Set Global Attributes on a Document

Attribute entries

An attribute entry is the primary mechanism for defining an attribute on a document. Attribute entries act like global variables or settings and can be assigned to a document in the document’s body, in the document’s header, and through the CLI or API.

Additionally, attributes entries can:
  • be unset (turned off) with a leading (or trailing) ! added to its name

  • have default and alternate values in the case of built-in attributes

  • span multiple, contiguous lines

  • include inline AsciiDoc content

Attribute entries can not:
  • override locked attributes assigned from the command line

  • include AsciiDoc block content, such as ordered lists or other types of whitespace-dependent markup

Attribute entry anatomy

An attribute entry consists of two parts: an attribute name and the attribute’s value. When set in a document header, the attribute entry takes the following form:

:name: value

The attribute’s name comes first, must be at the start of the line, and must be enclosed in colons (e.g., :name:). If present, the attribute’s value is offset from the name part by at least one space. The value is optional. A blank value is often used to set (“turn on”) a boolean attribute.

Attributes are typically defined in the document header, though they may also be defined in the body of the document. Once set, an attribute’s value is available for use throughout the remainder of the document. Unless locked by the API, attributes may be reassigned at any subsequent point in the document.

Built-in attributes

Some attribute names are reserved for built-in attributes. Built-in attributes are used to easily add common features, such as the table of contents, or control the generated output, such as selecting a converter. Many of the built-in attributes only take effect when defined in the document header.

To enable the table of contents, you can set the toc attribute using an attribute entry in the document header as follows:


When the attribute’s value is empty, as it is in the example above, the default value will be assigned. The default value for toc is auto; therefore, the table of contents will be placed in the default location (below the document’s title) when the document is rendered.

A few of the built-in attributes have more than one built-in value. If you want the table of contents to be placed on the right side of the document, you can assign it the built-in value, right.

:toc: right

The right value will override the default value. The value assigned to an attribute in the document header will replace the default value (assuming the attribute is not locked).

User-defined attributes

When you find yourself typing the same text repeatedly, or text that often needs to be updated, consider creating your own attribute.

For example, attributes can store URLs.

User-defined URL attribute entry

Now you can refer to this attribute throughout the document by surrounding its name in curly braces, i.e., referencing it.

url-fedpkg attribute usage example
Did you know there's an {url-fedpkg}[Asciidoctor package for Fedora]?

To save even more typing, you could store the whole link in the attribute value.

Link attribute entry
:link-fedpkg:[Asciidoctor package for Fedora]

Now you can reference the attribute where ever you want this link inserted.

link-fedpkg attribute usage example
Did you know there's an {link-fedpkg}?

You can also use attributes to set the base path to images (default: empty), icons (default: ./images/icons), stylesheets (default: ./stylesheets) and JavaScript files (default: ./javascripts).

Base path config example
:imagesdir: ./images
:iconsdir: ./icons
:stylesdir: ./styles
:scriptsdir: ./js
If you’re familiar with writing in XML, you’ll recognize document attributes as user-defined entities.

Assigning document attributes inline

Document attributes can be assigned using the following syntax:


For example:


is effectively the same as:

:sourcedir: src/main/java

This is important for being able to assign document attributes in places where attribute entry lines are not normally processed, such as in a table cell.