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Subject: "Mention" Elements (was index terms)

In several recent posts I refered to "mention" elements.

I wanted to make sure everyone was clear what I meant.

By "mention" element I mean elements that identify mentions of 
domain-specific objects or concepts. Most inline domain-specific 
elements are mentions, e.g. "command", "function", "class", etc.

One use of mention elements is of course to enable typographic 
distinction of the names.

But a much more interesting use of mentions is to help optimize 
retrieval by letting you search on the mention type.

This searching can be expressed by a literal XML-aware keyword search 
but it can also be expressed as automatic indexing functions.

That is, given a mention element "command" that identifies mentions of 
commands for some program, you can easily generate entries of the form:

      foo  14, 24, 25
      bar  11, 104
      baz  5, 9

Where "foo", "bar", and "baz" are identified in the topic content like so:

<p>Use the <command>foo</command> to do blah blah</p>

Mention elements can also be used to generate links from reference 
entries for the thing mentioned (i.e., command reference topics) and the 

Thus, mention elements are very powerful and very important. With a 
little bit of discipline much, if not all, of the indexing done with 
explicit index markers can be replaced by automatically indexing mention 

Mention elements may also require additional metadata to make automatic 
indexing or linking fully functional. For example, for the "command" 
example, it might be necessary to bind mention instances to the system 
component the command applies to, i.e.:

<command syscomp="admin">createUser</command>

This type of sophisticated use of mention elements is one of the things 
that DITA explicitly enables and encourages.

In addition, the type of automatic linking and indexing that mention 
elements enable is crucial in a re-use environment where you want to 
avoid explicit links as much as possible.


W. Eliot Kimber
Professional Services
Innodata Isogen
9390 Research Blvd, #410
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 372-8841


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