Tuesday, January 31, 2006

TiddlyWiki, and trying out wikis

There's nothing really new about TiddlyWiki, but I'm finally getting around to giving it a decent try, and I'm excited about it. Actually, it is kind of new, as it has a new 2.0 release that came out this month. I'm excited anew, though, because I have a killer app for it -- using my data on both Windows and Linux -- in my personal life, and because I inspected its data storage and I think I can convert my PIM info into a format that I can load directly into TiddlyWiki, which should be really neat.

What is it? It's a free personal wiki, basically. But it's more than that, as it uses AJAX tricks to make a web page into an application. The features don't sound that compelling until you try it out. It's an HTML file that you can use as a database, on any platform that runs a decent modern browser: so it's inherantly cross-platform. There's probably a lot of future application potential in that idea, but I'm mainly caught up in the fun of using this personally.

I make extensive use of a small personal database/PIM tool called Personal Knowbase, which I've owned for several years. It's one of my most satisfying software purchases. Knowbase lets me make simple log entries, which include titles and dates, and add keywords to them. It has nice keyword management features. Importantly, a topic can have any number of keywords. I use it for my personal notes so that I can drop into it any idea I have or anything I learn about, tag it a few ways, and feel confident that I can find it later. I mine it for story ideas and I use it as a journal.

But in recent years I've been thinking about making a change, because there were some features it lacks, that I wanted:
  • I wanted my data in a standard form that I could work on.
  • I'd love to be able to randomly display an old entry, so that old ideas could bubble up.
  • I might want to add new features to manage to-do lists in it. Knowbase isn't really suitable for that.
  • I'd like to be able to link different entries, and to include graphics.
  • Recently, and most importantly, I started using a Linux-based laptop in the evenings, so I wanted to be able to get at my data via Linux. It really makes me nervous when I can't get at my notes. :)

TiddlyWiki has advantages in all of these areas. When I say I wanted my data in a standard form, I really meant XML, but I think HTML is good enough. We'll see...the kicker is going to be whether I can convert my Knowbase data to use with TiddlyWiki. I think I can.

TiddlyWiki is really easy to use. It's coded in JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, so I have chance at understanding it. People have written extensions for it, so using and customizing it, I expect, will be a very different experience from Knowbase, which is more like a tiny niche product. TiddlyWiki has a following already.

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