Confluence has no doubt taken over the “wiki” arena within organizations and for good reason. It offers all of the benefits of a standard wiki with advanced features that make it behave almost like an online word processor. Now that we’ve helped a number of organizations organize and format their Confluence sites, we thought we’d start sharing a few tips.
Tip 1: Fix the Table of Contents to Work Properly
The table of contents, or TOC, plays a crucial role in helping users navigate the pages in your confluence space. However, by default, it’s configured to automatically collapse as users navigate to new pages, which defeats the whole purpose of the TOC to begin with.
To fix this, simply go to “Space Tools” at the bottom (assuming you have permissions), select “Configure Sidebar”, select “Page Tree” for the “Navigation display options”, and click “Done”. The TOC will now behave more like it should with expanded items remaining open as the user jumps between pages.
Tip 2: Reuse Content with Multiexcerpts
Often times there is a need to repeat the same content across many pages, so instead of duplicating it everywhere, use the “Multiexcerpt” macro. Simply insert the macro on a page, enter your content into the macro. To include that content on other pages, insert the “Multiexcerpt Include” macro on those other pages which lets you specify which “Multiexcerpt” to include. This allows you to define the content once, and reuse it in multiple places, with the added benefit that future updates to that content can be made in once place. And if there is a future need to identify where that content is coming from, simply edit the page and edit the “Multiexcerpt Include” to see the source page name.
Note that you can choose to hide the Multiexcerpt as well, which is useful if you want to define it on a page, but not have it show up there (i.e. you only want it to show up on other pages where it is included).
Tip #3 – Getting around the Lack of Table Support
Often times with content management systems and websites, we use hidden tables to help lay things out. However, one of Confluence’s most frustrating drawbacks is its lack of table formatting support, most notably the ability to hide borders and shading; in other words, Confluence does not support hidden tables.
To get around this, you can utilize the “Section” and “Column” macros which allow for at least some control of layout without visual borders. Simply insert a “Section” macro and within it, two or more “Column” macros, then set the width percentage of each column so that they add up to 100%. The section will serve as a “row”, while each column serves as a cell within that row.
One challenge with this approach is controlling the vertical height of “cells” so that they all align nicely, especially when images are added to cells. To get around this you may need to add blank lines consisting of at least one space character, and images may need to be modified so that they are all the same height. Note that horizontal paragraph justification can be used in each, which makes it easy to align things in that direction.
In any, case the use of “Section” and “Column” macros can be an effective solution for controlling layout, but will require some experimentation and finesse.
About the Author
Dana Fujikawa is a contract programmer and technical writer located in Vancouver British Columbia. He is president of Essential Instructions Inc. – a boutique technical writing firm specializing in the development of API and software documentation, as well as the implementation of programming projects. On the documentation side he assists organizations who need a highly-technical writer who can read code and produce documentation from it. On the programming side he helps startups and non-technical people who need a programmer that can help them realize their software ideas. He is currently developing an Android app for a client in Europe, while maintaining API and software documentation for several companies both in Vancouver and abroad.