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Which Collaboration Tool, Confluence or Google Docs?

Updated: Mar 4

Trying to find out which solution is best, is entirely dependent on the requirements of users. Confluence and Google Docs, whilst similar in nature, differ greatly when certain requirements come to light. For simple sharing and compiling of documents, Google Docs is a more intuitive easy to use solution which gives users the benefits of cloud sharing as well as the familiarity of existing office 365 products. Confluence is typically considered when advanced sharing and complex documents with multiple users working on the same project.


Therefore, we will look at a number of metrics that are useful when comparing the two software solutions and finding which is most suitable.

  • Structure

  • Visibility and Discoverability

  • Creating and Formatting Documents

  • Collaborating on Documents

  • Hosting, Supported Devices

  • Pricing 


Structure


Confluence

Confluence is divided into different spaces, with each space having various pages.



In turn, a page will have any documents that are related to a particular topic. Naturally this can be arranged according to the requirements of the different teams. Structure is typically referred to as hierarchy whereby main pages (parent) will include multiple sub-pages (child page). There are no limits to the structure and hierarchy levels that a user or team can have in place.


Pages can easily be relocated by simply dragging.


Lastly, whilst documents may be organised well, the search function will always be essential. Confluence’s search function is extremely robust, varying from simple searches to advanced search as well as saving common searches for ease of access.


Google Docs 

The structure of Google Docs is similar to what most users may be used to with their own File explorer in that files are stored within folders and sub-folders. You can sort your documents, but there’s no way to reorder them manually or to create a hierarchy of files.



The searching function within Google Drive is also robust and can search within files to narrow search results.


Visibility and Discoverability


Confluence

Confluence gives users various options in terms of visibility and so-called ‘Chinese walls’ between different departments. Therefore, administrators can control who sees what, editing and deletion rights. These controls can be set on spaces, pages, as well as sub-pages, both for users as well as groups of users.  




Once added, a page becomes available for others who can suggest changes, give feedback as well as edit. A page can be left as draft or published to other users, giving document owners the flexibility and capability to control visibility of document, even whilst working on the same document. Functions such as following a user, receiving email updates notifications with recommended updates as well as visiting the dashboard with important information, Confluence makes it very easy for users to monitor other users.


Google Docs 

Sharing folders or files within Google Drive is straightforward and easy. Documents can also be set up to be shared by default. Shared folders can also be set up where any documents that are uploaded can be viewed by anyone within the team.





Creating and Formatting Documents


Confluence

When adding a new page in Confluence, you can design it from scratch or choose a suitable template to pre-format a page (e.g. meeting notes, products requirements, how-to article, task report). It’s also possible to create custom templates that suit your needs.



The templates are extremely customisable and can include anything from plain text and images to Kanban boards and Gantt Charts to track progress. This is a major advantage for anyone who is looking to create more than simple documents.




Furthermore, additional macros also provide extra functionality. Table of contents with linked pages, embedded videos and other widgets such as twitter feeds are also available.





If Microsoft Office is still a big part of the organisation and you would like to retain the documents in the same format, one can embed Office documents on a Confluence page and even edit them from Confluence.

Lastly, having a version history provides users the peace of mind of keeping track of any changes, as well as easily identifiable users who have passed the changes.




Google Docs 

Google Docs also have a number of templates, these are generally similar to templates that are available within Microsoft Office. A slight drawback is formatting between google docs and Microsoft Office, whereby if a document is compiled and completed in Google Docs, and then opened in Microsoft Office, might result in formatting issues.

Documents can also have images inserted via URLs .


Similar to Confluence, Google Docs also preserves the history of changes made in a document.


Collaborating on Documents


Confluence

Collaborating on Documents is where confluence differs most from Google Docs. Confluence was designed with collaboration in mind, rather than having adapted over the years to do so. Having page comments as well as inline comments are an easy way to provide feedback. Page comments are also available at the bottom of the page, there are typically meant to remain on the page for future or might be too lengthy to insert inline.





Inline comments let you share your thoughts, ask questions and have discussions in context. As well you can mention a user to bring that person in the conversation.





Atlassian has also introduced a feature that continues to facilitate teamwork and collaboration, allowing several people to work on the same page at the same time, viewing who else is editing the page and viewing their changes as they are made.


Google Docs 

Google Docs also has inline comments similar to that of Confluence which are useful when reviewing and collaborating.


Google Docs also offers collaborative editing in real-time. In addition, it’s possible to chat with other people in a file to discuss and decide together without leaving a document.


Who Hosts the Data? What Devices Are Supported?


Confluence

Another advantage of Confluence is the ability to host on a local server. As we are comparing to Google Docs, we will not be discussing the local hosting options.

Confluence also have iOS and Andriod applications for smartphones are also available for users which provide users the ability to work on documents on the go.

Google Docs 

Google Docs is a Web-based service that only has cloud hosting abilities.


What’s the price?


Confluence

Atlassian’s software suite is used by over 85% of Fortune 500 companies. Naturally, having such a powerful tool at your disposal would be ideal, however many startups tend to shy away due to the perceived high costs. Atlassian is currently offering Jira, Confluence and Jira Service desk for free (when opting for cloud hosting) for up to 10 users. The company believes that providing startups with these tools will not only help increase productivity but is also useful in terms of continuity and scalability.





Google Docs 

Packages for G Suite range from $6 to 25$ per user, per month. The most common and best value package of $12 per user, per month, having 10 employees works out to be $120 per month.


Conclusion


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Historically, smaller teams and startups have always opted for G Suite due to it being a more cost-effective alternative to Confluence. With Confluence offering its cloud services for free (for up to 10 users), startups now have access to one of the most sought after software solutions in the market. Naturally, one does not exclude the other and there are teams who still chose to use both Confluence as well as G Suite for certain tasks. Each software solution offers a unique experience with powerful capabilities.

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