Google Docs and Spreadsheets as a Personal Wiki

I like having a personal wiki. I keep track of my personal projects, various GTD meta-stuff, and even tracking shared expenses with family and roommates. Originally, I used MoinMoin, a very easy-to-edit but powerful wiki clone written in Python. We’ve been using MoinMoin for several years (at least 3, I think) in our lab. It offers a straightforward syntax, ease of uploading attachments, and easy creation of tables (hard to find in wikis). MoinMoin was working pretty nicely, but its main downfall was that it was difficult to create new MoinMoin webs. Thus, if I wanted to have a wiki for my roommates, a wiki for my wife and I, a personal wiki, a wiki for a project with someone, and so on, I had to go through the tricky process of creating those and making them accessible through the web server.

Enter TWiki. TWiki promised to be a more powerful MoinMoin with the capacity for quickly creating new “webs”, or sub-wikis. TWiki’s syntax was unfortunately obtuse. It was possible to make it compatible with MoinMoin’s syntax, which I did, but I never worked all of the kinks out. Furthermore, it was more difficult to attach items in TWiki, and I found the interface very cluttered compared with MoinMoin. While I intended to make even heavier use of my TWiki than my MoinMoin site, in the end I used it less because it was inconvenient. Oh, and it requires you to log in every time you open a new browser window, which bothered the ever-living hell out of me. I hear they’re changing that in some CVS revision. Whatever.

These things are no longer an issue for me. I’m moving to Google Docs and Spreadsheets. It turns out that you can link from one google doc to another directly, which is the basic function of a wiki. Furthermore, google spreadsheets are (compared to wiki software) fantastically easier to use and more powerful. It’s possible to upload word, excel, openoffice spreadsheet, openoffice writer, text, html, and other files directly to google docs. It’s easy to share a google doc with one person, a few people, or even the entire internet, giving either read or read and write access to various people. Google docs can be grouped in multiple folders (tag-like), seen directly ranked by most-recent-edit in iGoogle, and accessed from pretty much anywhere. You can also download google docs in common file formats. I suspect soon complete offline access will be enabled with Gears a la Reader.

It has only been a week, but so far Google Docs as a wiki service is treating me well. Do you use it?

7 thoughts on “Google Docs and Spreadsheets as a Personal Wiki

  1. Maria

    I do use Google Docs, but not as a wiki. I have to manage several schedules for conferences and clinics and it’s nice to be able to amend and adjust the schedules from anywhere… and have access to them from everywhere.

    I am, however, intrigued with the idea of using it as a wiki–I don’t know how to link one doc to another (but I’ll figure it out…). I recently signed up for Highrise, which is less complicated and more flexible than Basecamp, but still not flexible and too linear for me (in addition to my analog GTD system). Maybe I can build a wiki instead.

    (… and enter your quote about perfection versus good here.)

  2. brock Post author

    Hmm, Highrise looks great, but too stand-alone. To link between docs in google docs, use the built-in linking action. It will pull up a dialog and let you select what to link to.

  3. Pingback: Google Notebook

  4. Pingback: Backing Up Google Docs and Spreadsheets

  5. Pingback: Transition Complete

  6. Dave

    Tip: Zimwiki makes tables easily by allowing to insert latex code (which is great if you’re good with latex, otherwise you’ll wonder what kind of brain-dead tip is that and might wonder why anyone would bother). It also works well in windows, but has nowhere near the instant portability of google docs.

    I think Wikidpad also has latex plugin and it accepts attachments drag and drop easy (hold down cntrl to really attach, not just link). It also has a great faux-hierarchical tree view and hierarchical tag view. (I hate non hierarchical tags, because the top level gets too big to scan by eye)

    I can’t tolerate many incompatibilies that google docs refuses to fix, but otherwise, I’d love it, but maybe not for a wiki still.

  7. Brock Tice Post author

    Dave: I love me some Latex. I may check out Zimwiki. For now I’m actually back to MoinMoin for true wiki-stuff. I use docs for almost everything else, especially one-off projects that are shared with others.

Comments are closed.