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Template talk #1: How do you use Confluence Page templates?

Hi Community!

My name is Dilani and I'm a Product Manager on the Confluence team. We are trying to understand how to make the experience of using templates in Confluence better. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be making a series of posts to understand how you use templates.

To kick things off, we’d love to know:

  1. What do you use Confluence Page templates for? (e.g. get new team members started quickly, or to create the same page again and again quickly)

  2. What are your biggest pain points around using Page templates in Confluence?

The more details, the better!

11 comments

Davin Studer Community Leader Jul 29, 2019
  1.  We typically just use templates to create the same kind of page on a regular basis.
  2. The main pain points I see for templates is that they are a bit too limited. I think what could make them even more useful would be the ability to use variables in the page title and the ability to use variables in macro parameters. This would make templates much more usable. Right now I have to put in instructional text and hope my users follow the instructions ... which rarely happens.

    Also, you keep track of template versions in the database. Why not expose that like you do for pages and allow people to see and rollback to previous versions?

    Finally, if you create a template, make lots of pages, and then want to make a change to the template you have to manually go fix all the pages created with the template. It would be nice if there was a way for the template functionality to update pages automatically if the page has not strayed structurally from the template ... how that would be accomplished I'm not totally sure. I might need new functionality, but that would make template much better as well. Maybe, too a report of pages that could not be updated with the template change so that those could be manually updated. I've seen lots of Community questions asking for if there is a way that this can be done and I always have to tell them "Sorry, no."
Like # people like this

Super helpful! I've definitely seen the feedback around updating 'child' pages when the original template updates. Would you be able to give me an example of a template where this has happened and what kind of change resulted in all of the child pages needing the same update? It'll help me get a better understanding of the use case

Davin Studer Community Leader Jul 30, 2019

Ok, here is an example. We have a template that we use to keep track of our a service applications. The template has a page properties macro and the pages created by the template are rolled up with a page properties report macro on a parent page. If we decide to add another key value pair to the page properties table we have to go to all the pages that have been created and add the property. The problem that comes in here is that sometimes we miss pages or maybe we will typo the property and the roll-report now has two or more columns that really are meant to be just one column.

Ah ok - makes sense. Thanks for sharing the details!

Oh, also it would be nice if template were their own permissions point. As it is now I have to make someone a space admin for them to be able to create/edit templates.

Like Laura Gribble likes this

Thanks for asking!

 

Regarding 1. : for us the overarching aims when using templates are:

  • save typing / information structuring time for common documents
  • standardise documents (project charters, reports)
  • be able to aggregate information of the same type (either through blueprints, or using manually created overview pages, with content by label macro or so)

Regarding 2.:

To standardise the name scheme for the pages that are created, it's necessary to use the "create from template" macro. However users can just use the template chooser dialog, and so the name scheme won't be applied. Maybe there's a way to include a name scheme with variables as "currentDate" into the templates' scope.

Also, it's quite annoying, that templates can't be copied between spaces.

The ability to create user templates for blog posts is missing, too.

Like # people like this

Hi Dilana,

1) At the moment we only use the templates for documents that are created regularly, mainly Test Reports. The idea was, to let the user just enter some variables regarding a project when creating the page and to fill the page with issue lists, tables and other information from Jira dynamically.

In general we want to replace a semantic MediaWiki with Confluence and are currently trying to use the Confluence Page templates as we used templates and forms in the MediaWiki before.

2a) The problems we have mainly concern the connection between Confluence and Jira. I do not know if thats something that can be improved easily or if that is your topic at all, but nevertheless I can give a short description:

We are working with a lot of macros and already copied some macros/javascript code from "Test Management for Confluence" and edited them by ourself to customize the output, to show specific information from testcycles in Jira. One issue at that point is, that we want to grab information from testruns/-cycles, e.g. the creator of a testcycle, or the start and endtime, that seem to be not available with already existing macros and until now we did not find another way to extract information from Jira. 

2b) As already mentioned from Davin Studer above, it is inconvenient that pages created from a template do not update themselves when a template was updated. When we e.g. decide to add a new chart to our report (in the template, working with the project variable) it will just be added to pages we create afterwards, the "old" ones will never get this chart unless you add it manually to every single page.

But i agree with Davin Studer, that it would be nice to have the choice, to maybe get a list with all 'child' pages and decide by checkboxing which of them should be updated and which should stay, after updating a template.

Like # people like this

Hi Raphaela,

if you want to create pages in Confluence based on a Jira issue, you can try out the Issue Publisher for Jira in the marketplace. This is very valuable addon for us as we do not use Jira for documentation but only for the process of the issue. If the issue needs documentation (even on a broader public than the original issue) a page in Confluence is created (& update, if you like) from inside Jira. Even the attachments of the Jira issue or Confluence page can be copied & moved between the two. There is a templating mechanism in that addon which allows creation of Confluence pages with the layout/design you like.

Best

JP

We stopped using the build-in templates of Confluence Server, that you create on global or space level due to their limitations & dreadful user interface. The variables handling in templates is a joke (Sorry, but really...). And the instruction text is rather misleading the users than being helpful. This is the experience from 5 years Confluence heavily used as a company intranet.

Instead we do use "Template" pages, which are copied by using a "Create Page" macro (Script Runner). Simple and easy to use: It creates a button on page containing e.g. a page property report. All created pages are then created having this page as a parent & contain a label filtered on in the page property report. The "Template" page itself contains a page property macro with value to be filled by the user.

Like # people like this

Regarding 1)

We use templates to create the same pages over and over again. Example:

The top page gathers all page properties of child pages. The first child page are overviews for specific years. From the top page we create the yearly overview, from the yearly overview we create single reports. 

Regarding 2)

The biggest pain point is the current implementation of variables. I'd like to see the use of common variables like creationDate, creator/author, etc. It would be awesome if the user would be able to define data types (e.g. date, user, text) for the variables, which the user must then enter in a dialogue when creating the page. 

You can also have a look at https://jira.atlassian.com/browse/CONFSERVER-30567. There is a ton of feedback considering the use of templates.

Like Remy van Brummelen likes this

To create the same type of page repeatedly.

Pain point - not being able to save a page as a template.

Like # people like this
Sharon Helms Community Leader Aug 01, 2019

1. Use of templates

  • We use templates for formatting consistency, particularly for knowledge base spaces that will be shared publicly when associated with our JSD Help Center.

  • We use our own template instead of the 'out of the box' Atlassian templates because we include page properties macro on every page to track review status on a page properties report. 

  • Templates also help us ensure specific instructions are provided to content creators to meet accessibility requirements for the content.

2. Pain points

We've also wished for the ability to copy templates between spaces. Also +1 for save a page as template.

While it's possible to make a "global" template, that option can be too heavy-handed: space admins don't have the ability to toggle "global" templates on or off (promote or disable) as they do with Atlassian's out of the box templates. Sometimes a template is useful to many spaces, but not all.

We also would benefit from any feature that helps manage changes to every "child" created by a template. An example is the multiple times we've had to change hundreds of pages -- format from single fixed column to full-width layout, or add and remove specific macros, to fix bugs related to the display of Confluence articles in the Jira Service Desk Help Center (content gets cut off on one side, table of contents macro doesn't work).

Like Raphaela Knauhs likes this
  1. How do you know what template is being used on a page?
  2. Deleting a page is fraught with danger as the correct page is not always chosen. You need to review the delete information alert (which is very small and has the title of the deleted document more as an afterthought) before clicking on the alerts delete button.
  3. Tables menu is too small - you have to have good eyesight and ferret around for the control - the symbols being too small are difficult to read.
  4. Making sections forces you to use what 'Atlessian' thinks is the best layout. So single column section is narrow or super wide only. 
  5. Graphics in sections only have a delete button can't resize 
  6. Main heading can't be realigned
  7. Graphic handling is poor - using graphics already uploaded is slow and painful. Graphics placement controls left/right/center only allow for one graphic, otherwise you have to use tables (terrible idea).
  8. Graphics upload window should be capable of showing list of file names - not just images.
  9. Graphics don't always resize properly in a table.
  10. There's no search and replace
  11. Search still brings up a lot of unnecessary entries
  12. Comment handling is poor - comments remain after deletion as resolved comments
  13. Graphics have large padding around them
  14. Tables have no sort function
  15. Templates - it would be nice to be able to incorporate a divider between groups of sub-menu items, instead of having to put them in a separate folder.
  16. Pictures cannot be co-located on the same line
  17. Default range of templates seem to offer different accessibility to menus
  18. Tables seem to have smaller text
  19. Tables can't be reduced in horizontal page coverage - columns always uses max space unless you put them in a page frame and then they are not responsive.
  20. We're using Cloud version and I've just upgrade my internet to fibre but still have problems with slow page loading/saving.
  21. Menu sidebar and top menu bar are just plain clunky. 
  22. You can't get rid of the borders in a table - they are always visible.
  23. Would like to be able to change the formatting of the side menu from boring text to text with background and other styling.
  24. Picture resizing seems to be a black art with a mind of its own. Put them in a frame and they jump to full size. Somewhere there was a template where you could set the size but out of all the junk templates I can't find it.
  25. Basically, Confluence is very good if you want to look like everyone else and don't need to do a lot of editing.
  26. Google Sites shows that controlling html can be done with grace, style and control!
Like Raphaela Knauhs likes this

Like others have commented, we use templates for creating content that is similar in structure, but needs to be repeated over and over.  For example, if producing documentation sites, you want the same structure, so when you combine it with PDF Scroll Exporter for example, you can create some customer facing documentation that has the same look & feel.  It lets the engineers focus on the content instead of the layout.  As such, many of the templates we use take advantage of page properties macro.  This is primarily because that plugin cannot access page variables, but can access page property values (so they are in essence variables), but also because the page properties report macro is very useful to create summary table pages.  We wrap that around a scroll-ignore macro so that when you export/print, it doesn't include that content.

With that said

1. Being able to export / import template configurations across Confluence instances

2. Being able to use variables in the page title to support standard naming within the page.

3. Being able to use variables in the template within the macros on the page (such as a $project variable within a jira macro that might exist within the template)

Like Dilani Kahawala likes this

I've found the variables to be the main reason we don't use a template, which often requires an awkward workaround.

We'd like to have the option for a pick user variable. For example, creating 1-1 meetings or annual reviews. It would be good to have 'employee' and 'manager' variables which can then be used for follow up actions (which would subsequently automatically appear on that person's task list).

A link to jira! We want to link project posters or dashboards to projects/issues without having to edit every single jira macro. Or at least let me save the jira macro without JQL.

Like Dilani Kahawala likes this

We use templates for a lot of the same reasons, to create pages where the same format is used over and over. Also use a template to 1) add some default labels to new pages; 2) add an excerpt macro to encourage users to fill this out (helps searchers); 3) add a sidebar with some navigation; 4) add a page include with a search box & help links (though we are now doing this through the footer instead). I also think that coaching people's eyes and expectations through a template is a step in the right direction for long-term usability goals, though we don't have a definite strategy yet.

Pain points: not being able to edit the "blank" page template. Can't duplicate templates. Can't copy templates between spaces. 

Users often ignore or delete template elements after they've created the page, but that's not Confluence's fault!

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