4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized

Organization is a big buzz word these days, especially because there’s so much going on at any given time what with our smartphones, our tablets, our laptops, computers, and everything else. It can be difficult to stay focused, to keep all of your ducks in line, and to make sure you don’t forget any important tasks or appointments. Most people tackle this problem through gratuitous use of note-taking apps and to-do lists, but I submit to you a different solution: the personal wiki.

After Wikipedia took the world by storm, the concept of the wiki has been applied to many different realms: TV shows, video games, music databases, and more. As it turns out, the wiki is a wonderful way to keep loads of information organized in a manner that’s both legible and easily modified. But a lot of wiki software is bloated with features that are useful on a large scale but would end up being cumbersome on a smaller scale.

What if there was wiki software designed to help you out on a personal level? You could use it for anything, for example to outline your novel, keep track of home improvement projects, or plan social events. The benefit of a personal wiki is that it has all of the core features you need from a wiki, such as cross-linking pages, without the bells and whistles necessary for collaborative work. Interested? Then keep reading!

TiddlyWiki [Browser-Based]

personal wiki tiddlywiki   4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized

TiddlyWiki is a neat little program. Well, technically, it isn’t even a program. It’s just an HTML file that you download and it comes packaged with a JAR file that handles the manipulation of data. In order to run it, you just open up the HTML file in a browser and you’ll see the wiki in all its glory. TiddlyWiki works in all of the major browsers, including IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari.

The coolest thing about TiddlyWiki is that there aren’t multiple pages; instead, you have a single page that acts as a sort of canvas and you can open and close different “tiddlers” on the page. You can think of a tiddler as a section of text. However, you can cross-link between tiddlers in much the same way that you would cross-link between pages on a wiki, which helps you stay organized. It sounds more complicated than it is. In reality, TiddlyWiki is super easy to learn and use.

wikidPad [Windows, Mac, Linux]

personal wiki wikidpad   4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized

In simplest terms, wikidPad is an open-source notebook that’s been designed in the manner of a wiki. More specifically, a wikidPad notebook can contain multiple pages and those pages can be cross-linked within text so you can quickly click over to new references whenever you come across them. wikidPad’s pages are named using the WikiWord convention, so each page must be titled in the style of ArticleOutline, NewTodoList, MarySueResume, etc. When you type a new WikiWord, wikidPad will automatically create a new page for it.

wikidPad is a desktop application native to Windows, but it can be installed on both Mac and Linux as long as you follow the proper instructions on site. All of the data in wikidPad is stored in plain text, but the program itself will visually alter the text to show you bolds, italics, headers, and such. However, since it’s in plain text, you can easily export your pages for use elsewhere.

Tomboy Notes [Windows, Mac, Linux]

personal wiki tomboy   4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized

If wikidPad proved to be too feature-rich for you, then Tomboy Notes may be the alternative you want. Like wikidPad, Tomboy is a notebook-based program with multiple pages per notebook that can be cross-linked from within each other. You won’t be forced into using the WikiWord syntax with Tomboy, but link creation will require an extra step: clicking the Link button and selecting which page you want it to link with.

The best part of Tomboy is the streamlined interface. Everything is intuitive and you’ll be able to get it up and running within minutes. And if the default Tomboy feature set isn’t enough for you, you can extend functionality using the plugin system called Add-Ins. The site has a list of top add-ins, but if you have the expertise, you could go ahead and create a few of your own. For a deeper look, check out our review of Tomboy Notes.

ZimWiki [Windows, Linux]

personal wiki zim   4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized

ZimWiki, or better known as just Zim, is similar to Tomboy in that it’s a cleaner, less advanced version of wikidPad. But don’t take that to mean that it’s worse, because it’s not. In fact, I really like Zim and it has proven useful to me on more than one occasion. We’ve written about Zim before but it has progressed a lot since then and is still under active development.

One thing I love about Zim is the way it handles cross-linking: not only does a link point to a page, but each page also shows which pages link to it. In essence, all links are bidirectional. Other great features include the ability to export to HTML, tons of key bindings for efficient navigation, and a plugin system to extend functionality.

One drawback of Zim is that it feels a tiny bit unpolished, at least on Windows. Based on screenshots, it looks like it might be better polished when running on a Linux system. However, in terms of features, it’s powerful without being bloated. A good choice, for sure.

Conclusion

I’ve given each of these a fair trial (at least a few days of proper usage) and I have to say that I like TiddlyWiki the best. It’s fast, it’s responsive, it’s feature complete, and it’s so simple that it can be used on pretty much any computer that supports one of the main browsers. But if you want an actual desktop application instead of working inside a browser, I recommend wikidPad. If neither of these suit you, try out the others and see which ones you like.

Do you use personal wikis? Know any other personal wiki software that deserves a mention? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

21 Comments -

Anthony

Are these all applications you run on your local machine? Did you consider online wikis? Or locally run applications that share information? Personally, I need to access the information from multiple places, and likely it won’t just be me – so running locally wouldn’t necessarily cover this.

Joel Lee

Yes, they are local. I think that’s the whole point of a personal wiki. However, I access my ZimWiki and TiddlyWiki data from multiple computers by setting them up on Dropbox. I haven’t run into any problems yet. If you don’t like Dropbox, I’m sure they can be used in conjunction with a cloud storage service of your choosing.

TechnoAngina

Tiddlywiki can be set up to run on an actual website. I think you’d get more use out of something like Evernote if you need to be everywhere though, but it seems like an awful lot of effort for something so simple doesn’t it?

Lisa O

I don’t consider online wikis in because I’m not always online. Nowadays you can place these on Dropbox (or your choice sync service) to get the best of both worlds, offline and online.

ReadandShare

Thinking about getting an organizer of sorts, but have never tried one. Are these alternatives to Evernote, which I keep hearing about — or do they do entirely different things?

Joel Lee

Evernote is definitely more powerful in that it has a lot of features, like clipping from websites and collaborating with multiple people. These personal wikis are slimmer, reduced, more focused alternatives to Evernote, I would say. The real important aspect is the interlinking between pages. These apps make it easy to do, thus organization becomes easier.

ReadandShare

Thanks, Joel.

El C

For the geek / nerd / hacker (or -wannabes), try WOAS – wiki on a stick. See http://stickwiki.sourceforge.net/ The entire wiki – the program and the data – in one self-modifying html file. I use it daily. Very compact.

Joel Lee

I was going to include it but it seems the latest version has some errors on Firefox. I just couldn’t get it working even after lots of Google searches. But for those of you who can get it working, WOAS is a good alternative too.

Lisa O

I was fan of WoaS until several Firefox iterations crashed the save function. It didn’t work in my other browsers as well. After talking with fellow users and decided to face the fact that it’s been quietly abandoned, I chose to find a new personal wiki. MoinMoin is my current choice but might be a little overkill, depending on your needs. I like Wixi, but somehow it won’t work on my laptop.

Robert E Kraus

TiddlyWiki is great. I saved it to my Dropbox and can access it from my iPhone and Tablet.

Eweforia

A couple years ago I reviewed many of the popular “free” wiki options, and for my purposes (an online book), Google Sites (http://www.sites.google.com) was the most powerful and flexible. I needed a multi-level left navigation panel, the ability to customize just about everything, and personal domain name options. The online book (see http://www.blackbellysheepbook.com) is of course a work in progress, but you can see what amazing things can be done with a free tool. Of course, if Google decides to take it away–as it has done with many other useful Google tools–then I’m going to be very unhappy.

Joel Lee

I was never happy with Google Sites but if that works for you, awesome! Never thought to use it as a personal wiki.

Pablo

Have you tried cherrytree (http://www.giuspen.com/cherrytree/)? This is the only one I have found so far that does syntax highlighting. Even if you dont use syntax highlighting it handles rich text, images, basic tables, links to other text nodes, etc. But the syntax highlighting is really great if you do coding.

Joel Lee

Not only does it look great, but it’s available on both Windows and Linux. What a plus! Thanks for sharing.

Diana B. Santos

Wow, thanks for sharing! I’m now using tiddlywiki thanks to you!!!
I’m having fun using it for a story that I have to organize. :D

Joel Lee

That’s what I use it for, too. Glad it was helpful!

Julie S

I use Ema Personal Wiki on my Windows PC, saved to a DropBox folder, so that I can also access the wiki on my phone using Ema Personal Wiki for Android.

Lisa O

First time hearing about Ema. Sounds interesting, but the latest news are three years old. What is your version of Android and what problems you have experienced so far (in both Windows and Android versions)?

Julie S

I am currently using a Sony Xperia acro S (LT26w) running Android 4.1.2, and I have not encountered any problems. I was previously using it on a Samsung Galaxy S (GT-I9000) running Android 2.3.3, and it worked perfectly on that too.

I have used it under Windows 7 and Windows 8 desktop mode, and it works perfectly there too.

The only issue that I have ever encountered is unlikely to be encountered by most users; escaping HTML characters using %xx works on Android but not on Windows. Use &#NNN; instead, which works on both Windows and Android.

Nguyen Minh Thang

Hi folks, my team jut releases beta version of a great tool for personal and team documentation / wiki. It helps increase productivity of yourself and your team. Check it here: http://mindimize.com