Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Organizing Yourself with TiddlyWiki

The word 'wiki' spelled out in keys from a keyboard

When you think of the word wiki, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is Wikipedia. That’s not a surprise, considering that Wikipedia did help put the concept of the wiki into the popular consciousness.

Wikis, which are web sites you can edit, are great tools for collaborating and for organizing yourself. But wikis usually require a lot of digital plumbing and a bit of care to use and maintain. All of that’s overkill for personal use. While you can install desktop wikis on your computer, they’re not as portable as some people want them to be.

Enter TiddlyWiki. Not only is it great for organizing yourself, it’s easy to use and very portable. Let’s take a quick look at how to use TiddlyWiki to organize yourself.

(Note: I’m only going into the basics of TiddlyWiki. I also include links to some good tutorials in this post.)

TiddlyWiki?

TiddlyWiki isn’t software quite as you know it. It’s a large web page, weighing in at around 2 MB, that you can edit in a web browser. It’s very flexible, and you can use TiddlyWiki to take notes, manage task lists, save bookmarks, publish a blog or website, create a presentation, and a lot more.

As I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, TiddlyWiki is very portable. You can put it in a shared folder in Dropbox or Nextcloud to share a TiddlyWiki between computers, carry it around on a flash drive, or use it on a mobile device.

Getting Started

Head over to the TiddlyWiki website and download the file empty.html. Rename that file to something a bit more meaninful and descriptive. Then, open it in a web browser.

You’ll see the Getting Started tiddler (more on tiddlers in a moment):

TiddlyWiki Getting Started page

Give your TiddlyWiki a new name and a new description. Then, click the check mark icon to save it.

A Note About Saving Your TiddlyWiki

Since your web browser thinks a TiddlyWiki is a file (well, the browser is right!), it’ll save your edited TiddlyWiki to the folder on you computer where downloads go. And when it does that, your browser will probably save it with a file name like tiddlywiki(1).html. You don’t want that.

If you’re using Chrome or Chromium, you can set it to ask you where to save files by selecting Settings, then clicking Show advanced settings on the Settings page. Then, click the Ask where to save each file before downloading option.

If you’re using Firefox, install the TiddlyFox extension which automatically saves the TiddlyWiki you’re working on. TiddlyFox also works with the mobile version of Firefox, enabling you to work with TiddlyWiki on your phone or tablet.

Working with TiddlyWiki

As I mentioned earlier, you can use TiddlyWiki for just about anything. Since I prefer to focus on specific tasks with my tools, I’m going to look at using TiddlyWiki for:

  • Taking notes
  • Managing tasks
  • Keeping a journal

Taking Notes

To get going, create a new tiddler. I mentioned tiddlers earlier, and they’re individual pages within TiddlyWiki. To be honest, I don’t know how many tiddlers a single TiddlyWiki can contain before it slows down, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in the hundreds or thousands.

Create a new tiddler by clicking the + icon.

A new tiddler in TiddlyWiki

Give your tiddler a name, like Notes for Privacy Essay. Optionally, type a tag in the Tag Name field. Doing that will let you filter your tiddlers so you can find them faster when you have a lot of them. Once you’ve done that, start typing.

You can format your tiddler using TiddlyWiki’s markup. But, if like me, you’re lazy you can also use the formatting toolbar. TiddlyWiki lets you add character formatting, lists, quotes, headings, images, and links to a tiddler. It’s optional but that formatting can be useful.

When you’re done, click the checkmark icon to save the tiddler.

An example of a tiddler in TiddlyWiki

Creating a Task List

Again, create a new tiddler. Give it a name like Tasks - 4 May 2017 and type Tasks in the Tag Name field.

From there, type your tasks — one line for each. Put an asterisk (*) in front of each one to create a bullet list. Then, save your list.

An example of a task list in TiddlyWiki

When you’ve complete a task, edit the tiddler, highlight the task, and click the Strikethrough button on the toolbar to mark it as complete.

A completed in TiddlyWiki

That’s a pretty simple, and a frankly lame, way to deal with tasks. If you’re looking for something more visually appealing, then watch this video. The technique explained in the video requires quite a bit of setup but you wind up with a much nicer task list.

Keeping a Journal

If you want to keep a journal, first click the Tools tab and then select the new journal option. That puts the Create a new journal tiddler button on the main TiddlyWiki toolbar. When you click that button, you’ll notice that the journal tiddler has today’s date as its name, and has been tagged Journal.

As with any other tiddler, type your text and save the tiddler when you’re done.

One TiddlyWiki, or Several?

You can load up your TiddlyWiki with everything that you need to do. Eventually, though, it could get so full of tiddlers that it’s difficult to easily find what you need to find, even with good tagging.

An alternative to that is to have several TiddlyWiki files — for example, one for notes, one for tasks, one for outlines, one for journalling. Keeping track of those files could become a chore, though.

Other Ways to Use TiddlyWiki

Maybe you don’t want to use your web browser with TiddlyWiki. Or you might want to go mobile. There are a few ways to do that.

TiddlyDesktop, as its name suggests, is a desktop tool for working with one or more TiddlyWiki files. You can pull in a TiddlyWiki file anywhere on your computer and have access to it with a click.

TiddlyDesktop in action

If you use an Android phone or tablet, then you’ll want to take a peek at AndTidWiki and AndTidWiki+. If you’re wondering, AndTidWiki+ is the paid version of the app.

AndTidWiki+ in action

The main drawback of the app is that it only looks for TiddlyWiki files in a specific directory on your device. Several users (including me) have been chivvying the developer to change that, so it could happen.

For users of Apple devices, check out TWEdit and TWMobile. I’ve never used them, so I can’t comment on them.

Learning More

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ve only covered the basics of using TiddlyWiki. There is a lot you can do with it, even if (like me) you’re only using TiddlyWiki for simple tasks. Here are some good resources that can help you learn more about using TiddlyWiki:

Final Thought

While TiddlyWiki takes a bit of getting used to, it can be a useful and effective tool for keeping organized. Or doing more than that.

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