It’s a Big One – Confluence 3.5

Posted on 17 March, 2011

Introduction

You can tell by now that I am a big fan of Atlassian’s wiki software Confluence. It turns out that a wiki is a valuable addition to our iOS business.
The next iteration is upon us and this update seems to be a big one. Here are the highlights that I predict to be very useful.

Sharing content

One of the big hurdles when introducing a new system is the level of involvement of other users. You could add the best tool in the world for the job and it will be useless if no one uses it.
As with wikis one can directly influence its acceptance through one tiny trick. Just don’t use email anymore to organize knowledge and to distribute content. Put everything in the wiki instead and send your colleagues a link to the wiki page.
Atlassian seems to have realized how important this is so they added a “share content” button on every wiki page. The minimalistic interface is very unobtrusive and visually pleasing.

Confluence sends an email to the contact provided and displays an optional note along with a shortlink to the wiki page.
But there is more to it. Since engagement is critical to the success of a newly introduced system (and its continuity), Confluence adds every contributor to a wiki page as a watcher. This means that you will never miss updates on the content (and discussions) you care about.

Drag & Drop

Finally – it’s back again. Well sort of. Confluence has been supporting drag&drop for attachments (just grab a file and drop it into the browser window while editing a page) for a while now. However the old implementation relied on Google Gears or a Firefox plugin. As a Mac/Safari user this wasn’t working for me. Now this feature returned for all HTML5 compliant browsers!
Check out the following short clip. It still amazes me how easy it is nowadays to add attachments to a page 
YouTube Preview Image

Tight Integration With Jira

As if my last post about a month ago wasn’t enough to demonstrate how awesome the integration between Jira and Confluence can be, Atlassian went even further. It is now possible to create Jira issues from within Confluence. But not only the big stars Confluence and Jira are involved. Every other Atlassian product seems to be able to integrate with Confluence and partially with Jira. This is great news for larger installations where project managers can now use an even more refined cockpit that pulls content from other sources. Adding the capability to create Jira issues from within Confluence is a big plus on the “make things even more simple” front.

On Demand Support

One feature that might make the life of an admin a lot easier is the inclusion of the Atlassian support tool, cleverly named “Hercules”. As part of the admin area it can be told to scan the server’s log file for problems and it automatically suggests solutions from the Atlassian support wiki. After a quick test it really doesn’t seem to be another hollow marketing promise that other products provide. It did even find two minor problems on my evaluation server.

The Little Things

There are of course many little things that have changed for the better. Here are those that catched my eye.

Language Selection

Upon login, Confluence allows the selection of the preferred language. This can be set at any time to a default value. Useful for those notorius “I need everything in my own language” folks 

Pretty Code Macro

For a technical oriented wiki like ours this is very useful. The code macro has been enhanced and displays pretty formatted code snippets (albeit without support for the Objective-c language – the default for Mac and iOS programming :sadpanda: )

Usability Improvements

There are small changes popping out here and there that improve the overall experience. Mind you these are subtle ones but nevertheless useful.

  • The “Child page” button simply fans out on click instead of loading the whole page again.
  • The upper navigation bar remains always on top when scrolling down.
  • Many (or maybe even most) modal menues feature a context based help button that links directly to the specific topic in the official Confluence documentation – very useful when in doubt

Conclusion

As I am sure that I only scratched the surface, these are the features that I think will come in handy on a daily basis. There is surely more, especially for people who use Confluence differently. This might be the greatest strenght of Confluence – flexibility. You can do just about anything related to managing knowledge with it. We manage our iOS business – others use it as an intranet solution while others use it as a project documentation system for open source software.
What is your call?

Confluence 3.5

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