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Subject: Footnotes

My personal take on the state of footnotes in DITA ... Your mileage might vary. Please post to the list; this was a general action item for everyone coming out of last week's call.

  1. Coverage in the spec is poor. There is only the element reference topic, which I doubt has been updated since DITA 1.0:

    If you are not familiar with the DITA footnote implementation, the topic probably doesn't make much sense. The example (which actually is three examples jumbled together) is not robust; it also does not demonstrate the use of @conref on <fn>.

  2. In my experience, users do not understand this model unless it has been carefully explained and alternate company-specific documentation has been provided.
  3. This model is hard for users to author using the use-by-reference footnote.

Re #3, users struggle to figure out WHERE to place the <xref> elements; they are fine with placing the <fn> elements at the point in the text where the super scripted footnote indicators will appear -- That makes sense to them, although some chafe over the way the <fn> element disrupts the visual flow of the topic in the authoring environment. And others struggle withe the need to use conref to reference common footnotes.

But the fact that the <xref> elements can go anywhere in the topic that contains the <fn>; many writers really struggle with that. And then they forget to specify type="fn".


Kristen James Eberlein
Chair, OASIS DITA Technical Committee
Principal consultant, Eberlein Consulting
+1 919 682-2290; kriseberlein (skype)

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