Creating structured documents

Creating a structure for a document refers to the defining of a structure for all the different types of information in it. In practice, this idea often occurs in word processing, the compilation of slide shows, the layout of brochures and other printed material, and in publishing web pages.

Structured word processing

If you are modifying a document with a word processor and e.g. set a large font size for a heading, this is not yet a kind of structure that the computer will understand. But if you tell the word-processor program to use the first-level heading style (e.g. Heading 1) for the chosen heading, then the computer will understand your wish and apply the requested heading style to the chosen text. Then you can make use of the possibilities that structured word processing offers you:

  • you can ask the program to create a table of contents automatically
  • you can change the layout of the headings, 70 headings at the same time, if you wish
  • you can open the text in another word-processor program and the text structure will remain the same.

The following example demonstrates how creating a structure for your document can make your job easier: a “page” in the example can be e.g. a page in a word processor program, a slide in an electronic slide show, or a web page.

Structured slide shows

You can also make use of structures when modifying e.g. the layout of a slide show; instead of modifying each slide separately you only have to modify one, the basic style sheet. When doing so, your modifications will be applied to all the slides in the presentation (read more about using the basic style sheet).

Structured Internet publishing

The advantages of the structured management of data are very apparent in Internet publishing, because the layout of a web page (the so-called CSS files) and its content often consist of separate files.

Whichever program you are using, specifying the structure of your document is all about differentiating its content from its layout.