What is the role of DITA maps in navigation within DITA outputs?

DITA maps play a crucial role in navigation within DITA outputs. They act as the structural backbone of DITA content, guiding users through a logical sequence of topics and enabling the creation of coherent, user-friendly publications.

DITA maps are documents that serve as roadmaps for how content should be organized and presented in various output formats. They define the structure and sequence of topics, including their hierarchy, order, and relationships.

The purposes of DITA maps include creating navigation paths, forming publication blueprints, linking topics, controlling conditional processing, and determining output variants.

Creating Navigation Paths

DITA maps enable the creation of navigation paths or user journeys by specifying which topics should be included and in what order. This ensures that readers can navigate the content logically.

Publication Blueprints

DITA maps act as publication blueprints. They determine what content should be included in an output document, whether it’s a user manual, online help, or any other form of publication.

Linking Topics

Within DITA maps, topics are linked together to form a cohesive narrative. Topics can be linked directly or by using key references and conref to insert content from other topics.

Conditional Processing

DITA maps can include conditional processing instructions. This means that different topics or sections of content can be included or excluded from the output based on conditions such as audience or output medium.

Output Variants

DITA maps can be used to create different output variants from a single set of topics. For example, a map can define both online and print output versions with distinct content and organization.


A DITA map for a software user guide might look like this:

            <title>Software User Guide</title>
            <topicref href="introduction.dita" format="dita" />
            <topicref href="installation.dita" format="dita" />
            <topicref href="usage.dita" format="dita" />
            <topicref href="troubleshooting.dita" format="dita" />
            <topicref href="appendix.dita" format="dita" />

In this example:

  • The DITA map, “Software User Guide,” outlines the structure of the user guide.
  • It references individual topics (e.g., “introduction.dita,” “installation.dita”) that contain specific content.
  • The format attribute specifies the DITA format, which is typically “dita.”