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Like all content standards, especially those deployed over the web or other network, DITA XML relies on links to organize content and give users the ability to navigate through it. One of the primary requirements of a good DITA CMS is that it makes it easy to create links and ensure that they are all working correctly.

DITA uses links for three main purposes:

  • Navigate between topics and other elements
  • Define publications for output to print or web
  • Reuse content

All of these DITA link types establish a relationship among two or more objects. The ability to create many different kinds of relationships is what gives DITA the power to maximize the use of your content, easily publish to multiple formats and languages, and dynamically assemble documents on the fly.

This series of blog posts examines each of these three link types and shows you how the easyDITA XML CMS can help you get the most out of DITA’s linking capabilities:

  • How to create navigation with direct links
  • How to create publications using DITA maps
  • How to reuse DITA content by reference

How to create navigation with direct links

The simplest relationship that you can create in DITA XML is a direct link from one element to another, like a hyperlink on a web page. To explicitly link one topic to another and allow navigation between them, DITA uses the  <xref> tag.

In easyDITA, you can easily insert an <xref> tag to create a link to another element or an external website. Simply select the text or graphic that you want to attach a link to and click the Link button. This opens up the Linker window, where you can type the URL in the Link Set To: field, or Search or Browse Repositories for the DITA element you want.


A hyperlink is inserted into the document between <xref> tags. To remove a link, simply select the text or graphic and click the Link button again.

Managers can check the quality of all the links in the repository by clicking “Project Information” from any screen in easyDITA and selecting the Linking tab.

Broken-links<link> and <xref> tags are used primarily to enable navigation from one element to another. Other element types can also be used to define links, which we explore later in this series:

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