The abstract element is similar to the shortdesc element, in that it is used to contain a concise summary of the content of the topic. Abstracts should be used for special cases only, as they only offer advantages over short descriptions in limited scenarios. Abstracts can contain multiple shortdesc elements, which are typically processed slightly differently to standalone shortdesc elements.

DITA abstract elements are similar to short descriptions, but allow for more complex information structures. An abstract can contain a range of block elements such as paragraphs and notes, but can also contain one or more shortdesc elements.

A topic can contain either an abstract (which may include a nested shortdesc), or a standalone shortdesc, but not both.

In general, a shortdesc should be used in preference to an abstract, following the principle that the simplest approach is usually the best.

The abstract structure should be used for:

Only the shortdesc element(s) within the abstract are included in the topic previews and link previews.