The page version management system in Confluence provides several benefits to users.
For the unaware, Confluence maintains a history of each page consisting of versions that are created each time the page is updated. When viewing a page's history, the user is able to see when each version was published, who published it, and the author's comment describing the changes made to that version (if they left one).
From the Page History screen, users have the ability to select any two page versions for comparison. It is worth noting that this is not a comparison between two full pages, side-by-side. Rather, only the relevant portions of the pages are displayed. Color coding is used to highlight the differences. Newly added text is highlighted in green, while deleted text is highlighted in pink and presented with a strikethrough effect. Changes limited to formatting are highlighted in blue. Confluence also provides links at the top of the comparison page allowing the user to step through versions, both forward and backward. Finally, individual page versions can be deleted or restored.
Very Important Note: Deleted page versions can not be recovered. Be very careful when deleting page versions.
However, in order to take full advantage of this feature, users need to use the editor in the intended manner.
When editing pages, users should take advantage of the Preview function in order to check their edits before updating the page to a new version. All too easily, "I'll just make a quick edit" can turn into several unnecessary additional page versions. Typos happen. White space may not be displayed as expected. Content adjustments due to layout changes might go unnoticed. If left unchecked, the extra clutter can inhibit practical usage of the features mentioned above. Additionally, without the help of an app from the Marketplace, old page versions can only be deleted on an individual basis.
Fortunately, two simple changes to a user's editing habits can prevent excessive versions and allow for practical usage of the versions that you actually want to retain!
First - Use the preview button when editing a page! It only takes a moment and keeps those extra "quick edit" versions to a minimum. This reduces the Page History clutter, making it easier for users to look through previous versions.
Second - Leave a comment! There is a text box to the left of the Preview and Update buttons where the author can leave a comment describing their changes. The placeholder text "What did you change?" is both helpful and inviting.
These are both simple actions, but they take time and repetition to become habits.