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What's a Wiki?

If you need to create a website to organize a large amount of information, especially if you're working with a team or want to allow visitors to edit or add to that information, then using wiki software is the way to go. Wiki software allows you to create websites that can be collaboratively edited from the front end.

Wiki Software

Wiki software is a type of content management system (CMS) for websites. You may have heard of other popular CMSes like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. Wiki software is similar to those in that it allows you to add, edit, and otherwise manage all your website's text, images, layout, and other content.

What sets wiki software apart from other content management systems is that it enables your website visitors to also add and edit content to your website, without having to login to a backend or dashboard. Depending on the software you use and your settings, you can allow anyone to edit your site, or require visitors to sign up for accounts before they contribute, or only allow members you have approved to contribute.

Wiki Software Uses

Wikipedia is probably the most famous wiki-type website on the web, but there are many other possible applications of wiki software besides creating online encyclopedias.

Wiki software is also often used for:

  • Company intranets
  • Fan websites for books, TV shows, and other works of fiction etc.
  • Schools, colleges, and universities
  • Research centers
  • Software or game FAQs, knowledgebases, and help centers
  • Collaborative websites with information on specialized topics such as gardening or genealogy
  • Catalogues of places, software, recipes, music, groups, organizations, etc.

Any time you want to collaboratively collect and organize information on a website, no matter what the topic or audience, wiki software can help.

Popular Wiki Software

The most well-known wiki software available is MediaWiki, which was originally developed for Wikipedia but is now available as a free and open source download.

However, there are many other wiki software systems available, each with their own features, strengths, and weaknesses.

MediaWiki is most commonly used for public wikis meant to be read and edited by a broad audience. It's designed to be scalable for very large websites using multiple servers, and has a small core which is extendable via thousands of available extensions. While MediaWiki can be extended to serve as a forum or a blog, it's not designed for those uses specifically, and may not be the best software for websites that need them. It is also designed to make all information public, so it isn't the best choice if you need specific permissions for different users.

PhpWiki is another free wiki software application - actually the first one ever written in PHP. While it has a basic, limited core, it's also extendable using plugins. While similar to MediaWiki, it isn't as popular, so it may be difficult to find community support.

DokuWiki is also a PHP-based wiki application, meant for creating documentation by developer teams, workgroups, and small companies. It shares many of the basic features of MediaWiki, but doesn't require a database (it stores information in plain text files instead). It also has built in access controls and authentication connectors that make building an enterprise or private wiki easier. It's extendable via plugins, and you can also offer a “bounty” to request any new features you would like to be added.

PmWikiM is a free, open source alternative to MediaWiki. It's designed to be simple and easy to use by those with little technical expertise. There's no need for a database, since PmWiki stores all its information in plain text files. However, you can set it to use a MySQL or SQLite database via plugins. PmWiki also has a template feature so you can easily change the look of your website.

Which Wiki Software Should You Use?

The wiki software that's right for you will depend on your goals and needs for your website.

While MediaWiki is the defacto standard because it's so well-known, it is primarily developed specifically for use on Wikipedia, and may not be a suitable option for your website. MediaWiki was designed to be just a public wiki, not an all-in-one CMS. If you need other features such as a blog or forum, you might want to use a more general CMS. MediaWiki also may not be suitable for private or enterprise wikis, because it doesn't offer many options for customizing permission levels.

If you're looking for a simple, direct alternative to MediaWiki, DokuWiki is a popular choice with a healthy community for support and development. PmWiki is also a light, simple application that may be a good choice for those with little technical expertise.

Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the primary purpose of using wiki software?

    Most people use this software as a means of organizing information, either for public or private use. Furthermore, it allows others, such as the general public or a particular group, to add information or make changes. The ability to edit on the front end, as well as the back end, makes this type of software unique.

  • What is the best example of a website using wiki software?

    Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has continued to grow, making it the top example of a website using wiki software. This website contains millions of pages of information, all of which can be edited by anybody at any time.

  • Is wiki software only useful for websites that provide public information?

    No. Despite the fact that a wiki based website can be public, such as Wikipedia, many companies use this type of software for internal use. It gives employees a place to share and edit information, all without the need for complex communication and a back end system.

  • What are some other uses for wiki software?

    In addition to private companies, others that rely on this type of software include colleges and universities, research centers, fan websites, and catalogs.

  • What are the most commonly installed wiki software applications?

    There are many types of wiki software to consider, with some of the most popular including: MediaWiki, PmWikiM, DokuWiki, and PhpWiki. These may be among the most popular wiki software applications, but there are others to consider.

  • How much does it cost to use this type of software?

    It depends on the application you select. There are both free and paid options. Free versions do not typically have as many features as those with a fee, however, they may offer more than enough to meet the needs of the admin and users.

  • Which wiki software should you install and use?

    There is no right or wrong answer to this question, as each one offers a unique experience along with powerful features. The best thing you can do is compare the pros, cons, features, and reviews of each one. This will allow you to better understand what the software offers and how it will fit in with what you are trying to accomplish.

  • What are the most important features of wiki software?

    Not everyone is interested in the same experience from wiki software, but there are many features that are important to most people. These include but are not limited to: all in one content management system, blog functionality, forum functionality, and editing capabilities.

  • Are there any extensions and add-ons that can make wiki software more powerful?

    Yes. This depends on the software you are using, but most have extensions and add-ons that provide additional functionality. This allows for more customization, ensuring that the software meets the needs of each user.

  • What type of support is available for wiki software?

    This is determined by the type of assistance you require. If you have questions about downloading and installing, your hosting company may be able to provide support. For questions regarding technical aspects, how to use the software, and features, the software maker is the best place to start. Many companies provide users with access to a support forum, user guides, and other documentation.

  • What is the process of installing wiki software through a hosting account?

    Some hosting companies offer one click installation of wiki software. This allows the user to get started quickly and efficiently, without any technical knowledge. If this is not available, you will be required to download and install the program on your own.

  • What are the server requirements for running wiki software?

    Varying from one software application to the next, you should first understand the requirements before attempting to download. Once you have a clear idea of the server requirements, you can consult with your hosting company to determine if your plan is compatible.

  • What are the security issues associated with wiki software?

    Just the same as any software, choosing a secure application is of utmost important. With wiki software, even though admins have the ability to work on the back end, most of the changes are done on the front end. Even so, these sites can be the target of hackers, so choosing a secure option is ideal.

  • What is the best way to deal with growth?

    Your wiki powered website may grow over time. When choosing wiki software, find an application that can handle your growth requirements. This will ensure that you can continue to add users and content as you see fit, without being forced to make a change to another provider.

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