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Why I use ZIM Wiki

Created Wednesday 13 August 2014

This is day ONE of the new incarnation of this website is going on-line. Its content is both managed and published using the superb ZIM Wiki ( software which I have been using for nearly 9 months now. I have to point out that my main use for ZIM is that of a documentation tool covering the tasks and projects I am doing as a freelancer system administrator/engineer. My main ZIM notebook currently contains about 1300 articles/pages - which is a fair indicator that ZIM also scales well. Some of the CMS/Wiki/documentation (FOSS) tools I have used in the past are - in random order -:

  • DokuWiki
  • Joomla
  • TWiki/Foswiki
  • TikiWiki
  • Drupal
  • Docmgr
  • Rednotebook

Here are some reasons why I am using ZIM Wiki now:

  1. ZIM assists in writing-as-you-go without losing track of structure and organization:
    • Its hierarchical name space allows for quick ordering of pages. In conjunction with the tag plug-in it also gives support a folksonomy-based approach of organizing content.
    • Formatting of text is done via a limited set of formatting codes which feels restrictive compared to some other Wiki software but it helps to focus on a simple and straightforward style. The addition of a syntax highlighter plug-in for source code & scripts is welcome addition though (ZIM > v0.60).
    • Cut and paste of text and screen shots from any other desktop application

  1. ZIM is a cross-platform desktop application:
    • There are many pro's about having your data managed by a web application as traditional Wiki's do. But my experience has taught me that having the tool right at your own desktop works much more efficient and productive
    • Linux & Windows work equally well (no idea about MacOS or others)

  1. ZIM comes with some awesome plugins:
    • Journal: effectively rolls a complete journal or diary application into ZIM
    • Tasklist: great to-do and work tracker. I especially like the way you can easily enter and organize your to-do's in any place in your notebook
    • Tags: folksonomy-based ordering of content
    • Version control: I do not use this feature but the name is pretty explanatory. It emulates the behaviour of most standard Wiki's, e.g. a reversible change log
    • Insert Diagram/Screen shot/Equation/..: a set of plugins that allow the insertion and manipulation of graphs, screen shots, music scores etc.
    • ...

  1. Find & search capabilities are extensive and powerful (name space, regular expression, ...)

  1. Zim as publishing tool:
    • Exports your content as HTML, LaTeX or as plain text
    • Uses templates to achieve uniformity and flexibility in published documents
    • Allows automated publishing (via command-line options of ZIM and some scripting)

There are many other reasons why you could be using ZIM but the ones I mentioned are the most important ones for me.

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