When I first started to use Confluence, I often preferred to work on Excel or Google Sheets if I needed to create complex tables. At the end of the day, both tools are specifically designed for such complex tasks, and I didn’t even consider checking Confluence tables because I have always felt they are too basic. Well, they are on the surface, but after doing some digging, I realized they are way too powerful than they seem, especially if you know what you are doing and how to link them with other native or third party macros.
In this article, we are going to walk through a couple of tips and best practices to help you create and manage tables like a pro inside Confluence.
But first… why confluence tables?
Organize & structure content
Perhaps, the most obvious advantage when it comes to Confluence tables is their capacity to structure and organize content. With Confluence tables, you can group data in columns and rows, creating a clear and organized layout.
Additionally, you can use Confluence tables to divide your content into sections, categorize information with cell types, and generally customize the look and feel of your tables. This helps readers easily identify and access the specific data they are looking for.
Easy navigation, readability and searchability
When accessing a Confluence page, readers want to easily navigate information and grasp the overall context. By using a combination of headers, cell types, alternating cell colors and various formatting options, your Confluence tables become coherent and well structured providing a smooth experience to your readers.
Ease of use in terms of both creation and formatting
Creating and managing a Confluence table is a rather straightforward process. The WYSIWYG content editor allows you to add and format tables in just a matter of a few clicks. You can easily add a table and choose the number of columns and rows in a simple and intuitive way. Once the table is created, you can access advanced table features, such as merging cells, sorting data, and creating graphs.
Connectivity with other native Confluence features
Confluence tables are seamlessly integrated with other Confluence features and macros. They can both contain and be embedded within macros such as panels and expanders giving you complete control over your page layout. Additionally, you can merge Confluence tables from different spaces and pages by using the page properties and page properties report macros. This way, you can easily consolidate similar information in one place.
Best practices to create and manage Confluence tables
Plan your Confluence table’s overall structure
Before creating your first Confluence table, it is important to decide on the information you want to include and how to organize and present it.
Deciding on the number of columns, rows and how to merge cells is the obvious place to start. While merging cells can be useful in some cases, avoid overusing this feature, as it may complicate sorting or copying data and might overwhelm the reader. Keep your table layout as simple as possible.
Then, make sure to include clear and descriptive headers for your table rows columns. This provides context and makes it easier for users to understand and navigate your content.
Customize your Confluence table’s layout with various formatting options
Upon creating your first table, you can start editing its layout.
Start by adjusting the columns width and rows height to display your content properly. With this being said though, avoid overly wide or narrow columns that may affect readability and the overall look of your table.
To differentiate your table cells, make sure to use alternating row colors especially for long and complex tables. This will help your readers quickly find important information. For example, you can highlight rows based on priority with red being “High” and blue being “Low”.
Contextualize your content with native Confluence features
As mentioned earlier, Confluence tables are extremely useful since they are seamlessly integrated with other Confluence features and can contain a variety of macros (be it native or third party).
Now that we have covered the Confluence tables structure and layout, the next step is to fill the table with information. Generally speaking, you want your tables to include rich content not only plain text to make your table cells dynamic and easier to edit.
- Leverage statutes: The native status feature helps you associate content with specific statutes. In most cases, it is used to indicate the progress of a given project or task. To add a status, type /status, name the status and choose its distinct color. In our example, we chose content statutes to help the user grasp a quick overview of tasks progress.
- Include dates: Dates are what many of us look for within a table to get the bigger picture of where things are. Dates can be easily added within your tables cells. Type /date, and choose a date from the interactive calendar.
- Mention users: You can directly add users to your Confluence tables with the mentions feature. Click @user, and they would be instantly notified. Please make sure that the user has the appropriate permissions to view and edit the page before mentioning them.
- Highlight key information with panels: If you would like to highlight important information and make it pop, then panels are the way to go. There are a variety of panel types including “Note, success, warning and more. You can customize your own panels and add your emojis as well. Type /panel and then add your text.
- Make use of space with expanders: Perhaps my favorite feature of the bunch, expand helps you organize content in clickable styled boxes to gain spaces. Initially the content is collapsed (hidden), any user looking to view the content can simply click on its title. To add an expander box, type /expand, add a title and a description.
- Add references with footnotes: You can further contextualize your content by using the footnotes macros. Footnotes are third party macros provided by vectors specifically designed to add and list references. First add your footnote to your table cell, then list all macros at the bottom of your Confluence page using the footnote summary macro.
- Add buttons: You can link specific table cells with both internal and external sources via the buttons macro. You can fully customize your buttons in terms of background color, font size and even add icons.
- Convert your table content into graphs: To make life even easier for your readers, you can quickly convert your tables into beautifully designed graphs in just a click (literally). Select Insert Chart. A graph will appear containing your table’s data. You can further customize your graph, switch axes, add captions and more.
Connect, merge and create Confluence tables from multiple sources
- Groupe and link multiple pages with Page Properties macros
When working on Confluence, it is a general best practice to use the Page Properties macro to give an overview of the page and relay important information. Information that will be later used to create holistic tables in a matter of a few clicks thanks to the Page Properties Report macro.
First, start by adding the Page Properties macro to a Confluence page. For this, you can choose predefined page templates if you don’t want to create the summary table from scratch. Examples of such templates include Product Requirements, Decision Documentation, among others. In our example, we will create a table from scratch with simple information describing blog posts: the owner(s), status and due date.
Navigate to your Confluence page, type /Page Properties. Add a table within the macro and click publish. We will repeat the process with other pages.
Once you have created the pages. You can list all them within unified Confluence tables. Type /Page Properties Report macro. By default the macro will display all pages from within the current space that contain the Page Properties macro. You can further filter results based on multiple criteria such as the labels, space and more.
- Organize content with the Content report table macro
The Content Report Table macro allows you to organize content within dedicated Confluence tables using labels. This macro captures both pages and blog posts from multiple spaces and lists them in one consolidated table. First, make sure to tag your content with specific labels. Then, create a new page and type /content report table.
A drawer will appear where you have to specify both the labels and spaces from which you want to list content. You can also choose how to sort pages as well as the maximum of pages. Once you finish, click Publish. In our example, we wanted to list multiple blog posts within one holistic table.
- Track projects with the Task Reports macro
You can use the Task Reports macro to create centralized Confluence tables which contains a list of tasks from multiple spaces. The macro comes in handy as it helps you quickly list tasks based on speciic criteria including the assignee, date, status, etc.
First, you need to create an actual list of tasks within your Confluence page. For this, navigate to a given page and type /action items. Within the same line, describe the task and specify any additional information. In our example, we have listed tasks within two different pages from the same space: Product marketing and social media marketing.
With the tasks now created, create a new page called “dashboard” for example. Type /task report and fill the required fields. You can list tasks based on the space, labels, assignee or completion status (a task is marked as complete when it has been checked within the page).
- Visualize decisions with the Decision Report macro
This macro is ideal for decision makers as it provides Confluence tables with the decisions they contain. Similar to the above macros, first you need to insert decisions at an individual page level, then create the decision report within your dashboard.
To associate a page with a decision, type /decision and enter your text. You can add as many decisions as you want for a single page. Repeat the process for multiple pages.
Now it is time to add your decision report table. Type /Decision report. As you can see in the screenshot below, you can access all of the space’s pages with a decision within the same table.
- Display Jira content within tailored Confluence tables
If you use Jira to organize your projects and tasks, then you should try the Jira Issue Filter macro. Simply put, this macro helps you display Jira issues and reports from specific projects.
For this, navigate to your Confluence page, type /Jira. A dialog box will appear, where you need to put a specific link to your Jira instance. In our example, we have chosen issues from a specific sprint within Jira. You can choose how to display issues. In our case, it is customizable Confluence tables of course. You can choose which columns to display as well as the maximum number of issues.
Build on native Confluence tables with Content Formatting macros
Although native Confluence tables are great in terms of creation and ease of management, there is still (and there will always be) room for customization. This is where third party Content Formatting apps come into play.
Content Formatting for Confluence by Vectors is a collection of macros designed to create well-structured, engaging and content-rich Confluence pages.
First the app comes with two tab macros that work hand-in-hand. The Tab Group macro which basically acts as a container for one or multiple Tab Panes. You can organize Tabs horizontally or vertically and choose their colors.
In addition, the app contains multiple macros that can be added to tables cells including content status, progress bars, and more.
To learn more about Content Formatting for Confluence, make sure to visit the Marketplace page.
To conclude, Confluence tables are a great way to organize content and consolidate data. The tables’ capacity to integrate with other Confluence macros and even link to Jira, make them a no-brainer when it comes to a variety of use cases and teams.