Google Docs vs Confluence

2017-08-08 2 min read

    I’ve been a happy user of Google Docs for years now and have yet to find another product that makes collaboration that easy or simple. It’s a well designed product with a ton of shortcuts that make it incredibly easy to be exceptionally productive. I can dive in and quickly leave a few comments as well as assign some todos knowing that the relevant folk will be notified. And for a very long time I’ve been using it for the bulk of my writing - including specs, design documents, and general note taking.

    Yet as much as I enjoy using Google Docs I’ve started using Confluence more and more. We use JIRA and since they’re both part of the Atlassian suite of products they’re both nicely integrated. Confluence is a wiki platform so it provides a whole world of functionality that Google Docs just doesn’t offer - and rightfully so. Confluence comes with a bit more structure that makes it easy to create page templates with structured metadata that can then be organized and displayed based on that metadata. Somewhat remarkably, the Confluence search seems to be better than Google Docs - despite Google being the king of search; I really have no idea why the Google Docs search isn’t better. But the one thing that causes Confluence to win is the ability to have much more structured and better organized tasks. One can assign tasks in Google Docs but they’re treated as second class citizens - they don’t have due dates and are only visible when viewing a document. Confluence, on the other hand, makes it simple to add a todo with a due date on any page and then have all tasks aggregated into a single page. Of course I can have a separate tool tracking all my todos but it’s incredibly powerful to have tasks live next to their context.

    I know I shouldn’t be comparing Google Docs with Confluence since they were designed for completely different purposes and yet I’ve resisted moving to Confluence due to how much more usable and friendly Google Docs felt. The lesson here is that we’re always going to favor what we’re comfortable with but it’s important to think about why some tools feel heavier and clunkier than others. There’s likely a reason they’re built and designed that way and are likely to solve our problems better than the tools we love but have to wrestle into submission.