Confluence helps teams collaborate. This very blog was co-created in Confluence, with input from several members of the Old Street team, before it made its way to our website. Teams also use Confluence for tables, charts, and reports; meeting notes; brainstorming; customer-facing documentation; and replicating water cooler conversations for distributed teams. In an increasingly distributed world, Confluence is a great platform for getting everybody involved and talking.
But Confluence isn’t just for words. It’s a place for pictures, too. Confluence is used for diagramming and image editing and, with the right add-ons, really can make your pictures speak a thousand words. We’re talking here about making and sharing beautiful diagrams on Confluence pages with whoever needs to see them.
Here’s a useful guide to all the best apps for making and sharing charts and diagrams in Confluence. The basic functionality of these apps is the same, so understanding the intricacies and small differences is key when deciding which should be your tool of choice.
The most popular diagram and charting tools for Confluence are:
Draw.io Flowchart & Diagram Maker for Confluence
What Draw.io does well
Draw.io makes it super quick to set up flowcharts with an intuitive click-and-play UX. Diagrams can be customized to an impressive degree, as they’ve made it very easy to import your own shape libraries (if you’re the sort of person that has shape libraries).
For security-conscious administrators, Draw.io proudly advertises that they don’t use third-party servers for your data, noting that “Saving/loading diagrams is directly between your browser and Atlassian’s servers, no storage or transit through third-party servers.”
And to top it all off, they’re very reasonably priced (a tenth of the price of some of the other options here).
Gliffy Diagrams for Confluence
Since 2005 Gliffy has been the largest and most popular Confluence diagramming app, with over 20,000 installs and 15 million users. It’s a well-established diagramming option with much of the same functionality as the rest, but few supported integrations.
What Gliffy does well
Our favorite feature in Gliffy is the ability to create linked diagrams that allow you to change something in one place and automatically update its links everywhere else. This encourages collaboration and can prevent data silos from forming by keeping everything up to date.
For larger Confluence instances, the fact that diagram text is fully searchable is a lifesaver. After all, how valuable are your diagrams if no one knows how to find them? Searching in Confluence has never been easy, so this is something that makes Gliffy really useful.
Lucidchart: Integrated Cross-Platform Confluence Charts
Lucidchart’s dramatic ascent to being adopted by 99% of the Fortune 500 can be credited to their great marketing, UX, and vast number of integrations.
What Lucidchart does well
Unlike the other options listed here, Lucidchart is a standalone product with an integration into Confluence, rather than being a Confluence app.
Lucidchart is a strong choice if you want multiple users concurrently editing a diagram on any device, across multiple platforms. Because it’s a standalone app, Confluence is one of many places you can share your diagrams. Teams that are distributed across multiple tools will see the benefits of being able to view Lucidchart diagrams in multiple places.
You can also automatically chart from data imported from Excel, Zapier, Salesforce, or LinkedIn Sales Navigator. There are some clever integrations with Google Docs, Drive & Sheets; Powerpoint; and Dropbox Paper to take your diagrams wherever you want them. Our favorite integration in Lucidchart is the Amazon Web Services (AWS) import function. Connect to AWS and you can automate infrastructure diagrams and save a whole bunch of time.
SmartDraw for automating diagrams in Confluence
Another reasonably priced solution, SmartDraw is the only diagramming app with an intelligent auto-formatting engine. Basically you can add, delete, or move shapes and your diagram will automatically adjust. Whether you’re clicking or using the keyboard shortcuts, it’s very quick to make, adjust, and reformat different types of diagrams in SmartDraw.
Which Confluence diagramming app should you use?
The similarities between all of these apps mean this isn’t a cut-and-dry answer. Knowing which of the features highlighted above are most important to you and your team will be essential. Each of the above tools specializes in making certain types of charts and diagrams better. However, if you’re happy with basic Confluence diagrams, then the ability to import data, integrate with other tools, or share your charts with external users might be the deciding factor.
All of these options let you import/export charts to and from other tools (such as Microsoft Visio), so it isn’t the end of the world if you change your mind later and need to migrate your diagrams.
Sharing diagrams outside of Confluence
Good collaboration means sharing your content where your people are, quickly and easily. The table below shows which of the aforementioned diagramming apps allow you to do synchronized sharing of diagrams in platforms such as Jira, Google Drive, and Dropbox with one click. Synchronized sharing means that users can work on the diagrams in the diagramming app, and any edits will auto-update in the platform.
With each of these apps, you can also create a shareable website URL that can be pasted wherever you want.
Sharing Confluence diagrams with external users
Creating diagrams in Confluence is the first step. Then it’s about making sure that the right people can see them. The need to share charts and diagrams externally may be on your radar. External integrations can help with sharing diagrams by themselves, but Confluence pages aren’t just diagrams. Diagrams may be a crucial part of the documentation you’re sharing, but if you use text and other macros to communicate the bigger picture, you need more than a diagram-building tool in isolation.
So, if you’re looking to externally share your diagrams beyond Confluence, here are three options. Your choice will depend on who you’re sharing with, for how long, and for what purpose.
Making your Confluence diagrams public-facing
It’s fairly straightforward to set up an individual Confluence space as a public-facing wiki for everyone to read.
To enable anonymous access to your Confluence:
The first setting that you’ll need to update is global. Before you can make a specific space public, you’ll need to be sure that people outside of your organization can access your Confluence instance as a whole. To do this, you’ll enable anonymous access to your Confluence instance. This means that users with your Confluence URL will be able to view your instance. Each space has Space Permissions that allow you to show/hide that space to anonymous users, so enabling this setting does not necessarily expose all of your spaces automatically.
- Go to Settings > General Configuration > Global Permissions.
- Choose “Edit Permissions”.
- In the Anonymous Access section, select the “can use” checkbox.
You can also choose whether to allow anonymous users to see user profiles. Choose “Save All” to apply the changes.
To make your space public:
Once anonymous users can access your Confluence instance, you’ll want to edit individual space permissions to make sure they can see what they need to see.
- Go to the space and choose Space tools > Permissions from the bottom of the sidebar.
- Choose “Edit Permissions”.
- Scroll down to the Anonymous Access section and select the specific permissions you’d like anonymous users to have.
- Save All to apply the changes.
There you have it. Your diagrams, and the Confluence pages they’re featured on, are now available publicly as part of a read-only knowledge base.
Give external users full access to your Confluence
It’s one thing being able to see your diagrams, along with the text, images, and macros that place them in their proper context. But making your Confluence space public doesn’t help if you want an external party to comment on a diagram, upload their own diagrams as attachments, or create their own diagrams and pages in Confluence.
If you want people to do that, then you have two options. The first is buying the external user a Confluence license and giving them access based on the permission schemes you’ve set up in Confluence. This, of course, is very expensive if you only want to share one diagram or chart, or a few diagrams and charts not very frequently. You also have to be very security-conscious and make sure everyone is using your permission schemes properly across your Confluence space. Otherwise you’re giving people access to data they shouldn’t be seeing.
Give external users secure access to specific Confluence pages
If you want an external user to view a specific Confluence page, and add comments and attachments, without having access to your full instance, then the third and probably best option is External Share for Confluence.
This Atlassian add-on is integrated with all the diagramming tools listed above, which means you can share all your charts and diagrams whatever the add-on you made them with. And you can do this without giving external users full access to your instance, nor the administrative burden of setting up individual permission schemes for each of them.
External Share for Confluence creates secure links to your Confluence pages, with unique 16-character codes and optional time limits and passwords for extra protection. Apart from the ability to add comments and attachments, your pages remain read-only so that you can keep a handle on who’s changing what. After all, you don’t want your Confluence pages to become a free-for-all, particularly if you’re sharing your diagrams infrequently or as a one-off.
Find out more about External Share from the following articles:
If you want to share your Confluence charts and diagrams, you have three options:
- Make your Confluence space public-facing, giving external partners and customers read-only access.
- If you want deeper collaboration, buy your external users a Confluence license.
- If you want deeper collaboration with less expense, admin, and security issues, use External Share for Confluence (which is compatible with all the diagramming and charting apps listed above).
“If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”