December 29, 2020

Playing with Tiddlywiki

3 minute read


People who are close to me know that I have a bit of a thing for Productivity Software of all shapes and sizes. I’m usually a categorical thinker; I rely on notes (either my own or those others put up online) to acquire specialized knowledge in a variety of subjects, which I then bring to the table at work and at home. Therefore, I’ve had an on-again-off-again affair with various note-taking apps. I certainly haven’t tried them all, but I’ve tried a few, and had trouble sticking with them. And I’m here today to talk about my latest experiment, which is TiddlyWiki.

TiddlyWiki is a 16-year-old personal-Wiki software, designed for sort of being a second brain for individual people. It’s a small self-contained program which runs inside a single HTML/CSS/JavaScript page in the browser, and can run anywhere browsers can run. It can run on the internet or off; on your hard drive; on a portable USB drive; on any operating system that can run a web browser. When I say TiddlyWiki is self-contained, I mean that any valid TiddlyWiki file contains:

  • the full source code for TiddlyWiki itself
  • the full user interface for TiddlyWiki
  • all plugins and themes that have been installed into that particular TiddlyWiki system
  • all the little notes and documents that have been stored in that TiddlyWiki file
  • all images, music, videos, fonts, or literally anything else, which have been stored

That portability makes TiddlyWiki quite appealing to me. When I started my career working at a bank, pretty much the only things that were IT-friendly were web pages. (And even that was with the caveats that the web pages had to be be allowed by the firewall, safe-for-work, couldn’t give away company data, etc.)

The fact that TiddlyWiki is a customizable, plug-and-play note taking system that can run anywhere and fits into a single file, means that I can use it anywhere, at work or at home.

I also really like the power of a medium which is equal parts document and self-contained application. There are some really cool TiddlyWikis out there, which take advantage of the interactivity of TiddlyWiki. I’ve only discovered a few examples so far, but some include:

I’m putting up a sample/starter TiddlyWiki with some of my preferred defaults here for reference – it’s been pre-populated with some of the plugins/themes that I’ve found and like. I may or may not keep it “up-to-date”, but I thought I’d at least keep a copy laying around for others to take a gander.

I also hope in the future to write a little bit more about TiddlyWiki, such as what I like about its architecture and and implementation (for nerds only).

© Jeff Rabinowitz, 2021