The title says it all. Currently, my front runners are MediaWiki, which runs on PHP/MySQL (and is what wikipedia is built on) and MoinMoin, which appears to run on Python.

Both seem to get good reviews, though I’m currently leaning towards MediaWiki, since I know a little php/mysql.

So, my questions:
1. Am I missing some great wiki software in my list?
2. Do either or both of these support some sort of export (I’m always concerned about my data)?
3. Are they relatively easy and quick to set up and maintain? I don’t have time to fuss (and if I do, I prefer to fuss over keeping Wordherders running and up-to-date).

Thanks for any suggestions and/or comments…

Useful article reviewing various wiki software packages.


11 Responses to Wiki Software Suggestions?

  1. Matt K. says:

    We’re using PmWiki for the nora project. I don’t know much about wikis so that’s about all I can tell you, but the person charged with setting it up picked that one after reviewing all of the options.

  2. Walter says:

    I used MediaWiki for a while on Ludonauts. I don’t really know PHP/MySQL, but I know how to program so I was able to do various customizations to it.

    I might have been missing something, but I basically felt that MediaWiki was incredibly unfriendly to customizations. For one thing, you have to root around everywhere to find what you want to change. Second, since upgrades are performed simply by installing the new build on top of the old one, I’m sure that all of your customizations will get lost…forcing you to dig around again (and there’s tons of stuff to dig around in with little help from documentation, so it never gets much easier).

    I don’t think MediaWiki offered an export feature.

    My recommendation is to go with a much simpler wiki platform (I’m looking around for one to use myself), but if you’re still interested in MediaWiki, give it a test run. If you think you’d want to change something about it, figure out how to do it, and whether you can upgrade without undoing your changes.

  3. Jason says:

    Thanks Matt for the PMWiki suggestion – I’ll take a look at it. What, though, are the implications of *not* having a database backend?

    Walter – much obliged for the experienced perspective on MediaWiki. I don’t need the wiki to get up and fly, make toast, and rub my feet, so it sounds like MediaWiki might be more than I need.

    Mostly, I’m finding that the blog is troublesome for pieces of my dissertation (and other projects) that I want to keep updating and extending as time goes on, since it’s so heavily tied to *dates*. So, for example, I’d use the wiki to keep a running play-journal page detailing why I’m hating Knights of the Old Republic 2, instead of several dated posts on the blog.

    I would like the option of password protecting sections (or the whole thing), since it’s more of a work-in-progress project than a post-for-the-world-to-see project.

    So, if you find a simpler wiki platform that can manage those simple tasks, let me know, eh?

    Thanks —

  4. G Zombie says:

    I have MediaWiki running on my Powerbook, and I found it very easy to set up and use. I have not, however, figured out how to customize any of it. You are smarter and more patient than me when it comes to figuring such things out, so you might have an easier time of it.

  5. Matt K. says:


    You might also ping Matt Bowen, who comes to the digeratti gatherings. Matt’s a wiki wiz.

  6. Our comments were temporarily broken, so Jeremy was kind enough to email the following ‘rejected’ comment:

    I use mediawiki for what you say you want to do and i have a private
    wiki related to that, and i’m getting reading to launch a collaboration zone with mediawiki too. I also use it for quite a few other things work related. while the current version is perhaps not the simplest to customize, the beta uses the new skin system apparently, and that solves most of those problems. One issue with mediawiki is that it does not have fine grained permissions, so someone either has access to a page via whitelist or not. that I think it is its sole failing.

    the great thing about mediawiki is that the whole thing is just a big
    database and it is saved in sql, so you can export it to anything with
    a little scripting.

    other ones to consider are twiki based in perl, pmwiki which is php,
    instwiki which is ruby. i know people that use each one, and depending on your talents, nearly anything can be successful.

  7. Matt Bowen says:

    I don’t know if I can claim the title of Wiz or even guru, but I can tell you what I know. I’ve used four different Wiki options: MoinMoin, MoniWiki, PhpWiki, and Emacs Wiki Mode. I’ve also played with media wiki and usemod, but I’ve never set them up formally. I don’t know much about your dissertation, so I can’t target this very well, but I’ll tell you what I know about each.

    If you’re looking for software that lets you do easy hyperlinking between your own documents, simple formatting with a kind markup, version control, and easy web-publishing of sections of your material, but you don’t care about other people being able to directly edit your stuff (e.g. you’d just like to display portions of your web as static web pages), Emacs Wiki Mode is really the easiest. Assuming you have emacs or can get it installed easily, you just put the lisp file in your directory, add a line to your emacs .rc and you’re good to go. Version control is handled elegantly through RCS (which is like CVS for any type of file), all your files are stored as plain ascii text in a directory, and then you can use meta commands to publish either the whole wiki or individual pages. I do a lot of my own writing that way and then just publish the more interesting parts as static web pages. There is a way to make it a full wiki with editing, but that’s a bear.

    Otherwise, I’m a big MoinMoin fan — if you have python and root privileges on your server. Moin saves all your files as plain text to a directory and does backups of every version. The files themselves are flat text files with the wiki markup in them. If you want to convert them to some other format you could write a simple perl/python script and make them some XML format for later re-conversion. I’m sort-of working on this sort of thing now, but not very quickly. There’s also a way of exporting printer friendly versions of each page which gives you a nice HTML version of everything without headers. Customization isn’t too bad; the Wiki comes with several themes and almost all aspects of the look and feel are controlled via CSS. If you want something fancier, you’d have to dig around the python source, but it’s doable without much knowledge of python (e.g. I got rid of back-linking and added a “Discuss Page” feature having just started python). Also, new features are available as modules and there’s a market for new feature modules in the Moin community. As for fine grained access control, you have a few options. If you have root on your server, you can just chmod the files you don’t want anyone to be able to edit. It’s not elegant, but it’s certainly effective. Otherwise, there’s an Access Control List feature that you can enable that gives you granular control over your pages (you can give specific users or groups of users rights to admin, edit, read, etc). All in all it’s not a bad wiki. If you have root, install is a breeze — if you’re using Linux, you can usually just get either an rpm or an ebuild and it just sort of works from there. Otherwise you can work from the tarball and it’s still not too bad. If you’re installing on someone else’s server though (the way I did for and, things can be sort-of tricky; there are good instructions, but I had to make some symbolic links and change some permissions that didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. It felt a little like Voodoo, but it worked in the end.

    MoniWiki is an implementation of MoinMoin in PHP. It supports most of the same basic features, and theming is easy. It uses RCS for version control, however, which can be a problem if you run your PHP in a very secure mode; where MoinMoin does its own backups of versions, Moni uses an external program which your PHP might not allow. There’s no good way around this, and all the help is in Korean, so unless you really love Moin and don’t have python, I’d shy away. There’s a working example at

    As for PHP wiki, I’ve only scratched the surface. It allows you to either save versions of pages as flat-files like Moin and Moni or use a database the way MediaWiki can, and it has a lot of themes that can be changed via CSS. It doesn’t really support access control lists, which is a bit of pain if you care about such things, but it is easy to get running; if you PHP is configured correctly, you just drop the files in a directory, run a script and you’re good to go with the basics.

    For simple projects, I’ve always seen MediaWiki as somewhat overkill. The W3C and a lot of other organizations use MoinMoin for their project pages, and MediaWiki has a lot of functionality and complexity that no one but Wikipedians really need. Also, having a database back-end adds the complexity of having a database running on your server and having to worry about that too. I’m probably a little biased though — people seem to get religious about their Wikis, and I’m sure I’m not immune.

    Alright, I think that’s probably more than anyone wanted to know, so I’ll stop writing now. Good luck!

  8. Jason says:

    Matt – wow, thanks. There’s a lot to digest there, but (as I mentioned in my email to you) I’m glad to get a positive review of MoinMoin, which I find quite appealing. Mostly, now, I think I need to review the security options for both MoinMoin and MediaWiki, though I think I can probably just slap an .htaccess on if I really get too worried about it.

    Lots to think on here – seems like I’m still bouncing MoinMoin and Mediawiki as options, but right now I’m leaning towards Moin…

  9. Jan Steinman says:

    I’ll echo the pain of customizing MediaWiki, but have been able to do so non the less.

    I’m using it for a membership organization, and easily hacked the user database to include full membership info — address, phone, etc. I also hacked Special:Listusers to show some of this information, making it MUCH more useful to members.

    I was drawn to it because of its support of multi media. it is quite simple to include images, sounds, QuickTime movies, etc. InterWiki links to WikiPedia (and spin-offs) are a great thing, too.

    Because it does not rely on CamelCase, it takes some heat from other wiki proponents, but I see it as their problem that they are LIMITED to CamelCase, not the other way around. One can easily make CamelCase links in MediaWiki, but one can make arbitrary links as well, which might be a consideration for a dissertation wiki — plus, easy linking to WikiPedia.

  10. Wang Jian says:

    I have used mediawiki and moinmoin a while. I use moinmoin to manage development docs for its ACL, and I use wikimedia with a .htaccess to manage my own docs. My opinions are

    1. I like mediawiki for it’s visual appeal, and some of it syntax, for example [[wikiname]]. I think mediawiki’s syntax is more practical. Also, mediawiki supports editing by section/subsection, while moinmoin only supports editing by page, that is not good when page is very large.

    2. I like moinmoin’s ACL, it is powerful. But moinmoin’s authentication system should be improved. It is hard to integrated into other systems. Mediawiki’s access control is weak.

    3. moinmoin’s data/underlay structure is very good for backup and management, and is where the strengh comes for I18N. Because the revisions are store as flat files, you can easily do automation, for example, you can store a PO file and translate it in moinmoin! mediawiki’s database backend is really a drawback in this area.

    4. mediawiki can be used to establish a web site, but moinmoin hardly fits the need.

    I just think out the above, actually, I think there are many areas I have opinion, but at this time I can’t make them out.
    I wish moinmoin can get the merit from mediawiki, or mediawiki can get merit from moinmoin.

  11. Jason says:

    Thanks to both Jan and Wang for your comments. Sorry they lingered in the approval queue for so long (they got lost in the midst of a spam attack).

    I’ve played with PMWiki some, but am less happy with its user system (it doesn’t really have any). MediaWiki appeals to me for its section editing, which looks quite powerful, while MoinMoin appeals to me for its backend (no database).

    I think I’m leaning towards MediaWiki b/c of the section editing, b/c of its power for managing dissertation ideas. Still not sure though.

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