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Subject: [dita] DITA 1.2 - implementation-specific attributes

A brief, perhaps placeholder, proposal for DITA 1.2 to support implementation-specific attributes on arbitrary elements.


DITA Proposed Feature
Implementation-Specific Attributes

Allow DITA adopters to add implementation-specific metadata attributes to any element that can contain a data element, or be referred to by a data-about element.

Longer description

DITA currently provides the data and data-about elements to hold arbitrary, implementation-specific metadata about most if not all of its elements.

Many implementation prefer to hold such metadata in attributes instead, especially when the metadata is maintained by automated processes, and not by authors.

Such an approach is isomorphic with allowing metadata in data and data-about elements. It is hard to explain or justify why DITA adopters are not given a choice between putting their metadata in elements, or putting it in attributes, as they prefer.

Allow DITA adopters to add implementation-specific attributes to arbitrary any element that can either contain the data element, or be referred to by the data-about element.

DITA toolkits would provide transforms to change any  non-standard attributes they find into data or data-about elements with a name attribute of the same name as the implementation-specific attribute, and a value attribute having the same textual value as the implementation-specific attribute has.

DITA toolkits would provide a method of transforming data and data-about attributes whose names match implementation-specific attributes back into those attributes.


Minor. Data and data-about elements already provide this functionality. Implementation-specific attributes merely more them to a slightly different place in the document type model.


  • Documenting the new alternative.
  • Updating existing generalization/respecialization tools, or new renaming tools, to make the transforms.


Major. DITA gains much greater implementation flexibility, making it easier to adopt.

Time Required

A day for the documentation.

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