Complex nested tasks

A complex process made up of a number of procedures can be documented by collecting, through the ditamap, the constituent task topics under a process stub topic.

Tasks are sometimes differentiated into procedures and processes, where processes are high level overviews of a set of procedures, while procedures are detailed instructions for performing a task.

A process could be documented using a task information type, with each step of the process correlating to a procedure.

Schematic showing structural relationship between process and procedures

Structural relationship between process and procedures

While it is possible to hyperlink the individual steps of the process to the corresponding procedure topic, this is not recommended. Nor is it recommended to provide a related-links section in the process topic to link to the related procedure topics.

Best practice is to leave the high level process topic as a stub topic, with minimal information in it (typically just a title and a short description). The information type of the process topic should be either concept or task. The procedure topics should be arranged as child topics of the process topic in the ditamap, with the collection-type attribute of the process (parent) topic set to sequence. This arrangement will result in the process steps being automatically generated during processing, with the steps based on the titles of the child procedure topics. Any short descriptions in the procedure topics will also be included with the process steps. The sequence setting will result in the generated links being arranged in to a numbered list.

The stub topic approach to processes allows for much easier re-use, and removes re-keying of process steps. If one procedure is not used in a particular publishing scenario, the process topic won't need to be edited at all.

Example of a stub topic (with just a title and a short description) after processing,

Example of a stub topic after processing