May 19, 2008

Sun Wiki Publisher extension for shines

Author: Andrew Ziem

Wikis are a great way to collaborate on text documents, but different wikis sometimes use incompatible wiki markup languages, and few wikis provide simple WYSIWYG editors to shorten the learning curve. Even for those fluent in wiki markup, using a word processor to create wiki content is often more convenient -- especially for publishing existing documents and for creating complex tables. Now the newly available Sun Wiki Publisher simplifies the process of publishing an Writer document directly to a compatible MediaWiki wiki from 2.4 or later without the need for a Web browser.

Extension series

Publishing to MediaWiki is not an entirely new feature for Versions 2.3 and later have a built-in XSLT export filter for exporting Writer documents to MediaWiki format. After export you must still open the exported document in a text editor, copy it, and paste it into the wiki through a Web browser. The new extension simplifies the publication process to just a few clicks, and avoids potential character encoding issues. It requires you have Java 1.4 or later installed.

To use Wiki Publisher, first find a MediaWiki wiki you wish to publish to -- other wikis are not supported at this time. You may need to open an account at the wiki, because many don't accept anonymous edits. Download and install the extension, then open a Writer text document. From the menu, choose File -> Send -> To MediaWiki, then click the Add button and type or paste the URL of any article from the wiki you are publishing to. Type your login credentials (if they're needed). Click the OK button, then choose the wiki server from the drop-down list. In the Title field, type the exact name of the article, which you can find in the article URL. For example, to publish to, you would enter "" in Title. Fill out the Summary (which shows in the wiki page history). If you're fixing a typo, reformatting, or otherwise not changing the meaning of the content, check the box "This is a minor edit" so that wiki editors know not to review the changes. Choose "Show in Web browser" to see the published article in your default Web browser when you're done. Finally, click Send.

If you expect to edit this wiki often and want to save your password, you can go to Tools -> Options -> Security and enable Persistently save passwords protected by a master password.

Compatible and incompatible formatting

Many Writer formatting features are compatible with MediaWiki export:

  • Paragraph breaks and manual line breaks
  • Paragraph alignment
  • Italics, bold, subscript, and superscript
  • Headings
  • Ordered and bullet lists
  • Tables
  • Hyperlinks

Incompatible features include underlining, strikethrough, font colors, and highlighting. Images must be uploaded manually.

While you are becoming familiar with Sun Wiki Publisher, you may want to publish a test article without touching articles in production. To do that, first check whether your wiki already has an article titled Sandbox. If you cannot find the Sandbox, publish to your personal MediaWiki user namespace. You can even create your own, personal sandbox in your own user namespace.

Future versions of the Sun Wiki Publisher may support importing wiki pages. Until then, if you want to work with existing text, select the text in your browser, copy it to the clipboard, and paste it into Writer.

The Sun Wiki Publisher combines the ease of with the collaboration power of MediaWiki. In future releases, look for preservation of background colors in tables, a wider dialog to better show the server URL, and a toolbar with icons.

Every Monday we highlight a different extension, plugin, or add-on. Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us about one that you use and how it makes your work easier, along with tips for getting the most out of it. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your chosen topic recently or have one in hand.)


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