Review: JotSpot's 'Less Nerdy' Wiki Still Needs A Little Work

The latest version of this innovative wiki combines an Office-like interface with a variety of collaborative online apps. But does this combination really work?
Flies In The Ointment
While it's nice of JotSpot to offer a free account, the Personal Plan isn't all that useful. I rapidly bumped my head against the plan's 10-page limit and found myself having to rethink the pages I'd created, combining separate pages and deleting others to make room for new pages I wanted to create. (With five different users trying to create pages, this could quickly turn chaotic.)

Watch that page limit!
Click image to enlarge.
My page-limit problem wasn't helped by the fact that initially every calendar event I created was counted as one of my 10 pages. This seems to have been a bug, however, because at some point during my testing, new events stopped increasing my page count.

To make testing easier, JotSpot upgraded my account to the top-tier Company Plan, but the rest of you will have to shell out if you want more pages. That said, the Mini Plan allows you 100 pages and 10 users for $10 a month, which seems reasonable. Paid plans also get you basic support, higher storage limits, and the ability to customize the wiki's design.

It should also be noted that certain JotSpot features work better than others. Not surprisingly, the functions that work best are what wikis have always been used for: building basic Web pages and archiving documents. Importing Word documents into Web pages (rather than simply attaching and archiving them) works smoothly as well. The photo albums, on the other hand, are a bit clunky. For example, there's no way to upload images in a batch, and while you can enter captions for the images, those captions don't appear in either thumbnail or slideshow view.

Review: JotSpot 2.0

•  Up And Running

•  Building The Beast

•  Beyond The Basics

•  Flies In The Ointment

•  The Bottom Line

The spreadsheet pages go beyond clunky and into buggy territory. Although I never lost any data, spreadsheets that I imported from Excel lost their formatting, and even after I painstakingly restored that formatting using the wiki's WYSIWYG tools, it was sometimes missing again on subsequent visits to those pages. Rather than wasting any more time with these pages, I found it more useful to store Excel files in a file cabinet page and have people download, edit, and re-upload them there.

The calendar pages are the worst of the bunch, lacking even basic features such as the ability to invite others to an event and have them respond with a yes or no. The calendars also just feel kludgy. For instance, if you have more than one event on the same day, they appear in the order you created them rather than by time of day. And in order to create a recurring meeting, you first have to create the meeting in the "Add New Event" screen and then, once it appears in the calendar, double-click the event to get to the "Edit Event" screen, which has additional options such as adding a location for the meeting or turning it into a recurring event. Why not just give users those options in the first screen?

The elusive Edit Events box reveals the secret for making repeating events.
Click image to enlarge.

Likewise, standard wiki functions like tracking changes and rolling back to previous versions work very well on basic Web pages (just click the "Show version history" link at the top of the page) but are awkward and hard to find on these special page types.

The Bottom Line
So has JotSpot achieved its goal of building a less nerdy wiki? In many ways, yes. It is remarkably easy to set up an account and build a wiki with no knowledge of HTML or other Web languages. It could be an inexpensive solution for sharing documents within a workgroup or even with an outside client.

Don't waste your time with the photo, spreadsheet, or calendar pages, though. There are far better free online apps in all three categories -- you'd be much better served by using those and linking to them from your JotSpot home page.

Even without these special page types, JotSpot 2.0 is a reasonably priced way for non-technical folks to set up a shared workarea with a minimum of fuss. The ability to integrate additional collaborative apps such as a knowledge base or a bug reporter at no additional cost is icing on the cake.

Editor's Note: For advice on implementing wikis in the workplace, see the story Wikis At Work.

JotSpot 2.0
JotSpot, Inc.

Hosted Plan Pricing: (free trial available for paid plans; all paid plans include standard support; additional support plans available)
  • Personal Plan: free, 5 users, 10 pages, 5MB attachment size limit, 100MB total storage limit
  • Mini Plan: $9.95/month, 10 users, 100 pages, 5MB attachment size limit, 500MB total storage limit
  • Team Plan: $24.95/month, 25 users, 300 pages, 5MB attachment size limit, 2GB total storage limit
  • Workgroup Plan: $69.95/month, unlimited users, 1,000 pages, 10MB attachment size limit, 5GB total storage limit
  • Company Plan: $199.95/month, unlimited users, 5,000 pages, 10MB attachment size limit, 10GB total storage limit
Wiki Server Beta: Contact JotSpot

Summary: JotSpot 2.0 provides a quick and easy way for anyone to build a simple shared Web site and file repository, along with some interesting add-ons -- but look elsewhere for online spreadsheet, calendaring, and photo-sharing apps.
Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing