Monday, April 6, 2009

Zim: Desktop Wiki

There is a desktop wiki, billed as a "text editor written in Gtk2-Perl which aims to bring the concept of a wiki to your desktop. Every page is saved as a text file with wiki markup. Pages can contain links to other pages, and are saved automatically. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a non-existing page. Pages are ordered in a hierarchical structure that gives it the look and feel of an outliner. This tool is intended to keep track of TODO lists or to serve as a personal scratch book." It is called Zim.

"Zim handles several types of markup, like headings, bullet lists and of course bold, italic and highlighted. This markup is saved as wiki text so you can easily edit it with other editors. Because of the autosave feature you can switch between pages and follow links while editing without worries."

You can embed pictures, it has backlinks, and it allows the use of wiki formatting as well. Text is saved in plain text.

While it is aimed at UNIX, it can be run in Windows. I installed it on a USB drive, using this distribution: Zim for Windows.

Given all the positive press, I was rather disappointed. It is a rather rudimentary implementation of the desktop wiki concept. Its search function is very anemic: no Boolean capabilities, just a search for simple words. The category function is very underdeveloped. It is not suitable for a large amount of data.

It works, but its feature set is very limited. If I were restricted to UNIX, I would still prefer Notebook, which I used between 2003 and 2005. See also the earlier entry on Notebook, Voodoopad, and Wikipedia.[1]

Compared to an application like ConnectedText, it is a rather primitive tool. And it is a huge download. Like so often, I found the hype far outstripped the capabilities of an application written for UNIX or OSX.

1. For an overview of personal desktop wikis, see Personal Wiki and Desktop Wiki.


L. S. Russell Blogger Beta said...

I love Zim. But I found a neat new notetaking software for windows only, called TreeSheets. I like it because it is way flexible...only missing wikiwords, but you can't have it all.

G said...

How does this (and other options eg ConnectedText ) compare to Zotero

cian said...

Different things, really. Zotero is a pretty decent bibliography manager, with excellent import facilities. However for organising/taking notes, its pretty hopeless. Personally I used Zotero for my bibliography, and index into ConnectedText using a BibTex key. This works okay, though I suppose if I had the time I could just import the entire BibTex entry into Connected Text and generate bibliographies with a Python script. Hmm...

MK said...

I intend to write something about Zotero in the future, but I fully agree with your comment. They are different things, and CT is better for note-taking. It would be nice if the two could be integrated.

Thank you very much for your comments.