Under The Microscope

PmWiki

Long, long ago, someone proposed “Brent’s Law of Wikis”. It states that: "the set of people who use wikis and the set of people who know how to make websites look good are mutually exclusive.".

For several years, we used UseMod Wiki for our internal company wiki. UseMod was easy to setup, consisting of a single script file and a configuration file. But despite my best efforts, this was the best I could make it look:

UseMod

And so having no evidence to refute it, Brent’s Law of Wikis seemed to hold true. A week ago, however, I discovered the very nice PmWiki. Our new company wiki looks like this now:

PmWiki

Out of the box, all I had to change was the sidebar (which is just another wiki page), drop in the header logo, and we were all set.

PmWiki strikes an excellent balance between having too many features (see: TWiki) and not having enough features (see: UseMod). All the basic functionality you want is baked right in, and more complex features (such as, say, generating charts from wiki tables?) are available through separate plugins.

Without constant upkeep, the average wiki tends to devolve into a pile of unrelated pages where the only way to find what you need is the Search box. PmWiki, however, has some decently powerful organizational tools that can fight this. It supports both classic wiki categories, as well as the concept of page Groups. In addition it has a really nifty :pagelist: command, which lets you dynamically generate table of contents or indexes on pages.

Currently, PmWiki seems to not be as widely known as other, lower-quality wikis (I’m looking at you MediaWiki). That’s too bad, as it is a very nice piece of software that looks good too.

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