TiddlyWiki is amazing, fantastic!

Every now and then you stumble across a truly great idea and, as often as not, don't get it at first. Then you fall over the idea a second time and click! The light goes on. Such was my finding and re-finding of TiddlyWiki, a personal wiki system created by one Jeremy Ruston.

I'm not sure why I didn't have that "aha!" moment when I first found this free, open source software. Given the insane number of products I look at pretty much every day, however, it probably was a case of getting lost in the noise. That's a pity, because it turns out TiddlyWiki is an amazingly, perhaps insanely, great tool. In fact, I award TiddlyWiki 10 out of 5 -- it's that cool.

While I'm sure all of you know what a wiki is, here's a good definition from the Wiki mother ship, Wikipedia: "A wiki is a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language."

TiddlyWiki takes a more personal approach to wikis than most implementations, because rather than servicing a group of users -- or, as in the case of Wikipedia, the entire galaxy -- it provides a private, single-user wiki.

TiddlyWikis can be used in a number of ways, for example, as an elegant and low-cost method for creating, distributing, and collaborating on documentation. Check out Reasoning Well, a TiddlyWiki that covers key concepts in the analysis of reasoning for philosophy students. You can use this TiddlyWiki online or download it -- and that leads to a key attribute of TiddlyWikis: Once you have your own copy, you can annotate and add to it, making it your own content mashup.

Another interesting use for TiddlyWikis is as a tool for implementing a Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. (I recently found out that the creator of GTD, David Allen, lives just a few miles away from me. Who knew?)

If you haven't come across GTD, it's described by Wikipedia as "an action management method." If you have time- and task-management problems, you might find value in the GTD approach, as legions of techies have. For example, take a look at 43Folders, essentially a fan site for GTD and time- and process-management.

A central requirement of GTD is a system for managing tasks, keeping research and capturing notes on the stuff you need to keep track of. Not surprisingly, the simplicity, elegance and portability of TiddlyWiki make it a compelling choice for GTD adherents.

TiddlyWiki is implemented as a single file (without content, its size is just 286KB) that combines JavaScript code, cascading-style-sheet definitions, and the wiki content. This creates a discrete, versatile and highly portable package that runs on pretty much any modern browser on any operating system. You can store it on a USB drive, send it via e-mail, or use it from a Common Internet File System share that can be read only -- or if you want to update the content, read and write.

TiddlyWikis are very popular, although they are still a geek's solution to a lot of data management problems because they aren't really well documented for non-techies' purposes (although that shouldn't be hard to fix). But here's the opportunity: You can get even naïve users comfortable with TiddlyWikis with minimal training -- the concepts are actually quite simple and the user interface can be configured as you please.

TiddlyWiki is truly amazing, and you need to try it out. Let's get you started: Go to the TiddlyWiki download page. Then you have two choices: to save an empty version (a bare-bones copy of TiddlyWiki without content) locally or to create a free account on the TiddlySpot server that will host a private or public copy of your wiki.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Sorry, I've run out of space, so next week -- you guessed it -- more TiddlyWiki.

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