are essential for output generation. When generating documents in different formats (PDF, HTML, etc.), the map’s structure guides the assembly of topics into the final document. It ensures that topics appear in the intended order and with consistent formatting.


An organization creates a DITA map for its product’s user guide.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE map PUBLIC "-//OASIS//DTD DITA Map//EN" "map.dtd">
  <title>Product User Guide</title>
  <topicref href="introduction.dita"/>
  <topicref href="getting_started.dita"/>
  <topicref href="troubleshooting.dita"/>
  <topicref href="appendix.dita"/>

In this example, the DITA map outlines the structure of a “Product User Guide” and references various DITA topics, including an introduction, getting started guide, troubleshooting tips, and an appendix. The map defines the order in which these topics appear in the final documentation, aiding in content organization and navigation.