Thursday, December 13, 2007

Explorations in TiddlyWiki land

I'm been enthralled by TiddlyWiki this past week or so. The more I dig into it, the more opportunities I find.

In my quest for the ultimate personal note taking applications I looked at various solutions, from the classical Office documents that are not flexible in terms of tagging pieces of content and organising a notebook like a diary.

At my work facility, we are using OneNote: it's got the versatility of adding pages easily in a set of hierarchical sections, sub-sections, pages and sub-pages. It can embed entire documents as well or link to them. But, with all its power, OneNote requires to be installed on all the computers that I am using for me to open my Notebook at various place at work and at home. I am a bit daunted by the complexity of of the whole OneNote application and have misgivings about its being around for a long time.

The next cool application I've been using is Web On a Stick (WOS), which is really a full blown web server running Apache and major open source applications, such as Drupal, Workdpress and MediaWiki to name a few. I've been using the latter extensively to record my thoughts, references and plans in a non-linear way. I found it very useful, also I am missing a Wisiwig interface, which I'm told exists as a plugin. I have not taken the time to install it though.

Now comes TiddlyWiki. I tried it a few months back and at the time simply did not get it. I did not know where to start with it, how to customise it to my liking and how it could be quickly put to work as a notebook. So last week, I came back to it on a whim, and this time it clicked. I was able to start using it as a daily journal and to record thoughts, things to do, now or later. And I have seen amazing applications of TiddlyWiki: whole web sites, GTD (Getting Things Done) documents, etc.

So what's to TiddlyWiki?
I like the fact that it's self-contained. I mean that the whole thing is in a single HTML document, which is fairly portable: all you need is a web browser on a machine which can run Linux, MacOs or even Windows ;-). Next, it's great to capture non-linear thinking, like going back to projects over time, and it help make all the links that one needs to retrieve things very quickly.

The basic concept is to encapsulate pieces of content (text, scripts, macros, pictures, links, podcasts or videos) in "tiddler" that you can tag (or have the system tag them for you), with a wiki style editor.

Then the interface, lets you organise your content, i.e. tiddler in a number of ways, having them appear or disapear at will on the page.

Gone is the tedious folder hierarchy, if you can name what you're looking for, you can retrieve it.
Last goodie for now: there is a dynamic and enthusiastic community of developers out there to make you life easier, including Jeremy Ruston , the creator of TiddlyWiki, Eric Shulman of ELS Design Studios, and many others.

Check it out!

Links of interest:
The TiddlyWiki Vault - thanks to Dave and Blanca Gifford
TiddlyWiki review by tifrap
Can't Live Without It, TiddlyWiki by Cynthia Russell