Inside Brightspot: The difference between attachments and documents

Each week, our Vice President of Product shares an email with the company that’s filled with 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 weekly column called “The Whys.” From creating vanity URLs to knowing the difference between a document and an attachment, these posts 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 open up examples of those two objects 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 text extraction. That said, Document has a few fields that Attachment doesn't, like Description and Keywords.

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

  • Attachment is a CMS content type.
  • Document is a DAM content type.

I'm going to assume you're familiar with the plug-ins tab. If you were to go to that list, disable the plug-in called Express: DAM, and hit save, you'd no longer see Document (or Spreadsheet or Presentation, for that matter) in your list of available content types. You would still see Attachment, though.

Attachment was born out of a need from editorial teams to have the ability to upload a PDF into the CMS, and to link to it from articles. A great use case for this is a corporate storytelling site that wants to include a link to its latest sustainability report in the context of a related article. Or its latest earnings report. Or a form for its readers to fill out requesting more information. Or a news site that wants to include a police report with a story. There are any number of use cases.

Before Attachment, we had a content type called Download File, which was available only as part of the Corporate plug-in; we renamed it Attachment and made it part of the core CMS.

So, that's cool, but why are there two? Why is it in the core CMS?

To answer those questions, it's helpful to look at what else comes along with the Corporate plug-in and the DAM plug-in. If all a project required was Download File or Document, they had to bring the Corporate package into the system, then remove all the other Corporate content types that they didn't need (at that time, I think it consisted of Brands, Topics, Countries, Products and Press Release), or they could bring the DAM package into the system, then remove all the other DAM content types they didn't need (Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation and probably others).

Putting Attachment in the core CMS allowed projects to get that functionality with no extra importing and deleting—so, essentially, we made that change to minimize the time spent deleting unneeded functionality. Attachment has fewer fields than Document because, arguably, for a simple file upload, publishers don't need all the whiz-bang fields that come with a DAM.

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