How to publish on GOV.UK

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Creating and updating pages

How to create, edit and tag content in Whitehall publisher.

Create and update pages

Before you create or edit content, you need to read the style guide and understand:

Create a new document

  1. Select the ‘New document’ tab in Whitehall publisher.

  2. Click on the document type you want to create.

  3. If the document has a number of sub-types (eg publications, news articles, guidance and speeches), select the relevant one from the dropdown menu at the top of the page.

  4. Complete the ‘Title’ field using a maximum of 65 characters. Titles must be unique and can’t be changed once published. Titles don’t need a full stop. When you save your document this will become its ‘slug’, which users will see as the last section of the page URL.

  5. Complete the ‘Summary’ field using a maximum of 140 characters. This must be written as a complete sentence with a full stop.

  6. Complete the ‘Body’ section using Markdown to format things like headings, bullets and links. Common Markdown commands are also listed on the right-hand side of the page.

  7. Below the ‘Body’ section, indicate if your document ‘has never been published before’ or ‘has previously been published on another website’. If it’s been published before, you will need to add the date it was originally published.

  8. Tag your document to relevant organisations, policies, policy areas, ministers and locations by adding associations.

  9. Save your document by clicking ‘Save’ (which returns you to the main document list) or ‘Save and continue editing’ (which returns you to your document so you can keep working on it).

Once a document has been saved, you can add:

If you don’t want to save your document, click the ‘cancel’ link at the bottom of the page. This will delete your draft and there will be no record of your document in Whitehall publisher.

Limit access

You can limit access to documents so that they can only be edited and published by editors in the department it’s tagged to. Once published it can be accessed by all editors.

Only limit access if the information is confidential.

You can’t sync limited access documents between the Production and Integration environments.

Preview content

You can preview the body copy of your document in several ways.

Preview toggle

For quick checks, like seeing if your Markdown is correct, you can use the preview toggle.

  1. Click ‘preview’ at the top of your ‘Body’ text box. This will show you how your text will look when published.

  2. Review your content and formatting.

  3. Click ‘continue editing’ to return to your work.

The toggle button just shows you how text has been formatted. It doesn’t save your work.

Preview entire document

You also can check how a document will appear when published on GOV.UK.

  1. Save your document by clicking the ‘Save’ button at the bottom of the page (not ‘Save and continue editing’). This will save and close your document.

  2. On the new page, click the blue ‘Preview on website’ button.

Previews for stakeholders or policy teams

You can use fact check to share documents with people who don’t have access to Whitehall publisher.

Edit an existing (published) document

Select the ‘Documents’ tab and search the document you want to edit. Click on a document title to view it.

  1. Click ‘Create new edition’ to start a new draft version of your document for editing.

  2. If a draft has already been created you’ll see a button saying ‘Go to latest edition’ from which you’ll be able to click ‘Edit’ and edit the document.

  3. Your document appears and you can now edit it.

If a published document is being edited, there will be 2 versions of it in Whitehall publisher, the live page and the new draft version.

The new draft version will overwrite the live page when it is published. All links are updated and the old live page is withdrawn and disappears from Whitehall publisher.

Change notes

When you edit or change a document, write what you’ve done in the ‘Change note’ field. This note is publicly viewable.

Enter something short but useful, beginning with a past tense verb.

The document will appear in the latest box on your organisation page and in email alerts and feeds.

Users can read change notes by clicking the date of the article on the live page.

If the change is minor (eg fixing a typo or a broken link or making a style correction) then tick the ‘Minor change’ box. Minor changes aren’t publicly viewable and only appear within Whitehall publisher.

Find out more about writing change notes.

Internal notes

Add a note so other editors can see who requested the change and why.

  1. Under the ‘Notes’ tab, click on ‘Add new remark’.

  2. Complete the ‘Remark’ field and click ‘Submit remark’.

These notes will only be seen internally (by anyone with access to Whitehall publisher).

Adding attachments

You need to save your document before adding any attachments. You can then add them individually or bulk-upload a zip file containing multiple files.

If possible, save documents using an open standards format like .odt, .ods, .odp or PDF/A (formatted to be accessible). You should use .csv for datasets designed to be machine-readable.

If open standards haven’t yet been adopted by your department, you can use the following formats:

  • .csv
  • .doc
  • .docx
  • .dot
  • .dxf
  • .eps
  • .gif
  • .gml
  • .ics
  • .jpg
  • .kml
  • .pdf
  • .png
  • .ps
  • .ppt
  • .pptx
  • .rdf
  • .rtf
  • .txt
  • .xls
  • .xlsm
  • .xlst
  • .xlsx
  • .xml
  • .xsd
  • .zip

Attachment file names

Give all files you upload a meaningful file name. Don’t use vague file names, eg v62.pdf or application-form.pdf.

A good file name will make sense to the user if they find it in their download folder. It also makes it easier to analyse data in Google Analytics.

The file name must:

  • be written entirely in lowercase
  • use hyphens or underscores instead of spaces
  • make sense out of context, eg v62-application-vehicle-registration-certificate.pdf

The file name must not include:

  • a version number, ‘draft’, ‘clean’ or ‘final’, unless those words are part of the document title
  • a date, unless the date is part of the document title, eg a business plan for 2016 to 2017

Upload a single attachment

  1. On a saved document, click on ‘Edit draft’.

  2. Select the ‘Attachments’ tab.

  3. Click on ‘Upload new attachment.

  4. Fill in the title. If you’re adding a document or publication, use its official title.

  5. Fill in the rest of the fields, if relevant. These ‘metadata’ fields are searchable and may help users find your document (eg reference numbers for Freedom of Information requests).

  6. Click the ‘Choose file’ button to find and select your attachment.

  7. If your attachment is fully accessible, tick the button indicating this. If it’s not, users will see a box with information about requesting the document in an alternative format.

  8. Upload additional documents by repeating this process.

Add an external publication

  1. On a saved document, click on ‘Edit draft’.

  2. Select the ‘Attachments’ tab.

  3. Select the ‘Add new external attachment’ option.

  4. Enter the attachment title and URL.

Order and position attachments

  1. In an open document, select the ‘Attachments’ tab.

  2. Use your cursor to drag and re-position your attachments.

  3. Click ‘Save attachment order’ at the bottom of the page.

Publications and consultations

Attachments will automatically appear below the summary and above the body copy. They can’t be positioned within the body copy itself.

News stories, corporate groups, groups

Attachments can be positioned anywhere in the text using Markdown for attachments. You can re-position them by moving this Markdown code.

Bulk upload attachments

To upload files in bulk, you need a Zip file containing all the documents you want to attach.

  1. In an open document, select the ‘Attachments’ tab.

  2. Click on ‘Bulk upload from Zip file’.

  3. Click the ‘Choose file’ button to find and select your Zip file.

  4. Fill in the titles for all uploaded files. If you’re adding a documents or publications, use their official titles.

  5. Fill in the rest of the fields, if relevant. These ‘metadata’ fields are searchable and may help users find your documents (eg reference numbers for FOI requests).

The bulk uploader can also be used to quickly overwrite previous versions of files. If doing this, make sure your new files have the same filenames as your old ones.

Replace, edit and delete attachments

You can replace and edit published attachments.

  1. In an open document, select the ‘Attachments’ tab.

  2. Click ‘Edit’ next to the attachment you want to change.

  3. Upload a new file and it will overwrite the old file at the same URL location. The Markdown for this file will stay the same so doesn’t need to be changed.

  4. Edit the title or other metadata, if necessary.

You can also delete published documents.

  1. In an open document, select the ‘Attachments’ tab.

  2. Click ‘Delete’.

  3. Confirm you want to delete the file. The file will be deleted immediately (no need for further saving).

HTML documents

An HTML publication is an attachment on a publication. It cannot be created directly from the ‘Create a document’ button.

  1. Once you have created and saved a publication page, select the ‘Attachments’ tab and click on ‘Add new HTML attachment’.

  2. Complete the necessary fields and use Markdown in the ‘Body’ field. The content in the ‘Body’ field will look like a web page.

  3. Click ‘Save’.

Add associations (tagging)

Adding relevant tags to your document helps users find and subscribe to the GOV.UK content they’re interested in.

Specialist tagging (topics)

You can use specialist tagging to add content to a topic page.

If you’re creating ‘how to’ content and there’s a relevant specialist tag, you must add it.

‘How to’ content tells the user how to use a government service, or gives them information on how to do a specific task. Examples of ‘how to’ content formats are:

  • publication (type: guidance)
  • publication (type: statutory guidance)
  • publication (type: form)
  • detailed guides

If there aren’t any relevant topics, don’t tag. We’re adding more topics all the time.

A to Z topic pages and two column topic pages

Most topic pages use the A to Z format - they list all content tagged to them in A to Z order. See an example of an A to Z topic page.

If you tag a content item to an A to Z topic page, it will appear on the page automatically.

Some topic pages have two columns - the list of links is broken up using headings. See an example of a two column topic page.

If you tag a content item to a two column topic page, it won’t appear on the default view of the page automatically (though it will be added to the ‘See latest changes’ list). You’ll need to raise a request for GDS to add it to the default view.

Use the support form to raise a request.

Policy and policy areas tags

The ‘policy’ format groups together documents that aren’t ‘how to’ content - they’re published as part of the government policy making process, or for transparency and accountability reasons.

You must add a policy tag if you’re using a content type that has a purpose that’s to do with policy. For example:

  • policy papers
  • research and analysis publications
  • consultations
  • press releases

Marking a document as ‘important to a policy’

You can also flag a document as being especially significant in the development or implementation of a specific government policy.

There’s a checkbox underneath where you associate the document to the policy.

GDS is seeing how this is being used before deciding how important documents will be presented to users.

Other mandatory tags

Depending on what type of document you’re creating, it may be mandatory to add some other tags. For example, you must add:

  • at least one lead organisation for news and publications (add other organisations if they share responsibility for the document)
  • a speaker (for speeches)

Optional tags

You can add other tags, including:

  • ministers (only if there’s direct involvement from the minister - eg it’s a press release about a ministerial visit, or it’s a publication and the minister wrote the foreword)
  • topical events
  • worldwide locations (FCO only)

Adding a document to a document collection

To add a document to a collection -

  1. Find the document collection in Whitehall publisher

  2. Select the ‘collection documents’ tab.

  3. Find documents you want to add by typing search terms or a page ‘slug’ (last part of a URL, eg ‘public-health-outcomes-framework’) in the search box. Click ‘find’.

  4. Select the relevant document by clicking it.

  5. Select the group you want to add the document to from the dropdown list next to the ‘Add’ button. If you haven’t created any groups, they will be added automatically to the ‘Documents’ group.

  6. Click the ‘Add’ button.

Create groupings within document collections

You can organise documents by listing them under different subheadings, or ‘groups’.

  1. The first collection subheading (group) is automatically called ‘Documents’. You can change this title by clicking ‘Edit group heading and body’ to the left of the group title.

  2. Create a new group by clicking the ‘add a new group’ button link at the bottom of the page.

  3. Write a heading that explains the reason for the group.

  4. Write body text to introduce the group. If the group heading is self-explanatory, you don’t need to complete this field.

  5. Move existing documents into a group by selecting them and clicking the ‘Move’ button.

Re-order documents within document collections

Drag and drop documents to re-order them within a group or move them to another group.

You can also click the tickbox next to a document, then select another group to move it to in the dropdown menu at the top of its current group.

Creating new associations, tags and document collections

See ‘Organising and grouping content on GOV.UK’ for guidance on requesting or creating new associations, tags and document collections.

Add contact details

You can add contact details to a document using your organisation’s contact directory.

All frequently used email addresses should be in the contact directory. If you need add contact details that are not in the directory, you’ll need to create a new contact.

Add a directory contact

  1. Type [contact: to bring up a list of contacts.

  2. Continue typing to search for relevant contacts (eg if you type ‘Defra’, it will show all contacts that include or belong to Defra). If you know the contact’s code, you can type this instead.

  3. Select an option by clicking it. This will insert and format the contact on your page.

  4. Preview your document to double-check it’s the contact you wanted.

You can also add a contact by using the Markdown for addresses.

Content associated with the government of the time (‘history mode’)

There’s content on GOV.UK to do with government’s process of policy formation. It’s useful for users to understand the context of this content, which includes whether a previous government was in place when it was published.

Policy and news get ‘history mode’ but not statistics, for example.

For this content, users will see a message telling them the content is from a previous government and shows them where they can get current information.

We call this ‘history mode’. You can see an example of how this looks.

Content from previous governments will appear less prominently in internal search results unless it’s clear that’s what the user is looking for. This is because users most often want information from the current government.

This allows users to find what government said and did even if there’s a change of government.

What content gets history mode

GOV.UK only displays the message on relevant formats where the ‘first published’ date is from a previous government.

It displays the message if either:

  • it’s associated with a minister
  • the format and organisation are mostly associated with government policy

The history mode displays on:

  • news
  • press releases
  • speeches
  • policy papers
  • consultations
  • government responses
  • impact assessments
  • corporate or annual reports

You can also put history mode on collections but this needs to be done manually, it won’t be given it automatically.

What content doesn’t get history mode

History mode doesn’t appear on:

  • services and information (‘mainstream’) content
  • detailed guides
  • other guidance content types (eg ‘guidance’ publications, forms)
  • manuals
  • national statistics
  • statistical releases
  • research and analysis
  • fatality notices
  • transparency data
  • independent reports
  • correspondence (unless directly associated with a minister)
  • maps
  • decisions
  • case studies
  • international treaties

Turning history mode on or off

If you need to override history mode, it’s possible the content has been published in the wrong format. Republish the content in the correct format and redirect users from the old URL to the new one.

If you need to make a change to the history mode status of a piece of content published before 8 May 2015, contact GDS.

See all content that has history mode

Export a .CSV file of the content you want to check. It will have a column saying if the content has history mode applied.

Schedule publishing

Any document type (policies, news, speeches, consultations, publications) can be scheduled for future publication.

When you have created your document:

  1. Click the ‘Schedule for publication’ checkbox - the date/time controls will appear.

  2. Set the date/time for when you’d like the page to go live then save the page.

  3. Click the ‘Submit’ button.

Your content will only go live as scheduled if:

  • it’s force scheduled, this should only be used in emergencies
  • a colleague second eyes (2i) the document more than 30 minutes before publication

Create a collection

  1. On the ‘new document’ menu, select ‘document collection’.

  2. Write the title and summary in a way that will explain the reason for the collection to a user who sees it in search results.

  3. Write a sentence or 2 in the ‘Body’ section to introduce the list of documents. Don’t repeat the summary.

  4. Add relevant associations.

  5. Click ‘Save and continue editing’.

  6. After saving, a second tab (‘collection documents’) will appear. This is where you add publications.

Add documents to a collection

  1. Select the ‘collection documents’ tab.

  2. Find documents you want to add by typing search terms or a page ‘slug’ (last part of a URL, eg ‘public-health-outcomes-framework’) in the search box. Click ‘find’.

  3. Select the relevant document by clicking it.

  4. Select the group you want to add the document to from the dropdown list next to the ‘Add’ button. If you haven’t created any groups, they will be added automatically to the ‘Documents’ group.

  5. Click the ‘Add’ button.

Create groups

You can organise documents by listing them under different subheadings, or ‘groups’.

  1. The first collection subheading (group) is automatically called ‘Documents’. This title can be changed by clicking ‘Edit group heading and body’ to the left of the group title.

  2. Create a new group by clicking the ‘add a new group’ button link at the bottom of the page.

  3. Write a heading that explains the reason for the group.

  4. Write body text to introduce the group. If the group heading is self-explanatory, you don’t need to complete this field.

  5. Move existing documents into a group by selecting them and clicking the ‘Move’ button.

Re-order documents

Drag and drop documents to re-order them within a group or move them to another group.

You can also click the tickbox next to a document, then select another group to move it to in the dropdown menu at the top of its current group.

Preview a collection

  1. Click ‘Save’ (not ‘Save and continue editing’). This will save and close your document.

  2. On the new page, click the blue ‘Preview on website’ button. This will show you how the collection will appear when published on GOV.UK.

Official documents

The National Archives website explains the different types of official document and how to prepare them for publication.

Create an official document

You should have both the web-optimised and print-ready PDFs ready to upload before you start. List the web-optimised PDF first, followed by the print-ready versions.

  1. Choose the publication type for the document you’re publishing eg policy paper, independent report).

  2. Complete the necessary fields.

  3. Click on ‘Save and continue editing’.

  4. Select the attachments tab at the top of the page, then:

  • fill in the title field with the name of the PDF
  • if it’s a print-ready PDF add (print-ready PDF) in brackets after the title
  • if it’s a web-optimised PDF, fill in the ‘Order URL’ field with the link to the ‘How to buy print copies of official documents’ guide on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/how-to-buy-printed-copies-of-official-documents
  • leave the ‘Price in £s’ field blank

Then fill in the rest of the fields according to the type of official document it is:

Command papers

Fill in these fields:

  • ISBN - web ISBN for the web-optimised PDF or print ISBN for print-ready PDF
  • Unique reference - the departmental unique reference number (URN), if the document has been given one
  • Command paper number - write ‘Cm’ followed by the number eg Cm 8844

House of Commons papers

Fill in these fields:

  • ISBN - web ISBN for the web-optimised PDF or print ISBN for print-ready PDF
  • Unique reference - the departmental unique reference number (URN), if the document has been given one
  • House of Commons paper number - found on the title page of the document (the HC prefix will be added automatically)
  • Parliamentary session - select the correct session from the drop down menu, if you’re not sure which session it is you can check the Parliamentary session calendar

Unnumbered Act papers

Fill in these fields:

  • ISBN - web ISBN for the web-optimised PDF or print ISBN for print-ready PDF if the document has ISBNs
  • Unique reference - the departmental unique reference number (URN), if the document has been given one
  • House of Commons paper number - leave the field blank and tick the box labelled ‘Unnumbered’

Then upload your attachment and click ‘Save’.

Transparency documents

Transparency pages are a publication sub-type, so create a publication as normal and select ‘transparency data’ in the ‘Publication type’ field.

Statistics

Find out how to publish statistics announcements and publications.

Find out how to feature documents.

Corporate information

Find out how to manage organisation pages and people and roles.

Groups

Find out how to create and manage groups.

Worldwide

Find out how to create and manage worldwide content.