4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized

4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized

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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

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

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.

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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

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

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!

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Comments (23)
  • Eclipse

    I’m writing a book and need some kind of personal wiki or notebook to keep a track of all the characters and backstory. I was considering OneNote, which is FREE and syncs to the Skycloud (with 15 gigs for free and 1 TB if you have Office365) and all my devices. But then a fatal flaw! What if I change the name of one of my characters? Does OneNote have search and replace? I can’t seem to find it, and I’m desperately seeking some kind of wiki that *does* work a bit like Evernote and yet has Search & Replace. I don’t think Evernote has that either!

    • Oliver

      @Eclipse: Try Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com) it was designed pretty much exactly for what you are trying to do. It is commercial software ($40) but you can try it free for 30 days.

      PS: No, I do not work for them, its just a great product for writing.

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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)?

  • 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

  • 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.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.