A working wiki
Posted on 26 Oct 2006 at 11:09
This month, Thomas Lee demonstrates flexwiki, a fully working asp.net application
FlexWiki is an open-source wiki engine developed by a Microsoft program manager David Ornstein - you can download the application for free, as described later in this article. FlexWiki employs a markup language similar to the one used by Wikipedia. With FlexWiki, all pages are simple text files that you can edit using your browser. In FlexWiki markup language, an exclamation mark placed at the start of a line of text causes FlexWiki to render it as an H1 heading, while two exclamation marks render an H2. A line containing just four dashes inserts a horizontal rule. To create a link to a new Wiki Page, type a page name like PCProRocks and the wiki engine creates a link from the current page to a new page of that name. When you display the original page and click on the rendered link, the wiki engine either navigates to that page if it currently exists or brings up the page editor so you can add its contents.
An important facility of the wiki engine is history tracking: the engine can recall every change made - great for recovering when you accidentally delete important content. It also provides an audit trail and the ability to undo to tackle vandalism.
To install FlexWiki, you first need to download the code. The latest version of Flexwiki, 22.214.171.1246, can be found at www.pcpro.co.uk. You can download both the source code and the compiled i386 runtime. There appears to be no 64-bit version, although you can always download and recompile the source if you're feeling adventurous. The full binary release occupies around 600KB, while the source code is just under 1MB.
Installing and configuring FlexWiki is straightforward: once you've downloaded the binary in the form of a ZIP file, extract it to a folder on the server on which you wish it to run. When extracting it, remember to set the option to recreate folder names, so as to get the right files in the right subfolders. Depending on how your IIS server is set up, you'll have some options as to how you configure the wiki. For the purposes of this column, I'm going to extract the binaries to C:\Flexwiki, and I'll setup a separate website on my IIS Server. To create the website, use the Website Creation wizard in the IIS Manager MMC console (right-click Websites and select New Website). When setting up the website, I set the port to 9000; since this is an ASP.NET application that both executes code and allows files to be updated, you'll need to set execute permissions on the site and set permissions for all the files in C:\Flexwiki to allow users to read, write and execute (a decent installation program might have done all this for you). But I found that getting FlexWiki working was good exercise, as the issues you'll encounter while getting it fully working aren't dissimilar to the problems IT professionals will face with other ASP.NET applications.
Once you've completed these simple steps, just navigate to the wiki (in my case, to http://localhost:9000) to see the default start page. As you can see, the wiki is up and running, albeit with no actual content. To add content, you have two choices: you can first edit the start page to create a link to a new page, then once the start page is saved just click on the new link to bring up the page in the FlexWiki Editor; or you can type the page name into the page title area at the top of the centre panel and hit Enter to bring up the editor.
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