Getting content into and out of wikis

As wikis mature, we’re using them for more complex business cases such as technical documentation, business analysis and project management. It’s becoming more and more interesting, if not essential, for wikis to support the import and export of content to and from other formats. Most wikis allow you to convert their pages at least to PDF and HTML. But what of other formats, and what about tools for getting content into wikis as well as out of them?

For the past couple of months I’ve been writing myself notes whenever I see mention of such a tool. Now I’ve added a bit of web searching to the mix. Here’s the resulting motley collection of tools that convert to/from wikis to/from wherever/whatever. It’s by no means complete, its order is decidedly random, and it focuses on Confluence and MediaWiki more than on other wikis, because Confluence is the wiki I use and MediaWiki is a biggie. If you know of other tools not mentioned here, I’d love it if you add a comment to this post.

What’s not in this post

I haven’t included the various widgets, gadgets and macros that allow you to include content onto a wiki page dynamically from another source, so that the external content is displayed to the user when the wiki page is rendered. Examples of these not-included tools are dynamically-rendered RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, extracts of code from source repositories, etc.

Rather, I’m looking at tools that convert an entire document or set of documents from one output format to another.

Converting from a wiki to something

Tool What it does What it is
Mylyn WikiText Converts from wiki markup (MediaWiki, Textile, Confluence, TracWiki and TWiki) to HTML, Eclipse Help, DocBook, DITA and XSL-FO. An Eclipse plugin plus a parser toolkit, Ant tasks and API. Mylyn WikiText can be installed into Eclipse or used as a stand-alone tool.
Maven Doxia Converter Converts from a number of input formats (APT, Confluence, DocBook, FML, TWiki, xdoc, XHTML) to a number of output formats (APT, Confluence, DocBook, XSL-FO, iText, LaTeX, RTF, TWiki, xdoc, XHTML). An extension to Doxia, the documentation framework used by Maven.
Scroll Wiki Exporter Exports from Confluence wiki to DocBook-XML and PDF. A Confluence plugin.
Confluence space export Exports Confluence pages to PDF, HTML or XML. (The XML is a Confluence-specific format) Tools built into Confluence.
Confluence Office Connector Allows you to use Microsoft Office or OpenOffice to edit a Confluence page; import an Office document into Confluence, converting its content to wiki format; attach an Office document to a Confluence page and display its content in Confluence, without converting the content; edit the attached document in the Office application, directly from the Confluence page. A Confluence plugin, also bundled with Confluence itself by default.
Universal Wiki Converter Converts from a number of wikis (TWiki, PmWiki, DokuWiki, Mediawiki, MoinMoin, Jotspot, Tikiwiki, Jspwiki, Sharepoint, SWiki, Vqwiki, XWiki, Trac, SMF) to Confluence. Binaries and a command-line script to run the tool.
OpenDocument Export Exports single pages or collections from MediaWiki to OpenDocument Text format (.odt). MediaWiki extension.
PDF Export Lets you view MediaWiki pages as PDF. MediaWiki extension.
PdfBook Composes a book from MediaWiki articles in a category and exports as a PDF file. MediaWiki extension.
KML Export Generates KML files for Google Earth from content in MediaWiki article pages. MediaWiki extension.
Wiki2LaTeX Exports Mediawiki-articles to LaTeX and PDF. MediaWiki extension.

Converting from something to a wiki

Tool What it does What it is
Maven Doxia Converter Converts from a number of input formats (APT, Confluence, DocBook, FML, TWiki, xdoc, XHTML) to a number of output formats (APT, Confluence, DocBook, XSL-FO, iText, LaTeX, RTF, TWiki, xdoc, XHTML). An extension to Doxia, the documentation framework used by Maven.
HTML-to-wiki-converter Allows you to enter raw HTML online, and convert it to Confluence, DokuWiki, GoogleCode, JSPWiki, Kwiki, Markdown. MediaWiki, MoinMoin, Oddmuse, PhpWiki, PmWki, SnipSnap, Socialtext, TikiWiki, Usemod, WakkaWiki, Wikispaces, WikkaWiki, XWiki A web site.
WebWorks ePublisher Converts from Microsoft Word, FrameMaker and DITA-XML to Confluence, MoinMoin or MediaWiki (as well as a number of non-wiki formats) A publishing platform.
DITA2wiki/DITA2Confluence Publishes DITA content (maps and topics) to Confluence wiki. A toolkit in the form of binaries and configuration files. You edit the configuration files then use Ant to run the conversion.
Confluence Office Connector Allows you to use Microsoft Office or OpenOffice to edit a Confluence page; import an Office document into Confluence, converting its content to wiki format; attach an Office document to a Confluence page and display its content in Confluence, without converting the content; edit the attached document in the Office application, directly from the Confluence page. A Confluence plugin, also bundled with Confluence itself by default.
Universal Wiki Converter Converts from a number of wikis (TWiki, PmWiki, DokuWiki, Mediawiki, MoinMoin, Jotspot, Tikiwiki, Jspwiki, Sharepoint, SWiki, Vqwiki, XWiki, Trac, SMF) to Confluence. Binaries and a command-line script to run the tool.
HTML to Confluence Converter Converts a web page (HTML source) into Confluence markup. A PHP script and a Confluence macro.
MsWordToTWiki add-on Converts from Microsoft Word to TWiki. A VBA script to convert from Word to HML, and a Perl script to convert from HTML to TWiki markup.
CopyMsOfficeTable add-on Copies a table from an Office program (OpenOffice or MS Office) to TWiki. This is just one of a few listed in the TWiki add-on pages. A TWiki add-on.
Sun Wiki Publisher Publishes from StarOffice or OpenOffice to MediaWiki. OpenOffice extension.
RoboHelp2Wiki Converts from RoboHelp to MediaWiki. MediaWiki extension.
Custom tools developed by IBM Anne Gentle’s book, Conversation and Community (page 165), describes how IBM uses XSL and DITA to convert content from Framemaker to Mediawiki. Custom tools developed by IBM.
Calc2Dokuwiki Exports a selected ranges of cells to tables in Dokuwiki syntax. OpenOffice extension.

Wow, so many?

Yes, and more. My list is just a start! From the number of tools already being used and under development, it’s clear that this is one of the growth areas for wikis in the next year or so. Some of the tools above are already a core part of one or more wikis. Others are stand-alone, fully-featured and well supported publishing or authoring platforms. And still others are plugins, extensions or add-ons created by the “ecosystem” of talented developers that surround and support wikis.

At this time, it’s a case of caveat explorator, for anyone needing to convert their documents to or from a wiki. Especially if you need to convert your content regularly as part of your authoring and publishing workflow, it’s worthwhile doing some in-depth investigation before using some of the tools mentioned above. Even more so if you’re looking for a “round-trip” conversion, where you need to convert from one format to another and then back again without losing content or formatting.

On the other hand, many of the above tools are already much used and well supported. It’s an exciting area for anyone interested in or already using wikis. Please let me know about all the tools I’ve missed. :)

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About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 14 September 2009, in Confluence, technical writing, wiki and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. What a great resource, Sarah! Thanks for sharing all your hard work and research.

  2. One or two in there that I hadn’t heard of, and a couple I’d forgotten. Thanks for compiling this list!

  3. Wonderful and timely post! Thanks for compiling this list (and for the book referral). On page 124, there’s a link to this SlideShare presentation that Chris Almond posted about the IBM RedBooks wiki project. http://www.slideshare.net/almondjoy/redbooks-wiki-central-texas-dita-ug-presentation

  4. Thank you for this long and useful list of available tools.
    I want to mention a plugin, that allows to import data from nearly every source into Confluence. In order to do so, the data from the source system is exported into a xml file. This file will be imported into confluence and allows for example the migration of metadata.
    You can find more infos at:
    http://tinyurl.com/re7ca9 (de)
    http://tinyurl.com/m7okrb (en)

    Regards,
    Judith

  5. Thank you everyone for your comments! :) And thanks especially to Anne and Judith, for the extra information about the IBM RedBooks project and about the Communardo data importer. Great stuff!

  6. Thanks for mentioning Scroll. Btw: We will be migrating to Atlassian’s Plugin Framework v2 after 1.1, which will allow us to expose an extensions point for users to export from Confluence to any output format they wish.

    -Stefan

    • Hallo Stefan

      It’s great that Scroll will soon be using Plugin Framework 2. I’ll be very interested to see what extensions people add and how it opens up the output possibilities for technical and other docs. Cool and kudos to the Scroll team.

  7. Thanks for this guide. It’s just what I need!
    Check the link to the CopyMsOfficeTable add-on: I think it should be http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Plugins/CopyMsOfficeTableAddOn
    -Deborah

  8. Sarah,
    We’re thinking about converting our Adobe RoboHelp 7 files to a wiki and this was really useful. We would like to get off specific tools for help authoring and use something like a wiki that everyone in the company (and someday customers)can use. What about Madcap Flare to a wiki? Also, what happens to the context-sensitive help and build tags when you convert to a Confluence wiki? Also trying to figure out how we would maintain localized topics on a wiki (our primary language is English and topics are translated into French, German, BR Portuguese, LA Spanish. We’ll also be translating into Japanese.
    Thanks!
    Gina Fevrier

  9. Hallo Gina
    Awesome — wikis are great for technical documentation and online help, especially if your readers are primarily online. For collaborative development and maintenance of the documentation, I haven’t seen anything that surpasses a wiki.

    Are you thinking of using Confluence in particular?

    I don’t know of a tool for converting from Madcap Flare to wiki format. If the Flare guys can give you any information here, I’d be delighted to hear about it too.

    As far as I know, there isn’t a tool that will automatcially convert your context-sensitive help and build tags into something that you can use with wiki-based documentation. But the conversion would not be too difficult, since the help tags in authoring tools are often held in the form of a structured text file. For our online help links, we provide a direct click through from the application to the wiki docs and the mechanism is a text file that we call “help-paths.properties”. Basically, it holds a number of name-value pairs, where the name is a screen or field identifier and the value is the help page URL (partial). I’ve written up how we do it in a blog post.

    The above solution will also work for localised help, in that you could publish the documents for different languages at different URLs and use the base URL at the top of the “help-paths.properties” file to point to the relevant language. At this stage, it is not set up for a different language per user within the same site.

    If you’re interested in Confluence in particular, I’m sure our technical sales team would be delighted to give you some more hints. You can contact them at “sales@atlassian.com”. There are also some links to hints on using a wiki for technical documentation on the Confluence Tips of the Trade page.

    I’m so glad the information in this post was helpful, and I hope this comment helps too. Have fun and good luck!
    Sarah

  10. Sarah,
    Thank you very much for all the info. We are still in the research stage of what we want to do with the user docs and whether or not we want to convert them to a wiki. We’ve also read Anne Gentle’s book Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation and have contacted her. It looks like a wiki will work for us, as long as we can give the customers printed docs (PDFs). I’ve looked at Confluence’s site but the way to print the docs seems confusing to me. This was a few months ago, so maybe there’s an easier way. Thanks!
    Gina Fevrier

  11. Thanks for all this info, very interesting and useful.
    We recently set up a wiki for our documentation, this includes everything from user info to white papers, FAQs and How-Tos. We use Mindtouch Dekiwiki, which is very easy to learn and set up (well the page structure etc, I don’t to the technicals). The two major improvements I have found over using programs such as MS Word is that you can connect everything, and so navigate from topic to topic via the links we add, and the various search options (tags, keywords, page searching, user searching etc). I write the vast majority of new functionality in the wiki – which means I don’t have to use that hideous monstrosity called Word 2007 anymore.
    Another advantage is getting other people involved in A) contributing – we’ve had loads of pages added by people in support and testing, and B) people see something needs changing and either do it themselves or email me about it. Either way, there’s feedback and action, something rarely happened with the old system. On top of that, developers and other people with information are adding their own notes and tips into the internal side of the wiki and other part sof our company are using it for their own business reasons (eg, Sales, IT supper, the HR dept, the Finance dept). Suddenly all the hiden info is out in the open – oh yes, page security – who can see what – is very, very simple to apply – so no worries about confidentiality. (That said we do not put all info on the wiki, some has to remain locked in vaults.)
    Clients are also very happy as they can find info much more easily, they can see the relationships between different parts of our system and they can leave comments querying the info, asking for more detail etc. And it’s all very cheap (and far more flexible) in comparison to most of the documentation systems we looked at before going with Mindtouch.
    That said, there’s still a long way to go, loads to learn but it’s great fun and my job is now far, far more rewarding than it used to be.

    • Hallo Mick

      Thanks for a really interesting comment! Your experience in moving to a wiki is very similar to mine, about two years ago. “… my job is now far, far more rewarding than it used to be” — yes!

      • ffeathers, I’m glad it’s workig for you too. As a tech writer with more than 10 years of experience, I’m used to working in dark cupboards and not being noticed by most people, now however I find myself presenting to clients at our annual client meeting, amongst other things. :) Whilst being more in the spotlight does have it’s drawbacks (e.g. increased workload) it is making my job as a writer easier as more people are listening to me and what I need to do my job. I am able to make decisions or influence discussions about the wiki, the way forward, etc – i.e. being involved in the business at a level I wouldn’t have imagined possible a year or so ago. :)

  12. Sarah,
    Thanks very much for posting the info about how to get to the PDFs. I will download some PDFs today.
    Mick,
    Thank you for all the info about your experiences.
    Isn’t it a wonderful world where this information flows 24 hours a day. I’m having a time trying to keep up with reading my blogs but I did sign up with Google Reader and it’s a little easier. Plus getting the notifications for this blog on my 2 e-mail accounts helps.
    I’m working with the STC Content Strategy SIG to present a case study on our experiences at the STC Summit in Dallas, Texas in May 2010. I hope more of Sarah’s blog readers continue to share their experiences!
    Gina Fevrier

  13. Hello Sarah,

    A great and useful post. Thanks very much for sharing. And thanks to Anne too for mention of my wiki project at IBM.

    FYI I googled q=exporting+microsoft+word+content+to+sharepoint+wiki+pages and this post came up in top 10.

    It was amusing see my name mentioned in the comments on a page that came up as a result of a google search query when I wasn’t expecting it. These internets are making the world feel really small.

  14. Hallo Chris

    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, small world. A blogging niche is a wonderful thing, especially when the search engines favour blog posts. :)

    Cheers, Sarah

  15. Hi Sarah,

    We’re getting ready to launch our user community with the Confluence wiki, blogs, and user forums. See my post at:

    http://ginafromtampa.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/getting-ready-to-launch-our-user-community-with-the-confluence-wiki-blogs-and-user-forums/

    And thank you for all of your help and support!!! We could not have done it without you.

    Gina

    • Hallo Gina,
      Fantastic news! All the best with the launch, and with your STC presentation too. I’ll be watching your blog for those promised updates. :)
      Cheers, Sarah

  16. Update: Scroll Wiki Exporter now converts Confluence wiki pages to Eclipse Help and JavaHelp too. I’ve tried the Eclipse Help conversion and written a post about it: Confluence wiki to Eclipse Help the easy way – Scroll FTW

  17. Additional update: We (K15t Software) have released Scroll Office, which exports Confluence pages to first-class Word documents. More info: http://k15t.com/display/web/Scroll+Office

    With first-class we mean:
    * export multiple pages
    * use word features such as styles, page headers, footers, etc.
    * generate native Word 2007 files.

    -Stefan

  18. garfieldlogan

    Getting xsl-fo documents converted can be a pain. Luckily I found a place that does them well. http://www.ecrion.com

  19. Hi Sarah,

    I need to prove that I can convert our Confluence wiki content back to Flare if necessary. Has anyone tried the Export HTML feature in Confluence to then import the html files back into Flare?

    Thanks,

    Gina

    • Hallo Gina

      I haven’t tried that myself. Just asked Twitter, so I hope someone may respond. :)

      Can Flare import DocBook XML? The Scroll Wiki Export plugin can export from Confluence to DocBook.

      • Sarah,

        Thanks very much for the info. I don’t know DocBook. I’ll do some testing in Confluence and see what happens. I posted the question to the STC online and single-source SIGs and tweeted. Hope to get a response.

        Thanks!

        Gina

  20. oooh! I may need to copy some Confluence content into Moodle soon and I forgot about the Export HTML option. Thanks for the reminder!

  21. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for this useful post! Could I ask you a probably naive question? I’m trying to make a local copy of a mediawiki wiki, and I have successfully exported to xml and imported it to my machine. However, none of the wiki’s attached files come along with the export. Would one of the tools to which you refer allow me to automatically export all linked files from a mediawiki? Or is there another automated way to do this?

    Thanks a lot! Sorry to bug you out of the blue…

    DMW

  22. Hello,

    This is really urgent. I want to convert my wiki confluence page(s) to word, but in presentable format(where I have to facility to insert company based templates – title page, TOC, headers, footers)

  23. I’m trying to bulk convert an entire confluence space to mediawiki. How does doxia actually read in the Confluence space? I tried exporting my Confluence space to xml, and feeding that to Doxia, but it didn’t seem to understand the format.

    • Melissa Lanning

      We’re trying to import Flare content into Confluence v.5.1.2.
      We usually export to HTML from Flare, but the HTML seems to not convert correctly to Confluence markup when I use the HTML2Wiki converter linked above. Do you know if this converter is up to date with Confluence? The markup it produces looks awful when pasted into a new Confluence page. Do you know if any other converters exist? The link to the HTML to Confluence addon above just takes you to a generic landing page, and I cannot seem to find this add-on in the Marketplace using the Find New Add-ons option in the Admin Console.
      If HTML won’t work, we can try exporting from Flare to Word instead then import as Word, but we’d like to try HTML first.
      Help?!

  24. Melissa Lanning

    Thank you for the reply, Sarah! I think we are abandoning the HTML import idea as we don’t want to fuss around with the wiki markup macro, and going with Word or DITA instead.

    In regards to DITA import, I wonder how up-to-date the DITA to Confluence importer on Sourceforge is, though, as it doesn’t seem to have been touched in a while, and we’re on 5.1.2.
    I’ll check out the Answers page, thanks for the pointer!
    (BTW, I’m reading your book now, great stuff!)

    cheers,
    Melissa

  25. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you just shared this useful information with us.

    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Sarah, anything you can do about this spam? I’m getting nonsense notifications almost every day at the moment. Cheers.

    • Hallo Mick
      The spam is a real nuisance. The WordPress spam trap seems to have become less effective recently. I’m diligently marking the offenders as spam, but there’s no more I can do. The best would be to unsubscribe from the comments feed and just keep the posts feed, if that suits you.
      Cheers
      Sarah

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