What to Choose for Team Collaboration: Atlassian Confluence or Google Docs?

November 15, 2022
#Confluence#Collaboration
9 min

Any team needs a convenient way to organize and discuss their work. Suitable team collaboration software is a big help when you need to create a knowledge base, share files, plan projects, collaborate on tasks, and store or distribute documentation.

If you’re choosing between Atlassian Confluence or Google Docs, this comparison can help you decide which tool is the right solution for your team.

What’s being compared in this blog post:

  • Structure
  • Visibility and discoverability
  • Collaborating on documents
  • Creating and formatting documents
  • Analytics
  • Hosting, devices supported
  • Pricing

Structure

Confluence organizes content in spaces and pages, while Google Docs keeps all assets in folders and sub-folders in Google Drive, a Cloud storage system. Let’s see the main differences between such approaches.

structure of files in google docs and Confluence

Learn more about the available sorting options in Google Drive.

Visibility and discoverability

Confluence has a three-level permission scheme that defines who has access to what in Confluence. In Google Drive, content visibility primarily depends on where the file is stored: in My drive or Shared drives.

confluence vs google docs

Collaborating on documents

In its nature, both Confluence and Google Docs help teams share and collaborate on content. At first sight, the collaboration feature set seems quite similar, but one tool may be a much better fit for your team than the other.

google docs vs atlassian confluence

Learn more about the features mentioned in the Google Docs help and the Confluence guide.


Pro Tip 

You can boost your collaboration in Confluence with the Google Docs-like feature Talk Suggestions. Highlight the required text fragment and choose this icon suggestion in Confluenceto propose text edits and set up a priority for comments and monitor their status with Talk Report.

Click here to check this app on the Atlassian Marketplace!


Creating and formatting documents

Confluence does not have such extensive formatting features as Google Docs. However, its tailored feature set works especially well for writing technical documentation. At the same time, Google Docs makes it easy to create fully custom documents.

Confluence vs Google docs

Learn more about templates and in-built macros and the features mentioned in the Confluence guide and Google Docs help.


Pro Tip 

Handy Macros app helps you extend default formatting tools in Confluence with dynamic cards, buttons, carousels, etc.


Analytics

Analytics in your docs hub helps to identify the content that gains the most traction and find ways to improve the one that underperforms.

google docs or confluence

Learn more about Analytics for Confluence.

Who hosts data? What devices are supported?

Hosting options determine where companies can store their data. Due to company policy, some organizations keep their data only inside their own infrastructure. For that reason, they prefer Server and DC to Cloud technologies. Let’s see what hosting options are available in both tools.

google docs or atlassian confluence

Check the supported desktop and mobile browsers for Confluence and Google Docs.

What’s the price?

The pricing in Confluence determines initially by a hosting option, while Google Docs is free by default. Both approaches have some nuances.

google docs confluence pricing

Learn more about Data Center and Cloud pricing in Confluence and Google Workspace.

Atlassian Confluence or Google Docs

This game has no “winner” since Confluence and Google Docs were designed for different purposes. You need to take into account your team’s specific requirements to determine the right solution.

Confluence covers a variety of specialized use cases. Larger companies and software development teams prefer Confluence since it allows them to keep all work assets and communication in one place. You can set up your Confluence as a knowledge base and intranet, organize your project and technical documentation, and more.

Google Docs is a multipurpose document collaboration tool used by anyone from students to large corporations.

Each of these solutions offers a unique experience and powerful capabilities. Some companies combine both tools and use them in different cases.

Best Practices of External Collaboration in Confluence

September 29, 2022
#How To#Confluence#Collaboration
11 min

The information provided is relevant to Server and DC deployments.

External collaboration is a neverending story in the Atlassian Community. The Confluence users keep bombarding the community with questions on how to share content externally securely and cost-effectively.

Indeed, Confluence is a well-known tool for internal communication. But what if you need to share content with someone without access to your Confluence? This might be a partner, user, auditor, or any freelancer you work with.
In this article, we’re going to address the real use cases of Confluence users about external collaboration and uncover the traps of this process.

How to share a Confluence space

Use case: I run a partnership that is not an Atlassian customer. Is it possible for them to view and/or edit an individual Confluence Space? In doing so, I also want to make sure we are not giving them access to the rest of our Confluence database.

Let’s see approaches to implement this.

Anonymous access

You can collaborate with an external organization by enabling anonymous access in Confluence. Before going any further, let’s figure out who an anonymous user is.

An anonymous user is anyone on the internet who isn’t logged in your Confluence instance. Users that have profiles in Confluence can log in to it and see the Confluence content. For your clients that are missing profiles in your Confluence instance, access to Confluence is closed. It means they are anonymous users as well.

To let anonymous users see your Confluence pages, ask a space admin to enable anonymous access in the space settings. They can do it in the following way.

anonymous access in Confluence

This approach doesn’t require any licenses for end users. However, by giving access to a space this way, you grant it to all content within a space to anyone on the internet. The information shared can be confidential to both sides. This is where another approach comes in.

License a user

Another way of sharing the Confluence spaces is to create profiles for external users in your Confluence. A better option is to make these external users a part of a specific group in user management.

create user group in Confluence

After that, allow this group to at least view that single space.

However, in this case the maintenance of users can become chaotic. The Confluence admin needs to make sure that these users are not members of any other group in user management.

We advise testing whether other spaces uncover sensitive data because of the incorrect permission setup. You can create a test user, add them to a relevant group, log in, and verify that the only space you see is the one you want external users to access.
Another limitation of this approach is that when you add customers to Confluence, you may reach a user number threshold for the next pricing tier for your Confluence instance. This consequently increases the price of the apps you’ve subscribed to.

💡 Tip from our team

When you give access to anonymous users in Confluence, they will see all inline comments made internally on the page. It’s often the case that these discussions contain confidential information.

anonymous users can see comments in Confluence

Our Talk – Advanced Inline Comments for Confluence app prevents this security gap. These’re only Talk inline comments that allow setting up visibility restrictions. Define a group of teammates or specific colleagues to share your talks with  in Talk Permissions on a space level. This helps you protect your private data from exposure.

How to share a single page

User story: I want to share a page with a customer, where I provide current information on the production process.

To tackle this dilemma, we can suggest the following recipe.

  1. Give access to your space to anonymous users.
  2. Grant them view permissions in the space settings.
  3. Go to the page restrictions by selecting the lock icon on a page.
  4. Add any licensed users and groups that you want to view and edit the page.
  5. Share the link to a page with users outside Confluence

Using the page restrictions, you limit external users from seeing other pages in the space with anonymous access.

When a space has a complex page structure, it can take much time to apply this scheme. To make life easier, we have some painkillers for you.

  • Instead of restricting all pages, you can apply viewing and editing restrictions only to parent pages. In this case, child pages inherit parent viewing restrictions.
  • Group all your company users in one team. Now, you need to add 1 group to the page restrictions instead of 15 users separately.

viewing restriction for discussions in Confluence

Keep in mind that if you share a parent page with an external user, they will also get access to referenced child pages. Thus, before sharing content with anyone outside your Confluence, ensure that you’ve set up page permissions for internal teams to view and edit for the child pages, as mentioned earlier.

Instead of confusion with permission management for your existing space and pages in it, you can use this method:

  • Lock all your spaces from Anonymous access.
  • Create a new space that Anonymous users can view.
  • Make a copy of a page you want them to see and move it into this new space.
  • Once your client makes changes, you can take the content of this page and put it into the original page.

If after reading these instructions you feel like this:

Good news! The next part helps you bypass this tricky solution.

Apps for page sharing

Another way to share a single page is to add your customers to a licensed users list. But is that really reasonable if someone needs to view a Confluence page occasionally?

External Share for Confluence and Comala Share It apps can fix it. They don’t use any Atlassian account and get down the whole process to a few clicks.

This way of content sharing generates secure and unique links to your Confluence pages. The most significant benefit comes from using these apps to work with infrequent collaborators. There’s no point to let them consume a whole license and increase your Confluence and apps price. With the apps you pay for the number of users in your Confluence, but you can share pages with any number of external collaborators.

External sharing in Confluence is worth it

It’s a good idea to share knowledge and work externally with Confluence. It ensures that you always give access to an up-to-date online content repository. But, you need to juggle a lot of things in this process. We recommend saving this article and getting back to it every time you need a hand in this subtle art of external sharing in Confluence.

You can also read our blog post to learn how to create extrenal documentation site right in Confluence.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Organize Documentation for ISO Certification in Confluence

April 29, 2022
#Case Study#Collaboration#How To
14 min

Those companies that have passed ISO certification know what a challenge it is. A company goes through intensive audits to get it. But it’s worth it. Achieving ISO certification unlocks new opportunities. It demonstrates that your products, services, or systems are safe and efficient.

When it comes to preparing documentation for ISO certification, Confluence is a go-to. It’s essential to build the process to provide easy navigation and streamlined content. Without organized documentation, you reduce your chances of getting the desired paper.

We talked to our trusted client Kinarm about their experience building ISO documentation in Confluence. In this article, you will find some feasible ideas to prepare for ISO certification.

ISO certification in Confluence at Kinarm

Kinarm produces scientific equipment and software that allows neuroscientists to take a closer look at brain functions. Kinarm Labs and Kinarm Standard Tests address the lack of objective assessment in the management of brain injury and disease. Virtual reality, computer programs along with robotic mechanisms in Kinarm Labs help to study such brain diseases as stroke, cardiac arrest, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease.

Any appliance needs to adhere to the requirements of ISO standards to register it as a medical device. Kinarm works with the following ISO standards:

  • ISO 13485 that outlines the requirements for organizations that design, produce, and service medical devices and related services.
  • ISO 14971 that describes the process of risk management of medical devices.

Being a veteran of this process for more than ten years, Kinarm shared their insights on one of the main challenges during ISO certification.

“For us, as a small company, there are a few challenges. First, the standards are often large and complex documents themselves. Just making sure that we’ve covered all of the “shalls” in the document is very time-consuming. Once we have developed procedures and forms to cover all the “shalls”, the next major task is making sure we stay on top of creating all the required documents and sign-offs. It’s unfortunately easy to drop the ball and forget to fill out a document that’s required, fill it out incorrectly, or forget to sign it off when completed.”

The typical workflow for passing ISO certification at Kinarm goes like this:

  1. Review the standard
    • Build a document that lists all the actions and documents the standard mandates
    • Create procedures, instructions, and forms to meet the standard
    • Train staff to use the procedures for creating the required quality records. It demonstrates that they are following procedures as prescribed
  2. Apply the procedures and forms 
  3. Do an internal audit to make sure they are using the system as designed
    • If they are not using their own system properly, then either re-train or modify a system
  4. Pass annual audits

How to structure information in Confluence spaces

ISO standards require documenting different types of information. However, it’s your company that develops the forms and types of documents according to the requirements. But this flexibility has some pitfalls.

“Of course, every company is different, so there is unlikely the “best” way to document something, but even having some suggestions would be helpful.”

Once you determine the information to document, structure it in accordance with the requirements of your organization. Kinarm uses this approach to organize documents in Confluence:

  • They create a single space called Quality Management System with links to all controlled documents in other spaces.
  • Every functional area has a separate space, for example, Software, Hardware, Manufacturing, Accounting, etc. with the relevant documents for ISO procedure.
  • The procedures and blank forms in the QMS space are linked to the spaces they apply to.

ISO documentation in Confluence

Some organizations may opt for collecting documents connected with ISO in one space. On the one hand, this approach enhances document management. On the other, it can lead to duplicating the relevant content by departments involved in the process and thus flood searches. Your “Single Point of Truth” is no longer ‘Single’. The way Kinarm arranges spaces for ISO certification is suitable for small organizations with a lower volume of documents and a plain organizational structure.

Technique for better search results in Confluence

A common practice for better searchability of documents in Confluence is to use keywords in the title of the page. Title-based search helps Kinarm navigate through ISO documentation as well. Any form that relates to the space has a title with the document ID in it.

“For example, our backup audit form is 63BT01. So any time we audit back-ups, we copy the form, fill it in, and name the new page “63BT01 – Backup audit results, March 2022.”

The basic idea of the keyword is [number to describe ISO section number]BT[paragraph number in the relevant section]. For example,

63 – ISO 13485 section number (infrastructure)

BT – abbreviation of the official company name (BKIN Technologies)

01 – ISO paragraph number in the relevant section

ISO documentation Confluence page

Developing a naming convention based on important elements of the project helps you get the relevant content faster. Also, it provides a clear and immediate indication of content.

ISO audit tips in Confluence

Before the official audit, Kinarm passes a documentation ‘health check’ using Comala Document Management.

In the first draft state of the workflow, no one can use an incomplete document. After revision, it goes into the pending approval state. At this point, it’s assigned to a specific document reviewer who has the authority to create official documents. The document must be approved using a password. It guarantees that only the person responsible for this process approves it. The person who approves the document also needs to train staff. Employees must understand the standard and do their job according to it.

After receiving ISO certificate, you need to continuously refine your processes. It’s a central theme of ISO. Talk – Advanced Inline comments for Confluence can be very handy in this regard.

“The talk comments allow us to show an auditor that we’re working on a document and discussing changes. Having the comments allows an auditor to see that we are working on new ideas and improvements to procedures. We will normally leave the talk comments in, but mark them resolved even after the changes have been integrated and approved – this is important for the traceability of why we made changes.”

It’s the Talk Archive feature that Kinarm describes. It helps to have resolved comments at hand and get back to them when you need to see the context for improvements made.

comment thread in Confluence

A helpful tip from Stiltsoft: if you keep all the QMS documentation in one space, the Talk Permissions feature can help you in the following situation. You can set up Space restrictions so that only your team and the external auditors can see the Talk inline comments in this space.

restrict comments in Confluence

It might be necessary when your partners or clients request access to your ISO documentation. The Talk visibility permissions ensure that you don’t expose private information contained in talks and keep the official version of the document ‘clean’ for the Anonymous users.

This is how your page looks for the groups mentioned in Talk Permissions:

talk restrictions in Confluence

This is how exactly the same page looks for the Anonymous users:

talk restriction view in Confluence

Note that auditors also keep track of the version control of ISO documents. To avoid explanations about minor edits made with Talk you can disable the creation of page versions on Talk actions.

Check the difference between native inline comments in Confluence and Talk – Advanced Inline Comments.

ISO certification takeaways

Documentation is the heart of ISO. Confluence is a key to it. Proper documentation management creates a standardized way of doing things in your company and consequently enhances the quality of your product. 

The formula that Kinarm follows to organize documentation in Confluence may not be perfectly suitable for your organization. However, these ideas can be applied to organizations of any domain getting into ISO:

  • identify what processes must be documented
  • group the documents for ISO based on size, industry, and complexity of interactions in your company
  • use a unified approach to name documents to keep them consistent
  • refine your processes for annual audits with the Talk for Confluence app
Related posts

Comparison: Talk and Confluence inline comments

December 21, 2021
#Confluence#Collaboration
12 min

Note: the information in this article applies to the Server and DC deployments. 

Those of you who use Confluence inline comments and have just found our Talk – Advanced Inline Comments for Confluence app may wonder what’s the difference between them. To save you time and effort, we compared these two solutions in the table below.

confluence native comments vs talk

As you see, the list of differences is quite extensive. If we go into detail about every feature, it could overwhelm you with information. That’s why in this article we decided to focus on the Talk-specific features.

Setting up viewing permissions

Talk: You can set default space viewing permissions applied to all the Talk inline comments (hereafter talks) created within a space. It gives you the option to hide talks from certain users while letting them see the rest of the available page content.

Talk Space Permissions

The list of users who can add talks in the space

It allows you to have by default (for example):

  • talks on your public pages visible only to your company users and hidden from external viewers
  • talks hidden from some of your team members/teams, who have the View All permission for the current space
  • only one user with the Talk space viewing permission to create private notes

Moreover, you can override space permissions for any specific comment on a page while adding or editing a talk. You can include certain users/groups in discussions or make personal notes.

Talk permissions in Confluence

Confluence inline comments: In Confluence, you can give user permissions only to delete or add comments (including inline comments), but there’s no way to restrict viewing of inline comments to users with the View All permission.

Confluence native inline comments permissions

Adding Talk Suggestions to improve content

Talk: Along with a megaphone button on the highlight actions panel, you can notice a person with a chat bubble right next to it . It’s our Talk Suggestion feature. Sometimes your eye catches mistakes while browsing some pages in Confluence. To handle the error in the easiest way, you can suggest changes to this word.

It’s also a must-have feature for content creators and editors in your company. With Talk Suggestions, they can rapidly review content and make remarks to improve it. The author can accept these changes or reject them. Once accepted, they automatically apply to the highlighted text.

Suggestions in Confluence

Talk Suggestions facilitate content review and make this process more user-friendly than Confluence inline comments. You can add Talk Suggestions in edit mode as well.

Confluence inline comments: It takes you a while to apply multiple changes to your page since Confluence inline comments are inaccessible in edit mode.

Making Talk Report to overview comments

Talk: When your page has a lot of comments, it’s proving difficult to browse all the comments and find the appropriate one. The difficulty may also arise when you want to find comments with high priority or the talks with your mention. The situation gets worse when a comment you are searching for is on another page or space. It may take hours to handle this job.

Talk Report allows browsing comments on any space/page without the necessity to leave the current page. It provides you with an overview of all comments where you get information about their content, author, status, date, and more.

Report on discussions in ConfluenceThis is how Talk Report looks on a page

To learn more about how to work with Talk Report visit the Talk Report page in the app’s documentation.

Confluence inline comments
 lose one more score against Talk – Advanced Inline Comments for Confluence in this regard.

 

Archiving comments

Talk: Why overload your page? You can take comments out of your sight for a while and restore them later.

Once you archive a talk, it disappears from the comment sidebar but continues invisibly exist on the page.

Archive the Talk comments

Confluence inline comments: You only have a choice to delete or resolve comments. In both options, the comments are absent on the page.

Resolve native inline comments

Marking favourite comments

When using native inline comments, you might fancy a place to store important comments and easily access them like Confluence tasks. With Confluence inline comments, you have to rifle through multiple spaces and pages to find the one comment you need. To make life easier, we rolled out the Favourite comments feature. It allows you to mark interesting ideas, thoughts, or high-priority inline comments and put them in one place. To see their context, you can press on a talk and automatically find yourself on the original page with it.

Mark discussions as favourite in Confluence

The view of the page with Favourite comments

How to proceed to your Favourite comments and manage them check our Favourite comments guide.

Confluence inline comments: It can be quite time-consuming to find the appropriate comment because they don’t provide similar functionality.

Prioritizing comments

It’s often the case that our users add talks as their personal notes or leave talks as tasks. By defining the priority for a talk, you can set the level of significance to it and decide what you should implement firsthand. You can choose one of three levels of priority for a comment:

  • low (default)
  • medium
  • high

Also, Talk Priority can be helpful for a company or team leader to draw attention to the talks that need a quick response.

Add priority to discussions in Confluence

Confluence inline comments miss this feature.

Picking colors for a comment thread

Talk: The option to pick a color for a comment thread may come in handy in situations when different teams chat over the same document. You will find it convenient to distinguish teams, topics of discussion, or to highlight important comments with color.

Pick a color for a thread in Confluence

Different teams decided to distinguish themselves with a color

Confluence inline comments only provide one color for all the comments on a page.

We hope that this list of the Talk features impressed you in a positive way. Indeed, our app gives you more flexibility and deals with a greater amount of use cases. But, as we said in the beginning, the listed options only partly describe the differences between Confluence inline comments and talks. If you’re curious to know more, watch the Talk video and check Talk documentation. Also, you can pass our 3-minute quiz and decide what comments you need more.

In case you have any ideas on how to make your experience better with our app, create or vote for ideas on our Talk feedback forum.

Smart Project Planning in Confluence

January 21, 2020
#Project management#Reporting#Analytics#Integration#How To#Confluence
10 min

Aloha, Atlassian fans! 

Have you ever thought of vacation planning as a project that requires thorough study and preparation? My colleague and I decided to challenge ourselves and plan our dream vacation with the help of Confluence because we use this collaboration software every day at work to create content and share ideas on the fly.

In this blog post, we will show you that Confluence can be a great travel planning tool that helps you carefully plan every step of your trip. You will get answers to the following questions:

  • How to choose a place to stay that suits your preferences
  • How to plan your travel budget
  • How to discuss your travel plans with your colleague
  • How to get more ideas for great travel photos

How to choose the best hotel at a bargain

The Gold Coast city in the Australian state of Queensland is our dream destination. We start by gathering all the information about hotels, hostels, and apartments in the Gold Coast on Confluence pages. Next, we create a master page with the help of the Page Properties Report macro.

Now we have a detailed list of hotels. However, it can be a bit difficult when it comes to working with table data. We love to filter and sort tables and visualize them with the help of dynamic charts and graphs. This functionality helps us to get a bird’s-eye view of all options from the table, range the accommodations, and, finally, select the best hotel for our needs.

How to stick to your budget

We need to accurately plan our budget because covering more than 15 000 kilometers to Australia would cost us a fortune. Moreover, we plan to spend a terrific time in Australia and some extra money for entertainment will come in handy.

So we create a table with our travel expenses distributed by multiple categories.

With the help of the pivot table, we can aggregate all the expenses in each category. After that, we can view the chart to analyze them.

No doubt, Confluence is a platform for team collaboration. Irina can rapidly review the table with expenses because it’s better to plan more money for unexpected expenses. She can easily add suggestions to the content to let me know what she thinks about my plan.

Pro tip:

Learn more about using Spreadsheets in Confluence

How to find inspiration

One does not simply spend hours surfing on beautiful beaches, watching awesome sunsets, and making no photos. We’ve found a couple of pictures that inspire us to make our own during the vacation.

So we upload already structured files to Confluence and easily embed the required folder into our Confluence page to manage these files on the go.

How to get all the things done

And the last but not the least thing in planning a journey is to keep an eye on deadlines. We have so many tasks and don’t want to forget about anything. Our dear old friend Gantt chart can help us in this situation. We can plan some periods to complete every task and define the milestones to draw attention to particular tasks. To keep our plans on track, we add flexible reminders that are easy to configure.

Confluence for project planning

Confluence is all about working together and is a perfect solution to get everyone on the same page. It helps you accomplish multiple tasks at the same time, from writing blog posts to building a knowledge base. So why not use this trusted software to plan your dream vacation?
We hope that this blog post helped you look at Confluence from a different perspective and discover more capabilities you can use with the help of:

Please, share your story of using Confluence in the comments below. What are your use cases?

How Broadband Forum Uses Talk and Confluence to Get Answers in Context

September 26, 2019
#Case Study#Collaboration
3 min

Broadband Forum, our Talk – Advanced Inline Comments for Confluence customer, delivers ultra-fast broadband services for home and business, access and converged 5G infrastructure, and Cloud with the help of the innovative use of NFV, SDN, Ultra-Fast access, and IoT.

Broadband Forum is a member organization. It aims to accelerate the adoption of their work to bring new, valuable services to their member companies and all stakeholders who use the developed work.

In the company, the Talk app is used by its technical participants, who are hundreds of users from more than 150 different companies. They develop technical standards for the global telecommunications industry.

Easy communication inside Confluence

The Talk – Advanced Inline Comments app helps the Broadband Forum participants communicate about logistics, administration of projects, and technical issues. Their Confluence users get to ask questions in Talk inline comments, which are added to the needed parts of the page content. It gives the insightful context for everyone involved in the conversation.

Automatic notifications about new discussions and replies sent to the watchers of a space assure that the right person jumps in and provides a timely answer or feedback. Talk Report allows Broadband Forum to track and easily find unresolved discussions that are pending for way too long. With the help of suggestions, the users can propose a change on a page without editing the content.

The team also appreciates that they can view, add, and resolve comments in the editor and set priority to discussions to signal others whether it waits or they expect a quick follow-up.

Challenges and benefits

The Talk – Advanced Inline Comments app made technical discussions much easier for Broadband Forum. The users can easily ask questions and rapidly get answers next to the discussed information on Confluence pages. Seeing all Talk comments of a space in one place, working with inline comments in the editor and giving priority to threads of comments take collaboration on technical issues to a new level.