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How to search better in Confluence documentation and workspaces

Atlassian’s Confluence is a popular choice for teams looking to create rich documentation. It has many features that benefit teams that big or small:

  • A generous free tier
  • Great tools for collaboration
  • Version control
  • Apps and integrations
  • Permissioning
  • Cloud or On-Prem instances

One of the recurring limitations of Confluence, is search.

Confluence’s Search Capability

Atlassian has developed some strategies for improving search for both manual and programmatic methods.

Manual Search

The ubiquitous search bar can be found at the top your workspace. Seems simple enough, right? Of course, the results can be another story. Atlassian has developed a search algorithm that attempts to increase the relevancy of results. The Confluence search ranking algorithm is explained on their website.

To enhance search you can use many of the common search operators. Some examples below:

  • OR: chalk OR cheese
  • AND: chalk AND cheese
  • NOT: chalk NOT cheese
  • Exclusion: chalk butter -cheese
  • Grouping: (cheese OR butter) AND chalk

There are lots of wildcard search operators:

  • Single character: b?tter
  • Multiple characters: chick*
  • Multiple wildcards: c*c* or c*c?
  • Fuzzy: octogan~
  • Combinations: o?tag* AND past~ AND ("blog" AND "post")

Programmatic

You can programmatically search Confluence with their own version of a query language: Confluence Query Language (CQL).

FilterDescriptionOperators
Label*
Returns pages, blog posts or attachments with these labels.OR (multiple values in the same filter)AND (multiple Label filters)
With ancestorReturns pages that live under this page in the page tree.This allows you to restrict the macro to a single page tree.OR (multiple values in the same filter)
Contributor**Returns pages or blog posts that were created or edited by these people.OR (multiple values in the same filter)
CreatorReturns items created by these people.OR (multiple values in the same filter)

Mentioning user
Returns pages and blog posts that @mention these people.OR (multiple values in the same filter)
With parentReturns only direct children of this page (further sub-pages won’t be included)EQUALS (one page only)
In space**Returns items from these spaces.OR (multiple values in the same filter)
Including text**Returns items that contain this text.CONTAINS (single word or phrase)
With titleReturns items that contain this text in the title.CONTAINS (single word or phrase)
Of type**Returns only pages, blogs or attachments.OR (multiple values in the same filter)

A simple solution to Confluence Search problems: ask Obie!

Obie was designed to solve search problems in Confluence. Obie searches any Confluence Workspace incuding:

  • Titles
  • Document text
  • Tags

Search Confluence from Slack

Obie make searching Confluence from Slack a snap. Just install the Obie and connect to your Confluence instance and you can access any workspace.

Search Confluence from the browser

You don’t have to be on Slack to search Confluence with Obie. You can also install our browser extension. Download and install Obie for Chrome from the webstore (it also works on any Chromium based browser).

Bonus points: Obie can search Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Github and more, too.