I examined Wikispaces for a software documentation project – as part of the process of moving material from traditional Word documents to a collaborative web-based format.
After a frustrating exploration of self-hosting with MediaWiki (used by Wikipedia), I decided that I would let someone else install and host the wiki. Wikispaces is very attractive in that it offers a hosted wiki. They have a free plan which is pretty good for most simple wikis, although it must be public, and includes advertising. But for $50/year, you can have a private wiki that is free of advertising. For documentation, I needed a private wiki, because it was only going to be available for users of the application.
Wikispaces is very easy to set up and to customize. It is easy to add new users and set them up. The WYSIWYG editor works well (and this is not always a given with wikis). It is possible to configure the wiki to operate in other major languages. The navigation bar on the left is relatively easy to reconfigure to better reflect the site organization. Page creation, linking, image manipulation: all a breeze. Table manipulation, while possible, is a bit cumbersome. The editor allows wikitext editing as well (this is the internal “language” used by most wiki software).
I started with a basic 80-page document with lots of screen images, and immediately ran into a problem. How to you get a Word document into a wiki so that the formatting remains the same? The only way seemed to require stripping all the formatting (as in a paste to the clipboard), then reapplying it manually within the wiki, and then reinserting all graphic elements one by one. Hmmm….
The second problem involved page organization. If you want to create a complex, nested or hierarchical wiki, then Wikispaces is not for you. As soon as you start to have a lot of pages, the organization becomes quite challenging. In particular, it is desirable, with more material, to organize it in pages and sub-pages, and so on. Although it was possible to simulate this to some degree with manipulation of the navigation bar, the pages themselves remained a single list. I could see a wiki of 100’s of pages becoming unmanageable.
I ended up using a another hosted wiki for my project because of the above two concerns.
Here are the things I like about Wikispaces:
- easy to get started
- easy to use
- intuitive use
- allows private wiki
- easy to edit pages
- easy to manage via hosting
- theme customization
Here are the things I dislike:
- not suited for large wikis
- lack of page hierarchy