Taking a Look at Feather Wiki

Have you heard of TiddlyWiki? It's a portable wiki that you can use on your desktop or put on to a flash drive or mobile device and carry around with you.

TiddlyWiki is essentially a giant HTML file, with a lot of JavaScript and CSS mixed in to enable that file to function as a wiki. But TiddlyWiki is kind of big, too. The starter file weighs in at 2+ MB, and only gets larger as you add to it.

That bulk inspired a web developer named Robbie Antenesse to create a lighter analogue to TiddlyWiki called Feather Wiki. Coming in at just over 63 KB (that's not a typo!), Feather Wiki boasts the basic features of TiddlyWiki while staying fast and lean.

Let's take a look at it.

What Can You Do with Feather Wiki?

Like it's inspiration, you can use Feather Wiki for a variety of purposes. To take notes, to manage a task list, to draft whatever it is you're writing, to plan and organize a project or an event, or to create a digital garden. You can even use Feather Wiki to publish a simple website. More on this soon.

While you can't do everything with Feather Wiki, you can use it for most personal organization and productivity tasks.

Getting Feather Wiki

Head over to the download page. There are three versions of Feather Wiki that you can grab. The main difference is the more advanced features of each and the size of the downloads. The largest, and most fully-featured version is named Dove with a size of just over 63 KB. The smallest, named Chickadee, is 59 KB. Yes, kilobytes!

Download the version that best suits your needs. From there, you can open it in your browser. Well, as long as that browser supports a recent version ECMAScript 2015 (a standard for JavaScript support in web browsers). Modern graphical web browsers support ECMAScript 2015, so you shouldn't run into any issues using Feather Wiki.

While writing this post, I worked with Feather Wiki in Firefox and GNOME Web and there were no problems with either browser.

Working with Feather Wiki

Before you start, you might want to rename the file that you download to something that's more meaningful to you. Once you've done that, open Feather Wiki in your web browser. Here's what it looks like out of the box (so to speak) in GNOME Web:

Feather Wiki when you first load it

Click New Page. Enter a name for the page in the New Page Title field. When you click Create, the editor opens. From there, you can start typing.

Editing a page in Feather Wiki

You can add tags to the page, which enables you to group similar pages. If you have several pages and want to create a hierarchy of those pages, you can specify which page is parent of the one that you're creating. Of course, you can add formatting to the page, insert images, and create links to pages or places outside of your wiki. More on this in a moment.

You can also link between pages in wiki by enclosing the title of the page that you want to link to in double square brackets. For example, to link to the page Blogging Ideas, type [[Blogging Ideas]].

What happens if the linked page doesn't exist? When you save the page you're working on, the link is red. Click that link to open the editor, where you can create the linked page.

When you're done, save your changes. Which leads us to ...

A Note About Saving Your Wiki

Most web browsers these days automatically download files to a location set up in the browser's preferences. That's all well and good, but you run into problems when you download files that have the same name. Your browser saves the new version of the file with (1) added to file name — for example FeatherWiki(1).html

To sidestep the need to constantly delete and rename files, you'll need to change the settings in your browser so it prompts you for a location and file name when you download a file. Here are links to the instructions explaining how to do that in a few browsers:

Speaking of Editors

Feather Wiki has two of them: a WYSIWYG editor:

The WYSIWYG editor in Feather Wiki

And a Markdown editor:

The Markdown editor in Feather Wiki

The lighter editions of Feather Wiki only have the WYSIWYG or the Markdown editor, depending on the edition.

The WYSIWYG editor, obviously, enables you to add formatting by clicking a button on the toolbar. With the Markdown editor, you must add formatting by hand.

Fiddling with the Settings

Feather Wiki looks OK out of the box. It's usable, but a bit bland. You can, however, change a few settings to make Feather Wiki your own. To do that, click Wiki Settings in the sidebar to display the setting page.

The Wiki Settings page in Feather Wiki

You can:

Publishing Your Wiki Online

You might want to publish your wiki as a static website, either to act as a minimalist website or blog, or to share your digital garden. To do that, click Wiki Settings and select the Publish option. Doing that hides the Save, New Page, and Wiki Settings buttons.

From there, upload to web server or hosting provider (like NeoCities). You're not limited to using a web server or hosting provider. You can publish your wiki using GitLab Pages or GitHub Pages, or use a service called TiddlyHost (which was created to serve TiddlyWiki files on the web).

Here's what the wiki I uploaded to my website (hosted via GitLab Pages) looks like:

My website reimagined in Feather Wiki

Final Thoughts

I've used TiddlyWiki more than a few times over the years. It's a flexible tool, one which you can almost endlessly customize. Feather Wiki, though, is a good alternative to TiddlyWiki, especially if your needs are a bit more basic. You get a web page that you can edit, and which doesn't look too bad. And it's useful to boot.

While I like Feather Wiki, it's not something I use. As with TiddlyWiki, I just don't have a good use case for it — other tools fill that space. But don't let that stop you from trying, and maybe even adopting, Feather Wiki. It can be a solid tool for general productivity and for basic personal knowledge management.

Scott Nesbitt

#opensource #wiki #productivity