What is the purpose of the @id attribute in DITA?

The @id attribute in DITA serves the purpose of uniquely identifying elements within a DITA document. It plays a crucial role in establishing a unique identifier for a specific element, allowing content creators and processors to reference, link, or target that element unambiguously.

This attribute provides a means to create a unique identifier for an element within a document. This identifier is used for various purposes, including cross-referencing, linking, indexing, and identifying specific elements within the content. It ensures that elements are uniquely identifiable and that content referencing these elements can do so accurately.

Uses of the @id Attribute

  • Uniqueness: The @id attribute value must be unique within the document. This means that no two elements within the same DITA document can have the same @id value. This uniqueness ensures that content creators can reference specific elements without ambiguity.
  • Cross-Referencing: Content creators can use the @id attribute to create cross-references to specific elements within the same document. For example, a link can be created from one section to another by referencing the unique @id of the target section.
  • Linking: The @id attribute is often used to create hyperlinks to specific sections or topics within a DITA document. This is especially valuable for creating navigation within a document or when generating output formats that support clickable links.
  • Indexing: Search engines and indexing tools can utilize @id attributes to index and retrieve specific content within DITA documents. This enhances searchability and accessibility of content.


A DITA document about a software application’s user guide has multiple sections, with each section uniquely identified using the @id attribute:

    <title>Software User Guide</title>
    <section id="sec1">
        <title>Getting Started</title>
        <!-- Content for getting started -->
    <section id="sec2">
        <title>Advanced Features</title>
        <!-- Content for advanced features -->

In this example:

  • Each <section> element is assigned a unique @id attribute value (id="sec1" and id="sec2").
  • These @id values serve as unique identifiers for the sections.
  • Cross-references or links to these sections can be created using their unique @id values, ensuring that users can navigate to specific sections accurately.