What is the relationship between templates and structured content in DITA?

Templates and structured content are closely related components of a comprehensive content management and publishing system in DITA. Templates provide a framework for content authoring, while structured content follows that framework to create consistent and reusable information.

Templates in DITA:

Definition: DITA templates are predefined structures that serve as a blueprint for creating consistent content. These templates define the organization, layout, and sometimes the styling of topics.

Purpose: Templates ensure that content creators follow a standardized format, leading to content consistency. They also guide authors in producing content that can be effectively processed and published in different formats.

Components: DITA templates typically include elements like the document title, introduction, headings, and placeholders for content. They may also specify metadata, metadata filtering conditions, or other instructions.

Structured Content in DITA:

Definition: Structured content in DITA refers to the actual content that authors create and organize using the guidelines and structure provided by templates. It includes text, images, tables, lists, and other elements that convey information.

Purpose: Structured content adheres to the organization and formatting defined in templates, ensuring that it can be reused, repurposed, and consistently presented across various outputs.

Components: Structured content can encompass a wide range of elements like paragraphs, sections, tables, figures, or code samples, depending on the type of information being conveyed.

Relationship Between Templates and Structured Content:

Templates as a Guide: Templates serve as a guide for content creators, providing a framework that indicates how content should be organized and what elements should be included. They offer a consistent structure and define where structured content should be placed.

Structured Content as the Actual Information: Structured content, on the other hand, is where the actual information resides. Authors follow the template’s structure and populate it with content relevant to the topic or document’s purpose.


A software documentation project is using DITA templates. The template for a user guide may specify the following structure:

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Chapter headings
  • Sections for installation, usage, troubleshooting
  • Tables and code samples for providing information

The structured content, created based on this template, includes the actual text, images, code snippets, and table data that explain how to install and use the software. The content follows the structure provided by the template, ensuring that the information is organized consistently and can be easily updated or transformed for different outputs, such as web-based help or printed manuals.