Inside Brightspot: The difference between attachments and documents

Every so often, our Vice President of Product shares an email with the company that tells the background story on why Brightspot’s features are the way they are. Not one to keep secrets, we’re sharing her insights with you here, in a series called “Inside Brightspot.” From creating users and permissions to knowing the difference between different dashboard widgets, this series will answer the questions anyone who publishes digital content has likely pondered.

Here's a deceptively simple question: Why is there a content type in Brightspot called Attachment and another one called Document? Aren't those the same thing?

If you were to open up examples of those two types side-by-side, you'll note that they share a lot of the same fields and functionality. Obviously, both support the upload of a file; both also have a title field and allow for keywords to be added. That said, Document has a few fields that Attachment doesn't, like Description and a Thumbnail.

There’s a method behind this approach, and here it is:

  • Attachment is a content type that is designed to be used with Brightspot CMS, and aims to solve the use cases of a publisher or editor who simply wants to associate a file of some kind with an article or other asset.
  • Document is a content type that is designed to be used with Brightspot Media Desk, our digital asset management system. The Document content type goes above and beyond the baseline functionality of Attachment in order to provide more capabilities around search as well as front end display.

Let's go into each type a bit more deeply.

Brightspot's Attachment Content Type

The Attachment content type was born out of a simple need from editorial teams, who wanted the the ability to upload a PDF into Brightspot, and to link to it from articles. Specifically, that linkage typically happens via the Brightspot rich text editor, where text within an article links to a file that a reader can click, open in a new tab and read or print.

A common use case for Attachment is a media publisher, whose editorial team wants to link to court documents, a police report or an official government report as part of a story. Corporations who are using Brightspot for brand storytelling also leverage Attachment, which gives them the ability to upload a new sustainability or earnings report in the context of a press release or article.

Generally speaking, an Attachment is designed to live alongside another asset, or be referenced within an asset, and not meant to be a standalone asset. Therefore, Attachment has a very limited set of fields, and those fields are not designed to be shared with or displayed on the front end of a website. In addition, an editor cannot "publish" an Attachment, therefore cannot manage a URL or preview the asset.

That's not the case with Document.

Brightspot's Document Content Type

The defining distinction between Attachment and Document, then, is exactly that — Document was designed to stand on its own, and has much more functionality, including fields that can be passed to the front end as part of the Brightspot Media Desk brand portal (which is an authenticated website where users can browse, search, discover and download approved assets from a brand).

As part of Brightspot's Media Desk, a Document may be relevant to users on its own merits. Take a company who wants to provide a glossy brochure or FAQ on its brand portal; the Document will need to be presented to users with a title and description, as well as a thumbnail image, tags and relevant keywords. Brightspot provides those fields in the DAM, and passes those to the front-end of the brand portal.

Furthermore, the Document content type includes Brightspot's permalink widget, which allows the digital asset management team to quickly and efficiently manage the destination URL for a given Document, as well as Preview, which lets teams make sure the Document is going to look great on the front end and across devices.

What Attachment and Document Have in Common

All that said, there are some core shared attributes and behaviors between Attachment and Document. Both support the addition of a title that will be made available in Brightspot's powerful search. Both support the addition of keywords.

Perhaps most powerful, for PDFs, both content types support the auto-extraction of the text within the Attachment or Document. This can be achieved via any number of integrations, including Cloud Convert and AWS Textract, and that extracted data is then made available in the UI of that asset as well as in Brightspot search — meaning, Brightspot user can input a term that is used in the uploaded document, and find a given Attachment or Document in search.

There you go — that's your primer on the differences between Attachment and Document. Go forth, and upload!

image of Brightspot employee Meredith Rodkey
About the Author
Meredith Rodkey is VP of Platform Product Management & Solutions at Brightspot. She has focused on product management for nearly 10 years, contributing to major Brightspot engagements from U.S. News & World Report to Arizent and Healthgrades. In her previous life, Meredith worked as a homepage editor and writer for, curating a daily experience for millions of users.

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