Zim, the cross-platform desktop wiki

Lists, Links, and Annexes

If you start a line with an asterisk (*) or square brackets ([]), Zim automatically switches to a mode in which it is very easy to create bullet lists or checklists (Figure 6). To add a little more structure, indent the lines using the Tab key. Zim continues these lists until you insert a blank line.

Figure 6: The organization of this article as a task list in Zim.

If you enable the tasklist plugin, you can expand on this function. Supplement the bullet by typing, say

[] Task 1 02-23-2017 !

to include a due date and a priority (each additional exclamation mark decreases the priority), and then display all the tasks of the project by pressing the Task List button in the toolbar.

Internal links to other pages of the notebook you are currently editing, or to another notebook, mean that Zim also has a powerful organizational function. You can either press Ctrl+L to create a reference to a non-existent page (Zim then creates the page automatically), or link to an existing page. The link appears in blue in the text.

Alternatively, you can create links without dialogs or shortcuts using CamelCase, or WikiWord notation [5]. For example, entering "LinuxMagazine" automatically generates a link of the same name and the appropriate page due to the uppercase "M." Since this feature can lead to unwanted links, you have the option of switching off CamelCase linking through the configuration settings.

Zim automatically converts paths such as /etc/default into links; clicking on one of these links takes you to the appropriate directory or opens the associated file. Local files can be saved as files attachments using the Tools | Attach menu item. Zim assigns the attachments to the article and moves them to the new instance if you copy or move the original. If you copy the wiki to a second computer, the attachments remain in place.

Conclusions

Zim is a very flexible tool that lets you store information in a structured way and continue processing it with other applications. The program is written in Python and released under the GPL. The documentation on the project page [6] illuminates all aspects of the application in detail and also provides a page specifically for newcomers [7].

The data is stored in text format with wiki markup, thus opening up numerous possibilities. For example, you can use a makefile to generate a website from the wiki entries. Thanks to the text format with wiki markup, you can use the stored information on all three supported operating system platforms. The flexible methods for linking let you build rich documents that you either use as a preliminary stage for processing in other applications or finalize in Zim.

Zim is easily accessible, revealing the power of its options only when needed. Once you have discovered the versatility of Zim, you will not want to be without this desktop wiki, which has been in development since 2005. Even Linux beginners who are familiar with Microsoft OneNote are likely to quickly find their way around Zim.

The Android version of Zim [8] is currently a work in progress. The data exchange will be via platforms such as Nextcloud or Dropbox. Additionally, you will find a portable version of Zim, suitable for use on a USB stick, at PortableApps [9]. Zim impresses as a complete package, and if you like the organizational structure of wikis, you are bound to feel right at home.

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