Wikipedia is one of the best examples of online collaboration on the web, but wikis in the enterprise often find it harder to gain traction and stick in users minds. Here's a look at what's new with one wiki platform that's getting some enterprise attention: Atlassian Confluence (news, site).

Atlassian Confluence

Confluence, developed by Atlassian, is a wiki product that has been around since March 2004. Steadily gaining in popularity, version 3.5 was released today and brings with it a number of new features. So now seems like a good time to look at the features of this latest release, and how it can help you embed a wiki successfully with your users.

New Space Directory

The Space Directory allows users to view all active spaces. Previously, it didn’t scale very well. The new version of Confluence features a redesigned directory making large installations of Confluence much more user friendly. Spaces can be sorted in categories (e.g. ‘Sales’ or ‘HR’), and only specific categories displayed. Or, users can maintain a list of favorite Spaces, and view that list. If your enterprise has held off Confluence due to its scalability issues, now is the time to look again.

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Improved Dashboard

Successful collaboration often rides on being able to find content. The dashboard in Confluence 3.5 now features an improved ‘Recently Updated Content’ stream. Users can view all updates, updates from favorite Spaces or updates from Spaces in particular categories.

User Management

A number of user management features are part of this latest release. Chief amongst these is support for nested groups in LDAP, which was one of the most requested new updates. Also new, are improvements connecting to, configuring and managing user directories. These improvements will make it easier to administer users and for end users to get connected -- all important for getting adoption up and running.

HTML5 Improvements

Users expect more and more sophistication from their web applications, being increasingly spoiled by the modern web. Confluence 3.5 now uses HTML5 to improve whole swathes of the interface, including drag and drop attachments and multimedia files.

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Share a Page

Want to make other Confluence users aware of your content? Instead of having to copy a page link into an email, you can now use the new ‘Share a page’ feature to quickly share content with other people.

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Automatic Language Detection

Confluence 3.5 will automatically set a users’ default language, based on browser locale settings. Confluence ships with German and French language packs, with more available for download. Putting the system in the language of your users will help increase adoption.

SharePoint Connector 1. 3

OK this isn’t technically part of 3.5, but available now as a separate download. However, pulling separate systems together can be a huge boost for improving collaboration. The plugin allows you to:

  • Browse Confluence Spaces inside SharePoint
  • Embed discussions from Confluence in SharePoint
  • Search SharePoint from inside Confluence
  • Item level security for SharePoint lists in Confluence

Confluence 4.0 Editor

To be released in 2011, a brand new editor will be the main feature of Confluence 4.0. This new feature will replace the currently separate rich text and wiki markup editors.

The current rich text editor suffers from stability and consistency problems, often resulting in different looking pages in ‘edit’ and ‘display’ mode. Additionally people generally find wiki markup difficult to work with.

The new editor will attempt to combine the two, whilst offering the best of WYSIWYG editing. The challenge is to maintain the speed of wiki markup in the new editor. A few more months and we can hope to see the results.