Confluence 4.2, available for download now and scheduled to be implemented for cloud-hosted customers over the weekend, is in some ways playing catch-up with competitors such as Jive and Yammer--as well as what consumer social networks have trained people to expect. One significant new feature, Quick Comments, simply streamlines the mechanism for commenting on a document or status post. Whereas earlier versions made you click a link, then wait for the page to reload before you could enter a comment, Confluence 4.2 will display the comment form instantly. Confluence is also just now adding the ability to "like" a piece of content, Facebook-style. On the other hand, refinements to the content editor look more leading edge.
"We've really heavily invested in the editing experience," said Matt Hodges, Atlassian's product marketing manager for Confluence. "We're allowing non-technical users to create really rich, compelling content. With the new feature, page layouts, you can also create a page that is structured with headers and footers and columns."
While it started out as a wiki for collaborative document creation and editing, Confluence has grown into a broader enterprise social networking tool, competing with collaboration tools from Jive Software, IBM, and others. Atlassian is strongest among technical users who know it for its JIRA bug and issue tracking software, and Confluence is often used as a complementary tool for technical documentation. However, Atlassian also is courting the broader market for social collaboration.
The Confluence 4.0 release in September 2011 made the platform more accessible by providing a rich text editor as an alternative to the traditional wiki text editor. A follow up 4.1 release further enhanced the rich text editor, but the 4.2 release includes more functional improvements.
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The price of entry remains a key selling point, with a 10-user-for-$10-per-year deal available for either cloud or on-premises implementation. Confluence boasts 175 consulting partners and more than 400 free and commercial add-ons, including Atlassian's Team Calendars, available on the Atlassian Plugin Exchange.
In addition to the editor, Confluence 4.2 improves content discovery with a new listing of the most popular content, based on likes and comments. By default, Confluence will also email out a weekly roundup of the most popular content (users can change the frequency to daily, if preferred). The emails are not personalized in this release, except to display the avatars of contacts who have liked or commented on a post as a way of providing context. "We also made it pluggable, so you can feed in other content," Hodges said. Atlassian plans to add event calendar feeds in a future release, he said.
This video shows some of the improvements:
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