The topological structure of a parallel manipulator (PM) determines its intrinsic topological properties (TPs). The TPs further determine essential kinematic and dynamic properties of the mechanism. TPs can be expressed through topological characteristics indexes (TCI). Therefore, defining a set of TCIs is an important issue to evaluate the TPs of PMs. This article addresses the evaluation of topological properties (ETP) of PMs based on TCI. A general and effective ETP method for PMs is proposed. Firstly, 12 TCIs are proposed, including 8 quantitative TCIs, that is, position and orientation characteristics sets (POC), dimension of the POC set, degrees of freedom (DOF), number of independent displacement equations, types and number of an Assur kinematic chain (AKC), coupling degrees of the AKCs, degrees of redundancy and the number of overs; as well as 4 qualitative TCIs, that is, selection of actuated joints, identification of inactive joints, DOF type and Input–Output motion decoupling. Secondly, the ETP method is illustrated by evaluating some well-known PMs including the Delta, Tricept, Exechon, Z3, H4 and the Gough–Stewart platform manipulators, as well as 28 other typical PMs. Via the ETP analysis of these mechanisms also some valuable design knowledge is derived and guidelines for the design of PMs are established. Finally, a 5-DOF decoupled hybrid spraying robot is developed by applying the design knowledge and the design guidelines derived from the ETP analysis.