First look at TiddlyWiki

I’ve started to work with our new hire at BT, Jeremy Ruston, hence the sudden upturn in the amount that I’m actually making the time to play with technology instead of just talk about it.

Jeremy has come over to BT to setup what I’m thinking of as “Open Source Centres”. I’ll definitely be talking more about this. Jerm is the man behind TiddlyWiki, which is an Open Source wiki that is very extensible and operates offline as well as on. I’ve been spending some time getting used to the way it works (Tiddlers, anyone?) and thinking about how it compares to the other wikis and in-browser tools I’ve encountered.

Below is a transcript of the Google Notebook (my new favourite toy) notes I made whilst exploring:

TiddlyWiki …first impressions on reading the intro text – much more impressive than I thought it was. Looking forward to digging into some of the screencasts and help files…

Have found that it is a single-file system that you can either store on your machine, upload to a server (tiddlyspot is free) or run on your own server. There are lots of variations – I don’t understand why yet, but there was mention of them satisfying different needs and server configurations.

I think that CamelCase is a serious barrier to approachability

Blocky right-hand toolbar doesn’t look good. It is cramped and too prominent to be filled with cryptic tabs and messages

Why ” for bold and not *?
The grey boxes on the open tiddler menu is unsightly

I’m rather a fan of this “save as…” thing – very cool – feels like I’m doing something quite exciting

As much as I feel the potential for power here, I am feeling “what do I do with this?” – it feels different to a normal wiki because of all these options and the tiddlers, so I feel like I’m going to be doing different things…

This business of backups – lot of talk about having to delete old backups. Why not just have it done automatically?

Just discovered that TiddlyWiki config is contained in tiddlers too. The first one I’ve seen shows me that I can change the colours by editing a tiddler…

One of my thoughts when I first opened TW was “I can’t tell how things are structured – where’s my content, where’s my settings menu, where do I go first?”
It’s cool that there is so much community documentation. As Jeremy and I have talked about, it’s a shame there’s not more on the main site. I’m not sure this is a real problem actually, so long as the links are made clear.

I’ve also made some observations about usability and things not working as I thought they should:

  • Bug – referencing yourself in the slider macro causes a copy to appear – clicking on the button again causes a “almost infinite” loop down the page – it crashes the macro
  • Pop-up boxes not themed in a consistent way
  • tabs macro syntax not explained well on twfortherestofus syntax page (fine on the detail page)
  • I think “more” on a tiddler should have a corresponding “less”
  • ImportPlugins doesn’t seem to work on IE, but that might be because I’m at work behind a firewall
  • Pressing Enter in the “Enter workspace name” text field during the ImportPlugins process caused the page to reload, losing my view (and changes potentially?). Not happy!
  • Would be useful when there is only one tiddler left and it is not on the screen, to move up to the bottom of that

Ok, I’d say I’m familiar with all the basics now. I know how to add tiddlers, edit, search, config the look ‘n’ feel and use macros and install plugins (not that installing plugins has worked). What I don’t know about is how to write macros, how plugins work and how the backend works. I also haven’t seen “backstage” yet.

Half-time conclusion: I can smell some potential here, perhaps because a javascript backend is powerful and accessible and because in its offline mode you can do a lot of interesting things (note to self: fill that statement in!). I think the main reason I am eager to keep investigating is that the community seems so vibrant – the two Google groups have approximately one and two thousand members respectively, and there are loads of people who are devoted to enhancing this non-commercial enterprise. For an example of how far people will go, compare TiddlyWiki with TiddlyTools.

Dinner beckons.



  1. Ace_NoOne
    Posted June 16, 2007 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Nice write-up; I really like how you’re sharing your progression into the TW world!

    As for your issues, concerns and suggestions, you should take them to the mailing list.

    Welcome to the party…

  2. Florian
    Posted June 16, 2007 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Why not using TiddlyWiki and as your scrapbook instead of Google Notebook? It might soon become your new “favourite toy”.

  3. Saq
    Posted June 17, 2007 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    My apologies, for the messed up links. Sadly, there is no option to edit my post!

  4. rees
    Posted June 18, 2007 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been playing with TiddlyWiki also for the last few days, it seems a combination of a Wiki and Blog, a BliKi?

  5. Posted June 19, 2007 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the links – there’s quite a community around TW!

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