Building a wiki with TiddlyWiki

Last week I started to review TiddlyWiki, an amazing personal wiki, and explained you can get started by downloading an empty version (a barebones copy of TiddlyWiki without content) from the TiddlyWiki download page.

Once you have saved your TiddlyWiki locally you can load it into your browser and add, delete or modify its contents, change its appearance and behavior, add plugins which extend TiddlyWiki even further, import content from online TiddlyWikis … there is, as I hope you are starting to see, a lot to this system.

An alternative to storing your TiddlyWiki locally is to create a free account on TiddlyWiki's TiddlySpot hosting server. The TiddlySpot server is very clever and incredibly useful. When you signup you specify a subdomain under for your TiddlyWiki (for example, I created a Gearhead TiddlyWiki) and then you choose which TiddlyWiki variant you use.

The choices offered by TiddlySpot include: the standard version of TiddlyWiki; MPTW, which stands for MonkeyPirateTiddlyWiki ("a distribution … of TiddlyWiki that includes a standard TiddlyWiki core packaged with some plugins designed to improve usability and provide a better way to organise your information"); MonkeyGTD, a Getting Things Done version of MPTW (I discussed GTD briefly last week); and d3 (which stands for "do it, delegate it, or defer it"), yet another GTD solution.

With TiddlySpot you can make your TiddlyWiki public or keep it private, access and modify it online as well as download it, make changes offline and upload the revised version when you're next online. In fact in many ways, TiddlySpot is the best choice for using a TiddlyWiki as it gives you excellent portability, accessibility from any computer, and makes it very easy to share.

Before we get into how to use a TiddlyWiki I have to explain "tiddlers": These are the equivalent of "articles" or "pages" in other wiki systems. The developers refer to these as micro-content (which I guess makes Twitter's "tweets" better described as "nano-content").

So, let's look at how TiddlyWiki works its magic: When you first load an empty copy of the standard TiddlyWiki distribution you'll see a top banner, a menu of tiddlers on the left with a single entry named "GettingStarted", a menu on the right that allows you to do things such as create tiddlers and journals and save changes to the wiki, and an area in the middle below the top banner where the content of the "GettingStarted" tiddler is displayed.

You'll notice your TiddlyWiki is called "My TiddlyWiki" (I am so tired of what seems like everything getting called "my") and it is subtitled "a reusable non-linear personal web notebook". You'll also notice that to the top right of all tiddlers is a menu. This tiddler menu gives you the option to close the tiddler, close any other tiddlers that may be open (none currently are), edit the tiddler, and some other things we'll discuss later.

The GettingStarted tiddler is a special type of tiddler – it is a "shadow tiddler", one of a number of tiddlers that store system settings (you can access any of the shadow tiddlers through "Shadowed" under the "More" tab in the menu at the bottom of the column to the right).

If you click on "edit" in a tiddler menu the layout of the tiddler will change and you'll see three editable fields; the top field is the name of the tiddler, the middle one it's content, and the bottom field is for tags. So, we'll click on the SiteTitle link in the body of GettingStarted and then click on edit in the tiddler menu. Now we can change the text in the content field of SiteTitle to whatever you want to call your TiddlyWiki. We then click on Done in the tiddler menu and voila! The name of your TiddlyWiki will have changed. Now click on "save changes" in the right hand menu and the change is permanent.

Next week, more cowbell, er, TiddlyWiki.

Gibbs has modified his tiddlers in Ventura, Calif. Tell him about your edits at

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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