In the following post we'll be taking a look at:
- What Confluence is
- Confluence pros
- Confluence drawbacks
- Popular Confluence alternatives and competitors
What is Confluence?
Confluence is a proprietary solution owned by Atlassian, intended for knowledge management and team collaboration. You may be considering Confluence to help improve your company’s productivity.
Confluence is actually a fusion of many different types of software, which include wikis, intranets, collaboration tools, and project management tools. This multiple-use lies at the core of the pros and cons of Confluence.
Why Do People Use Confluence?
Confluence is based on the concept of ‘spaces’. You create spaces both for departments and each main cross-functional project. Instead of owning personal documents in Word or Google Docs, Confluence users create shared ‘pages’ within Confluence. These pages are automatically part of your team’s workspace.
That’s why Confluence contains many templates to get your projects going: product roadmaps, checklists, how-to articles, retrospectives, and more. You can manage documents in Confluence by either creating pages, or attaching your own documents.
Confluence can be used for any type of content needed by a team: technical documentation, knowledge bases, intranets, and agile software projects. Having everyone use Confluence means storing all projects and assets in one central location. This makes content discovery and search more effective. Confluence is by default “open and collaborative”.
Documents created in Confluence are shared with the rest of the team in that workspace. Pages are linked together with related pages, which you can view in the same screen.
Many companies use Confluence to manage software projects, since it helps DevOps teams communicate more openly. Confluence has been designed to complement JIRA issue tracking software. It’s also to be used in conjunction with Atlassian’s other products like Trello (task management software) and Bamboo (Continuous Integration and Deployment Build Server).
You can make a knowledge base with Confluence that integrates with JIRA, which can either be limited to customers or open to the public.
What Are the Drawbacks of Confluence?
Much like other enterprise tools, Confluence seems to do a bit of everything – perhaps at the cost of truly excelling at nothing.
On the plus side, many departments, teams and projects can get something out of Confluence. The software is very powerful. It’s also likely that many of your employees will have at least heard of Confluence. Some might already have experience using it in previous jobs.
On the other hand, some complain that Confluence’s wiki-style content suffers after a while if it’s badly maintained. The search feature doesn’t always live up to expectations. Content cannot be drafted during the editing stage, so every page is live after you save it.
Theoretically, Confluence can be used by all sorts of teams, from marketing to HR, but many employees may be put off by the technical knowledge demanded by nature of the software.
The software is free for teams under ten with access to very limited features of the software. For some teams, the full Confluence can be a bit much – not to mention wildly expensive.
If you aren’t going to get the most out of its features, it’s worth considering some alternatives.
The Best Confluence Alternatives & Competitors
Since Confluence isn’t the tool for every company, we’ve put together this list of the best Atlassian Confluence alternatives.
Throughout this handy guide, we’ll explain:
- The features and functions of each specific tool
- What each tool does well
- Where each tool shows room for improvement
First we want to bring your attention to Helpjuice, our very own knowledge base software. In a nutshell, you use Helpjuice to create a knowledge base for your employees. Helpjuice has a number of features you can take advantage of.
For example, you have the ability to collaborate directly within Helpjuice documents with comments. Once you open an Article, you can select the text that you would like to comment on, in the body of the Article, and click on the comment icon. You can then write your comment, and post it live in the interface. Posted comments notify the article’s authors, and you can notify other individuals using the ‘@’ symbol.
There are analytics on what users are searching in your knowledge base, employee stats, as well as article impact, to ensure that you create content that can better help your employees. Not all user roles have access to the analytics dashboard, and only administrators can see this information.
You can easily control how your knowledge base appears through the WYSIWYG editor, and we also offer free customization for every account. When you use our software, you don’t have to wait days for someone ‘technical’ to respond to you. We pride ourselves on our near-instant support, which reviewers frequently highlight. Marco A says “The support team is outstanding. There is no back and forth. They understand the issue you describe and they fix it.”
Within the interface, content user permissions can easily be customized (individually or by group). Helpjuice is completely tailored to information-sharing and makes it very easy to publish and review content right within the interface. The Helpjuice content UI is as easy to use as Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
Helpjuice can be used internally or externally. For example, you can use it as an internal resource for customer service agents to access quickly for frequently asked questions. You can also use it for customer-facing documentation.
Don’t take our word for it. Here are some of the nice things our customers have said:
- Jason R comments on how fast the software is to set up: “I love the software, it was so easy to implement, the team was available to help at any time. You can get this up in running in under an hour.”
- Brad C of Home Point says “The agents (and admin team) love the ease of use (i.e. search capabilities, UI, etc.) when accessing this information.”
On the surface, Microsoft’s SharePoint is a document management and storage system, which integrates with other Microsoft Office products. It’s a staple of many organizations. SharePoint is actually more like an intranet and content management tool for enterprise companies, helping you to manage internal content and knowledge. You can also share files, data, news and resources.
Similarly to Confluence, the central idea behind SharePoint is the “team sites” function. Each internal team can have their own customizable website with specific access permissions. Each site is shared by its members who post content and updates, and manage workflows. Information is intended to be centralized, unlike in email or traditional file storage where things can get lost.
SharePoint has more functionality even than Confluence when it comes to collaboration and document management.
Similarly to Confluence, one of the biggest benefits of SharePoint is having every department’s content and knowledge in one place. You can share, access, and retrieve documents on your SharePoint drive. SharePoint allows you to map your file system to a drive on your computer, which saves you a lot of time on uploading and downloading files automatically.
SharePoint is also infinitely customizable, so you can tailor your workspaces to your needs. It’s used by many organizations, so it’s likely that a high number of your potential users will already have experience using the software.
Companies do not invest in SharePoint lightly, nor cheaply. Your first step with the software is with a SharePoint consultant. You’ll also likely need to hire at least one dedicated SharePoint administrator to run the system.
Even using SharePoint on a basic level has a reasonable learning curve, which most people have overcome due to the necessity of using this software. There is just so much that you can do with SharePoint it quickly becomes overwhelming. Even creating a basic wiki website requires development resources to set up. SharePoint works best for power users who understand how to manage the system.
SharePoint must be strictly monitored to prevent it from becoming an ungovernable mess. Users often complain about the quality of the search function in SharePoint. There is quite a big gap between the cloud version of SharePoint (with limited features) and the on-site installation of the software.
Drive is a very popular cloud-based file storage platform from Google, which has risen in popularity due to its ease of use and integration with other Google products. Many users have had an introduction to Drive through personal experience, and it’s typically easy to onboard your users to this software.
Google Drive is much simpler than Confluence. Drive essentially reuses the structure of a traditional file storage system, but with more options for collaboration. Drive removes the need to email different versions of a file to a collaborator, and everything takes place within the interface.
Google Drive contains its own versions of all the Microsoft Office file types, including Google Sheets (Excel), Google Docs (Word), Google Slides (Powerpoint), although admittedly not as powerful as the Office versions. Within Drive, you also have access to even more software like Google Forms (create surveys) and Google Sites (create a website). All your files are stored in Drive.
Drive also contains an internal commenting system through which you can review documents collaboratively, and you can tag individuals to assign them an action to review. It saves previous versions of your documents that you can return to if necessary, and if you run out of space on the free version you can upgrade for more storage.
You can easily manage access and permissions for files and folders, including creating teams for individual drives who can collaboratively create, access, and edit documents. All files are backed up and version-controlled, so you never suffer from a loss of data. Every account comes with free space up to 15GB.
Drive also has an extremely intuitive user interface and comes pre-installed on every Android device. It can be accessed from anywhere, and you can avoid relying on fiddly USB drives or external hard drives to share your files. Anyone can open and edit a drive file on their device.
It’s very easy to bring in an outside user to your drive, and users can even access docs without having a Drive account using an URL. Overall, Google Drive has a very low barrier to entry as a collaboration tool.
Upload and download speeds can be very slow even with a fast wifi connection. It’s not easy to bulk upload or bulk download files. Your Drive storage capacity is shared with Gmail, and if you receive emails with a lot of attachments this can quickly eat up your space.
Drive has much more limited features than other collaboration software but the beauty of Drive is its simplicity. This is very much a tool for teams who only want to collaborate on shared documents. There is no public-facing version for teams that require a knowledge base.
Google’s backup and sync function can also be temperamental. It’s easy to accidentally delete files and folders on your computer which in turn deletes the files in Drive.
Asana has the task-tracking element of Confluence. It is task management software that organizes your projects into ‘boards’ (projects), enabling you to manage projects, processes, and tasks.
Boards are organized into ‘sections’, ‘tasks’, and ‘columns’, and you can organize your boards into folders. Multiple people can collaborate on a task. Asana allows you to recreate your team’s structures and processes within the app.
Asana comes with custom templates for your boards so you can quickly set up different types of projects – for example, editorial calendar, cross-functional project plan, business plan, and company goals & milestones. You do not create documents directly within Asana but you can attach them to the relevant tasks or boards.
You can restrict access to boards by permissions, allowing groups of individual users to access only the boards they need. You can report on productivity in the Asana. Create comment threads on individual tasks and tag users to assign them actions. Instead of communicating through last-minute email chains, you can use Asana to keep track of a project’s status.
One of the best features of Asana is its gamification feature, with colorful illustrations that appear randomly if you complete tasks.
Asana is very customizable and yet still very easy to use. It’s relatively easy to set up and onboard new users. Asana is tailored to different project types, allowing you a streamlined user experience and the ability to get up and running very quickly.
Asana has a very nice aesthetic, making it a pleasure to use than your average workplace app. Asana saves a lot of time, allowing you to take on more projects than you would otherwise. All your conversations and tasks relating to one project are kept together in one place.
Integrate Asana with other popular apps for useful updates, such as being able to access Asana directly within Slack using the slash command.
It’s likely you’ve heard of Slack – it is team communication software that offers a free plan for its basic features. Slack organizes your conversations into channels and threads, and you can tag individual members in your ‘workspace’ to notify them.
Slack is especially efficient for remote teams, and you can communicate in many different ways – through threads, direct messages, phone calls, video calls. What makes Slack really stand out is how much users enjoy using it, and it doesn’t have the feel of a typical corporate messaging app.
You can also group your Slack users with different permissions. For example, you can add a user to a single channel rather than the entire workspace. Channels can also be made public or private, so you can restrict who accesses them.
One of the biggest benefits of Slack is that many people now have experience with using it. Slack can easily become your default workplace app that your users automatically log into every day.
Slack is the Holy Grail of User Experience, and has a pleasant User Interface that is easy to use, making communication fun and helping to build camaraderie. Slack works equally well over desktop and mobile.
If you forget your password for a workspace, it’s very easy to generate a sign-in link that will take you to your account. You can even manage multiple unrelated workspaces in Slack, which is useful if you work with a variety of companies.
It’s easy to search Slack for content in your messaging history. The advantage of Slack is making your messaging public so your whole workspace can share in team communication.
Slack integrates with a huge number of major apps so you can extend its functionality. You can receive updates in Slack from apps like Help Scout, Asana, Zendesk, or Trello.
Nuclino is a collaboration and Knowledge Management tool that emulates the wiki-style function of Confluence, but is much easier to use. It also has some aspects of a simple intranet in that you can create a homepage with onboarding documentation.
Your projects are organized into ‘workspaces’ which can be for projects or departments, and set as public or private. Comments and mentions allow you to collaborate with your teammates and send them instant notifications.
Nuclino also supports attaching other files such as Word documents or PDFs. It supports collaborative editing in the same document so you can track changes.
You can work visually in Nuclino and structure your data in a mind map format rather than the more typical list. It’s a much more affordable version of Confluence because it has dispensed with many extra features.
The board view lets you emulate a Kanban board which can be very useful if this is your preferred way of working. This software is very suitable for engineering teams.
Nuclino has the ease of use that Google Drive combined with the wiki-style capabilities of Confluence. It offers some way to track tasks and allows you to instant message other members. You can attach files directly in the interface.
Basecamp offers a vast array of features much like Confluence, aimed at helping teams with their project management – particularly digital marketing agencies and software development companies who work remotely.
It’s particularly useful for keeping track of lots of different projects. For example when your team works with multiple clients. It’s easy to add clients to projects on Basecamp and choose which documents they have access to.
Each project has its own area with group chat, status updates, to do lists, and uploaded files. Basecamp is aimed at the slightly more tech-savvy user when compared with easier tools like Slack or Asana.
You can easily gain an overview of individual projects on the company as a whole. For example, you can see which tasks are coming up due, or take part in the automated daily check-in where employees post their latest updates.
Like Confluence, Basecamp also has the advantage of being very popular, so users may likely have already encountered it during their career.
Basecamp offers an all-in-one solution for project management, meaning you don’t need to use lots of different tools to accomplish the same outcome. Basecamp is very powerful and you can achieve many objectives with it.
Basecamp can help you manage many different complex projects, and choose which users have access to which documents. All of your team’s communication can take place within Basecamp.
Monday is a streamlined project management tool that offers visual planning capabilities for teams with multiple projects (called ‘boards’).
Monday uses the concept of ‘pulses’ to designate different items in the interface, since a pulse can be anything from a task, to a client, to a blog post. You can assign tasks to different members and track the status of projects. Monday uniquely uses a flat task structure so items do not get lost in a nest of subtasks.
Monday also makes use of in-built automations for workflows that you can use to increase your productivity. For example, Monday automatically allows you to set a project from ‘pending’ to ‘complete’, and automatically move the project to the complete section in a different part of the board.
Monday is especially good for sales and marketing teams. You can import any Excel spreadsheet as a board to speed up creating projects in Monday. Monday comes with many in-built templates that are suitable for all industries, and the software seems to work best if you use these templates to get started.
It’s relatively easy to onboard external users like freelancers or clients into Monday to take part in projects.
Monday is visually gamified using colors to denote the different statuses of tasks (for example, green equals complete).
9. You Need A Wiki | You Need A Wiki
If you can’t do without the wiki-style functionality of Confluence but lack the budget for it, consider using this add-on product for Google Drive.
You Need A Wiki (YNAW) essentially adds wiki-like navigation to Google Docs and is free for one user. It’s slightly different from the other products mentioned here since it is meant to be used in conjunction with another product.
The beauty of YNAW is creating a wiki-style website quickly and easily which anyone can update or edit if they have access to Google Docs. You can add anyone to YNAW whom you have contact details for, in the same way you invite them to a shared file or folder in Google Drive.
You Need A Wiki Pros:
If your team is already using Google Drive then this tool will be a significant timesaver, since it’s designed to integrate with the Google Drive API. There’s no need to struggle through a laborious onboarding process for a new tool.
You Need A Wiki has all the advantages of wiki software without the downside of a clunky user interface. It’s as easy to use as the official Google product it is designed to work with, and you still have access to the powerful editing capabilities of Drive. YNAW overcomes the limitations of Google Drive in searching for content.
If you already have all the content you need, then you’ll be up and running with a sleek wiki site within minutes.
How to Choose the Right Confluence Competitor
Any tool has the potential to bring value to your organization. The challenge is to choose the right one.
It’s important to remember that no piece of software is designed to do everything nor should it be. Often, excessive functionality comes at the cost of intuitive design and threatens the universal adoption of the new software within your team.
The tried and tested way of choosing the right software is to first consider what problem you want to solve. Identify the product features that you absolutely cannot do without. Decide whether you need a wiki, a collaboration tool, document-sharing, or intranet, and consider whether multiple tools might be more sensible. Then find a suitable solution that fits your price point, and that one that you hopefully also enjoy using.
Make sure you pick a tool that can solve your problems now, while also leaving the option to extend your capabilities in the future.