That Was The Week
And what a good one it was, largely because we had the Dutch Atlassian User Group meeting, which is populated by lots of really great people full of useful information, and all willing to do what they can to help
those who arrive with a laptop full of questions.

One of the great things about using products you are genuinely enthusiastic about, is that you meet other people who feel the same, which means meetings like this are not something you do 'because you have to'. Just the opposite in fact. And I couldn't say that about many products I use from any sphere of life.

Aside from talking to many of the Atlassian experts and partners, we also have case studies from people who are using one or more of Atlassian's products. This means you also get an insight into using such things as JIRA and Greenhopper for example. You also find out more about how people are using the same products in different ways.

One of the best things for me is those little bits of info that you come across almost by accident. We had one of those this week with an impromptu demo of Confluence 4.3, given by Stefan Kohler, who is a developer and scrum-master of Atlassian partner 42.

His demo came right at the end after the big screen was packed up and featured @mentions (see earlier blogs) combined with the Task List functionality.

The latter has been updated to make it easier and faster to use, and allows you to assign tasks to people using @mentions. When you do this, the person mentioned is sent a notification which is highlighted in the toolbar next to their user name. This means they can easily see that someone's sent them a notification or assigned a task to them.

When you recieve a notification you see an envelope icon by your name. If you click on this, you can read the update and react to it by writing back using the same message. So without having to go anywhere else, you can message the sender back. All of which makes the functionality simple, fast and efficient - and totally brilliant. And I can't wait to get my hands on it.
That Was The Week
Well, after a little waiting around and re-organising to allow everyone to be present when the upgrade was carried out, we finally moved up to 4.2 this week. And it was definitley worth doing and worth the wait. Fortunately for me, I had an enormous pile of writing to do in the pause, so getting bored wasn't an ordeal I faced.
Really Neat and Useful Tools
There are many great new features and enhancements in 4.2 but I'll only describe a couple of them here. For a list of features see: Full Features List 180 features. Take my advice, do this when you won't be disturbed. And pack plenty of food and drink - you may be some time.

One of the useful things is the Search and Replace - which is
 a really useful tool for those of use who are constantly chiselling content out of the coalface of rapidly evolving technology. I can't remember how many times I've needed this functionality when trying to update a word that's been changed in development and now has disseminated to all four corners of the wiki.

This doesn't need much explaining: it does what it says on the label. 

To run this function press Ctrl+F in the Editor to enable the dedicated toolbar. Once there, you enter the word you're looking for, then use the Previous and Next buttons to search for your word. When one is found it's highlighted in yellow. You can replace words individually or en-masse using Replace All. With this, you'll see a message appearing in the bottom right of the screen saying how many replacements were made.

Another neat bit of new functionality is Page Layout, which you can use to impose a basic layout on an ordinary page. Again, you can only access this in Edit Mode. When you're running the Editor, the button sits to the right of the Insert icon. Here you can find ten different layouts - think of them as a framework - including none, which is handy if you want to get rid of any layouts already added. But have no fear, while 
this removes the layout framework, your content remains intact. Phew!

By choosing any of the options you can divide a page into areas that you can add content and other macros to. For example you could have a simple two or three column structure. But you could use something far more complex, such as a multi-column structure with a sidebar. This means you can organise a page into discrete areas, rather than having all the separate content elements mixed in together.

There are two levels of layout: simple and complex. The simple versions are as you'd expect, but the complex ones also have a row above and below the columns. 

For example, imagine using a complex option of two columns with the two extra rows top and bottom. These could be used in the following way:
  • The two columns could contain a list of data each.
  • The top row could contain an explanation of the purpose of the data.
  • The bottom row could contain notes on specific elements of the data itself. 

Obviously this is a very simple example, but I think it shows how you can, with very little effort, add structure to a page that would make it easier for users to understand and assimilate what they're looking at.

So there you have it, a couple more ways Atlassian are hell bent on making the life of a technical writer easier, faster and yes, even more glamorous.

Tip of the Week
A brief look at one of Confluence's many functions.

Name: Page Tree Search
Available from: Insert/Other Macros; directly from the Editor.

One of the problems with being able to search all the data in your wiki is the number of results you get. Confluence has a number of ways of narrowing this down but one of my favourites is the Search Tree macro. 

This only searches the page you're on and it's subpages. This means the results for the term you're searching on are limited to only a handful of pages. This can be used on any page because it's a macro that you can add yourself, wherever you want it.

To do this:
  1. Open the page in Edit mode.
  2. Put the cursor where you want to insert the macro.
  3. Insert an opening curly bracket ({).
  4. Now start typing the following letters: sea (the first three letters of the word 'search').
  5. When you do this, the options in the drop down list will change. One of these is Page Tree Search.
  6. Select that and then user Ctrl+S to save the page.

When the page has rendered you will see the search field and the Search button. 
Happy hunting!