Chunking

Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Version 1.2

Content may be chunked (divided or merged into new output documents) in different ways for the purposes of authoring, for delivering content, and for navigation. For example, something best authored as a set of separate topics may need to be delivered as a single Web page. A map author can use the chunk attribute to split up multi-topic documents into component topics or combine multiple topics into a single document as part of output processing.

Examples of use

Here are some examples of potential uses of the chunk attribute:

Reuse of a nested topic
A content provider creates a set of topics as a single document. Another user wants to incorporate only one of the nested topics from the document. The new user can reference the nested topic from a DITA map, using the chunk attribute to specify that the topic should be produced in its own document.
Identification of a set of topics as a unit
A curriculum developer wants to compose a lesson for a SCORM LMS (Learning Management System) from a set of topics without constraining reuse of those topics. The LMS can save and restore the learner's progress through the lesson if the lesson is identified as a referenceable unit. The curriculum developer defines the collection of topics with a DITA map, using the chunk attribute to identify the learning module as a unit before generating the SCORM manifest.

Using the chunk attribute

When a set of topics is processed for output using a map, the map author may use the chunk attribute to override whatever default chunking behavior is set by the processor. The chunk attribute allows the map author to request that multi-topic documents be be broken into multiple documents, and that multiple individual topics be combined into a single document.

Chunking is necessarily output processor specific with chunked output required for some and not supported for other types of output. Chunking is also implementation specific with some implementations supporting some, but not all, chunking methods, or adding new implementation specific chunking methods to the standard methods described in this specification.

The value of the chunk attribute consists of one or more space delimited tokens. Tokens are defined in three categories: for selecting topics, for setting chunking policies, and for defining how the chunk values impact rendering. It is an error to use two tokens from the same category on a single topicref element.
Selecting topics
These values describe what portion of a target document is referenced. Such tokens are only useful when addressing a document that is made up of multiple topics. These values are ignored when the element on which they are specified does not reference a topic. Recognized values include:
  • select-topic: The "select-topic" token is used to select an individual topic without any ancestors, descendents, or peers from within the same document.
  • select-document: The "select-document" token is used to select the target topic together with all ancestors, descendents, and peers within the target document.
  • select-branch: The "select-branch" token is used to select the target topic together with its descendents.
Policies for splitting or combining documents
Two tokens are defined for setting chunking policies. Each token applies only to the current topicref or topicref specialization, except when used on the map element, in which case the value establishes a policy for the entire map.
  • by-topic: The "by-topic" token establishes a policy for the current topicref (or topicref specialization) where a separate output chunk is produced for each of the selected topics.
  • by-document: The "by-document" token establishes a policy for the current topicref (or topicref specialization) where a single output chunk is produced for the referenced topic or topics.
Rendering the selection
The following tokens affect how the chunk values impact rendering of the map or topics.
  • to-content: The "to-content" token indicates that the selection should be rendered as a new chunk of content.
    • When specified on a topicref or topicref specialization, this means that the topics selected by this topicref and its children will be rendered as a single chunk of content.
    • When specified on the map element, this indicates that the contents of all topics referenced by the map are to be rendered as a single document.
    • When specified on a topicref or topicref specialization that contains a title but no target, this indicates that a title-only topic must be generated in the rendered result, along with any topics referenced by child topicrefs (and topicref specializations) of this topicref. The rendition address of the generated topic is determined as defined for the copy-to attribute. If the copy-to attribute is not specified and the topicref has no id attribute, the address of the generated topic is not required to be predictable or consistent across rendition instances.

    For cross references to topicref elements, if the value of the chunk attribute is "to-content" or is unspecified, the cross reference is treated as a reference to the target topic. If the reference is to a topicref with no target, it is treated as a reference to the generated title-only topic.

  • to-navigation: The "to-navigation" token indicates that a new chunk of navigation should be used to render the current selection (such as an individual Table of Contents or related links). When specified on the map element, this token indicates that the map should be presented as a single navigation chunk. If a cross reference is made to a topicref that has a title but no target, and the chunk value of that topicref is set to "to-navigation", the resulting cross reference is treated as a reference to the rendered navigation document (such as an entry in the table of contents).

Some tokens or combinations of tokens may not be appropriate for all output types. When unsupported or conflicting tokens are encountered during output processing, warning or error messages should be produced. Recovery from such conflicts or other errors is implementation dependent.

There is no default value for the chunk attribute and the chunk attribute does not cascade from container elements, meaning that the chunk value on one topicref is not passed to its children. A default by-xxx policy for an entire map may be established by setting the chunk attribute on the map element, which will apply to any topicref that does not specify its own by-xxx policy.

When no chunk attribute values are given, chunking behavior is implementation dependent. When variations of this sort are not desired, a default for a specific map may be established by including a chunk attribute value on the map element.

When creating new documents via chunk processing, the storage object name or identifier (if relevant) is determined as follows:
  1. If an entire map is used to generate a single chunk (by placing to-content on the map element), the name is taken from the name of the map.
  2. If the @copy-to attribute is specified, the name is taken from the @copy-to attribute.
  3. If @copy-to is not specified and the by-topic policy is in effect, the name is taken from the @id attribute of the topic.
  4. If @copy-to is not specified and the by-document policy is in effect, the name is taken from the name of the referenced document.

Examples

In the examples below, an extension of ".xxxx" is used in place of the actual extensions that will vary by output format. For example, when the output format is HTML, the extension may actually be ".html", but this is not required.

The examples below assume the existence of the following files:
  • parent1.dita, parent2.dita, etc., each containing a single topic with id P1, P2, etc.
  • child1.dita, child2.dita, etc., each containing a single topic with id C1, C2, etc.
  • grandchild1.dita, grandchild2.dita, etc., each containing a single topic with id GC1, GC2, etc.
  • nested1.dita, nested2.dita, etc., each containing two topics: parent topics with id N1, N2, etc., and child topics with ids N1a, N2a, etc.
  • ditabase.dita, with the following contents:
    <dita xml:lang="en-us">
      <topic id="X">
        <title>Topic X</title><body><p>content</p></body>
      </topic>
      <topic id="Y">
        <title>Topic Y</title><body><p>content</p></body>
        <topic id="Y1">
          <title>Topic Y1</title><body><p>content</p></body>
          <topic id="Y1a">
           <title>Topic Y1a</title><body><p>content</p></body>
          </topic>
        </topic>
        <topic id="Y2">
          <title>Topic Y2</title><body><p>content</p></body>
        </topic>
      </topic>
      <topic id="Z">
        <title>Topic Z</title><body><p>content</p></body>
        <topic id="Z1">
          <title>Topic Z1</title><body><p>content</p></body>
        </topic>
      </topic>
    </dita>
  1. The following map causes the entire map to generate a single output chunk.
    <map chunk="to-content"> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita"> 
          <topicref href="child1.dita"/> 
          <topicref href="child2.dita"/> 
       </topicref> 
    </map> 
  2. The following map will generate a separate chunk for every topic in every document referenced by the map. In this case, it will result in the topics P1.xxxx, N1.xxxx, and N1a.xxxx.
    <map chunk="by-topic"> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita"> 
          <topicref href="nested1.dita"/> 
       </topicref> 
    </map> 
  3. The following map will generate two chunks: parent1.xxxx will contain only topic P1, while child1.xxxx will contain topic C1, with topics GC1 and GC2 nested within C1.
    <map> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita"> 
          <topicref href="child1.dita" chunk="to-content"> 
            <topicref href="grandchild1.dita"/>
            <topicref href="grandchild2.dita"/>
          </topicref>
       </topicref> 
    </map> 
  4. The following map breaks down portions of ditabase.dita into three chunks. The first chunk Y.xxxx will contain only the single topic Y. The second chunk Y1.xxxx will contain the topic Y1 along with its child Y1a. The final chunk Y2.xxxx will contain only the topic Y2. For navigation purposes, the chunks for Y1 and Y2 are still nested within the chunk for Y.
    <map>
      <topicref href="ditabase.dita#Y" copy-to="Y.dita"
                chunk="to-content select-topic">
        <topicref href="ditabase.dita#Y1" copy-to="Y1.dita"
                  chunk="to-content select-branch"/>
        <topicref href="ditabase.dita#Y2" copy-to="Y2.dita"
                  chunk="to-content select-topic"/>
      </topicref>
    </map>
  5. The following map will produce a single output chunk named parent1.xxxx, containing topic P1, with topic Y1 nested within P1, but without topic Y1a.
    <map chunk="by-document"> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita" chunk="to-content"> 
          <topicref href="ditabase.dita#Y1" 
             chunk="select-topic"/> 
       </topicref> 
    </map> 
  6. The following map will produce a single output chunk, parent1.xxxx, containing topic P1, topic Y1 nested within P1, and topic Y1a nested within Y1.
    <map chunk="by-document"> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita" chunk="to-content"> 
          <topicref href="ditabase.dita#Y1" 
             chunk="select-branch"/> 
       </topicref> 
    </map> 
  7. The following map will produce a single output chunk, P1.xxxx. The topic P1 will be the root topic, and topics X, Y, and Z (together with their descendents) will be nested within topic P1.
    <map chunk="by-topic"> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita" chunk="to-content"> 
          <topicref href="ditabase.dita#Y1" 
             chunk="select-document"/> 
       </topicref> 
    </map> 
  8. The following map will produce a single output chunk named parentchunk.xxxx containing topic P1 at the root. Topic N1 will be nested within P1, and N1a will be nested within N1.
    <map chunk="by-document"> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita" chunk="to-content" copy-to="parentchunk.dita"> 
          <topicref href="nested1.dita" chunk="select-branch"/> 
       </topicref> 
    </map> 
  9. The following map will produce two output chunks. The first chunk named parentchunk.xxxx will contain the topics P1, C1, C3, and GC3. The "to-content" token on the reference to child2.dita causes that branch to begin a new chunk named child2chunk.xxxx, which will contain topics C2 and GC2.
    <map chunk="by-document"> 
       <topicref href="parent1.dita" 
          chunk="to-content" copy-to="parentchunk.dita"> 
          <topicref href="child1.dita" chunk="select-branch"/> 
          <topicref href="child2.dita" 
             chunk="to-content select-branch" 
             copy-to="child2chunk.dita"> 
             <topicref href="grandchild2.dita"/> 
          </topicref> 
          <topicref href="child3.dita"> 
             <topicref href="grandchild3.dita" 
                chunk="select-branch"/> 
          </topicref> 
       </topicref> 
     </map> 
  10. The following map produces a single chunk named nestedchunk.xxxx, which contains topic N1 with no topics nested within.
    <map> 
       <topicref href="nested1.dita#N1" 
                 copy-to="nestedchunk.dita" 
                 chunk="to-content select-topic"/> 
    </map> 
  11. The following map will produce two navigation chunks, one for P1, C1, and the other topic references nested under parent1.dita, and a second for P2, C2, and the other topic references nested under parent2.dita.
    <map> 
        <topicref href="parent1.dita" 
              navtitle="How to set up a web server"
              chunk="to-navigation"> 
           <topicref href="child1.dita" 
              chunk="select-branch"/> 
           <!-- ... -->
        </topicref> 
        <topicref href="parent2.dita" 
              navtitle="How to ensure database security"
              chunk="to-navigation"> 
           <topicref href="child2.dita" 
              chunk="select-branch"/> 
           <!-- ... -->
        </topicref> 
        <!-- ... -->
    </map> 
      

Implementation-specific tokens and future considerations

Additional chunk tokens may be added to the DITA Standard in the future. In addition, implementers may define their own custom, implementation-specific tokens. To avoid name conflicts between implementations or with future additions to the standard, implementation-specific tokens should consist of a prefix that gives the name or an abbreviation for the implementation followed by a colon followed by the chunking method name. For example: “acme:level2” could be a token for the Acme DITA Toolkit that requests the “level2” chunking method.