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Review of TikiWiki Content Management System

TikiWiki is open source software - it is written in PHP, uses phpAdmin for mySQL database administration, and uses the Smarty Template Engine.

Installation - Since our host installed the TikiWiki, I cannot comment on ease of installation.

While TikiWiki has many features, only the features used on the Spotlight on Lake website will be reviewed.

Administration - It is hard to determine what some features are and do, such as the Ephemerides feature. Documentation is sadly lacking! The most complete documentation is for Version 1.6, and Version 1.9 is the current release - so many of the newer features do not have any documentation. While there are Forums and a documentation website, the "Search" feature does not work for either site! Many Forum questions are not answered in a timely manner or incorrect information is supplied. Asking a question with IRC chat may also be an exercise in futility or frustration. On the plus side, it is a simple process to turn features on and off by unchecking or checking a box.

User Rights - It is easy to set user rights to groups or individuals.

General Preferences - While you can add the site's title in this section, you cannot add metatag keywords or description. In order to add this information, you will need to modify the "header.tpl" file.

Theme - If you want to create a custom design or to modify an existing CSS theme, be sure to select the "moreneat" theme. After basing my design on a different style, I was later informed, "The others are buggy at best, use 'moreneat' as it's the most stable CSS template".

Home Page - Do not select the "custom home" option. I originally selected this option, and was told "It doesn't work correctly - don't use that feature".

The Wiki - This section was easy to set up and use. If you have never used a Wiki before there are several items of note: (1) to create a link to a new Wiki page, do not use any spaces in the link text and add double parentheses before and after the link text; (2) use the question mark ("?") link, to add content to the new Wiki page; (3) with spellchecking, there are times when the Wiki will place a question mark after a business name or word. To avoid this, use double parentheses around the word.

Articles and Submissions - This section was also easy to set up. It was also easy to add new Types and Topics. However, it is difficult to display only one Type or Topic on the Articles page. It was easier to use phpAdmin to modify the database tables than it was to use the Articles Administration Section to make this simple type of modification.

Calendar - There are 2 calendars: one is for private use in the "My Tiki" section; the other is for public use. The public feature Calendar is "buggy". There are so many steps to complete in order to add an event to the Calendar that I found it was necessary to include "How-To-Use" instructions on the Calendar page.

Banner Ads - Simple to set up and allows text or image displays. There are several options for frequency and you can set the zone where the add is to be displayed.

Featured Links, Forums, and Polls - These features were also easy to set up, and no problems were encountered.

Category System - There are 2 Category Systems. One is for the Directory feature, and the other is for the Wiki.

Directory - The Directory feature automatically checks for URL validation.

Email - The Email system uses only a very basic form with input boxes for user email address and comments. Ease of Modification

With college courses in C and C++, it has always been easy to read and understand other programming languages. However, the Smarty Template Engine code was a new experience. Quite a few hours were spent searching through the Smarty site, my PHP books, and both of the TikiWiki sites. I even asked the assistance of a friend who is a PHP whiz, and he couldn't figure out the problem.

Modifying the existing TikiWiki code should only be attempted by experienced programmers. After many hours searching through the Development section of the TikiWiki website looking for a flowchart, I was finally able to find a section that contained file relations.

With perserverance, I was able to modify the Directory, to build a Listing feature based on the modified Directory, and to include a customized Email system for the Advertising Contact page. By modifying the database, I was able to have only Articles listed on the Articles page and only Events on the Events page.

TikiWiki Rating

If I were to rate TikiWiki on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it an 8. This is due to the lack of documentation and also due to the fact that "buggy" sections are included. In my opinion, if a feature does not work correctly, it should not be included as an option!

Diane Hildebrandt owns MsDetta, Inc., a Northwest Indiana web development firm. Diane has a B.S. in Computer Science and believes that websites should be designed to be accessible by every visitor. Diane also emphasizes relationship marketing - turning a visitor into a potential customer of your product or service. Web development services include scripting, programming, Flash and graphic design, ecommerce solutions, database management, and content management systems.

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