I need a GOOD sharepoint Wiki template

One of the things I really encourage my staff to do while they work here is to create complete procedures manuals for their jobs. We're talking about full documentation with step by step instructions on how to accomplish their tasks, complete with screenshots where applicable. And while many new staff members may find this a little strange, they quickly realize the worth when they can pick up a manual from their predecessor and start to work through their new job. So far I don't think I've had anyone who has dismissed the value of these documents.

The concept also plays into other areas in our systems which probably won't come as a surprise to anyone:

  • If someone is sick, a co-worker can pick up for them while they recover,
  • When training, it takes less time to re-familiarize yourself with the material to show the person,
  • Often time you can let the person work through stuff on their own without impacting your time, and
  • In slow periods there are always manuals that need to be updated, so there is less pressure on your time trying to find someone meaningful work to do.

I'm also sure you could come up with a few more points, but I figure those are enough to keep the motto of "Document It" alive in my workspace.

There are, however, some dangerous drawbacks that can come in to play here, and these typically surface when someone leaves the organization. That list includes, but certainly isn't limited to the following:

  • Procedures that have changed, and the manuals not updated to reflect those changes,
  • Multiple copies of procedures being left in the manual,
  • Not being able to find the appropriate manuals, and
  • People "going through the motions" in their job without ever really understanding what they're doing.

The last one is, of course, the supervisor's job to identify and resolve, so I'm not going to focus on that at all right now. I'm more interested in the first points.

We recently had someone leave us. She'll be missed, of course, but my team has really bonded and pulled together to make things happen. Fortunately in many cases we were able to simply pull the book off the shelf and run, but there were a couple that gave us pause…

We naturally rooted through binders and other files and ended up coming up with multiple procedures in some cases, or not all in others. Then the question surfaces on which is the correct procedure, or if any of them are. In our case it wasn't always obvious, so we had to spend time working through them to tell. Naturally this kind of defeats the purpose.

In the cases where the procedure is out of date, (either because it subtly grew over time, or radically changed and new documentation wasn't yet prepared,) it needed revising… but where was the original document to make those changes? Was it stored in a common folder, private folder, semi-private… who knows? In some cases these procedures had been written by a former staff member and their binder was divided up between people when they left… so now we have procedures that may be stored anywhere on our network.

This got me thinking about how we organize and store our manuals, as well as updates. We could use one specific folder on our network, but then we get into issues with naming conventions and finding the documents within the subfolders as well. "No," I thought… "the perfect solution would actually be a Wiki!"

A wiki, by its very nature is a collaboration tool that allows shared editing, complete with versioning and rollback features. This would be great for us, as we could store the entire set of procedures in one common place, share it among all our accounting staff, and let them edit the entries if they found that they were out of date. (Of course we'd encourage them to keep them up to date, but let's face it… we're all human.)

I figured this would be an easy slam dunk, actually. We have Windows Sharepoint Services 3.0 (WSS3.0) installed on one of our servers, although we've never used it in earnest. I installed the default Wiki template that comes with WSS3.0 and gave it a run…

It SUCKS! I mean REALLY sucks!

The whole point behind this, to me, is to make it really easy to create rich entries. It looked good at first, when I went to edit a page and saw the nice editing toolbar:

So I started typing away, then went to insert a picture:

Wtf? I was seriously hoping for a Browse button, not to have to hand type in a URL. Not to be discouraged, I tried to paste the picture directly into the text, but it was a no-go either. The route you have to go for each picture you want to insert is:

  • Snap the shot
  • Save it as an image
  • Navigate to the Sharepoint Image Library
  • Upload the picture (and optionally name it)
  • Copy the link to the picture
  • Navigate back to your entry
  • Fill in the appropriate URL info
  • Hope it works when you click OK. (My test did not.)

Doesn't that seem just a little awkward? I need to put this into the hands on non-programming type folks. I think the concept of the Wiki has a LOT to offer us, but the implementation here is brutal!

When I'm blogging to WordPress from Word I can just write up the document in Word, complete with pictures, and just publish it. It auto-magically uploads, resizes and embeds them for me. Sweet and simple. Why can't this be the same? Or can it?

Despite my searching for over an hour, I have not been able to find another Wiki template that works with WSS 3.0, or a webpart that will allow for easy picture uploads. If anyone knows of one, I'd love to hear about it. I'm not above actually paying for them either, but I'd prefer to take them for a test drive first, as I've committed to my staff that we won't go this route unless it is user friendly. They don't want to become programmers, and they shouldn't need to.

Our requirements are actually pretty simple. We need:

  • A simple text editor capable of:
    • Basic formatting such as Bold, Italics, Underline, Colors
    • Controlling font size for headings
    • Bullets
    • Numbering
    • Tables
    • Creating hyperlinks (without having to hand write HTML code)
    • Adding pictures in-line with text (without having to do the dog and pony show I described above)
  • A decent search engine
  • A Simple method for linking new pages into the Table of Contents
  • Versioning
  • It to work with Windows Sharepoint Services 3.0 (WSS3.0)

Bonus points for:

  • Being able to author the initial copy in Word
  • Styles
  • Workflows for approval of new/edited entries
  • RSS for updated entries

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them.

15 thoughts on “I need a GOOD sharepoint Wiki template

  1. I gave up looking but your post has reminded me that I STILL need to do this task. OUCH.

  2. Hi Ken,

    I'm with you on SharePoint. What should be such a promising software is ...not.

    It lack's features you would think it would have. You spend hours - if not days - researching how to do basic things, often to find it is not possible unless you download yet another program to make it work, usually not free either.

    Welcome to the world of corporate level software. It's okay to spend lots of money on clunky and unreliable software, and employing people to use it. The company pays for it so who cares? Eventually the company end up supporting the IT department, not the other way around.

    IT should be about saving time, not spending more time to support/develop something of questionable benefit.

  3. While I'm having a rant, classic case of KISS. Somebody wanted help with a "spreadsheet" web part. It was misbehaving, not showing the required number of rows and columns configurable in the scanty, yet mostly useless, settings. Solution was taking a snapshot with free and already installed freeware, then uploading the image and inserting the link in a content editor web part. Works every time.

  4. Ken et al,

    Make it simpel for everyone; hire a reliable consultant that can do the job for You.

    If You're a manager and spend time with this kind of tasks then I wonder what You're actually doing.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  5. I disagree, Dennis. Part of my job is to research new software, and part of my job, as a manager, is to make sure that whatever I bring in will work for my staff. No point it getting something that's useless. It actually took me longer to blog about the issues with the wiki than it did to get it up and running and work out what I didn't like.

    With regards to WSS, I actually did have a consultant install all the templates for me and give me a brief session on how to use them. For any hard-core development I would hire someone, but to me this shouldn't fit into that category.

    Granted, I did spend an hour online looking for templates. Again, researching software is what I'd consider part of my job, but also I'm curious if we can actually leverage this tool that Microsoft is so high on, and that we already own.

    I'm a little surprised to find out that there isn't someone selling a good wiki template, or at least if they are I can't find one. Is all Sharepoint customization seriously done on a consultant by consultant basis right now? That just sounds extremely expensive to me...

  6. I'm the program manager responsible for SharePoint wikis. We've improved the wiki functionality dramatically in SharePoint 2010 which we just announced at our conference in Las Vegas.

    Feel free to contact me with questions/feedback.

    kevin.davis@microsoft.com

  7. Ken,

    Your initial blog post is exactly, without exception, what I am currently attempting to accomplish. Have you had any luck yet? The atlassian site seemed like a potential winner, but programs scare me when they are at version 1.1.1 🙂

    Like you, I'm in the same boat. Right now this wiki will be for our IT dept...and some are programmers, but not all. Looking further down the road however, this wiki might open up to accounting or business depts...and they are certainly not programmers.

    Because of what the very concept of a wiki stands for, simplicity in editing and formatting is essential!

    Let me know if you've had any luck.

  8. Disregard what I said about the 1.1.1 thing. Not sure what I had stumbled upon there. I now see that they are well above 3.0 now.

    Still curious as to what you might have found!

  9. I wish I had stumbled across your site a long time ago to give you this tip. Create a hidden blog that everyone else will have read access to. Have them create the documentation in Word 2007 or 2010 and have them hit publish to blog. Go to the blog post and hit the button to edit the HTML directly. Highlight and copy all of that text. Go to the wiki page where you want that documentation to reside. Hit the button to edit the HTML. Paste the code. Hit OK. It is all there, pictures and everything, with the pictures aligned with the text the way you want it. Then do your regular editting to add the [[]] where you need it.

  10. Hi Scott,

    That could work, but still seems like a lot of hassle. I want to get this into the hands of users who are not programmers, and having to get them to copy/paste HTML is... frightening to them. This shouldn't really be that hard in my opinion.

  11. Hi Ken
    I have to agree with you. It's only when you get this into the hands of end users that it really takes off. But they desperately need simple rich editors, plus templated instructions on how to write good wiki entries plus forced metadata. And we dont want to bury everything in word documents which are much easier to template, but harder to version control and less accessible. Microsoft or partners - get to it!!

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