Zettelkasten Forum


TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki has been mentioned casually a few times on this platform, but IMO it deserves more serious consideration. It is very much like a digital card index system but with the added advantages of links, backlinks, bi-directional links, transclusions, and even a graphical representation of your network of nodes. I wrote a reply to another commenter on the Zettelkasten.de forum.

Comments

  • I've used TiddlyWiki for notes since 2018 and for my Zettelkasten since the beginning of this year.

    TiddlyWiki is commonly explained as a "single-file" wiki, but it can also run in "flat file" mode, where each page/note is a separate and ordinary text file on disk.

    However, with the discussion of software agnosticism, TiddlyWiki presents roughly the same drawback as org-mode. If you use a lot of TiddlyWiki specific features, then the benefit of "normal" text files becomes invalid.

  • @henrikenggaard said:
    However, with the discussion of software agnosticism, TiddlyWiki presents roughly the same drawback as org-mode. If you use a lot of TiddlyWiki specific features, then the benefit of "normal" text files becomes invalid.

    I agree with that, in principle. When I got into setting up a Zettelkasten, I tried several apps, and when I wanted to change app or change computer, I realised the limitations of being locked in, i.e. not software-agnostic and the "nice" features were, well, just that.

    That's when I decided to go for markdown, and, again after checking out a number of apps, opted for VNote as it suited me best. Nevertheless, with those apps I felt uncomfortable using them in the Zk context, I always felt there was something missing in the linking/backlinking, the use/not use of tags, …… In short, I missed the sense of a real network that would provide routes along which I would be able to build a topic AND make serendipitous discoveries.

    Then I stumbled on TiddlyWiki which provides the essential features I had been looking for. It also encourages what @ctietze calls "atomicity" of notes, which I have also come to appreciate as important. TW is also very fast, so @sfast's premise that "If you use a wiki a purely atomistic approach (one thought per Zettel) will slow you down" I certainly do not agree with.

    TW can be considered agnostic because it is an HTML file that can be used in any browser. The only thing is that you cannot get hold of an individual note without exporting it 1st. That's where the node.js implementation to get the individual note file with markup language set-up, which is even more agnostic.

    In any case, if I understand you well you are happy with TW as a Zk tool.

  • I’d don’t use it as a Zettelkasten (use Zettlr) but I do use it as a personal wiki. I usually put the information I want to be able to reference but don’t see as interesting or important enough to put in the Zettelkasten.

  • @Peter Yep, I use it and I'm quite happy with it. However, I don't have much to compare with, since I haven't tried any other tools for working with a Zettelkasten.

  • @henrikenggaard said:
    @Peter Yep, I use it and I'm quite happy with it. However, I don't have much to compare with, since I haven't tried any other tools for working with a Zettelkasten.

    If you stick to the Zettelkasten philosophy then you don't miss anything by using TW; the others, on the contrary, are missing out, IMHO.

  • @Peter said:
    TW is also very fast, so @sfast's premise that "If you use a wiki a purely atomistic approach (one thought per Zettel) will slow you down" I certainly do not agree with.

    I would consider it true though for wiki software in general, just not TiddlyWiki. Tiddlers seem very close to the concept of Zettels and the way navigation is done make them really feel like you are working with a stack of notes rather than wiki pages. I love that last aspect of TiddlyWiki. I am curious though, other than the extensions you mention that can give it a powerful set of features, is there anything else about TiddlyWiki that makes it stand out for use as a Zettelkasten?

  • edited April 20

    I'm glad TiddlyWiki is getting some love. Before I met The Archive, I was doing a lot of productive work within TW. It was enjoyable, productive work. At a fast pace too. I shared a few specific TW's with friends, and they could click through the links in a natural web-browser sort of way.

    It inspired me to make a few "choose your own adventure" info wikis. I haven't followed through with that, because my professional work has been too demanding, but I think it's worth sharing that TW left me with a positive feeling.

    Something TW does that's pretty cool is that when you click a new note, it opens below the previous note you had open, and snaps to it. That way you maintain a scrollable trail of thought breadcrumbs. It wasn't just a gimmick; it was useful, and dare I say—comforting.

    Another thing TW does, that I love, even if it breaks purist ZK thought, is that it has a sidetab area that can house multiple table of contents. Here's an old screenshot of one of my TW's.

    As much as I enjoyed it, I did feel locked-in with the single HTML file. I'm sure there are "plug-ins" and work-arounds that would address my concerns, but it was just a level or two too much for my technical abilities.

    As it was, the "markdown" plug-in, just to use proper markdown forfeited some of the other functionality in TW that I didn't want to give up.

    That's right, TW by default, doesn't use standard markdown, but apparently its own version of markdown where headers are not '###' instead they are '!!!'. Actually, I've gotta say, from a standpoint of making sense, I agree with the markdown choices TW makes, in theory.

    Unfortunately, I don't want to use a format that doesn't have the market share because then you're locked in and your notes just aren't as handy to share with other apps, or other people.

    Again, there is a plug-in for TW to use and recognize standard markdown, but it came at a price of lost functionality, which I can't remember but maybe @Peter knows.

    I'm happy to hear it's being actively developed with the bi-directional backlinking @Peter mentioned in a separate post.

  • I seriously considered TiddlyWiki and variants but decided against it because:

    • single html file rather than one file/note (but I guess that can be changed based on @henrikenggaard 's comment)
    • seemed to require more mouse usage than other systems, and I am a keyboard-only-whenever-possible person
    • the files are unlikely to be easily human-readable, which means some significant lock-in to html systems

    However, with the discussion of software agnosticism, TiddlyWiki presents roughly the same drawback as org-mode. If you use a lot of TiddlyWiki specific features, then the benefit of "normal" text files becomes invalid.

    @henrikenggaard , can you elaborate on the specific features of org-mode that you see as preventing software agnisticism? I'm currently learning org-mode for ZK purposes and want to know if there might be problems. Is it just the non-standard link syntax? I figure that if I ever want to transition away from org-mode, I can just use a regex to fix all the links in all of my notes at once. Is that wrong?

  • edited April 21

    @grayen said:
    I am curious though, other than the extensions you mention that can give it a powerful set of features, is there anything else about TiddlyWiki that makes it stand out for use as a Zettelkasten?

    Have you read my reply to henrikenggaard that I linked to in my original comment at the top of this page? Here it is again Zettelkasten.de forum

    You should also read @nickmilo22's comment above.

  • edited April 21

    seemed to require more mouse usage than other systems, and I am a keyboard-only-whenever-possible person

    @cobblepot I really dislike this aspect of TiddlyWiki. It is unfortunately not very keyboard friendly -- some things do require mouse use and many things are possible but not pleasant with the keyboard. I kinda wish I had the time to add the feature myself.

    I'm currently learning org-mode for ZK purposes and want to know if there might be problems. Is it just the non-standard link syntax? I figure that if I ever want to transition away from org-mode, I can just use a regex to fix all the links in all of my notes at once. Is that wrong?

    If you just use org-mode as a markup format, then it should be fairly simple to switch if needed. But org has much more than just markup: tables, spreadsheets, calendar/planner, to-dos. I think they will be more involved to change.

    All of this exists on a continuum. To some, the syntax not being markdown is a deal-breaker, for others it is solved with some regular expressions. For some a missing feature is a deal breaker, for others it is a matter of programming the missing feature themselves.

  • @nickmilo22 said:
    As much as I enjoyed it, I did feel locked-in with the single HTML file. I'm sure there are "plug-ins" and work-arounds that would address my concerns, but it was just a level or two too much for my technical abilities.

    I understand your concern, and it is mine too. I have had to change computer a few times in the past 5 years, and also Zettelkasten app, and not having a generally accepted file format was extremely annoying and frustrating, time-consuming to correct.

    OTOH, what I have come to realise is that there is no perfect app for Zettelkasten work. Every one I tried and/or seriously looked at had some essential features lacking. The TW features that I mentioned (Zettelkasten.de forum) and the additional ones you mention, all combined, made me decide that hey, HTML is usable in every modern browser so from that point of view one is not locked in with TW, so I'll take it. And I can tell you that my joy of setting up a Zettelkasten (still transcribing some notes) and using it has actually become a joy.

    As it was, the "markdown" plug-in, just to use proper markdown forfeited some of the other functionality in TW that I didn't want to give up.

    That's right, TW by default, doesn't use standard markdown, but apparently its own version of markdown where headers are not '###' instead they are '!!!'. Actually, I've gotta say, from a standpoint of making sense, I agree with the markdown choices TW makes, in theory.

    Unfortunately, I don't want to use a format that doesn't have the market share because then you're locked in and your notes just aren't as handy to share with other apps, or other people.

    Again, there is a plug-in for TW to use and recognize standard markdown, but it came at a price of lost functionality, which I can't remember but maybe @Peter knows.

    One of the choices I made after Evernote, OneNote, Cherrytree, and some other apps, is to go for markdown. That was a good step because I have been able to drop MS Word too.

    TW has just been upgraded from 5.1.21 to 5.1.22 and its markdown support has improved a lot. I installed the plug-in, but decided that Md is just an appendix, as it were, so who knows if its functionality will always be well supported with future updates. Besides, if you really consider it, TW's mark-up language is not that much different from Md so I am quite happy to use it.

    I'm happy to hear it's being actively developed with the bi-directional backlinking @Peter mentioned in a separate post.

    It seems to me you should reconsider it for Zk work, at least.

  • edited April 21

    @cobblepot said:
    I seriously considered TiddlyWiki and variants but decided against it because:

    • single html file rather than one file/note (but I guess that can be changed based on @henrikenggaard 's comment)

    You can run TW on Node.js with one file/note, and this is one of the routes that TW specifically supports.
    TiddlyWiki on Node.js
    Installing TiddlyWiki on Node.js

    • seemed to require more mouse usage than other systems, and I am a keyboard-only-whenever-possible person

    I also like to use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible, yet I have not felt that TW requires more mouse action, but maybe that's just me; as they say: YMMV.

    • the files are unlikely to be easily human-readable, which means some significant lock-in to html systems

    I don't understand what you mean by that. If you open the HTML file in your browser, or in TWDesktop, it is perfectly readable.

    However, with the discussion of software agnosticism, TiddlyWiki presents roughly the same drawback as org-mode. If you use a lot of TiddlyWiki specific features, then the benefit of "normal" text files becomes invalid.

    @cobblepot: please direct me to an app that has all the Zk-worthy features @nickmilo22 and I mention for TW and that does not have a vendor-unique file format - TW's HTML format is not vendor-unique. Or, if you have figured out org-mode and decided it meets those criteria, please let me know and why it is superior.

    BTW, do you remember your telling me off with "don't rain on my thread"? I just want to let you know that I don't mind you criticising the app I opened a thread for. I believe everyone should be able to express his/her opinion, whether supportive or criticising, it only contributes to a healthy, open, and honest discussion ;-))

    Post edited by Peter on
  • @Peter said:

    However, with the discussion of software agnosticism, TiddlyWiki presents roughly the same drawback as org-mode. If you use a lot of TiddlyWiki specific features, then the benefit of "normal" text files becomes invalid.

    cobblepot: please direct me to an app that has all the Zk-worthy features nickmilo22 and I mention for TW and that does not have a vendor-unique file format - TW's HTML format is not vendor-unique. Or, if you have figured out org-mode and decided it meets those criteria, please let me know and why it is superior.

    It was me who was quoted in cobblepot's post, so I'll just inject myself here :smile: The thing I am getting at (and I think @cobblepot is concerned with the same), is that some features don't exist everywhere and if you depend on those features, then you also depend on that program for your workflow. It is a "less is more" kind of situation.

  • @Peter said:

    @cobblepot said:

    • the files are unlikely to be easily human-readable, which means some significant lock-in to html systems

    I don't understand what you mean by that. If you open the HTML file in your browser, or in TWDesktop, it is perfectly readable.

    That's true; I was thinking about reading them in plain-text form, but HTML is likely pretty future-proof.

    @cobblepot: please direct me to an app that has all the Zk-worthy features > BTW, do you remember your telling me off with "don't rain on my thread"? I just want to let you know that I don't mind you criticising the app I opened a thread for. I believe everyone should be able to express his/her opinion, whether supportive or criticising, it only contributes to a healthy, open, and honest discussion ;-))

    Sorry, I think my intended tone was completely miscommunicated here. I wasn't trying to rain on your parade at all; I honestly did think about TW for a long time and was just giving my feedback to see what others had to say about it.

    I will make one thing clear however: I am absolutely open-minded and extremely welcoming of objections and feedback. The only reason I objected to your comment in that old thread (which I had actually forgotten about until you mentioned it) was that there it seemed to me that you were telling people that there was no point in having a discussion because everyone was going to come to their own conclusion. And I didn't want to stop the discussion, I wanted others to continue to help me figure out how to create a great ZK. Later you said that was not what you meant, and I promptly forgot about it!

  • @henrikenggaard said:
    @cobblepot I really dislike this aspect of TiddlyWiki. It is unfortunately not very keyboard friendly -- some things do require mouse use and many things are possible but not pleasant with the keyboard. I kinda wish I had the time to add the feature myself.

    OK, glad to get confirmation - that's a total deal-breaker for me.

    If you just use org-mode as a markup format, then it should be fairly simple to switch if needed. But org has much more than just markup: tables, spreadsheets, calendar/planner, to-dos. I think they will be more involved to change.

    Good to know. I'm not very worried because I don't plan to use the more complex aspects in my ZK. And if I do, well, it's sort of on me - certainly a paper ZK wouldn't have allowed those features, so why should I complain if I can use them in org-mode but not elsewhere?

  • @henrikenggaard said:
    @cobblepot I really dislike this aspect of TiddlyWiki. It is unfortunately not very keyboard friendly -- some things do require mouse use and many things are possible but not pleasant with the keyboard. I kinda wish I had the time to add the feature myself.

    There are preset keyboard shortcuts, and it is possible to define customised shortcuts.

  • @Peter said:
    There are preset keyboard shortcuts, and it is possible to define customised shortcuts.

    Are there ways to navigate between tiddlers, open links and such? I haven't found something which is actually an improvement over just using the mouse.

  • edited April 21

    @cobblepot said:
    Sorry, I think my intended tone was completely miscommunicated here. I wasn't trying to rain on your parade at all; I honestly did think about TW for a long time and was just giving my feedback to see what others had to say about it.

    I did not see your comment as raining on my parade, on the contrary, I was happy you gave your views about TW.

    I will make one thing clear however: I am absolutely open-minded and extremely welcoming of objections and feedback. The only reason I objected to your comment in that old thread (which I had actually forgotten about until you mentioned it) was that there it seemed to me that you were telling people that there was no point in having a discussion because everyone was going to come to their own conclusion. And I didn't want to stop the discussion, I wanted others to continue to help me figure out how to create a great ZK. Later you said that was not what you meant, and I promptly forgot about it!

    True, you did say that, and I explained that that was not my intention at all.
    Anyhow, it is best to forget about the whole "raining affair", esp. since we are essentially on the same page.

    BTW, another point I mentioned to @henrikenggaard above is that there are preset keyboard shortcuts in TW, and you can set customised ones to your heart's delight.

    There are many amazing plug-ins available that further enhance Zettelkasten work. For example there is Freelinks, which "adds automatic generation of links to tiddler (= note) titles" on the basis of words in the note content and note titles. In other words, Freelinks identifies links you did not realise there were.

    Then there is Uni-Link Alias with which you can have a note that can be referenced with various different words instead of having to type the full link each time you want to refer to that specific note.

    I understand the issue of "If you use a lot of TiddlyWiki specific features, then the benefit of "normal" text files becomes invalid", I have addressed that. Basically, one has to balance a tool's usability and comfort vs its practicality in terms of lock-in, because no tool is perfect.

    I believe TW offers an optimal balance in the context of Zk work. Right now I only use TW for that. There is 1 competitor that many people are raving about (not in the Zk context): Roam Research. Roam can be considered the next generation note-taking app, blowing the likes of "benchmarks" Evernote and OneNote out of the water. I have not tried it, but it seems it could also be good as a Zk. There is, however, 1 huge drawback as far as I am concerned: lack of privacy. It is web-based only but without end-to-end encryption. A show stopper for me.

  • @henrikenggaard said:
    Are there ways to navigate between tiddlers, open links and such? I haven't found something which is actually an improvement over just using the mouse.

    Not preset, but you can customise. BTW, have you joined the forum on Google Groups? If not, you definitely should. The community is very knowledgeable, helpful, and active.

  • TW is also very fast, so @sfast's premise that "If you use a wiki a purely atomistic approach (one thought per Zettel) will slow you down" I certainly do not agree with.

    To clarify: "Fast" does not refer to the speed of the software. One part of the reason is that you need to perform one extra click per page to edit if you use a wiki. That extra click is a cost that lowers what I call speed.

    When I talk about the speed of software I am using it as a loaded term that includes cognitive costs, number of necessary actions to perform a task etc.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    To clarify: "Fast" does not refer to the speed of the software. One part of the reason is that you need to perform one extra click per page to edit if you use a wiki. That extra click is a cost that lowers what I call speed.

    What "extra" click do you mean?

  • @Peter I think he means that if you separate viewing the content from editing them, this requires an action from you to change to the editor, which is almost always the case for wikis, while many Zettelkasten software don't make this distinction, you view the contents within the editor by default. I personally like the hybrid approach the best, where by default you see things rendered in viewing mode, but when you put your cursor at that position it changes to it raw editor form.

  • @grayen: OK, that makes sense, thank you. I have to agree with @sfast's observation, although I do not perceive it as a "slowdown", I think the term is exaggerated.

    I also prefer the hybrid approach, such as in e.g. Typora, because I think markdown apps that do not have a viewing mode have an ugly UI with all the markdown visible all the time. But that is personal, like the "slowdown" issue is.

  • @grayen: OK, that makes sense, thank you. I have to agree with @sfast's observation, although I do not perceive it as a "slowdown", I think the term is exaggerated.

    What would be a non-exaggerating term for a trait that makes the app (in conjunction with its handler) slower?

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    What would be a non-exaggerating term for a trait that makes the app (in conjunction with its handler) slower?

    If @grayen's explanation of your comment is correct (only you can confirm that), then just 1 extra click to toggle between Read mode and Edit mode does NOT make an app in and of itself slower. A slow app is one that is slow to react to the clicks, or to launch, or to fetch a file.

    Having to execute an extra click is a slowdown of perhaps 0.5 sec. or less for the user. Yes, that's a "slowdown", but to present that as a "drawback" of a Wiki is an exaggeration, IMHO.

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