New posts Mondays and Thursdays (usually). RSS.
Tell me what to install next:

Sync Tomboy Notes and Zim in Dropbox

Tomboy Notes is a multi-platform application, so keeping your notes synced with Dropbox is handy for obvious reasons.

Luckily it’s dead easy to do: enter Preferences (either by opening up Tomboy and clicking Edit -> Preferences, or if you’ve got it on your GNOME panel, right-click the icon) and select the “Synchronization” tab. Choose the “Local Folder” service and find your Dropbox, which is inside your home folder by default. Inside of Dropbox, make a new folder for the Tomboy Notes database, and select that folder.

Dropbox acts like any other directory on your computer, so when Tomboy syncs itself to your Dropbox, Dropbox automatically syncs that database across all the computers you have it installed on. Now you can access your notes anywhere!

As for Zim, syncing is even easier, and gives you more benefits. When you start a new wiki, just remember to save it somewhere in your Dropbox folder – that’s it. If you’ve got a wiki you’ve already started and want that synced instead, you need only move the folder you saved it as (remember, Zim wikis are saved as folders, not files) to your Dropbox. You’ll have to tell Zim where it is next time you start the program, of course.

Beyond file synchronization, saving Zim to your Dropbox has another two little bonuses: if you login to and navigate to the place where you’ve saved a Zim wiki, you’ll find you’ll be able to actually read your Zim notes anywhere, regardless of whether Dropbox is installed or not! Since they’re stored as plaintext, you could also edit them without Dropbox or Zim by downloading and re-uploading the file.

As for the other extra feature, if you’ve worked with wikis at all you probably know most give you the ability to revert changes or view the history of an article. Zim doesn’t come with that functionality – which is understandable, as storing every revision of an article can clutter up a folder right quick. But Dropbox will give you a similar feature:

It is what it looks like, folks. Wiki history, brought to you by Dropbox, accessible from your own file browser.


Zim plugin rundown

I just can’t get enough of Zim. So far it’s the most brilliant way to organize one’s thoughts I’ve ever come across – and yes that is a challenge. If you can find something better than Zim – for Linux, of course – I’ll be glad to try it out and, as they say, “post results”. But for now I’ll talk about ways to make Zim, that WYSIWYG personal wiki, even better. Well, not better necessarily, but certainly more awesome.

Open Zim and navigate to Edit -> Preferences, then select the “Plugins” tab. You’ll find a whole bunch of stuff there. Some of it’s very mathy – for example GNU R plot makes plots and “Insert Equation” is exactly what it is on the tin – but the rest of it’s worth checking out. Here’s a quick summary of the options you’ve got.

Insert Screenshot

After resolving any dependencies (hint: apt-get install scrot) you’ll be able to use this plugin by going to Insert -> Screenshot. For a guy who blogs about Linux programs and likes to include pictures, this is pretty dang useful. To everyone else, well, not so sure. I suppose if you’re using images as reference for a character, and you’re too lazy to insert it the traditional way, you can use the “select region” option of scrot to capture it instead.

Tray Icon

Handy for switching wikis, or making a new page. It kinda approaches Tomboy Notes territory in convenience but not quite.

Task List

Now this is sweet. If you’re editing various pages in your wiki and leave notes to yourself like “TODO: Come up with better character name” or “FIXME: Not sure if dogs work this way” you can keep track of all your tasks in one place. You can also make it consider all checkboxes as tasks, or define your own keywords.

As for priority – the more exclamation marks, the higher the task’s priority. Just like in real life!

Link Map

View -> Show Link Map = diagram porn. It’s your entire wiki in visual form! The deeper your hierarchy goes, the sweeter this plugin gets.


Zim comes with this plugin pre-activated. Great for making your own schedule, if for some reason you aren’t using Google Calendar for exactly that.

Print to Browser

File -> Print to Browser renders your wiki in good old HTML. Now you can print whatever pages you like.

Create Note

Allows you to create a note from the command line, which means you can make your own custom app launcher or keyboard shortcut or other neat things like that. I’m sure this option is plenty powerful, but I’m a bit stuck with it so far. I can’t seem to figure out how to invoke the command for a wiki that has spaces in the title, for one thing. I’ll definitely be revisiting this.


For more facts and less opinion, plus coverage of the more mathy plugins, check this out.

Zim, your personal wiki

There isn’t a lot I can say about Zim; it’s something you have to experience for yourself.

I will say that I’ve been searching for this program for years. You see, I like wikis. A lot. I’m even an administrator on one that’s fairly well-known. There’s just something to it, something about information on a wiki that automatically makes it feel important and organized.

And it is organized – wikis give you a crazy amount of flexibility. A page could be anything from a plot outline to a character’s biography to the first draft of a chapter. Start adding pages to categories, and you’ve got a super neat hierarchy of your own personal design.

As I’ve said, I’ve been searching for Zim for a long time. I’ve tried everything from Wiki on a Stick (a single HTML file that acts as a wiki) to actually installing MediaWiki (the stuff Wikipedia runs off of). Most of these have proven to be slow and clunky, with complicated ways of storing data. Accessing your writing outside of whatever program you wrote it in was pretty much impossible. And if you had just one bad save of your wiki-on-a-stick… woo boy.

Zim, however, is nothing like that. Not only is Zim a speedy and reliable program, but it doesn’t tie you down. Every page you write is saved in an easily editable plain text format, with a little bit of wiki syntax for links and what have you. You can create as many wikis as you want with as many categories as you want in each, and even insert images. And if you don’t know wiki syntax, don’t worry – Zim is WYSIWYG with extremely simple shortcuts for useful things like checkboxes and bullet points.

Whether you’re looking for a wiki analogue or just a new way of keeping your thoughts organized, check Zim out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Update: So you know, this weekend I’m going to be trying something a little bit different for this blog… but we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled Linux blogging by Monday 🙂