PDF Attachments and Page Linking Sprinkled with a Wee Bit of Ranting

PeteToscano September 22, 2020


I'm new to Confluence Cloud, but have been using Confluence Server for many years (though our current install is kind of long in the tooth). We recently found a project where it made sense to give Confluence Cloud a try and, I've got to say, it's kind of frustrating and underwhelming. I expected to be sort of limited with what we are allowed to do, but this is way beyond what I was expecting. 

We have a non-technical user doing basic editing to a non-Atlassian wiki for a group of outside users. For this project, I will have to show this new user how to do these new edits in this instance of Confluence Cloud. The simpler the process, the better.

1. Page linking. The default behavior -- insert link, start typing the page name, click on the page, and hit enter -- is fine, but the resulting look and behavior of that link is ugly (which, I freely admit is subjective) and the constant need to resolve that link's name makes rendering the page slow and clunky. It gets much worse if you have multiple default page links or a mix of page links with tweaked link names and others that use the page's current name all on the same page. I found that by working backwards (typing in the link text first, then typing in the page title, even if it matches the link title), I can make the page link look like a normal link, but this seems completely unnecessary and unintuitive. Am I missing something or is it really that bad?

2. Linking to attached PDFs. While I'm frustrated by the page linking above, the state of how I need to link to attached PDFs (or really, any non-image attachments) is far worse. The site we are looking to move to Confluence Cloud has a lot of curated PDFs. They cannot simply be dumped to a page, then exposed with the attachments macro. Frequently, the link text needs to be different from the PDF filename and there needs to be content surrounding the links. 

* Dragging PDFs to a page. The default seems to be to have the file represented by a large square on the page with the filename and its size, but I cannot figure out how to change that. Want multiple files on a page? I hope you want it right along side the other file(s). Want to (easily) link to that file? Tough. Want to move that line of file squares around? Tough, move the other content around them. It _must_ have dawned on some of the folks at Atlassian that these behaviors are probably undesirable for most. I cannot figure out how to directly change that ugly square to a nice link, outside of that ugly work around of temporarily adding the attachments macro, editing it, copying the URL to the file you want, closing the edit page, creating a new link on the page using the URL you copied from the attachments macro, editing the link text, and repeating until you have links to all the files you need, then removing the attachments macro and removing all of the attachment "squares" added to the page. Of course, if you update one of those files, you need to also remember to go into the link to that file and updating the URL. Is this _really_ the only way to link to an attached file in Confluence? What is the possible use case for what they created? Am I missing something obvious? (Which is *always* a possibility.) I am very much dreading explaining how to do this to the person who will be maintaining the content on this site.

* Previewing PDFs. Why is opening in a preview any clicked PDF not the default behavior or at least a configuration option? The _only_ good thing I find about those ugly file squares is that if you click on them, you get a nice preview of the file. Otherwise, if you're not using the file squares, it seems that the only way to preview a PDF is via an option buried under the filename in the attachments macro. I am willing to trade previewing PDFs for the ability to link to an attached file, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to have both? 

Anyway, I have other things to move on to right now, so I'll stop here, but I really would like to know if I'm missing something. Maybe I'm missing how we're supposed to be using Confluence Cloud? Instead of expecting it to be ~90% complete with the base service, is it supposed to be some bare bones framework upon which we layer on various plugins to get a truly complete experience? If so, any suggestions for fixing the issues above? 

Despite the frustration and snark in what I wrote above, I really wanted (and expected) Confluence Cloud to be better than this. I've been a big Atlassian booster for many years and I want to see them succeed, but, in its current state, this is a very bitter pill to swallow and _almost_ makes me think that we should consider a different hosted wiki option. 

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