Intelligent Linking and Indexing in DocBook

One of the issues I have with DocBook XML is that the links are a little forced and manual. 

By that, I mean that if I have a command, like trepctl, and I used it in a sentence or description, if I want to link trepctl back to the corresponding trepctl page, I have to manually add it like this:

<link linkend="cmdline-tools-trepctl"><command>trepctl</command></link>

Not only is that a mouthful to say, it’s a lot of keys to type. 

So I’ve fixed that. 

What I do instead is add a <remark> block into the documentation for that command-line page:

<section id="cmdline-tools-trepctl">
<title>The trepctl Command</title>
<remark role="index:canonical" condition="command:trepctl"/>

The ‘role’ attribute specifies the index entry, and that this is canonical, i.e., this is the canon page for <command>trepctl</command>

That’s what is defined in the ‘condition’ attribute. 

This means that when I put <command>trepctl</command>, during post-processing, the command is automatically linked to that page without me having to manually do that. 

You can see the effect of this at the top of this page.

It works for anything, and it works for longer fragments too, so I can do ‘Use the <command>trepctl status</command> command’, and the post-processing will automatically link to the canonical page for the trepctl status command. On that same page, you can see links to the field names in the output. 

This uses an extension to the original index reference format: 

<remark role="index:canonical" condition="parameter:appliedLastSeqno:thl"/>

That third argument to the condition attribute gives a ‘hint’ as to what it might apply to. This means that we can link using a commonly used DocBook element, such as parameter, and tag it to link to this canonical page, just by adding a condition attribute to the parameter element, like this:

<parameter condition="thl">appliedLastSeqno</parameter>

OK, so it’s still long, but it’s less complex than writing out <link> or <xref> elements, and it means that I don’t have to know the ID where the information is held, that’s entirely driven from marking up the content with the canonical index entry. 

Finally, and perhaps the most important point, is that you can go to any of the Continuent documentation pages and type either the partial or full command, and it will take you to the canonical page for that command, option, etc, which means not only is the content heavily linked (making it more useful), but it also makes it more easily searchable to the right place.