What is Confluence?
Atlassian Confluence is a team collaboration solution that provides a shared environment for people to work together. It allows team members to exchange ideas and knowledge, ensuring a productive, efficient workspace. In particular, Confluence offers a robust platform for creating and sharing information, and is often used for technical documentation.
Confluence is an enterprise grade solution, but is suitable for all types and sizes of organizations and teams. It is suited for teams working on mission-critical projects with rigorous workflows and practices.
While Confluence is hugely popular, there are several budding competitors that are worth evaluating, and might be a better fit, depending on your organization and use cases. Below we review the pros and cons of Confluence, and eight alternative solutions to consider.
Confluence benefits and limitations
The core concept in Confluence is “spaces”—you can create cross-department spaces to enable multiple teams to collaborate on the same project. Users work with shared “pages” within a Confluence space rather than owning documents separately.
Benefits of Confluence
Confluence provides many templates for easily building projects (i.e., product roadmaps, retrospectives, checklists). You can create pages or attach documents.
Confluence supports all types of content, including documentation, software project information, and knowledge bases. You store everything in a central location, making content searching easier.
Confluence documents are shared with all team members in a workspace, with related pages linked.
Confluence is useful for managing software projects and helping DevOps teams communicate openly. It integrates with other Atlassian tools including the JIRA tracking solution.
Limitations of Confluence
Confluence offers many capabilities but doesn’t particularly excel at many of them. The wiki-based features may suffer if poorly maintained, and the search feature is not always the most effective. Without specialized plugins, you cannot save content as a draft during editing stages—all saved pages are live.
Confluence can also be complex to deploy and maintain from an infrastructure perspective. While any team can theoretically use Confluence, the technical knowledge required can put off some employees. The free version only supports small teams (under ten people) and provides limited features, while the full range of features can be expensive for many teams.
When using Confluence for code documentation, there are two main drawbacks: the documents are not kept close to the code and become obsolete as the code evolves. Also, documents cannot easily be found by developers as part of their existing workflows.
These drawbacks apply to all the Confluence alternatives we discuss below – except our very own platform built for code documentation – Swimm (learn more below).
8 Confluence alternatives to consider
Notion is an all-in-one tool for writing, planning, collaborating, and organizing projects—its features include an interactive dashboard, lightweight CRM, and issue and task tracker. Notion lets you choose your workflow, helping your team stay clear and focused.
It provides functionality such as drag-and-drop, Markdown, and slash commands to facilitate collaboration. You can sync offline with Notion on any device to boost personal productivity. It provides easier workflow management of documents, files, and reports, allowing you to import spreadsheets, databases, Kanban boards, calendars, and list views. Notion is available in a desktop, web, or mobile application.
Notion offers the following pricing options:
- Free plan—allows unlimited users to complete basic tasks.
- Individual—provides more functionality for one member ($4/month).
- Team—allows unlimited membership ($8/month per user).
- Enterprise—supports large organizations ($20/month per user).
Learn more in our detailed guide to Notion (coming soon)
Swimm is a Continuous Documentation platform built mainly for software development teams. Its focus is internal documentation and its goal is to help teams transform “tribal knowledge” about their code into easily managed documentation.
Swimm’s main features include:
- Documentation as Code – Swimm documents are stored as .md (Markdown) files within the team’s codebase.
- Automatically syncing documentation – Swimm runs tests with every pull request that find and modify documents that become stale as the code changes.
- Easy discovery – Swimm integrates with various IDEs to prompt developers about relevant documentation as they are exploring their code.
- Writing assistance – Swimm helps developers write documentation with templates, inline suggestions, and automatic generation of various documents.
- Code-coupled editor – Swimm’s code-coupled editor includes all the capabilities of rich text, live code snippets, diagrams, paths and tokens, that make documentation easier and faster to write.
Microsoft SharePoint is a document storage and management system that can integrate with other Microsoft products. It functions like a corporate intranet and content management solution that helps you manage internal knowledge and content. It lets you share data, files, resources, and news.
The core concept in SharePoint is “team sites,” similar to Confluence spaces. Every internal team can have a dedicated, customizable website with granular permissions. The team members share the site to publish content and manage workflows. Unlike traditional and email-based file storage, where files are easily lost, SharePoint lets you centrally store all information.
SharePoint Online offers three pricing plans:
- Online Plan 1—the most basic SharePoint online plan. It offers access to OneDrive and SharePoint, providing 1 TB of storage and many SharePoint features. It costs $5.00 per month per user, with annual auto-renewal.
- Online Plan 2—intended for medium-sized businesses. In addition to all Plan 1 features, it provides unlimited storage in OneDrive. It also has advanced features like in-place holds to retain content and advanced DLP to handle sensitive data. It starts from $10.00 per month per user, with annual auto-renewal.
- Office 365 E3 Plan—combines all Plan 2 benefits with support for Microsoft Office products and Skype Business. It starts at $20.00 per month per user.
Nuclino is a wiki and internal knowledge base solution that enables teams to organize information, share ideas, and manage projects in real time. Nuclino provides an easy-to-use interface and straightforward navigation.
Nuclino offers features that non-technical users can easily configure, including search, content organization, and co-editing. It provides a seamless collaboration experience that allows users to edit documents and exchange feedback in real time. Nuclino also lets you visualize data in Kanban boards or mind-map charts.
Nuclino offers a Free plan and a Standard plan ($5 per month per user).
Document360 is a standalone tool for creating shared knowledge bases. It lets you create self-service or internal repositories and is easy to use. Its intuitive interface and search feature make it useful for less experienced users.
Other important features include localization, in-depth analysis, and IP address restrictions. Document 360 also offers robust security features.
Document 360 is free for up to 5 team accounts and one knowledge base version. Subscription pricing ranges between $79-399 per month, depending on the number of team accounts and features offered. Each additional knowledge base version costs an extra $39-199 per month.
Google Docs is a cloud-based document collaboration platform from Google. Teams can make all edits online, with Google Docs saving all the previous versions of each file—users can always return to an older document version.
Google Docs is a cloud-based solution, eliminating the need to store documents locally. Users can share files and grant view-only or edit access to anyone with a Google Account—they can use a link or send an email notification. The document owner receives an email update when a user shares a document.
You can see which users made recent changes to your document. Team members can post comments with feedback or questions. Google Docs also lets you import Microsoft Word files and convert them to an editable format.
Google Docs is offered for free to anyone with a Google Account. Business plans are available as part of the Google Workspace productivity suite.
Dropbox Paper is a free document collaboration solution from Dropbox. It provides online editing tools to allow teams to create and modify documents in the same place. It also helps you organize notes, coordinate agendas, collate minutes, next steps, assignments, and background documents. It can also track important deadlines and tasks.
You can manage a cross-departmental team with DropBox Paper by assigning to-do lists, setting milestones, and approving tasks. You can also brainstorm ideas, embed links to sites like Pinterest and YouTube, share ideas, and collect real-time feedback. Use Paper to manage creative projects with clients and avoid scattered files or long email threads.
GitBook is a complete documentation platform you can use as an internal knowledge base, wiki, or note-keeping application. It is useful if you want a tool to consolidate all static documents in a single location.
GitBook excels in some areas but doesn’t provide collaboration features like real-time co-editing. It was one of the earlier platforms making documentation easier to find, organize, and write.
GitBook is free for individual developers, pricing starts from $6.7 per user per month for teams.
BookStack is a self-hosted, free and open source alternative to Confluence. It is user-friendly, although the initial installation might take some time and require expertise. Once you’ve set up the wiki, onboarding new users should be easy. Its clean, intuitive interface and wide range of customizations make it useful if you want a free collaboration platform.
BookStack lets you set granular permissions for each role and specific content, including drop-down permissions for subsections. However, the installation process is time-consuming and can be challenging.