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SoyWiki

SoyWiki is lightweight application that turns Vim into a fast and powerful wiki.

A quick overview of its characteristics and features:

  • flat text files
  • maximum data portability
  • high interoperability with Unix tools
  • Vim text editing power
  • super-efficient modes of wiki traversal
  • Git for versioning, distributed workflows, and blaming
  • CamelCase wiki words
  • namespaced wiki words
  • autocompletion of wiki words
  • automated global renaming of wiki words
  • syntax colored wiki words
  • outliner-like capability with expansion commands
  • operates on all POSIX systems (e.g. OS X, Linux, FreeBSD)

SoyWiki builds on Vim's strengths as a text editor and interface to the Unix operating system, SoyWiki makes it possible to create, navigate, and refactor wiki content at the speed of thought.

SoyWiki is good for tracking projects, contacts, ideas, and collecting and organizing research. SoyWiki combines the affordances of notebooks, index cards, and Post-it notes, and adds to them the power of hyperlinks and automatic indexing.

SoyWiki makes a great writing aid, especially if you do your writing in Vim. You can have SoyWiki open in multiple Vim windows, tabs, and buffers, alongside any number of regular Vim windows. Throw in a bunch of Vim abbreviations (:help abbreviations), a large monitor, and a teapot, and you'll have your paper, essay, book, or screenplay written in record time.

SoyWiki is free and open source.

Prerequisites

  • a recent version of Vim (SoyWiki is developed against Vim 7.2 and 7.3)
  • a recent version of Ruby (SoyWiki is developed using Ruby 1.9.2)
  • RubyGems (if Ruby version is older than 1.9)
  • a recent version of Git (1.7.0.4 or above to be safe)

The current version of SoyWiki assumes a Unix environment.

To use SoyWiki you should be fairly good at using Vim.

Installation

gem install soywiki

Test your installation by typing soywiki -h. You should see SoyWiki's help.

On some systems you may run into a PATH issue, where the system can't find the soywiki command after installation. Please report this if you encounter this problem, and mention what system you're using. You might want to try

sudo gem install soywiki

If you ever want to uninstall SoyWiki from your system, execute this command:

gem uninstall soywiki

... and all traces of SoyWiki will removed.

New and improved versions of SoyWiki will be released over time. To install the latest version, just type gem install soywiki again.

Starting SoyWiki

Before you start SoyWiki, create a directory that will hold your wiki files and cd into it. Then you can start SoyWiki with

soywiki

You can make as many SoyWiki wikis on your system as you want just by creating directories for them. It's not a good idea however to nest SoyWiki wiki directories within each other, for reasons that will become clear below.

To use MacVim as your SoyWiki Vim engine, you can run soywiki like this

SOYWIKI_VIM=mvim soywiki

or you can export SOYWIKI_VIM=mvim in your ~/.bash_profile and then just run soywiki.

Basic usage

For basic use, SoyWiki works exactly like a typical wiki.

You write text, and when you want to create a new wiki page, you come up with a WikiWord for it and format it in CamelCase. The WikiLink you just typed will automatically be syntax-highlighted, and pressing ENTER on it will take you to the new page. Creating WikiWords and pressing ENTER on them is the main way of linking wiki pages together. You'll be surprised at how powerful this simple mechanism is for organizing your notes.

That's all you need to know to get started.

Wiki navigation

Because SoyWiki is not just wiki but also a Vim program, it lets you work a lot faster and with more economy than browser-based wikis.

You can navigate a SoyWiki wiki very quickly with the following commands.

  • CTRL-n and CTRL-p move the cursor directly to the next or previous WikiLink on the page
  • ENTER follows the WikiLink under the cursor
  • ,f follows the first WikiLink after the cursor
  • ,- opens a WikiLink in a split window
  • ,| does the same, but in a vertical split window

You can also use Vim's jump motions CTRL-o and CTRL-i to move back and forth in your jump history. See :help jump-motions for more on this. You can press CTRL-^ to toggle between the current page and the last page you looked at.

You can view all the pages in your wiki, most recently modified first, by press ,m. This opens both a page list and autocompletion window. You can use the standard Vim autocompletion commands here to find the page you want and call it up. See Vim's :help ins-completion-menu for further instructions.

When you're on a wiki page and you want to see all the other wiki pages that link in to it, press ,M. If there is only one page that links in, you'll be taken there automatically.

,o opens the first normal web hyperlink -- the ones that begin with http:// or https:// -- on or after the cursor in your default web browser.

Under the covers, SoyWiki uses the command gnome-open or open to launch your web browser. This should cover Linux Gnome desktop and OS X users. You can change the command SoyWiki uses to open a hyperlink by adding this to your ~/.vimrc:

let g:SoyWiki#browser_command = "your browser command here"

If your Vim has netrw, you can open a hyperlink directly in same Vim window by putting the cursor at the beginning of a hyperlink and typing gf, or C-w f if you want to open the webpage in a split window. See :help netrw for more information.

WikiLink autocompletion

When you're writing a wiki page and you want to link to another page, SoyWiki can help you autocomplete your WikiLink. Press CTRL-x CTRL-u in Vim insert mode to invoke it.

Wiki refactoring

You can rename a wiki page with,r. You'll see a prompt asking you for the new name. Make sure it is valid CamelCase. After you press ENTER, SoyWiki will rename the page and update all the links on other pages in your wiki that need updating because of the change.

You can delete a page with ,#.

Beyond the standard cut and paste, SoyWiki gives you four fast ways of shuttling text from one wiki page to another.

First, highlight the text you want to move with Vim's visual mode. (See :help visual-mode for more info)

Then, type

  • :SWInsert [target] to move the text to the top of target page
  • :SWAppend [target] to move the text to the bottom of the target page
  • :SWLinkInsert [target] performs :SWInsert and replaces the text with a WikiWord link
  • :SWLinkAppend [target] performs :SWAppend and replaces the text with a WikiWord link

[target] is the name of the file that contains the wiki page you're targeting. Press TAB for autocompletion help.

These commands will open the target page (if it isn't open already) in a split window and insert or append the selected text into it. If the target page doesn't exist, it will be created.

You can use these shortcuts:

  • :SWInsert:SWI
  • :SWAppend:SWA

With :SWLinkInsert and :SWLinkAppend you can use tab-autocompletion to avoid typing out the whole command name.

Search

To search your SoyWiki wiki, type :SWSearch [search term]. Vim will load any matches in the quickfix list window. If there are matches, you can use :cn and :cp to go from match to match. See :help quickfix for more QuickFix commands.

Searches are case-insensitve by default. To do a case-sensitive search, add a \C to your search string, e.g.:

:SWSearch Gnu\C

Again, you can use :SWS as a shortcut.

Under the hood, :SWSearch is just a thin wrapper around the :vimgrep command.

Revision history and distributed workflows

SoyWiki delegates revision-tracking, syncing, and collaboration workflows to Git. SoyWiki automatically creates a Git repository in your wiki directory and automatically commits all the edits you make to it. You can sync a SoyWiki wiki between two computers using the standard Git push and pull commands. Collaborators can also edit a common wiki this way, in peer to peer fashion.

SoyWiki provides a few convenient key mappings to view the revision history of a wiki page:

  • ,l shows a git-log view of the revision history of the current page
  • ,b shows a git-blame view of the current page, which shows when each line was added and by whom.
  • :SWLogStat shows a git log --stat view of the current page's revision history

You can always bypass Vim and SoyWiki altogether and use Git directly to inspect your revision history. The Git repo for your SoyWiki wiki will be located in the same directory as your wiki files.

To sync your SoyWiki wiki between two personal computers, just follow the general instructions here.

Namespaced WikiWords

You can get very far with SoyWiki using normal CamelCase WikiWords.

NormalWikiWord

But if you want, you can also namespace your WikiWords, like so:

namespaced.WikiWord

A namespaced WikiWord is a WikiWord prefixed by a namespace and a period. The namespace word must start with a lower-case letter and consist only of letters, numbers, and underscore characters. You can't chain namespace words together: the maximum nesting level is 1.

Namespaced WikiWords help organize your wiki space conceptually. They also have two other benefits:

First, wiki pages that represent a namespaced WikiWord are stored under a subdirectory named after the namespace. This can help reduce clutter in your wiki directory.

Second, a WikiWord namespace lets you use abbreviated links within that namespace. For example, if you are editing a page called recipes.SoyMacaroni and you want to link to another page in the same namespace called recipes.SoyRaspberrySmoothie you can type the link in this special abbreviated form:

.SoyRaspberrySmoothie

SoyWiki will know from the leading period that this is a link to another page in the same namespace.

WikiLink autocompletion also works with abbreviated namespaced links. Just type a period, and invoke autocompletion with CTRL-x CTRL-u.

Expanding a wiki page

SoyWiki lets you "expand" a wiki page. What this does is expand all the wiki links in the page that appear alone on a line. Each of these links is replaced by the content of the wiki page the link points to. This expansion works recursively on all the expanded content. Don't worry. It can't fall into an infinite recursive loop because it will only expand each WikiWord it encounters once, leaving all subsequent references to the same WikiWord unexpanded.

The expanded version of the page will appear in a new Vim scratch buffer. From there you can write it out to a new text file, pipe it to lpr to print it, or whatever you like.

There are two forms of expansion: seamful and seamless. Seamful expansion expands wiki links into wiki pages and clearly marks where this has happened by including markers along with the WikiWord that was expanded. Seamless expansion does not mark a point of expansion with anything, and it erases the WikiWord that got expanded.

  • ,x expands a wiki page seamfully
  • ,X expands a wiki page seamlessly

Both modes of expansion are useful when you want to assemble a long piece of writing by using one page as a master outline that links to other wiki pages that include the real content. And since expansion is recursive, you can effectively nest outlines within outlines, like dreams within dreams.

Getting help

Typing ,? will open the help webpage in a browser.

Why CamelCase WikiLinks rule

Some people don't like the CamelCase (a.k.a. WikiCase) wiki link pattern. But SoyWiki embraces it and wants everyone to adopt it, for the following reasons:

  • Besides being the original, CamelCase is the most elegantly minimalist approach to linking wiki pages together -- "with no additional markup whatsoever," as Ward Cunningham put it.
  • It encourages you more than other wiki link patterns to create wiki pages with succinctly descriptive names that are easy to remember.
  • Because the link pattern is so minimal and succinct, writing them interrupts your flow of thought a lot less than other wiki patterns.
  • It is very conducive to storing wiki pages in plain text files: the page names can map directly to Unix file names without any awkward character escaping.

Why name a wiki engine after a legume?

I am a fan of food made of soy: soy ice cream, soy milk, soy burgers, soy butter, you name it. The word "soy" has come to signify a newer, lighter, healthier alternative to the same old same old. SoyWiki may not be an actual soy product, but it tries to be a wiki engine with soy-like benefits.

How to contact the developer

My name is Daniel Choi. I am based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and you can email me at dhchoi {at} gmail.com.

How to support the SoyWiki project

If you find SoyWiki very useful, feel free to drop me a note to say so. If you have a bug to report or a good feature to suggest, please file it on the issue tracker.

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