by Bob Walsh
About three months ago, I started looking for a better way than paper of organizing and storing all the information, decisions, use cases, ideas, bits of thought, URLs, business considerations and other bits of knowledge that I knew would go into my next micro-ISV application.
I started with a broad-based comparison of wikis via wikimatrix.org, and found one hosted wiki that looked like it would do the job. But there’s always one problem with hosted services — they can break. After that hosted wiki went offline for 48 hours without notice or explanation, I started looking for a different solution that would let me control my information for good or ill, be simple to use, and be robust enough so that I would not have to tinker with it.
After three weeks of use, I strongly recommend TiddlyWiki, a free “microcontent” wiki created by Jeremy Ruston.
TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki is an awesome tool. Within a single HTML file you have an entire wiki environment that is robust, powerful and extensible. Like like a normal wiki, each item – called a Tiddler – can be edited at will and uses a wiki-simple formatting syntax for headings and such. TiddlyWiki uses CSS for markup and layout, so you can rearrange its components and format them as you like. There is a wealth of plug-ins to its Javascript engine that are easy to install and use.
All Tiddlers appear on one page and you open and close them as you need to. You can create a simple or a hierarchical menu to give you access and structure, plus you can tag each Tiddler and work your information from that direction.
Here’s some of the things I’m putting in the TiddlyWiki:

  • Project plans.
  • Use cases.
  • Passwords.
  • Configuration information.
  • Links to URLs I want to investigate further.
  • Software decisions that went it will come back to.

It’s dirt simple to make your TiddlyWiki available wherever you need it:

  • You can save it to a server that you control.
  • You can put on a USB key.
  • You can use a file synchronization application or service such as foldershare.com, which is now a part of the free Windows Live beta.

I used foldershare.com so that I can run my Tiddlywiki from either the laptop I use for writing or my dev box – in either FireFox or IE. If for some reason I was working on Mac, I could go out there too! did I mention, its open source license, capable of an RSS feed, auto saves and a plugin gives you the ability to download a new version then import your Tiddlers from your old version?
I’m definitely a newbie with this tool, but I can tell you it is already making my life easier, my information ecology more structured, and improving the quality of the decisions I need to make. In other words, go to TiddlyWiki.com and download it and try yourself right now! I think you’ll be glad you did.

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