Exploring the BlueSpice wiki tool

BlueSpice free and BlueSpice pro

Besides BlueSpice free, Hallo Welt! also offers a commercial version, BlueSpice pro, which is targeted at corporate and enterprise users and offers support and services. From an administrator's viewpoint, the most notable difference is BlueSpice pro's role-based access control (RBAC) implementation that can also connect to external user directories such as LDAP or Active Directory.

BlueSpice free only supports a local user database and comes with predefined "permission sets" that may be applied to pages, users, and groups. BlueSpice pro features a semantic search using the official MediaWiki plugin, along with the ability for semantic browsing.

Apart from that, a few convenience features are missing in BlueSpice free, such as the ability to embed media players in pages, the display of mathematical formulas using LaTeX, or the ability to directly attach files to pages using drag and drop. To highlight its corporate user target group, BlueSpice pro also comes with a number of functions related to compliance. BlueSpice free does not offer blog entries, making it impossible to use BlueSpice free as a corporate blog, and texts in BlueSpice Free cannot be rated. In addition, all features related to document quality assurance and audit trails are missing from BlueSpice free. Accordingly, document reviews, document read confirmations, and digital signatures using SignHere [5] are also unavailable, as is the option to see whether a certain page version is the most recent, officially approved version of the document. A full list of features is available on the BlueSpice website [3].

BlueSpice vs. MediaWiki

A quick look at the differences between BlueSpice software and its predecessor, MediaWiki, shows the different target groups. MediaWiki continues to manage and run the largest collection of knowledge in the world; the software is proving its quality every day. Naturally, MediaWiki has been highly optimized for usage within Wikipedia. Its design may appear rather traditional, even conservative in the eyes of some users, and certainly MediaWiki is very different from other tools such as Confluence. MediaWiki's development is focused on the needs and standards of the encyclopedia, not on the needs of administrators or businesses.

BlueSpice, on the other hand, targets enterprise users. So it should come as no surprise that BlueSpice's visual appearance in its default setup is by far the biggest difference between the two solutions. In stark contrast to MediaWiki, BlueSpice makes no secret that it is intended to be a company wiki rather than an encyclopedic tool; it is a Confluence alternative built on MediaWiki. BlueSpice pro adds advanced tools (Figure 3) and extra focus on compliance.

Figure 3: Thanks to open source draw.io integration, BlueSpice pro brings interactive charts and workflow graphics to the browser.

Because MediaWiki does not offer (official) containers, getting it up and running is a bit more complex. In order to install MediaWiki, a full LAMP deployment along with the execution of MediaWiki's setup script is necessary. In the past, some issues with PHP libraries have been reported, especially when "PHP hell" made upgrades difficult. All of these are issues that BlueSpice might share, but delivery as a container removes those challenges for the admin.

Those factors aside, it's important to remember that BlueSpice is MediaWiki with a number of MediaWiki extensions added out of the box and a revamped user interface. Most of the features available in BlueSpice (both free and pro, for that matter) could be implemented using MediaWiki, too. That would, however, consume large amounts of time and a rather steep learning curve – a luxury most admins will likely not have in today's fast-paced business.


For organizations looking for an on-premises wiki-style solution, projects such as XWiki, DokuWiki, and BlueSpice prove that there is an open source alternative to Confluence to meet their business needs. BlueSpice offers a modern knowledge management system that is easy to deploy as a Docker container. Getting BlueSpice free up and running is a straightforward and convenient process.

Although BlueSpice free lacks a number of features relevant for corporate and enterprise users, it may still be a valid alternative for companies looking to move away from Atlassian and Confluence. If you are willing to pay for BlueSpice pro, you can use the same procedures outlined in this article; Hallo Welt! also offers Docker containers for BlueSpice pro.


  1. MediaWiki: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki
  2. "3 open source alternatives to Confluence" by Martin Loschwitz, September 15, 2020: https://opensource.com/article/20/9/open-source-alternatives-confluence
  3. BlueSpice: https://bluespice.com
  4. Confluence to BlueSpice migration: https://github.com/hallowelt/migrate-confluence
  5. SignHere: https://www.signhere.be/en/

The Author

Martin Gerhard Loschwitz has been working as an open source journalist for more than two decades. He covers topics such as OpenStack, Ceph, and Kubernetes.

Markus Feilner has been working with Linux and open source software since 1994. He was deputy editor-in-chief of the German Linux Magazine and IX and documentation team lead at SUSE. He has run his company, Feilner IT, specializing in documentation, digital sovereignty, and OSI layers 8, 9, and 10, for 22 years.

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