Confluence and Foswiki Plugins – A Comparison

All wiki systems have the same basic functions: opening, editing and saving documents. These functions can be covered in a single Wikipedia paragraph. The functions of a more advanced business wiki, however, are more complex. A business wiki is not simply a web lexicon, but rather is intended to systematically handle a variety of processes in the company.

Fact: Plugins make wikis into true corporate wikis. The available extensions for a particular wiki software must be checked for reliability, stability and quality. Below we’ll take a look at eleven important plugins for the commercial system Confluence and compare them with their counterparts in the open source system Foswiki.

1. Office Connector

  • The Office Connector allows you to import, embed and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and Open Office documents in Confluence.
  • Confluence pages can be edited from MS Office or Open Office.
  • Large documents can be broken up into many Confluence documents.

Foswiki does not have these capabilities. Content from MS Office and Open Office can only be imported into Foswiki indirectly, such as via the macro Word2Wiki. There is a topic on the subject of Office Connector, which discusses the current development of their solution.

2. WebDAV plugin

  • This plugin provides direct access to files on the local system via Confluence.
  • Attachments can be edited and saved directly in Confluence.
  • Attachments can be imported via drag and drop.

It is possible to use Foswiki as a network drive. However, this is more of a workaround than a solution. It doesn’t make the data within the wiki easy to access.

3. Widget Connector

  • Content of websites can be integrated into Confluence pages.
  • Videos and photo slideshows from appropriate portals are directly playable on Confluence pages.
  • Feeds from Twitter etc can be displayed.

These functionalities are not fully mirrored in Foswiki. Instead, with the media plugin one can import attached Flash or QuickTime movies. A JavaScript code snippet can be used to include YouTube and similar movies.

4. SQL Plugin

  • Content can be read out from a database (such as Oracle.)
  • It is possible to establish a connection with the Chart Plugin.
  • Updating works dynamically.

Foswiki’s complement is the Database plugin.

5. Label Management Plugin

  • This generates an overview of the site’s spaces and their labels (tags.)
  • A site and its “daughter” labels can be added with one click.
  • Labels can be given different status and subsidiary pages. For example, they can be assigned the label of the parent page.

Foswiki’s current attempt at a corresponding solution is the TagMe plugin, which does not have the functionality of the Confluence extension.

6. Metadata Plugin

  • Spaces metadata can be added with this plugin. This includes metadata for users, annexes, etc.
  • Spaces are also hierarchically structured.
  • Appropriate reports can be generated in different views.

These functionalities are found in Foswiki Meta-data.

7. Gliffy Plugin

  • The Flash-based web tool Gliffy allows for the creation of diagrams such as flowcharts, wireframes, UML diagrams, network diagrams, etc.
  • This commercial plugin allows for full integration of Gliffy diagrams in Confluence pages.
  • Charts can be edited in Confluence.

Diagram illustration is possible in Foswiki only in rudimentary form with the Flow Chart and DirectedGraph plugins.

8. Dynamic Task List

  • To-Do lists can be integrated into Confluence pages with a few clicks.
  • The overview list with progress indicator updates dynamically.
  • The plugin records who completed which task.

Similar functionality is provided in Foswiki with the Action Tracker plugin.

9. TaskDock

  • The commercial plugin TaskDock in Confluence allows small-scale task management (planning and allocation of tasks, status information, monitoring, activity stream, subsequent modification, etc.)
  • Tasks are as general or specific as they need to be for the page (comment, expand, add, annex, etc.)
  • Task-specific actions by an agent are automatically recorded (completion query.)
  • TaskDock offers a variety of analysis functions.
  • JIRA integration is in the planning stage.

Foswiki does not offer this functionality.

10. Gallery Plugin

  • Attached images can be displayed in the wiki document as thumbnails and enlarged with one click.
  • Slideshows of attached images can be integrated.

A Gallery plugin is also available in Foswiki, and offers similar features.

11. Chart plugins

  • This plugin allows for the creation of pie, line, bar and area charts in Confluence documents.
  • Gantt charts can be integrated via an additional plugin (Gantt Chart.)
  • Charts from spreadsheets or other external sources can be generated with the Chart-From-Table plugin.

Foswiki’s chart plugin gives similar options, however the creation of charts is more complicated and less visually appealing than the Confluence version.

Comparing Apples to Oranges? Not at all.

For companies that are still making a decision about the introduction of wiki software, we recommend not cutting corners. Thoroughly and intensively evaluate the available extensions—their developmental maturity and quality are critical factors as to whether the wiki can be successfully established as a permanent solution.

As to comparing apples and oranges? Foswiki and its plugins are open source and developed on a voluntary basis by a very dedicated community. Foswiki is certainly an established and powerful piece of wiki software. Confluence, on the other hand, is a commercial system with a different set of standards.

This isn’t apples to oranges. These are the only questions that matter:

Can the software meet the company’s needs and are my requirements something that an enterprise wiki can fulfill?

All available systems must be measured against these requirements, regardless of whether the systems are commercial or free.

Do you have questions about company wikis? Planning a wiki introduction or need help with a current project? We are experts in corporate communications and would love to advise you. Please contact us! More detailed information on the above topic can be found on our dedicated company wiki page.

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Additional information

Architecture of a wiki project: elements, sequence, procedure, rules
Architecture of a wiki project: Frequently Asked Questions and information
Wikis in an Intranet Part 2: TWiki in Actual Company Practice