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Topic-based Authoring

In topic-based authoring content is created not as long monolithic documents or “books”, but rather as small chunks of content usually focusing on a self-contained subject matter (topic). These topics are then used as building blocks (think Lego blocks) to build larger publications.

Topic-based authoring became popular with the appearance of online help content already in the 1990’s, and today it is a central feature of XML-based platforms such as the Paligo CCMS and DITA CCMS platforms. The idea was that a topic should be able to “stand alone”. That documentation often demanded quick answers to questions and should therefore focus on answering one question, describing one procedure, and so on.

Besides the focus on being able to read documentation as standalone pieces of content, topic-based authoring also has other benefits. By breaking content into smaller blocks of modular content, it makes it easier to reuse content for a multitude of different contexts (e.g product models or versions), audiences, markets, and more.