15.15, Sunday 20 May 2007

Plain text wiki:

I'm a big fan of VoodooPad, the Mac desktop wiki application. It presents you with a good text editor, and a bunch of formatted text documents linked together in the UsualWikiWay (also some really innovative scripting hooks). I like wikis because my problem is not noting down loads of associated ideas (so I don't need mind mapping software)--my problem is linearising, and wikis really help me with putting down everything I'm thinking about, and massaging it into a talk, or project presentation, or whatever.

Here's my one problem with VoodooPad: The data is in a proprietary format. I've had computers long enough to know that I want my data in a format used by many, many applications over many, many years. So I use VoodooPad for arranging and notes I don't need to keep, and make sure my final presentation notes also exist as text files.

To be honest, the most important part of a wiki for me is the wiki--I'm not bothered about formatting or pictures. How about a plain text wiki? So that's what I've made.

The plain text wiki is implemented as a bundle inside TextMate, the (highly extensible) Mac text editor. To use it, I do this:

  • Make a new text file, and save it in a new, empty directory as 'IndexPage.txt'. It's easiest to use this directory as a project--close the text file, and drag the directory icon onto TextMate.
  • In the project window, open IndexPage.txt and make notes as normal (set the language to 'Wiki' in the bottom bar, if it's not that already). WikiWords appear underlined. With a cursor over it or at the end, hit enter to open this page in the project window. If it doesn't exist, it's created as WikiWords.txt in the project directory.
  • Hit shift+ctrl+i to return to IndexPage.

This is exactly what I need: A bunch of text documents that I'll be able to read at any point in the future, in a wiki structure that will be simple to implement in most extensible text editors. There are a bunch of things still to do (some helper command to create a new wiki folder would be great, and also to give different formatting to the words if the wiki page doesn't exist yet), but this is my first TextMate bundle and I'm not sure how to do those yet.

Anyway, there's barely anything there... but if you want it, feel free to download. Grab the Plain Text Wiki bundle (get the zip; it's unpacked there too so you can browse) and double click to install. Patches welcome!

Update: Hey, I want to clarify something here. I love VoodooPad and won't stop using it. I like it even more now Gus Mueller has pointed out how to make it save in plain text. There's also room in my life for this super simple, plain text wiki directory thing, because I know its wikiness can be easily implemented again in the future. But 'proprietary,' as a word, is a strong one, making things appear black and white, and I used it recklessly. I'm sorry about how I put together the blog post above.

Follow-up posts: