Tools I use part 1 : Wikis

I just wanted to share some cool tools I found.

First of all I installed a Wiki for myself the Dokuwiki. I need it for my notes, which I need to access from my desktop and my laptop. Since I don’t have a real server at home, only an external hard-drive with WiFi, which is enough at the moment, it needed to be PHP, simple and fast.
I am very pleased with the Wiki it looks great there are some great plug-ins like the tag plug-in by Esther (cool stuff you have there Esther, I use your template too). The Wiki is easy to install, as are the plug-ins. The only problem I had is, that it asks if one wants acl user management. Since I didn’t need it (it is for private use only at this point) and was speed conscious, I said no.
Mistake, since some plug-ins require an admin login. By just deleting the local.php and installing again and all was well. Even my previous test pages were still there. Thumbs up ! That stuff is stable.


Why a Wiki, what is this and why do you need one ?

Everybody knows Wikipedia by now. They didn’t invent Wikis by the way, they just did a excellent job of harnessing its power.
I think Wikis are especially useful in game development, where team work is essential and everybody needs to contribute. Design documents and technical specs change all the time. And Wikis are excellent tools to map this changes. Also documentation of internal tools will profit. Because the programmer and the user (mostly an artist or designer) can collaborate on a manual that makes it easy for new people to get up to date quickly.

pro :
– people can use their web browser to edit stuff
– everybody can edit the same documents
– it has a history, it not only can tell you what was changed since your last logon, but also who changed, what, when
– it is easy to use, easy to make new pages

contra :
– often structure gets lost, because Wikis are link based and not hierarchical based -> DokuWiki is great in that sense, there are namespaces and with the tags you can find everything, it has an index too
– one cannot control the content and layout of the pages, the management has to trust having adult people with responsibility working for them, because even if you put a template up, you cannot get people who are messy to write nice documents

I have used MoinMoin, TikiWiki and some others, mostly job related. And DokuWiki is the one I like best. There is a commercial one too, which looks quite good, but I don’t want to spend money for an overblown system I do not need.
One of the other great aspects of DokuWiki is the automatic creation of a table of content as soon as the page has headers. This makes things just easy.

Personal Wikis (no need of a server)
There are Wikis you can use on your desktop without a server. Just as a notes tool, outliner or text aggregator.

My favorite is WikiPad . It uses WikiNotation (one word, two uppercase letters, one at the beginning, one in the middle) to generate new pages. There is the typical outliner tree on the left. There are special tags to change icons, color of the tree branch. One can easily flag stuff as a todo list etc. It saves automatically. And one can paste automatically from clipboard (which sometimes does not work right). It is python (which I have a soft spot for) and just something small and useful.

And there is TiddlyWiki, which is a one-file Wiki and strangely fascinating, there is even a GTD template for it. I have discovered TiddlySnip, which is a Firefox plug-in to paste stuff from your browser into your TiddlyWiki, very neat. I use that often since nowadays all the manuals are naturally in html or on the net anyway, so I need to get text out of the browser into something resembling coherent notes.

I use scrapbook, another Firefox plug-in quite a lot. It allows you to scrap pages or selected text from a web page and saves it. You can later merge the notes or just read them and highlight important text.

Cooming soon : I finally found the right task manager for me.