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Instant TWiki Site Enhancements

These quick enhancements are aimed at improving TWiki's ease-of-use. New TWiki site administrators are especially encouraged to review this document for ideas before deploying a new TWikiSite. The metaphor of building a house is useful. The listed enhancements are some of the details possible when moving into a new office or home. These small changes can make a big differences for user satisfaction at your site. All modifications can be done through your Web browser, and they don't take more then in a couple of minutes. No system administration expertise is required. Some of these enhancements are also mentioned in the reference manual and other topics.

Many of these tips are based on setting some special TWikiVariables.

PICK We recommend implementing at least some of these enhancements right after installation, to get a taste for what is possible. Some of these tips and enhancements should be implemented before or during initial roll-out.

This may spark your imagination to really customize your site so that it's optimal for your users. Slightly more advanced customization tips are listed in TWikiAdminCookBook.


Tips using TWikiVariables

You need to know what is the variable name, and in what page is/should be defined.

Change Colors of Page Header/Footer

Incredibly obvious, maybe, but some TWiki site admins don't get around to changing the default web colors right off, whether they like them or not. Simply changing the defaults will make a huge difference in the overall look.

What we are doing

We want to set variable WEBBGCOLOR in topic WebPreferences to one of the StandardColors. WebPreferences is, as you can guess, a topic which holds all kind of preference setting for each TWiki Web{*}. Each web has its own WebPreferences, and you can set them differently for each web.

How to do it

  1. Pick color code from company or product references, the StandardColors table (recommended for 8-bit client compatibility), or some other color reference.
  2. Go to WebPreferences in each web, and edit the topic.
  3. Set your preferred WEBBGCOLOR preferences variable, and save the topic.
  4. ALERT! Add a new line immediately after the color code. If there is (invisible) space after the color code, the page header might get strange colors (e.g. black).

It's just as easy to refine later on, so you're not locked in, just looking better.

Set Page Background Color

Without getting into the TWikiTemplates system yet, you can easily edit the view.tmpl (in the templates directory). In the HTML at the top, the body tag has the page background hardcoded to white bgcolor="#ffffff". You can change that color value to new variable. First, define a new preferences variable in the site-level TWikiPreferences, e.g. * Set =PAGEBGCOLOR = #d0d0d0, then edit the view.tmpl template file and change bgcolor="#ffffff" to bgcolor="%PAGEBGCOLOR%". If you want you can set the page background color individualy per web, simple add a * Set =PAGEBGCOLOR = #d0d0d0 bullet to the WebPreferences to overload the site-level preferences. (Without font color control, you'll have to stick to light colors.

Titles-Only Topic List - WebTopicList

A good first navigation tool for new users, a fast-loading linked list (page titles only) of a web's topics is a quick and easy way see what's available. By default, slower, but more powerfull WebIndex is used.

Without explaining what WEBTOPICLIST is, just try it:

  1. Go to WebPreferences in each web, and edit the topic.
  2. In WEBTOPICLIST variable, replace WebIndex with WebTopicList, and save.

Simple way to create colored text and graphics

This should be enabled, see the "Miscellaneous Settings" in the TWikiPreferences, . If not, look at TWiki:TWiki/TWikiPreferences. Look for variables RED, BLUE etc (which define HTML tag FONT). To copy/paste the variables defining the colors you need to see the source text, but Edit is disabled. Instead, go to More and view the topic in raw format.

EZ Graphic Icons to Highlight Text

Graphics in text (like this: ALERT!) is done also by defining special variables. See TWiki.TWikiPreferences. Some may prefer longer names, like HELP, WARN etc. You can also add your own images, e.g. a NEW, or a ASK to ask question.

TIP Using graphic icons to highlight important text right from the start can seriously improve how well new users take to a TWiki site. A minimum set of two or three icons can make content much easier to follow, eye-catching, EXCITING. Research says, people tend not to read pages through, but scan them first - and graphics (used sparringly wink of course) can help them. On HELP pages, most people tend to jump around looking for answers rather than reading through - icons help point out the most important bits.

How to create your own set of icons:

  1. Go to the Preferences topic: TWikiPreferences for site-wide use, or WebPreferences for use in one web only.
  2. Attach a graphic (the ones on this page are 16x16 pixels), then define a Preference Variable with a short but recognizable name.

Use TOC variable to create table of content

TOC is Table-Of-Content, generated automagically from headers (defined like that: ---++ , see TWikiShorthand).

For example, you may want to put all your custom variables in TWikiPreferences right on top of the page, and generate table of contens, like:

Non-admin users wil be interested only in first part, non-system preferences.


Personal Productivity - Tools and Tips for Working Faster

Although this area applies to all TWiki set-ups, the initial focus is on TWiki site managers working on a Linux/Apache TWiki site, from a Windows local PC. The assumption being: if you're working with Linux as your desktop, you're probably a programmer or system admin and have these basics handled!

Use your favorite text editor for major edits

When you have a fair bit of TWiki formatting work - for example, compiling new info pages from various cut'n'paste sources, editing multiple TWiki topics or contributed material - it's often easier to use a real TextEditor instead of the browser's text edit box. There are several methods for doing this. For Windows, there are several well-recommended text editors.

Windows Example: TextPad is a low-cost, top flight Windows program, with an extended trial period. You can download from a well-stocked library of user-contributed macros, dictionaries, and syntax and clip files. You can also easily create a TWiki clip collection that allows you to format text with TWiki code: select a text string and click for bold, italic, links, bullet lists - just like a regular HTML editor - and also insert blocks of TWiki code, use simple or regex search and replace, more.

Copy & Paste: Using the web window this can work very well. System differences may present difficulties with this method but it is simple and reliable in most cases.

Browser Integration: Some web browsers can be configured to automatically use an external editor. See your browser documentation for details. Such a configuration and a small tool for Linux is described in an example on TWiki.org. TWiki:Codev/EditDaemonWithGVimIntegration

Alternate Browser: While your main browser might not have the features for TWikic topic editing, another one might.

Ready to use SEARCH

Personal directory of topics you're involved in

Here's how you can create your own personal directory of topics you've contributed to recently. Copy the text below (between Start Copy and End Copy) and paste it into your personal page (Main.guest). You can add other webs to search by duplicating one of the web subsections and editing the string {web ="webname"} in the search parameters to refer to the specific web you want to search. This script would also work for a group.

Start Copy

__Here's a list of topics I've been involved in recently:__

---++++ Codev

%SEARCH{ "%TOPIC%" web="Codev" scope="text" nosearch="on" nosummary="on" noheader="on" nototal="on" order="modified" reverse="on" limit="20"}%
---++++ Support

%SEARCH{ "%TOPIC%" web="Support" scope="text" nosearch="on" nosummary="on" noheader="on" nototal="on" order="modified" reverse="on" limit="20"}%

---++++ TWiki

%SEARCH{ "%TOPIC%" web="TWiki" scope="text" nosearch="on" nosummary="on" noheader="on" nototal="on" order="modified" reverse="on" limit="10"}%

End Copy

The SEARCH variable has many more formatting options, see TWikiVariables.

Recently changed pages

Here, last 15 is formatted into neat table.

<table>
%SEARCH{ "\.*" scope="topic" regex="on" nosearch="on" nototal="on" order="modified" reverse="on"  format="<tr><td>  [[$topic][$topic]] </td><td>  $wikiusername  </td><td> $date  </td></tr>" limit="15" }%
</table>


Hidden Edit Lock for Individual Topics

When you're creating main gateway pages, you may want to temporarily (or permanently) restrict editing to yourself or a limited group of people. You can do this with a Preference setting that includes one or more users and groups. Only auhorized users will be able to use Edit.


Change the Default Site Logo

If you want to change the default TWiki logo, attach a new graphic to a topic of choice and change the WIKILOGOIMG variable in the TWikiPreferences, e.g.


Customize Topic Classification Forms

With a simple one or two-line default topic form available for every topic - in Edit mode, click the [Add] button, and select the form if it isn't alredy enabled. Then, click the title to get to the actual form, [Edit], and carefully change values, probably basic page classifications. You'll get some increased value, and hands-on experience with TWikiForms, without having to read up about them first. ALERT! (add the corresponding search per category - copy a default and change)


Add Your Favorite JavaScript Features

You're no doubt familiar or better with HTML, JS, and "webmastering". Without getting into the TWikiTemplates system yet, you can easily edit the view.tmpl (in the templates directory) for some dramatic effects. The top of the template is mostly regular HTML with some variables. Open up some space in the <head> area, and you can drop in reliable JavaScripts - a pop-up window script, for example - or tag it as an external script.

ALERT! Depending on what you load up, you may change the overall cross-browser compatibility - however be careful that your site does not look beat up in various other browsers. The scripts you choose will determine compatibility.


TIP NOTE: Feel free to add your own tips to TWiki:TWiki.InstantEnhancements as quick notes at the end of the list, following the existing format!

Contributors: TWiki:Main.GrantBow, TWiki:Main.LynnwoodBrown, TWiki:Main.MikeMannix, TWiki:Main.PeterMasiar, TWiki:Main.PeterThoeny, TWiki:Main.MattWilkie