A few of my favourite tools: Tiddlywiki

This started as part of my earlier post on DokuWiki and MAMP, and then grew to demand a separate entry. Tiddlywiki, a demonstration of über-Javascripting, goes places other wikis cannot. It is a completely self-contained, platform- and server-independent wiki, capable of being run from any rewritable media and on any system that supports a modern browser. Everything, script, entries and plug-ins, is included within a single .html file; installation consists of downloading the empty file, setting a couple of options (name and saving), and starting to edit.

Why? Because I as I said before, I like wikis, I work cross-platform, and I find I work best by separating out my projects. So, one Tiddlywiki per project. To date I have run Tiddlywikis on all three major operating systems, though using Firefox by preference as a browser.

A series of articles by Mark Gibbs at Network World (Jan – Feb 2009) covers the basics. Some of his readers express reservations about the quality of the documentation, but it occurs to me that that in part may be because much of the documentation appears in Tiddlywiki form (see, for example, tiddlywiki.com). A potential user coming to it without previous experience may need a few moments to decipher the conventions of the interface (in a traditional tiddlywiki, look to the right hand menu for actions and lists of previous entries), as well as come to terms with the jargon (although, in 2009, “tiddler” cannot seem any more whimsical than “tweet”).  Tiddlywiki for the rest of us provides a more conventional presentation of the basics, and tiddlywiki.org‘s documentation is built on a MediaWiki engine. Admittedly there are aspects, like the styling, that are intricate beyond simple documentation. I have reached the point that I can tinker with other peoples’ styles, but have not progressed beyond that; fortunately, there are a couple of styles I quite like.

My uses are admittedly rather bland: keeping ongoing research notes on emerging treatments in a disease area, keeping bibliographies, keeping a off-line, but still portable list of resources for my medical/regulatory writing activity, keeping a concordance for a loose series of short stories. Other people are much more adventurous, using tiddlywikis for home, education and commercial websites, presentations, weblogs, course notes, course materials, bibliographies, and developing and presenting scholarly papers – see the Tiddlyspot gallery, and Tiddlywiki in Action. As tiddlywiki is open source, developers have produced a number of variants, including a popular one one that incorporates the tasks-projects-place structure of Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) strategy, complete with checkable to-do lists; I’ve flirted with this, but have always returned to Backpack.

My own collection of Tiddlywiki Resources page is here, on Backpack. I started it after I spent far too long hunting around for a site that contained a plug-in I knew I’d seen in passing and wanted to include. My page on Tiddlyspot (a service for hosting Tiddlywikis online, worth an entry in itself), on the German Imperial Navy, shows a number of my favourite modifications, including restyling to the Blueberry template (from Tiddlythemes) and the addition of a tag cloud.