Atlassian Confluence wiki and collaboration platform: The smart person's guide

Does your office run Atlassian software? If so, you should consider adding Confluence to the suite to make collaboration and building a knowledge base simple.

Image: Atlassian

There is a variety of collaboration software in the world, and not all of it serves the same purpose. Slack is for chat, G Suite is mostly used for file sharing and storage, and Facebook Workplace aims to be a total package for the average business.

But what about those who need something more specialized? That's where Atlassian comes in with its huge range of products. There's an Atlassian product for almost every enterprise need, and that includes Confluence.

Tired of digging through old emails for documents, notes, and change requests? Are Google Docs simply not sufficient for handling your knowledge base? Do you want a wiki that's capable of talking to the rest of your collaboration software without requiring you to sink time into establishing communication? If so, Confluence may be just what you're looking for.

TechRepublic's smart person's guide about Confluence is a quick introduction to this team collaboration platform, as well as a "living" guide that will be updated periodically as new features are released.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What is Confluence? Confluence is Atlassian's document creation, organization, workspace, and wiki tool. It can be used to create a variety of documents, and it comes in several flavors designed for different applications.
  • Why does Confluence matter? Confluence isn't unique as an enterprise-focused wiki--what makes it better is that it integrates so tightly with the rest of Atlassian's software. For shops using Atlassian there isn't even a decision to make: Confluence is the choice.
  • Who does Confluence affect? Confluence affects anyone who needs a wiki-style collaboration space for IT teams, development teams, or any other areas where document collaboration can provide benefit. Confluence shines when integrated with other Atlassian products, but it can operate by itself as well.
  • When is Confluence happening? Confluence first launched in 2004. It has evolved a lot since then, with new features, add-ons, and integrations happening all the time.
  • How do I start using Confluence? You can try Confluence free for seven days. After that you have to purchase a license, which varies in cost depending on the features you want.

SEE: Software usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

What is Confluence?

Confluence is a wiki platform--that's the long and short of it. It allows users to upload documents, create team workspaces, and basically do anything else you can do with wiki software.

Confluence also has personal spaces for storing files, built-in version control, customizable templates, task assigning, and tons of other features that make it more useful than just a plain wiki.

If the basic features aren't enough there are several styles of Confluence tailored to particular kinds of work. Confluence for IT Teams adds a service desk and integrated knowledge base; Confluence for Software Teams adds issue traceability; or you can just build your own Confluence platform from the ground up to get exactly what you want.

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Why does Confluence matter?

There are definitely other enterprise-centric wiki platforms available, so why choose Confluence? A comparison of Confluence with other popular wiki platforms is also a bit inconclusive--they all have similar features and advantages over their competitors.

Confluence matters not for what it is, but how it integrates with other Atlassian apps. 72% of Confluence customers use it in combination with other Atlassian software, which speaks volumes for where it really shines.

If you aren't working in an Atlassian shop, Confluence can still be a good choice for wiki software. And if you use even one other Atlassian app, there's no sense in even considering another wiki.

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Who does Confluence affect?

Do you think a cloud-hosted wiki could benefit your team? If so, then Confluence affects you.

You'll definitely get the most benefit out of Confluence if it's integrated with other Atlassian products, but don't let that stop you--it's a wiki with lots of features. Atlassian products are also known for their robust add-ons and Confluence is no different: If there's a feature you want or need in your workspace, there's probably an add-on that can do it.

Confluence affects anyone who needs an enterprise wiki, and it's a good choice regardless of the number of other Atlassian products you use. If you're shopping for options, it should definitely be on your list to check out, which you can do free for seven days.

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When is Confluence happening?

Confluence launched in 2004. Cofounder Mike Cannon-Brookes said of Confluence that "our aim was to build an application that was built to the requirements of an enterprise knowledge management system, without losing the essential, powerful simplicity of the wiki in the process."

Since 2004 Confluence has added integrations with other Atlassian products, becoming a collaboration platform as well as a wiki. Confluence was added to Atlassian Data Center in 2014, which allows it to be installed locally instead of relying on cloud hosting.

Competitive products

As mentioned above, there are a lot of enterprise wiki products that compete with Confluence. The list is long and the features are varied, so if you want to see a thorough comparison of products you're considering head over to WikiMatrix and select the ones you want.

The one big strike for Confluence, especially when compared to other popular wiki platforms, is its price: 1-10 users on the cloud-based version only costs $10 a month, but when you jump to the next tier it climbs to $50 a month for 15 users, and it goes up from there. That might not sound like much, but most competitors are free.

Paying for Confluence does have its perks, however, mainly in the forms of integration and support.

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How do I start using Confluence?

You can start a Confluence trial now. Trial workspaces come loaded with sample documents, giving you a good idea of how a live version looks.

After the seven-day trial you'll have to buy a license, and the pricing varies greatly depending on the number of users and the features you choose.

Additional resources