First, let me explain the difference between Sharing Topics and Copying Topics and when you should use either method.
When you copy a topic from another manual, the actual topic contents (Title, Body and Keyword) are copied to your current manual as a new topic. Afterwards, you can freely modify the copy, without any effect on the original. There is no relation or link between the copy and the original.
When to copy a topic:
Copying a topic is useful if you want to create a new topic that is somewhat similar to a topic you already have in another manual, but still needs a considerable amount of changes to make it work for your current manual.
When you share a topic from another manual “into” your current manual, the topic contents are not duplicated. Instead, both manuals will now refer to the same topic content. The Title, Body and Keyword are shared between the manuals.
In other words, if you make a change to either of these 3 topic part, it will have effect on both manuals.
When to share a topic:
Sharing a topic should be done only when you want to add a topic to your current manual that is exactly the same or very similar to an existing topic in one of your other manuals. (I will explain the “very similar” part below).
The advantage of sharing is easier maintenance. Every change you make you will be automatically visible in both manuals.
Examples of typical topics that can be shared:
- Company information.
- Licensing agreements.
- Explanation of features or tasks that are the same for multiple products (or product versions!)
Very similar? How similar is that?
Let me be more precise: sharing is possible as long as the necessary differences can be implemented using variables. For example, if the only difference between the topics is the name of the product, sharing is the way to go, combined with a ProductName variable.
Other example of variables in shared topics:
- color names (“green” vs “red”)
- platform names for software (“Windows” vs “Mac OS X”)
- item names (“movies” vs “books”)