DITA Proposed Feature # 12

Consider making most universal attributes completely universal

Longer description

DITA contains a parameter entity named univ-atts, which is used to add universal attributes to most elements. Some elements do not have these attributes, which leads to user confusion and means that common actions (such as conref) cannot be used everywhere.

The subject was raised in the November 30, 2004 TC meeting, although the minutes do not give much of the discussion (http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/dita/200412/msg00002.html).


Trivial - add pre-defined attributes to elements that do not have them.

Use Cases

  1. It is possible to specialize documents today, and set a default or fixed value to indicate whether an element can be translated. The translate attribute is missing from several elements; adding it would (for example) make it possible to declare that your title, table entry, or link text should or should not be translated. These elements also are unable to set the xml:lang value today.
  2. Users expect that filtering attributes should be available on every element. Adding %select-atts; to elements that do not have them will meet user expectations and prevent confusion. It will also allow filtering where it is not possible today; for example, indicating that a row of links in a reltable only applies in some situations. In addition you will be able to flag items that cannot be flagged today, such as a topic title or short description.
  3. Adding id and conref to elements which do not have them makes reuse possible in more locations. For example, a common set of links can be reused in several topics by adding the attributes to linklist or linkpool. It is also possible to reuse common metadata such as copyright, author, and publisher without redefining them in several topics.

Technical Requirements

DTD and Schema changes. The following attributes are part of univ-atts:

The following elements need to get new attributes:

Elements which will still not have some universal attributes:


Less than a day to implement. DITA implementations will need to be aware of the new attributes, but processing rules are the same as on existing elements.


Consistency is one major benefit - users can expect the same behavior on all elements. Usability is another benefit - users will be able to use conref or filter any element. Most users will make use of this at some point. This will have a medium level impact on most users, who will simply see the expected behavior and not have to come up with workarounds. It will have a major impact those users that wish to filter or reuse metadata elements, because there is no simple way to do that today.

Time Required

Less than a day to implement and test DTD changes. Some DITA implementations may need to be updated to handle new attributes.