Reader Groups

How do reader groups work?

We're often asked if it's possible to have content for different readers in the same knowledge base. For example, maybe you have both internal support documentation as well as customer-facing product documentation in the same knowledge base. Or, you might have a knowledge base that contains categories for different departments or teams in your organization.

If you'd like to segregate content--or display different content to different readers--you can do this by using Reader Groups and the Restrict to Groups option in the content itself.

There are three basic steps in this process:

Let's say I have a category of documentation called KO Product Support, and that category is restricted to a reader group called KO support.

If I'm a member of KO support, I'll see this content in the table of contents, search, etc.

If I'm not a member of KO support:

  • I won't see the KO Product Support category in the table of contents or on the home page
  • If I type to search, the typeahead search won't show me any of the articles in KO Product Support
  • If I complete a full search, the search results won't show me any of the articles in KO Product Support
  • If someone gives me the direct link to an article in KO Product Support, I'll only see a message that I don't have access to that content

In short, the content isn't something I can find or discover on my own, and even with a direct link, I can't access it.

Can I set reader group restrictions for an entire category?

Yes! If you restrict a category to certain groups, all of that category's content (subcategories + articles) will automatically inherit the reader group restrictions you set. We call these Inherited Groups. Any reader groups that an article or subcategory is inheriting are shown in the Inherited Groups section:

Sample Inherited Groups section

You'll also an up arrow icon in the Restrict to Groups list to identify inherited groups:

The up arrow after the group name indicates this is an Inherited Group

If an article or category is restricted to more than one group is selected, what happens?

This depends on your knowledge base's Reader Group Logic settings.

Two Reader Group Logic options are supported:

  • Inclusive:
    • Example: An article is restricted to groups "Apples" and "Bananas".
      • Reader in Apples group only: sees the article
      • Reader in Bananas group only: sees the article
      • Reader in both Apples and Bananas group: sees the article
      • Reader in the Pineapples group: won't see the article
  • Exclusive:
    • Example: An article is restricted to groups "Apples" and "Bananas".
      • Reader in Apples group only: won't see article
      • Reader in Bananas group only: won't see article
      • Reader in both Apples and Bananas group: sees the article
      • Reader in the Pineapples group: won't see the article

By default, all knowledge bases are set to Inclusive Reader Group Logic (the first example above). You can check or update this by going to Settings > Security and checking the Reader Options section:

Create a reader group

You can create groups to restrict access to content.  

Sample reader groups

To create groups:

  1. Go to Your Account > Readers.
  2. Click on the Groups tab.
  3. Click on the Add Group button.
    Click the Groups tab and the + Add Group button
  4. This will open the Create Reader Group pop-up. Type the Group Name you'd like to use.

    If you are using Single Sign-on, you can pass reader groups over from your SSO provider. You can also create groups that exist only in KnowledgeOwl, that you'd administer membership of in KnowledgeOwl. To create this group as a KO-only reader group, check the box next to that option. If you're not using SSO or you aren't passing groups over from SSO, you can ignore this checkbox.

  5. Click Create Group.
    Enter the group name and click Create Group

You can change the order your reader groups are displayed in using the arrow to the right of the group name:

Reorder the groups using the arrow to the right

Display conditional content based on reader logins

You can restrict some content so that it is only visible to specific readers. To do so, create a reader group or groups and then restrict the category or individual articles to that group.

Restrictions can be set:

  • At the category level: restrictions set here will automatically be inherited by all subcategories and articles in the category. Groups inherited from a category are identified in the Inherited Groups section of the editor. You can add additional groups to individual subcategories and articles by using the Restrict to Groups checkboxes within those pages.
  • At the article level: restrictions set here apply only to the individual article and don't impact other articles or categories in any way .

Restrict access based on Reader Groups

  1. If you do not have your reader groups set up, you will need to set them up by following these instructions
  2. Create a new category or article (or edit an existing one by clicking on the wrench icon to the right of any content) inside Knowledge Base > Articles.
  3. In the edit view for the category or article, use the checkboxes under Restrict to Groups in the right-hand column to set which groups can see this content:
    Sample Restrict to Groups section; the groups listed here will vary based on your setup
  4. Click Save

For more information on how reader group work and what happens when you restrict to multiple reader groups, see How do reader groups work?

Test reader group access

Once you've set up reader groups, it's helpful to test what different reader groups will see.

You have two options to test:

  1. As a user, using the Change Reader Groups option in your admin footer
  2. Logging in as a specific reader

Change Reader Groups in admin footer

As a user, you can simulate membership in different groups to test them:

  1. From, click the View KB link in the header.
  2. This will open the knowledge base with the admin footer displayed. Click on the Change Reader Groups option in the footer:
  3. This will open a pop-up where you can use checkboxes to select the reader group(s) you'd like to simulate:
  4. Make your selections and click the Change Reader Groups button.

You're now viewing the knowledge base as a member of the reader group(s) you selected. You can reopen the Change Reader Groups dialog at any time to continue to switch between groups.

Testing as an individual reader

Of course, you can also create or use an existing reader's account (or assign yourself to a specific reader group) to test reader group permissions. Generally the Change Reader Groups option is ideal for testing general reader group permissions, and logging in as an individual reader might be more useful for testing to be sure you've assigned the correct reader groups to that individual reader.

In most cases, you should be able to log out and then login as a specific reader to test. However, there are some cases where you might not have a logout link. If that's the case:

  1. Go to your knowledge base home page. The URL should end in "/help", "/home", or "/docs".
  2. Append "/readerlogout" to the end of the URL. The URL should now end in "/help/readerlogout", "/home/readerlogout", or "/docs/readerlogout"
  3. Hit enter (or return) to go to this new URL.
  4. Log in to your help site with the reader you wish to test.

Auto-assign groups by email rules

If you have reader sign-ups enabled, by default, new reader signups aren't assigned any reader groups. You can create rules to automatically assign readers to groups based on their email domain.

A common use case is to assign all readers with internal email addresses to an internal reader group. For example, Linus likes having a rule that will assign all readers with a email address to the Support reader group, which gives them access to all content restricted to our Support group.

If you're using reader signup, this can help guarantee that new readers get access to the content they need without a KnowledgeOwl admin having to manually review and assign them to the appropriate groups.

These rules currently apply to readers who have signed up for access to your knowledge base only. They do not apply to:
  • Reader accounts that you or another KO admin manually creates in Your Account > Readers (singly or in bulk)
  • Readers who come through remote authentication or any of our SSO integrations

To set up Email Rules:

  1. Go to Your Account > Readers.
  2. Click on the Groups tab.
  3. Click on the + Add Rule button.
    Click the + Add Rule button
  4. This will open the Auto-Assign Groups By Email Rule pop-up. To set up your rule, include:
    The Auto-Assign Groups by Email Rule pop-up
    1. A Rule Name. This name will appear in the Auto-Assign Groups by Email Rules in Readers > Groups, so it should help describe the rule.
    2. The Email Domain the rule applies to: all readers with this email domain will have this rule applied. It must be an entire domain (such as,,, etc.).
    3. Use the Assign to Groups checkboxes to select the Reader Group(s) that people with that email domain should be assigned to. This list depends on the Reader Groups you've set up in your knowledge base.
  5. Click Save Rule to save your changes.
    Sample rule which will assign all readers with an email address to the Support group
  6. Your rule will now appear in the Auto-Assign Groups by Email Rules section of Readers > Groups and will be applied to all reader signups from here on out. You can edit it (gear icon) or delete it (trashcan icon) using the icons to the right of the rule.
    Sample rule added to Auto-Assign Groups By Email Rules

By default, rules will only be applied when a new reader first signs up.

To run the rules on subsequent logins and allow rules to affect existing readers, choose "Override reader groups based on rule logic on each login" under Your Account > Readers  > Settings. (Note that changing this setting, though, will override any manually-assigned reader groups for readers in the rule domains, though. We don't recommend using this setting if you're using auto-assigned rules in conjunction with manually-assigned groups!)

Checking if an article or category is restricted to reader groups

For both articles and categories, you can check two sections of the editor to see if the content is restricted to any reader groups:

  1. Inherited Groups: When an entire category or subcategory is restricted to groups, those reader group restrictions are "inherited" by the content in that category. Any groups listed in the Inherited Groups section are being inherited by one or more parent categories. You'd want to check each parent category above the current content to see where those groups are being set.
    • Inherited group restrictions must be changed in the parent category where they are set. They cannot be changed in individual articles.
      Inherited Groups cannot be edited in this content; look at the parent categories to adjust these groups!
  2. Restrict to Groups: These checkboxes are for group restrictions assigned to the particular category or article you're looking at in the editor.
    • Checking or unchecking these boxes will immediately change which groups can see this content.
    • Groups that are "inherited" will also have an up arrow icon next to them. Unchecking a box next to an inherited group restriction will not remove the inherited restriction.

This icon indicates Administrator is an Inherited Group.

For articles, you can also see both of these fields in the Manage Articles CSV export:

Manage Articles CSV export options