Short Description Text (Alt Text)

Add and maintain short description text to a project in Word, InDesign, and ScML.


The short description for an image will be added as alternative text to the image element in HTML and ePub outputs. This is not required, but it makes the image more accessible. Short descriptions are limited to 150 characters and cannot contain HTML/XML control characters (<, >, &, ", '). Alt text is meant to be read aloud by technology and should be written with this in mind.

Short Description Text Callouts in Word

The callouts for images need to match the file name for the image, and they should follow the exact text pattern provided by the SAI’s insert Query Tool, with an added ALT: trigger. The text will have the {scml:fig} paragraph style and {scml:img} character style applied to it.

The following example is for a file named fig01.jpg, using the alt text, “The Princess of Spain surrounded by attendants”

In Word: {~?~IM: insert fig01 here. ALT: The Princess of Spain surrounded by attendants}

This text pattern will enable the Place Single Image tool in InDesign to access the short description text when placing images.

In IDTT: <ParaStyle:fig><CharStyle:img>{~?~IM: insert fig01 here. ALT: The Princess of Spain surrounded by attendants}<CharStyle:>

In InDesign

Importing Short Description Text from IDTT

Import IDTT into InDesign.

Option 1: Use the Place Single Image tool by highlighting the figure callout plus the figh/figcap text (whatever caption text is to be included in the caption box).

Option 2: Use the Place All Images tool.

For both options, the text that follows “ALT:” in the fig paragraph will be placed into the image’s Object Export Options window, accessible via the context (right-click) menu.

Adding Short Description Text Manually

Short description text can be added to images that have already been placed in InDesign.

Right-click into an image and select Object Export Options.

Paste the short description text into the window and click “Done.”

In sam Files

When exporting XML using Scribe Tools, the resulting sam file will contain the short description text in the callout for the image.

In sam:

1    <fig><img src="fig01.jpg" alt="The Princess of Spain surrounded by attendants"/></fig>

Note: This text will not appear in the “short description” field in the Hub. It will only appear there if the short description text is added by uploading it via a separate file or if pasted in manually. For any Hub conversion, the short description text appearing within the file itself will be prioritized over short description text added via the Hub interface.

In ScML and HTML Files

The following example shows an entire figure callout that includes short description text.

In ScML:

1    <figure>
2        <fig><img src="fig01.jpg" alt="The Princess of Spain surrounded by attendants"/></fig>
3        <figh><page locator="p2"/><fighn>Fig. 1:</fighn> Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, <tnw>Las Meninas</tnw>, c. 1656, oil on canvas. ©Photographic Archive Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.</figh>
4    </figure>

This short description text will appear in an e-book‘s HTML files created by the Hub‘s conversion of ScML to ePub.


1    <figure class="figure">
2        <p class="fig"><img src="images/fig01.jpg" alt="The Princess of Spain surrounded by attendants" width="518" height="600"/></p>
3        <p class="figh"><a data-locator="p2" class="page"></a><span class="fighn">Fig. 1:</span> Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, <i class="tnw">Las Meninas</i>, c. 1656, oil on canvas. ©Photographic Archive Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.</p>
4    </figure>

Adding Short Description Text Through the Digital Hub

When creating e-books from files that do not contain short description text, there are two ways to add this text through the Digital Hub.

Note: Adding short description text through the Digital Hub will not add the short descriptions to the ScML file, only the e-book‘s HTML. As a best practice, it is recommended that short description text be included in the ScML file directly.

Add Short Description Text Individually

For each uploaded image, there is a field called Short Description. Click the edit button to paste in the short description text.

Upload a Text File

To upload a text file containing the short description text for all uploaded images, click the i button next to Short Description and then click Upload Description List.

The file should have the following format:

  • One description per line.
  • Each line should have the image name, a tab, then the short description.
  • The description list file should have the .txt extension.

Decorative Images

You can specify that an image is serving a purely decorative role by setting the alt text to PRESENTATION anywhere in the workflow.

In Word: {~?~IM: insert fig01 here. ALT: PRESENTATION}

In sam/ScML:

1    <fig><img src="fig01.jpg" alt="PRESENTATION"/></fig>

The resulting ePub will have empty alt text and the role set as follows:


1    <p class="fig"><img src="images/fig01.jpg" role="presentation" alt="" width="40" height="40"/></p>

These two attributes will alert assistive technology not to announce the presence of the image to users.