Wikis are great organizational tools. You can use their systems of categories, subcategories, and sometimes tags to make it easier to find related pages, as well as including hyperlinks to related information within the text of articles.
Wikis are also easily searchable. Instead of sifting through pages and pages of notes to remember a character’s eye color or the name of the Grand Vizier’s youngest daughter, simply run a quick search.
For those interested in collaborative writing, wikis are a great way to share information across a long distance, and many wiki software programs record detailed information about who edited a page when, and even why it was edited, as well as page histories that track the evolution of your ideas and make it easy to undo changes.
These are just a few of the features that make wikis an amazing tool for writers to organize research and worldbuilding. But how do you get a wiki of your own?
There are four basic ways to set up a private wiki:
- hosted wikis
- desktop wikis
- self-hosted wikis
- locally hosted wikis
The easiest, and probably the most popular, method of creating your own wiki is to set up a private wiki on any of a number of websites that host free public or private wikis for individuals. These websites are often called wiki farms.
Hosted wikis have many advantages. They are easy to set up, and usually have WYSIWYG editors or easy wiki syntax. Most offer excellent privacy features, so nobody can see your work until you want them too. They can be accessed from any computer with internet access, anywhere in the world.
However, they are usually not as full-featured as privately-hosted or desktop wikis, and some have limits on the size (either in number of pages or bytes) of free wikis. If you are interested in collaborative writing, they may have limits on the number of people who can contribute to the wiki. Some wiki farms are supported by ads, which you might find unattractive or annoying.
Finally, remote-hosted wikis are dependent on the continued existence of the wiki farm. If your wiki farm goes under, you may lose your work with it.
Here are some popular wiki farms:
- PBworks, web, free and subscription options
- Springnote, web, free
- TiddlySpot, web, free
- Wetpaint, web, free and subscription options
- Wikidot, web, free and subscription options
- Wikispaces, web, free and subscription options
Desktop Wiki Software
Another popular option is desktop wiki software that runs directly on your computer. These have the advantage of greater privacy and reliability (you don’t depend on the security and continued existence of a wiki farm, nor do you need internet access to view or edit your wiki), but can be lost if your computer crashes and you don’t have a recent backup. If you travel regularly and are away from your computer for long periods of time, you may also find that they are not portable enough, though some desktop wikis, such as TiddlyWiki and Wiki on a Stick, try to solve this problem by installing easily on USB drives.
Desktop wiki software includes the following programs:
- ConnectedText, Win, commercial
- Ema Personal Wiki, Win/Android, free
- LinkedNotes, Win, free and commercial versions
- TiddlyWiki, web, free
- Voodoo Pad, Mac, commercial
- WikidPad, Win/Mac/Linux, open source
- Wiki on a Stick, USB, open source (also check out Book on a Stick)
- Zim, Win/other, open source
- ZuluPad, Win/Mac, free and commercial options
Self-Hosted Wiki Software
If you have web hosting and some technical skill, a third option is to set up a private wiki on your own web domain.
Hosting a wiki on your own website offers more security and flexibility than a wiki farm, but is also more technically complicated. Because of the cost of web hosting and domain registration, it may also be more expensive than using a wiki farm or desktop wiki.
Most wiki software requires access to at least one MYSQL database.
Some popular web hosts offer one-click installs of the most popular wiki software for self-hosted wikis, MediaWiki (the software that runs Wikipedia). If your webhost does not have one-click installs, you will have to download the MediaWiki software (or other wiki software of your choice) and upload it to your website, then follow the installation instructions that come with the software.
There are several options for a self-hosted wiki, including:
The most complicated option is to set up a wiki on your local host. Check out Set Up Your Personal Wikipedia and Run Your Personal Wikipedia From a USB Stick for tutorials explaining how you can do this.
Did I miss your favorite wiki software? Let me know in comments!