Almost two weeks ago I passed my Salesforce ServiceCloud exam (yay!). One of the things I had most trouble understanding was the difference between data categories and article types. As someone on the internet put it:

I am looking for the difference between the two – don’t both do the same job iei classify the articles and the access to them? (http://goo.gl/oDhndx)

Well, sort of, but not quite. So when I finally got the difference, I couldn’t wait to share that piece of Knowledge with the world. So if this is a subject you’re struggling with as well, read on (basic knowledge of Salesforce is preferred).

Content vs. Shape

Imagine you have a blog article. This article could be categorized in two ways:

  1. By content (for example, you could have articles on travel to Asia, on blue screens of death, on Jane Austen novels or on reasons why people should stop watching TLC).
  2. By shape (for example, an article could be shapes as a long piece of text, as a series of photos with captions, as a Q&A), in which case different articles would probably have different fields.

Well, Article Types are ways to organize the presentation of different shapes of articles in Salesforce (such as manuals, FAQ’s etc.) and ways to present these different shapes (e.g. an Q&A might have two fields, a Question field and an answer field, while a manual will have a list of steps). Data categories, however, are ways to organize articles by content, so you might have different categories for articles on different things you sell.

So what’s with profiles and roles?

In order to understand how article types and data categories help restrict the visibility of articles, it helps to have a solid knowledge of Salesforce Profiles and Roles. If these concepts are not very familiar to you, or if you feel like you’ve never really grasped the difference, here’s a very short recap:

  • Profiles determine the TYPE of information one is able to see (for example, one might be able to see Cases, but not Campaigns);
  • Roles determine the INSTANCES of information one is able to see (for example, one might be able to only view his own cases, but not cases owned by their peers).

Essentially, Data categories and Article types help us organize knowledge articles in the following ways:

  • Article Types add (well, the name sort of says it all) more types (like record types, really, if you’re familiar with the concept) to knowledge articles.
  • Data categories help us group instances of knowledge articles.

And that’s why, if you want to restrict the article types a user is allowed to work with, you should use article types (for example enabling users to only write general documentation, or only write FAQ’s). But when you want to restrict users by content (for example enabling users to create all kinds of such as FAQs, manuals, general documentation and so on), but only on specific subjects (books, or cars, or famous aliens from the 70’s), you should use roles.

I really hope this clears things up!

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