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Confluence ABC, Part I: How to make your page readable?

Confluence ABC 1: How to make your page readable?

This is the first article in the Confluence ABC series. It’s dedicated to Confluence users with a basic understanding of the tool, who wish to make their work easier and enable more advanced features.

Confluence’s both a simple and powerful tool. Unfortunately, its basic capabilities are only good for creating Word-like documents, without advanced formatting in place. It’s more than enough when you’re creating short meeting notes, but longer documents (even formatted properly, with all headings and paragraphs in order) tend to become unreadable.

What can we do about it?

The truth is, that we can do quite a lot, even without any addons installed. Keep in mind, that Confluence pages – unlike Word documents – are in essence web pages, and will be read as such.

To make them readable, it’s best to use web design tricks, instead of stenotypists’ skills.

Use panels to separate content

Panel macro is as straightforward as it can get – it allows you to create a panel with an optional title on top of it. It also offers some basic formatting options, like changing the background color, adding borders, etc.

As it’s easier for humans to read something that’s placed inside a neat, clearly defined field, we can use it to separate different sections, tables of contents, lists, and many more.

Sample page, sans formatting – though with proper headings!

Tip: To create this example I’ve used basic colors only, but if you wish to experiment with this (because your company board prefers more toned colors, fully understandable), it’s the best to use W3 Color Picker: – just choose the color you want to use, and copy its code (e.g. #ff8080) into the border or background color field.

Sample page with panels added to distinguish between sections.

Hide optional content

Panels are working pretty well when we are discussing text paragraphs only, but the more content we add to our page – graphs, images, tables – the more complicated it gets. Thankfully, the readers aren’t usually expected to read everything at once. And that’s when Expand macro comes in handy.

Expand macro is a container allowing us to hide content from plain sight, leaving only a clickable text „Click here to expand…”. You can change the text message as you wish. After clicking on it, all the hidden content will expand on the screen.

And that’s how a fully expanded macro looks like.

Of course, hiding everything in one expand doesn’t make any sense, as the expanded content would still look rather intimidating. Because of that, I encourage you to use multiple expands in various sections. It’s best to hide the least important or optional things while leaving most important pieces always visible.

Make use of anchors

The longer your document gets, the harder it is to navigate through it. While Table of Contents certainly helps, there happen to be moments that you refer to the earlier or later section of your page. Instead of forcing the reader to scroll past it, searching for an answer to his question, you can use old, HTML trick – anchor links.

An anchor link is nothing fancy – it just offers you a possibility to link inside a document, instead of an external page. To insert an anchor in your content, use the „Anchor” macro. Every anchor you put in the text needs to be named differently, e.g. section3.

With the anchor already in place, you can refer to it anytime you want, e.g. „In this section, we’ll only cover the basic functionalities of our product. To know more, please go to Section 3”, where „Section 3” is an anchor link. To create it, select Link macro, go to Advanced tab and then type the anchor name with a hashtag in front, e.g. #section3.

Krzysztof Daukszewicz
Krzysztof Daukszewicz
Ex-Journalist, Community Manager, Confluence Expert, and Author. Enjoys gardening, running, and looking at things that are done neatly.

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