When I was looking for a Java wiki application to install on my personal Tomcat server, I saw that Atlassian offers a free “personal” version of its Confluence wiki server. Confluence is a super-wiki application that uses a database backend. Instructions are provided to setup Confluence with various open-source and commercial databases. It talked to my PostgreSQL server with no problem.

Now that I’ve been using Confluence for a couple of weeks, I recommend the free personal version for people wanting to install a wiki for their own use (i.e. one not meant for full team collaboration). It was fairly easy to install, and the features are nice even for personal use. Atlassian’s personal license allows you to create two registered users with full access, and allows an unlimited number of anonymous visitors. The license is perpetual, and allows one year of upgrades.

The Confluence interface is nice. The wiki provides all the expected simple formatting features (heading levels, bold, italic, underline, bulleting/numbering, text colors, tables) to avoid having to use HTML. Other nice features:

  • Blogging support
  • Add multiple RSS feeds to a single page for a quick blog browse
  • Creates RSS feeds from your Wiki pages (new/updated pages, new comments, new blog posts)
  • Formatters to view Java code, XML, etc. in a nicer format
  • Task/ToDo list
  • Search
  • Organize sections of the site using “spaces”
    • Nice formatting features, like adding boxed panels for “Warning,” “Info,” “Note” sections to highlight blocks of text
    • Extensibility through plugins

I had previously used JSPWiki, which I certainly liked. Confluence, however, shows the polish and extra features you’d expect in a commercial product.

Now, I suppose the question Atlassian would like answered is, would I buy Confluence for $1,200 to $8,000? (Atlassian prices Confluence based on number of full-access registered users.) If I needed the extra features, especially the way Confluence integrates with Jira, Atlassian’s more well-known bug-tracking product, I’d probably say yes. But if I just needed a way for my small team to collaborate in a shared web space, with RSS feeds to keep the team updated, I might want to save costs and use one of the freeware wikis.

As a side note, I just noticed that Atlassian will be in town (Washington, D.C.) Tuesday for a user group meeting. The meeting will look at using Jira and Confluence on agile projects. I hope to have time to stop by and see what’s up.