Wiki verse Office Documents

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This page is about documenting within a Wiki vs. documenting with standard office documents. It describes advantages and disadvantages of using a sophisticated wiki like MediaWiki for knowledge management and collaborative documentation. It also describes the way forward to establish new ways of knowledge sharing.


  • Users don't need an office client - just a modern W3C-compliant browser
  • No compatibility problems between different office clients
  • Well-proven Wiki syntax (like in Wikipedia)
  • Very powerful handling of templates, which are dynamically rendered each time a page is loaded
    • Transclusion of content, which can be maintained on a single place, into any wiki page
    • Once the template is changed, any page using (transcluding) this template is changed accordingly
    • Templates support parameters like variables. Example: Parameterize a color or a table output
  • Wiki pages can be tagged with categories and sub-categories -> list of pages per category
  • It's easy to redirect pages. Example: Just enter "S4" and you will be redirected to the proper S4 page
  • Many other features like syntax hightlighting, moving or renaming pages, watching pages to get notified on changes, page protections, etc. See Help:Contents.
  • Built-in wiki search engine
  • Full version history
  • Possibility to use hundreds of great extensions like Semantic MediaWiki.
  • Ability to combine many wikis to a central entry point by using namespaces and interwiki links. That leads to better linking between the wikis (without need of absolute URLs).
  • Upload of regular files (e.g. office documents, images) possible in case this is needed

See also Help for an overview of features and ways of working.


This results in:

  • One central access point for information. No permission problems.
  • Easy linking of content to built a real knowledge base - no single documents which makes it impossible to link knowledge
  • Easy collaborative editing with a full history of changes within the complete knowledge base
  • Write a document on one place and include it to any wiki page -> No redundant information, no different versions
  • Categories could be created in order to help structuring content
  • Search for a keyword will look throughout the complete knowledge base, not only a single document
  • Anyone can create "shortcuts" to easily navigate to a certain page
  • Users can manage notifications in case someone edits a page
  • Users have full control over who has edited a page (history)
  • Users can easily revert changes
  • Users could combine a wiki with a "office document store", i.e. using the wiki as meta framework (TOC) on top of such an office store would be possible
  • Content could be migrated step-by-step
  • We could establish a semantic approach to tag content with their "meaning" and to dynamically search for information. Proper tagging can be done using forms.


  • Users must learn something new (how to use a wiki for editing pages)
  • Export to office documents (e.g. PDF) needs proper extensions and does not provide the same look as experienced from standard office
  • Editing tables is not much intuitive - but a WYSIWYG editor could be implemented
  • We must agree on a common and flat access model. Any logged-in user can edit all pages. Read access is granted either for all visitors or for all logged-in users. No fine-granulated access control.

The way forward

A Study must answer the following questions:

  • Which documents and knowledge bases are currently in use? Where?
  • Is it possible to group certain documentation types or areas (like we did in Documentation)?
  • Who is accessing the documents?
  • Who is editing the documents? How? In a collaborative manner? Alone?
  • What is the current access method and permission model?
  • What are the pros and cons of the current situation? From user point of view and from management point of view.
  • What can or shall be improved in terms of
    • documentation and knowledge quality
    • grade of collaboration
    • reviewing documents
    • get informed about changes
    • have a history of changes (in total knowledge base, not just on single documents)
    • easy (central) access to representative information (flat access model?)
    • central storage
    • re-use of documents and parts of it from a central place (instead of copy/paste)
    • structuring the documentation
    • linking between knowledge
    • barrier to share knowledge
    • getting a common look and feel (templates)
    • navigating through knowledge base (start page, categories, linking)
    • searching information
    • handle structured information (like lists and tables) and create dynamic views