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Finding a Free Confluence Alternative

Kristen Craft | June 17, 2019

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You’re looking for a collaboration tool, and the name “Confluence” keeps popping up. You might even be using it already. Still, you’re wondering if there are other options out there — ones that might be more user-friendly or more affordable than this popular choice.

Sound like you? You’re not alone.

Confluence is Atlassian’s shared workspace tool that allows teams to create, organize, and collaborate on information within one platform. While it’s been popular among product and engineering teams over the years, it has its shortcomings as a wiki and knowledge management tool. And it has not entirely adapted with the times and the needs of growing teams.

That’s why many find themselves on the lookout for a Confluence alternative. And we’re here to help with this process. In this piece, we’ll dive into some Confluence shortcomings to consider, as well as some other compelling options on the market.

Why You Might Be Ready for a Free Confluence Alternative

There are several key reasons why you might be searching for a Confluence alternative — and why others before you have found themselves in the same position. In short, ease of use is Confluence’s major Achilles heel. There’s a lot of complexity. For some teams, this is an advantage; for others, it’s a liability.

Complexity can be dangerous when it dissuades people from getting involved. Generally speaking, the more people who contribute to your wiki, the better. But if your system is unintuitive and difficult to use, people will shy away. Let’s take a look at some of the more specific feedback that arises among Confluence customers.

Clunky and Slow User Interface

You need a knowledge management tool that works as fast as you do. For many, Confluence actually slows the team down instead of allowing people to work smarter. As one G2Crowd reviewer wrote:

Response times (between click and anything actually happening) is terrible to the point of being unusable. Sometimes the lag time between clicking and going to a different page was upwards of a minute.

Another reviewer echoed this statement, pointing out that all of the bells and whistles in Confluence make for a massive app:

One of the first things you notice in Confluence as you grow your presence there is the speed. And it does not specifically matter on the internet connection or type of computer. The apps are slow and gigantic.

This lagging issue can cost your team valuable time and money — especially if you’re relying on this singular platform to store and share all of your information.

Ineffective Search Function

You should be able to find documents in a split second, so you can get back to work. But on Confluence, this process can be like finding the needle in a haystack.

As one Capterra reviewer noted, if you don’t know the exact title or phrasing of the document you’re looking for, “keyword search can bring back thousands of articles.”

Even if you work in tech, you shouldn’t have to perform a complicated procedure in order to pull a document.

Another G2Crowd reviewer concurs:

Navigating the app is overly complicated, and the search doesn’t help. I spend more time looking for the articles than reading/contributing.

That’s precious time that you could be using to build your project and collaborate with colleagues.

Complicated Permissions and Authorizations

It’s important to protect company information, but overly complicated permissions shouldn’t prevent your fellow teammates and colleagues from viewing necessary documents.

This is a major issue with Confluence, as many users lament the platform’s complex web of authorizations and restrictions. Martin Häberle writes:

Excessive restrictions may result in some users inadvertently being unable to view content that their colleagues can access at will – to name just one potential source of friction. People will start feeling excluded and become frustrated – the opposite of what you want to achieve.

He’s not the only one who noticed this roadblock. One Capterra reviewer wrote:

Deployment of this tool to a large user base would require some serious preparation to establish access schemes, permissions for user groups, best practices for editing and creating new content, and organizing content within the spaces.

Many seem to agree that Confluence permissions are only manageable if you have a trained Confluence expert on your team or lots of time to spare in figuring them out.

Tough to Transfer Information from Other Documents

Your database is always expanding, growing, and evolving — pulling information from within your platform and outside of it. For many, Confluence can hinder this growth, as it’s difficult to merge documents, download in accessible formats, and transfer from other tools like Microsoft.

One G2Crowd reviewer wrote:

[It’s] not easy to copy and paste from other standard applications (Microsoft, etc.) We often have to export (which looks weird) and then attach the PDF’s to emails because so many users do not have permissions.

These issues can also make collaboration difficult.

Haberle notes:

If you are editing content externally, other users might update the page in the meantime – and merging back external changes is no fun. And even if you’re able to merge it all together, rich formatted content pasted from Microsoft Word etc. often contains a great deal of formatting clutter. This could result in awkward editor behavior and misleading styles.

One user said they tried to mimic their Microsoft Office formatting, but was only able to create a 30% match to those old documents.

Limited and Glitchy Formatting

Speaking of formatting, Confluence offers limited options for rich text and charts, and some formatting features even trigger glitches in documents.

One G2 reviewer writes:

I feel like it should have a dropdown that allows you to write it in a format that you want to, such as markdown language. As of this moment, it has a bit of a simplistic feel to it which makes it difficult to write code snippets, which is something I would like to do in my documentation.

It’s also difficult to format multiple pages and tables all at once, meaning each time you create a new document, you have to go through the headache of implementing your formatting preferences again.

Users have had particular trouble formatting bulleted lists, linked text, images, and charts. Some even cite experiencing embarrassment when presenting in front of key stakeholders. Customers have come to mistrust whether the product will function properly in the midst of high-stakes situations.

Only Plays Well with Other Atlassian Tools

So, why stick around and use Confluence if it has these issues? Because teams are already using Atlassian’s other tools like JIRA, and they’re stuck inside the Atlassian stack.

As one G2Crowd reviewer wrote:

If I was not tied to JIRA, I would use other means of capturing the same data. Even a Google Doc is as good, if not better than Confluence is.

Even still, others complain that JIRA accessibility is stunted within Confluence. One Capterra reviewer shares:

Confluence’s integration with JIRA is very limited, only IDs or IDs with names can be displayed. If there was a way for Confluence to display tables based on a JIRA query, that would be way more useful.

If you’re already using the Atlassian suite of tools, it might feel natural to choose an Atlassian-built wiki. However, don’t overestimate the importance of using products within the same family. You can likely reference JIRA boards from within whatever wiki you ultimately select.

Pricey Platform and Plugins

Like many popular collaboration tools, Confluence comes with a price. That price can be affordable for small businesses — $10 a month for teams of 10 — but it can quickly become unmanageable for larger companies and enterprise organizations. Confluence charges $5 a month for each user over 100, $3.50 for the next 150 users, and $1.10 for users over 250.

The payments don’t end there, either. Confluence slaps a price tag on crucial plugins and add-ons like calendar apps. Meaning if you want to fix some of these issues with third-party solutions, you’ll have to pay to sync them with your Confluence setup.

Choosing a Confluence Alternative

There are plenty of Confluence alternatives to choose from. Some are free, some are inexpensive, and some have pricing that depends on your team’s use case. Here are a few of your options, along with pros and cons to consider.

G Suite

G Suite is Google’s stack of business tools, including tentpole Google products like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Drive.

If you’re already using Gmail or Google Cloud, G Suite can be a natural transition for your business. Still, G Suite can get expensive if you need a lot of storage. And finding and organizing files can be challenging as your repository of information grows. As anyone who’s ever been shared on a Google doc can attest, it’s tricky to find what you’re looking for in Google Drive, especially if you’re sharing files among your team.

You can use G Suite free for two weeks before moving over to a paid account.

Dropbox

Dropbox is known for its file-sharing and cloud storage service, but it also offers tools for creative collaboration. With Dropbox Paper, teams can record ideas, share insights, and create rough drafts of new video, image, audio, and even coding projects. Dropbox also offers an administrative dashboard so team leaders can keep track of activities and permissions. You can use DropboxBusiness free for one month before moving over to a paid Enterprise plan.

The downside is that Dropbox doesn’t have connections with messaging tools, like Confluence does with HipChat or Tettra does with Slack. It also doesn’t include features to help you keep stale content updated and organized between teams.

Tettra

Over 10,000 high-performing teams use Tettra to manage knowledge and share information. It’s integrated with tools like Google Docs, GitHub, Dropbox, and Zapier, so you can transfer, reference, and migrate information with ease.

You can even sync Tettra and Slack, making knowledge sharing a natural part of your day. Search for info on your Tettra account without ever leaving Slack; if you discover you’re missing a key piece of information, create a suggestion to document it in Tettra…again, without ever leaving Slack.

Perhaps most importantly, Tettra is clean and simple to use. It’s full of ready-made templates for marketing campaigns, status reports, recruiting processes, and communication plans. And it automatically keeps track of content that should be updated or archived, so your platform doesn’t get crowded with extraneous information.

If you’re interested in trying Tettra, (and especially if you use Slack,) you can sign up for a free account for your whole team.

Good Ol’ Handbooks

Admittedly, paper handbooks (or their pdf equivalents) might not be great for keeping your team up-to-date on your weekly goals. But it might be a decent solution for more evergreen information. 

If you have a fairly static set of policies and procedures, you might consider putting them into an employee handbook. Not only is this option free, but it also leaves you room to adapt your approach in the future. Should you decide to move over to Tettra, (or another solution,) you can always import your pdf or make it easily accessible inside another team wiki.

How to Migrate Information from Confluence

Are you already using Confluence and eager to start moving your information now? This process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just use Confluence’s guide for exporting content to Word, PDF, HTML, and XML.

If you’re migrating to Tettra, we suggest using HTML format for the most seamless transfer. Our upload API lets you specify where you want your documents to go and how you want them formatted. Even if you have thousands of pages to move, you can use this strategy to migrate to Tettra in a snap.

The Right Confluence Alternative for You

Ultimately, the practice of sharing knowledge internally will serve you well, regardless of whether you stick with Confluence, choose Tettra, or try another tool on the market. Maintaining a wiki lets everyone on your team access the info they need to do their jobs well.

Most products either have a free plan or at least a free trial. Spend some time getting to know your options. Ask yourself whether each product is delightful to use or a pain in the neck. Consider how others might feel about using each one. And though free is nice, keep in mind that something so central to your team’s success might be worth paying for.

Just remember to make your decision carefully. Whichever tool you decide on will be integral to your operations because knowledge management lies at the heart of any growing business. A comprehensive, all-in-one wiki, paired with a culture of good documentation, keeps information flowing seamlessly and teams running smoothly — so you can stay focused and operate at peak performance.