Everyone has some idea of what a “Wiki” is; at the very least we’ve all ended up on Wikipedia for some reason or another. The term was invented as part of the MediaWiki project, which itself was built to create Wikipedia. The term is somewhat ambiguous, but in general it refers to collaborative software where any use can edit content, content is broken down into individual pieces of information, and you can edit the content from a web browser.
We previously covered TiddlyWiki, an odd, self-contained Wiki file that updates itself. Today, we are looking at Wiki.JS, which is much more like the original MediaWiki.
Everything you make in WikiJS is a page, and every page lives in a folder. A folder itself can be a page, too. You can add whatever content you want to pages, you can create navigation to easily move between pages and have a main menu, and you can format your content however you’d like.
As with the majority of the software we talk about here, Wiki.JS is open source and free to use, so you can pull it down and try it out with no risk.
Wiki.JS is relatively easy to use (though see The Bad for a few items I wish were better). It’s fast. It’s easy to understand and install. And, it’s simple to customize. I also really like the automatic table of contents produced for each page. The mobile version looks great, too.
Though we haven’t used the feature too much, it’s possible to have many users modifying and creating content for your Wiki.JS site and you can restrict privileges as needed.
Despite being the first Wiki software, MediaWiki always seemed a bit unnatural to use, and I think Wiki.JS is an excellent default Wiki platform. If you need to store information in a Wiki format, this is where I’d recommend starting. If you need some specialized functionality on top of the basics, you may need to look elsewhere.
I have two basic complaints with the software, and they both have to do with navigation.
First, it’s a bit unwieldy to rearrange the hierarchy of pages. Since pages here are stored in folders, you may want to move things around, but it can be difficult sometimes to figure out where something should be. That’s a problem common to all folder-based hierarchies, but it just seems harder to deal with in Wiki.JS, especially since paths can’t have spaces but pages can (see screenshot below under the second point).
Second, while the folder structure is useful when you need it, there’s no default page when you click on a link that doesn’t exist. For example, suppose we had a family schedule under a “schedules” folder, like this:
You can click on this hierarchy to navigate to. This is useful if you have a category page that details additional information. If I had a page called “Schedules” that was linked to the “Schedules” folder, it would open when I clicked on it.
If you don’t, you get something like this:
I’d find it much more helpful to just give me a list of the contents of the folder. You never know if a page exists or not before you click a link and running into these missing pages gets frustrating.
How We Use It
Our family has a wiki that we locally host using Wiki.JS. It’s mostly inactive at the moment, but we built it to keep track of a lot of the big stuff we do as a family, from our yearly goals to our vacation plans. We even kept track of meal plans with it a year ago, though now we mostly use it to reference the list of meals we like to make when we create a paper-and-pen meal plan.
Wiki.JS is a simple, fast, easily grasped Wiki. If you need a Wiki to keep track of personal information, a project, a business, or anything else, I’d recommend this as your first stop.