What are the features of BookStack

Best Open Source Wiki Software for Business 2020?

In times of a shortage of skilled workers, information and the provision of knowledge are more important than ever. This is especially true in the technical field service, where the workers rely on telephone or remote support if they cannot get any further. Often, however, the knowledge is hidden and distributed in paper or, at best, PDF instructions, cannot be found or is not available. Such a document is also difficult to update and distribute. Wikis help against this.

Wikis make it easier to read by enabling text content to be built up on top of one another and used multiple times, as well as to incorporate images, graphics and even videos. With a good search function, answers to difficult questions are easy to find. They can grow, change and be used and adapted by everyone involved.

In view of the hundreds of very different Wiki variants, however, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that fits everyone. That is why we limit our requirement profile for the wiki search to an exciting use case: You not only want to use your company wiki internally, but also give your customers read access to exclusive content. For example, to ensure the greatest possible transparency and liability security for IT or project documentation or to build a dynamically growing FAQ. But what is the best free open source wiki software for companies in 2020 that offers both your employees and customers an optimal user experience? And which wiki is best suited for use in the technical field service? We present a small selection and choose a favorite.

Why an open source wiki for customers?

There are many scenarios in which a wiki can add real value to your customers. But in our opinion there is a lot of untapped potential in the use of wikis to supplement your customer support or your in-house support to support work in the field. Wikis, with their internal reference structure and sensible search function, can shine as a user-friendly alternative to the conventional product manual. You can continuously optimize how you can best help your customers and employees. By reacting flexibly to support cases with new Wiki entries, you save a lot of work in the long run. Because commercial software with a pay-per-user business model quickly becomes too expensive, if customers are now also users, a free open source solution is needed. And last but not least: A wiki can also be extremely useful in the field when it is used correctly.

Uff, too much text? Do you need an information system for your technical field service and your customers? We would be happy to advise you personally and provide you with a suitable solution.

Wait a minute - a wiki for the technical field service, how is that supposed to work?

In the field service, a stable internet connection is often not guaranteed without tools. At first glance, the use of a wiki does not make sense here. One disadvantage of all wikis must not be concealed at this point. Many variants (and of course all presented here) are now "responsive" and can therefore also be displayed well on small devices such as tablets or smartphones. Nevertheless, an active internet connection is required because, to our knowledge, wiki software with offline sync function has not yet been developed.

However, wikis naturally offer the export of content in various file formats - and some create a structured and navigable PDF as a manual for offline use at the push of a button. Of course, the wiki-typical cross-references and the layout are retained in such PDFs and allow users to navigate the document extremely smoothly, which would not be possible without further ado with manual creation. If the wiki is well maintained, the technical field service can benefit from the topicality and link structure even without an internet connection. With Bookstack, DokuWiki and Bluespice, we present three very popular wikis that could be suitable for support inside and outside your company.

The modern solution: Bookstack

As a contemporary newcomer among the open source wikis, Bookstack hits a nerve in many ways. A considerable fan base has developed since 2015, which has often moved from the DokuWiki warehouse, although in contrast to DokuWiki it uses a (MySQL) database. First of all: The project is still in the beta phase. Those who are not deterred by this will find perfectly functioning software that is not only convincing in terms of usability and look. For our exemplary use case (customer support), Bookstack is ideally suited due to its intuitive usability, granular user management and an organization of the content based on books. The latter makes it possible, for example, to transfer existing product manuals into the system without any loss of structure. This even works the other way around, because an excellent export function enables offline use as a manual, as I said. Other features round off the overall impression.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Browsing Bookstack:

  • can be operated intuitively and without user instructions
  • aesthetic, clean and professional design with customization options without themes and a reader-friendly night mode
  • Categorized user management with read and write rights for all levels down to individual entries
  • simple and illuminating content structure with four levels (shelf> book> chapter> page)
  • attractive and clear formatting options, media embedding and attachments
  • Diagrams can be created through draw.io integration within the software
  • German version available
  • Export of selected areas in a structured and navigable PDF at the push of a button
  • User-friendly WYSIWYG editor or optional Markdown mode with live preview
  • Support of tags
  • is actively developed and has a community
  • Content can be reorganized without changing the URL of pages
  • Adaptation options of the design are limited without programming knowledge
  • generally less adaptable than DokuWiki
  • Bugs cannot be ruled out because Bookstack is still in the beta phase (however, with the rapid development, there were also quick bug fixes)

Admins versatile favorite: DokuWiki

DokuWiki has established itself as an incredibly adaptable wiki solution without a database since 2004. In fact, these are the main reasons why many experienced developers swear by the slim basic structure with the many possible plugins to this day. DokuWiki saves everything in text. If the front end smears, the restoration of the data consists of copying the text files into a fixed new installation. And the adaptability? A sentence that is often heard in connection with DokuWiki: "If you kneel in, you can make practically anything of it."

But whoever kneels in, ends up all too often sitting alone in the system. The UI markdown system for post creation, which is not exactly easy to learn, the necessary discipline in organizing content and the lack of what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor do the rest and can lead to less patient people Contributors submit their content to the admin to update instead of adding it themselves. Nonetheless, DokuWiki is a very solid option for anyone who prioritizes system maintenance and flexibility

DokuWiki mobile

Bluespice free: A middle ground

In comparison between Bookstack and DokuWiki, Bluespice is something like the golden mean between user-friendliness and adaptability. It builds on MediaWiki, which became known as the basis of Wikipedia. However, in this case, Hallo Welt GmbH is a commercial company behind the product. Accordingly, not all features are included in the free version. Nevertheless, Bluespice extends the MediaWiki framework with useful functions such as optimized design, high-performance search, rights management, better system security and extended interfaces. Ultimately, you get an all-round business-ready wiki that can be used as an integrated management system, documentation software, organization manual, knowledge platform or intranet. In addition, it can be converted back into a MediaWiki at any time without loss of data. It also supports key words (tagging), discussion pages and a detailed change history. Like Bookstack, Bluespice also provides free demo access that you can use to let off steam. If you have your own server, you can also start right away, because the installation is easy.

Conclusion: what is the best open source wiki software for companies in 2020?

It has certainly already been heard: Bookstack has convinced us. Even if we are big advocates of maximally customizable solutions; There is no other wiki for our use case that already leaves little to be desired out-of-the-box.

Are you still missing a wiki that you would like to learn more about or would you rather see everything in a tabular overview next to each other? At wikimatrix.org you can compare the features and technical data of your candidates with just a few clicks. Wikipedia also provides a somewhat confusing comparison of wiki software (English). In order to deepen the topic of wiki selection for organizations, we also recommend this and this article, both of which are a bit older and thus were written before the bookstack release, among other things. If you want to find out more about the use of wikis for documentation in companies, you can get tips and advice from this English-language article.

Our series of articles "All about work 4.0"

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