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From Wikipedia: "a wiki is a type of Web site that allows users to add and edit content and is especially suited for constructive collaborative authoring." What this means is a wiki allows you to keep and edit your documentation in a central location. You can access and edit that documentation regardless of the platform you are using. All you need is a Web browser. Some wikis have the ability to keep track of each revision of a changed document, so you can revert to a previous version if some errant changes are made to a document. The only obstacle a new user must overcome is learning the particular markup language of your wiki, and sometimes even this is not completely necessary.

One of a wiki's features is also one of its drawbacks. Wikis are pretty free flowing, and although this allows you to concentrate on getting the documentation written quickly, it can make organization of your wiki rapidly spiral out of control. Thought needs to be put into how the wiki is organized, so that topics do not get stranded or lost. I have found that making the front page a table of contents of all the topics is very handy. However you decide to organize your wiki, make sure it is well understood by everyone else. In fact, a good first document might be the policy describing the organization of the wiki!

TWiki enables simple form-based web applications, without programming, and granular access control (though it can also operate in the classic 'no authentication' mode). Other enhancements include configuration variables, embedded searches, server side includes, file attachments and a plugin API that has spawned over 150 plugins to link into databases, create charts, sort tables, write spreadsheets, make drawings, track Extreme Programming projects and so on. The main scripts are written in Perl.

TWiki Features

In addition to the typical collaboration and editing capabilities found in all Wiki installations, TWiki provides:
  • Full text search with/without regular expressions.
  • Automatic email notification when something has changed in a TWiki web.
  • File attachments: Upload and download any file as an attachment to a page.
  • Revision control: All changes to pages and attachments are tracked.
  • Access control, including the ability to define groups and impose fine grained read and write access restrictions based on groups and users.
  • Variables (for dynamic composition of pages).
  • Server side Plugin modules
  • A flexible templating system that separates program logic and presentation.
  • "Skins"
  • Support for tabular data; table rows can be added trivially, without using the Edit capability.
  • Pages can be edited, renamed, moved or deleted through the browser.
  • Web based user registration and change of password.
  • Three levels of preferences: site-level, web-level, and user-level.
  • Topic locking: To prevent contention, users are warned if a page is being edited by an other person.

TWiki now has a modern look and feel with its default 'skin'. It is fully skinnable and can be used to create modern-looking Wiki sites. It includes reasonably good support for Internationalization ('I18N'), with support for UTF-8 URLs and planned support for UTF-8.

The ease of its revision control and the availability of Access control lists makes TWiki especially suited for corporate wiki sites. Major features:


TWiki's benefits are:

The most current stable release at this time is Cairo, or TWiki20040904. It was released, as the name suggests, on September 4, 2004, and it has been proven to be very stable. However, it does lack some of the features of the current beta release, Dakar, that I find to be very useful. The Dakar release we use here is TWikiRelease2005x12x17x7873beta.

Installing TWiki is relatively easy, but still needs work. I hope, as the beta progresses, we will see improvements in ease of installation and upgrading along with clearer documentation.

First, you must create the directory where you want to install TWiki, say /var/www/wiki. Next, untar the TWiki distribution in that directory. Then you must make sure that the user with rights to run CGI scripts (usually apache or www-data), owns all of the files and is able to write to all files:

# install -d -o apache /var/www/wiki # cd /var/www/wiki # tar zxf /path/to/TWikiRelease2005x12x17x7873beta.tgz # cp bin/LocalLib.cfg.txt bin/LocalLib.cfg # vi bin/LocalLib.cfg lib/LocalSite.cfg # chown -R apache * # chmod -R u+w *

Now copy bin/LocalLib.cfg.txt to bin/LocalLib.cfg, and edit it. You need to edit the $twikiLibPath variable to point to the absolute path of your TWiki lib directory, /var/www/wiki/lib in our case. You also must create lib/LocalSite.cfg to reflect your specific site information. Here is a sample of what might go into LocalSite.cfg:

# This is LocalSite.cfg. It contains all the setups for your local # TWiki site. $cfg{DefaultUrlHost} = ""; $cfg{ScriptUrlPath} = "/wiki/bin"; $cfg{PubUrlPath} = "/wiki/pub"; $cfg{DataDir} = "/var/www/wiki/data"; $cfg{PubDir} = "/var/www/wiki/pub"; $cfg{TemplateDir} = "/var/www/wiki/templates"; $TWiki::cfg{LocalesDir} = '/var/www/wiki/locale'; 

Here is a sample section for your Apache configuration file that allows this wiki to run:

 ScriptAlias /wiki/bin/ "/var/www/wiki/bin/" Alias /wiki "/var/www/localhost/wiki" <Directory "/var/www/wiki/bin"> Options +ExecCGI -Indexes SetHandler cgi-script AllowOverride All Allow from all </Directory> <Directory "/var/www/wiki/pub"> Options FollowSymLinks +Includes AllowOverride None Allow from all </Directory> <Directory "/var/www/wiki/data"> deny from all </Directory> <Directory "/var/www/wiki/lib"> deny from all </Directory> <Directory "/var/www/wiki/templates"> deny from all </Directory>

TWiki comes with a configure script that you run to set up TWiki. This script is used not only on initial install but also when you want to enable plugins later. At this point, you are ready to configure TWiki, so point your browser to your TWiki configure script, You might be particularly interested in the Security section, but we will visit this shortly. Until you have registered your first user, you should leave all settings as they are. If the configure script gives any warnings or errors, you should fix those first and re-run the script. Once you click Next, you are prompted to enter a password. This password is used whenever the configure script is run in the future to help ensure no improper access.

Once you have completed the configuration successfully, it is time to enter the wiki. Point your browser to, and you are presented with the Main web. In the middle of the page is a link for registration. Register yourself as a user. Be sure to provide a valid e-mail address as the software uses it to validate your account. Once you have verified your user account, you need to add yourself to the TWikiAdminGroup. Return to the Main web and click on the Groups link at the left, and then choose the TWikiAdminGroup. Edit this page, and change the GROUP variable to include your new user name:


The three blank spaces at the beginning of each of those lines are critical.

These two lines add your user to the TWikiAdminGroup and allow only members of the TWikiAdminGroup to modify the group. We are now ready to enable authentication for our wiki, so go back to Several options provided under the Security section are useful. You should make sure the options {UseClientSessions} and {Sessions}{UseIPMatching} are enabled. Also set the {LoginManager} option to TWiki::Client::TemplateLogin and {PasswordManager} to TWiki::Users::HtPasswdUser. If your server supports it, you should set {HtPasswd}{Encoding} to sha1. Save your changes and return to the wiki. If you are not logged in automatically, there is a link at the top left of the page that allows you to do so.

Now that you have authentication working, you may want to tighten down your wiki so that unauthorized people do not turn your documentation repository into an illicit data repository. TWiki has a pretty sophisticated authorization system that is tiered from the site-wide preferences all the way down to a specific topic. Before locking down the Main web, a few more tasks need to be done. Once only certain users can change the Main web, registering new users will fail. That is because part of the user registration process involves creating a topic for that user under the Main web. Dakar has a user, TWikiRegistrationAgent, that is used to do this. From the Main web, use the Jump box at the top left to jump to the WebPreferences topic. Edit the topic to include the following four lines and save your changes:


This allows only members of the TWikiAdminGroup to make changes or rename the Main web or update the Main web's preferences. It also allows the TWikiRegistrationAgent user to create new users' home topics when new users register. I have included a patch that you must apply to lib/TWiki/UI/ as well. The patch follows, but you can also download the patch from the LJ FTP site (see the on-line Resources):

--- lib/TWiki/UI/ 2006-01-04 01:34:48.968947681 -0600 +++ lib/TWiki/UI/ 2006-01-04 01:35:48.999652157 -0600 @@ -828,11 +828,12 @@ my $userName = $data->{remoteUser} || $data->{WikiName}; my $user = $session->{users}->findUser( $userName ); + my $agent = $session->{users}->findUser( $twikiRegistrationAgent ); $text = $session->expandVariablesOnTopicCreation( $text, $user ); $meta->put( 'TOPICPARENT', { 'name' => $TWiki::cfg{UsersTopicName}} ); - $session->{store}->saveTopic($user, $data->{webName}, + $session->{store}->saveTopic($agent, $data->{webName}, $data->{WikiName}, $text, $meta ); return $log; } 

Otherwise, new users' home directories will fail to be created and new user registration will fail. Once you have verified that the Main web is locked down, you should do the same for the TWiki and Sandbox webs.

When you are done configuring TWiki, you should secure the files' permissions:

# find /var/www/wiki/ -type d -exec chmod 0755 {} ';' # find /var/www/wiki/ -type f -exec chmod 0400 {} ';' # find /var/www/wiki/pub/ -type f -exec chmod 0600 {} ';' # find /var/www/wiki/data/ -type f -exec chmod 0600 {} ';' # find /var/www/wiki/lib/LocalSite.cfg -exec chmod 0600 {} ';' # find /var/www/wiki/bin/ -type f -exec chmod 0700 {} ';' # chown -R apache /var/www/wiki/*

As I mentioned before, TWiki has a plugin system that you can use. Many plugins are available from the TWiki Web site. Be sure the plugins you choose have been updated for Dakar before you use them.

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Last modified: July 07, 2013