Using embedded topics for single sourcing

Neil Woolley
by Neil Woolley

Embedded topics are the smallest chunks of information that can be reused many times in other topics. Topics in turn are the cohesive chunks of information delivered to end users. As its name implies, the embedded topic is included where it’s needed within the topic.

Embedded topic

In the following example, the embedded topic (on the left) is included in the role-based topic (on the right). To make it easier to recognise, the embedded topic has a grey background in the authoring tool.

Embedded topic in use

The advantage of the embedded topic, when designed correctly, is that it can be used elsewhere in other topics. When you change the content in an embedded topic, the change flows to the other topics using it. Users won’t see the change until you’ve published and delivered the outputs; such as printable, online and mobile versions.

Embedded topic in use

You can nest an embedded topic within another one, when it makes sense.

Nested embedded topic

In the following example, embedded topics are included in the middle topic; this in turn is embedded in an overall topic (on the right). Contrast this with the role-based example earlier.

Nested embedded topic in use

The main reason for the embedded topic in this example is that the email addresses may change with time. If we change an email address in the bottom left-hand embedded topic, it will be changed in the middle and right-hand topics too.

Embedded topics are very useful when creating and maintaining single-sourced content. When designed correctly, they ensure that reused content only needs changing once at the source. The downside is that you have to be alert to where and how they’re used.

While nested embedded topics help minimise duplication of content they can add unwanted complexity.

Once set up correctly, embedded topics can improve quality and reduce the ‘total cost of ownership’ over the content’s lifetime.

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