TiddlyWiki - A notebook, a blog, a wiki, a website - all in one


Updated: August 19, 2009

Most of us keep notes, one way or another. Some use bits of papers, others use hundreds of individual text files scattered all over the hard disk, some struggle with email clients, and some even go as far as maintaining their own blog online. No matter who you are, you want to be able to keep your information in a tidy fashion and easily retrieve parts once in a while, without having to rely on lengthy indexes or manually browsing through long lists.

So you need something that should help you maintain a non-linear, non-sequential personal notebook, with an ability to quickly find items, e.g. using tags like GMail, easily add new items, remove or edit old ones, find items that are incomplete, find items that no longer serve any purpose and have been orphaned, all this packaged in a single utility. Furthermore, it has to be lightweight, portable across operating systems, easy to use and maintain, extensible and, above all, useful. Enter TiddlyWiki.

TiddlyWiki is all that. TiddlyWiki is officially a reusable non-linear personal web notebook. It is a single HTML file containing lots of code, including CSS and Javascript, which you can download to your computer, open in any browser and start using.

Working with TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki opens to a template page from which you can start branching off your items, called tiddlers. Think of each tiddler as a news item, a bulletin, a note, a quick summary of what you may want or need.

Main

You can create as many items as you want - and remove old ones if you no longer need them. You can tag items, allowing you to group them and find them more easily. You can also hyperlink between tiddlers and add them to the main menu. It's a blogger's feast. All this inside a single HTML file. Incredible, eh?

Let's setup our own notebook and see how incredibly simple it is to use and enjoy TiddlyWiki, but most importantly, be efficient with it. TiddlyWiki is powerful and lets you juice this power to the max.

Start by entering your name into the text box. This name will show up on all items edited by you, so you can track them more easily. It also allows a sort of a revision control when multiple people are editing same items.

Next, click on the SiteTitle and SiteSubtitle items and edit them. Each will open a forum-style text box where you can write down things in free text, any which way you want. Here's an example, just a few short minutes into my play with TiddlyWiki:

Example

I created a number of tiddlers and populated them with Lorem ipsum. I also tagged some of them, so I can find them more easily in the future. Then, I also added the items to the main page menu (on the left top).

Example, more

There is no need to know HTML, CSS or Javascript. You work as you would with any forum or a Content Management System (CMS). Enter your own words and let the machine wrap it up nicely for you, creating menus, tags, indexes, etc.

Add new tiddler

Whenever you need to add an item, just move your mouse cursors to the menu on the right side and click new tiddler.

New tiddler

Options

This administration menu allows you many other useful options, so let's take a look at them. As you can see, TiddlyWiki allows you to backup your documents, so old things are not automatically overwritten when the file is saved. You can also autosave changes, so you need not worry about things getting lost. TiddlyWiki also supports regular expression and case-sensitive searches.

Options

Searching TiddlyWiki

Speaking of searches, one of the strong sides of TiddlyWiki is its ability to guide you through your own steps, in order to help you retrieve data you need. For example, you can search by tags or by timeline. You can also look for orphaned tiddlers that have no hyperlinks to other content.

Tags

Timeline

Backstage

Backstage is an option in the top right corner, which opens an additional menu into the TiddlyWiki. This menu is a management panel that allows you to import tiddlers from remote server, synchronize and backup your tiddlers with a remote site, import styles and themes, install plugins, and more.

Backstage 1

Backstage 2

Plugins and adaptations

TiddlyWiki is an open-source project released under the BSD license. This means that the project has been quickly embraced by the community, spawning numerous versions. In general, TiddlyWiki is a client-side application, but there's also a number of server-side adaptations that use PHP and MySQL. Then, there are versions that support Ajax, mathematical expressions, WYSIWYG editing, P2P sharing, and many others.

The available plugins include numerous extensions and themes. To get started, you may want to read the Wikipedia article.

Conclusion

TiddlyWiki is a tremendous, powerful tool. It is very simple to use while offering incredible editing and search features. Best of all, it runs inside your browser. You need not worry about installations or configurations and you don't need any programming skills to use it.

I honestly believe that TiddlyWiki radically changes the way you keep notes. It allows you to be efficient and stylish at the same time, maintaining consistency across categories and being able to keep track of all your notes even long after they have been committed.

But TiddlyWiki is more than that. It opens a world of blogging before just about anyone. And while you may associate personal blogs with half-hearted efforts and bad spelling, you can also treat them as an efficient way or organizing non-linear data in an orderly fashion. Get your notes sorted out and you'll work better, faster, smarter.

As someone who has a dire need of keeping track after hundreds of different things in parallel, I find TiddlyWiki to be a real treasure. I have searched for the ultimate notes/sticky utility for years and have yet to come across a tool that offers more than TiddlyWiki. It's simple and elegant and its powerful non-linear mode of work simply beats anything else.

You must try it. If you don't like it, which I seriously doubt you will, just erase the file. At worst, you have wasted a few KB of download. It's that simple.

I'd like to thank Pedro for exposing me to TiddlyWiki!

Cheers.

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