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wiki formats


  • Tantek Çelik
  • Ben West


Ian Hickson recently lamented to me that:

"I have yet to find a wiki that has both a nice syntax (i.e. one that looks 
like text/plain as opposed to one that looks like just another obscure 
markup language -- if you're going to use markup, why not just use HTML 
in the first place), and that produces semantic markup (as opposed to 
having tags for "bold" and "italics")."

And I have to kind of agree with him. My experience with current wiki formats is that they haven't done that good a job of "paving the cowpaths", that is, taking what people write in plain text documents, and interpreting them as structure, rather than inventing new text conventions (e.g. equal signs for headings?!?) and getting people to learn them.

This page is an attempt to catalog/document current wiki and wiki-like text formats to see if there is any chance of solving this problem.

Technically a wiki format would not be a microformat because it is not expressed in XHTML building blocks. However, many of the other principles of microformats can be applied to perhaps come up with a better solution that what wikis use today (since they all seem to use their own variant formats anyway).

wiki software


What you're using now.

  • paragraphs
    • blank line creates a new paragraph
  • unordered lists
    • start a line with "* " and it will put it into an unordered list.
    • use multiple "*", e.g. "** " for 2nd level, for nested unordered lists.
  • ordered lists
    • start a line with "# " and it will put it into an ordered list.
    • use multiple "#", e.g. "## " for 2nd level, for nested ordered lists.
  • headings
    • prefix and suffix with "=" for level 1 heading, "==" for level 2 heading etc.
  • literal
    • use
  • mediawiki mark-up issues


Guy Fraser: I assume you've not seen Confluence from - what you describe above is exactly how Confluence wiki notation works. Confluence has one major benefit over MediaWiki in that it has decent navigation tools - you can, for example, see a page index, site map, etc. In media wiki, unless you know what you are searching for or unless someone makes a link in a prominent place, content tends to dissapear unless you know what to search for. [unsigned comment from User:Aubergine10 ]

JimMahoney: is working on a common wiki markup language - the discussion there seems closely related to the issues raised here.