Web-First Workflow: Confluence Proof-of-Concept

Or, practicing what we preach.

Back in May, Noah blogged about the potential for Confluence by Atlassian to work as a web-first xml workflow solution. His post put Confluence up alongside WordPress from SFU’s Book of MPub (full disclosure: I worked with John Maxwell in 2009 on Start With the Web and still do some related work today) as a contender. Really, any CMS/wiki can work, it’s just a matter of how well it works and whether it works for you.

So, Why Confluence?

We already use it and we like it. We have spaces for all of our projects and either upload attachments or create pages (the goal is to get away from uploading attachments whenever possible). At this point, we don’t want to start from scratch.

My Mission

To figure out if Confluence will serve BNC’s web-first production needs (tech documentation, educational materials, etc.), which include:

  • ease of use
  • WYSIWYG editor
  • version control
  • commenting
  • PDF export (we don’t have a designer on staff, so we need an easy export that anyone in the office can use)
  • customizable stylesheets

That’s it for now, but I will be testing the XML and HTML exports in the future.

Ease of Use

We already use it and like it, so that gets a check. Any problems we have with Confluence are based on our own organization of the content and not on Confluence itself. Bonus points for how easy it is to move child pages around to re-organize content.

WYSIWYG Editor

Check.

And Wiki mark-up.

Version Control

Check. At this point it’s at the page level, but we think it can be more granular — I just haven’t had time to figure out how.

Commenting

Check.

PDF Export

So easy. Select pages you want to export from the tree structure, click export, and you have yourself  a PDF.

Things I’d like to see: Currently, you can only export from one space at a time. We have all of our content divided into spaces by project, but sometimes we’ll need to pull in a page from a different space…but can’t unless we duplicate the content or temporarily move it over. So, I’d like to be able to select from multiple spaces when exporting.

Customizable Stylesheets

Huge win. You can choose to use the generic stylesheet but customize a header, footer, and title page, or you can dive in and edit the CSS yourself like this:

Things I’d like to see: Multiple stylesheets that apply to all spaces. Currently, it’s one stylesheet per space, but I’d like to be able to select from options when I export.

The Result

Increase Sales & Lower Costs with Better Metadata [pdf] was completely written in Confluence and exported as a PDF with a custom stylesheet applied. The title page was created separately, but everything else comes from Confluence. We needed something quick and easy so that anyone in the office can create and export tech documentation, or one-offs when we get requests for information from publishers — and Confluence works for us.

Up Next

Testing XML and HTML exports.

Links

Confluence by Atlassian

Noah’s Confluence as a Web Based Publishing System

The Book of MPub

XML Production: Start With the Web