Tip of the Week #14: Fix it! I made an oopsy…

5 Apr

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Ocassionally, our pages mess up because of a PBwiki bug. If that’s the case, then of course you should let somebody at support@pbworks.com know and they’ll help you get things back to normal. However, a lot of cases are our own doing, and it is sometimes frustrating to see our pages look like a wreck for a few hours while we wait for support’s answer, no matter how prompt it might be.

Below, I’m going to show you a few tips you can use to take your wiki into your own hands when a boo-boo comes along. Support is of course always available either officially through support@pbworks.com or by users like you through the forums, but a couple steps towards independence can be a welcome skill for any user.

Case 1: I erased a page’s content…

So, you were editing, maybe you highlighted too much stuff, deleted it, then hit the OK button instead of Cancel, which was your real intention. Now you’re missing content, and you don’t know what to do about it.

The first important thing about a wiki is that it’s easy to edit. The second important thing is that it keeps a history of your old revisions. Unless you delete a page completely (or delete specific revisions), you’ll always have access to all the old versions of your page. Each page’s revision history can be accessed by clicking the [history] link in the Page Information tab of your 3-column footer.

On the history page, you can click on any of the page links to view the old version of the page. If you like, you can revert to this version, but be warned! Reverting to this version will effectively delete all newer versions. It’s a powerful feature that can be used effectively in the right circumstances.

This can also be useful if your wiki pages have been vandalized or if a user has made an edit that you want to study more carefully. By clicking the bullets next to two different revisions and then pressing the [Compare] button, you can see what changes were made from one revision to another.

Case 2: I can’t get to my page…

A couple of days ago, somebody in the forums put redirection code into a wiki page: it redirected the user to another page in the span of about 3 seconds or so. That was great, except he had goofed and pointed it to the wrong place. So everytime he went to the page, it bounced him elsewhere in 3 seconds (the redirect code can be set to be nearly instantaneous, incidentally). He had 3 seconds to get his cursor to the edit button and click it so he could edit the page…

He was making it too hard for himself. Instead, he could have tried this: entered the page’s url into the address bar of the browser, and then appended “?edit=1”. For example, if I screwed up my FrontPage, I would type:

http://dochuyen.pbworks.com/FrontPage?edit=1

Then I press enter to load the page and go directly to the edit screen. BAM.

Case 3: My layout is screwy…

Messed up layout is typically caused by one of two problems: 1) a user inputted some bad HTML that wasn’t properly closed 2) the user inserted some badly constructed CSS. We’ll take each case individually

Bad HTML

If you’ve just entered a bunch of HTML, no matter how unrelated it might seem, check it out. This is especially true if you’ve entered some block elements, like a <div>. Something like that needs to be closed somewhere in the document with a </div>; if you have neglected to enter one, the browser interprets the next </div> it finds as the closing tag. Alternately, if you have too many closing </div> tags, you’ll prematurely close one of PBwiki’s pre-existing <div> elements, messing up layout.

If something like this is in the SideBar, it’ll mess up every page in the wiki. Otherwise, it’ll just mess up the page it is on.

Symptoms of bad HTML might include

  1. page content appearing inside the SideBar
  2. the 3-column footer looking bigger or smaller than it should (particularly if the font is the wrong size)
  3. overlap of PBwiki elements and user content
  4. elements ending prematurely

There are others, but those are the most common. In cases of bad HTML, this should never affect the header, so you’ll be able to access the top Edit button and figure out what’s going on.

Bad CSS

CSS can be inserted directly into a page with a <style> tag or, for premium users who have CSS support, into a wiki.css file for wiki-wide styling. In all these cases, every single part of a wiki can be affected.

Within a page, users can still use the “page?edit=1” trick to get the page content. But what about a faulty wiki.css? Imagine, for example, that the layout is so messed up that you can’t access either the CSS Editing Tool or go to the File page to upload a new wiki.css and/or delete the old one. What do you do?

Get to a computer with Firefox. In Firefox, click the View option in the menu bar at the top, then go to Page Style. Select “No Style” to remove all CSS-based styling from the page. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll be just enough functionality to delete the current wiki.css file and get to a point where you can work on your wiki again.

Alternately, you can try going to the following link: http://YOURWIKI.pbworks.com/css_tool.php , where YOURWIKI is the name of your wiki. This tool sets most of its own CSS, so it should be mostly immune to most mess-ups. Reset your CSS and save.

Conclusion

Easy, right? This information may not be useful to you when your wiki is in tip-top shape, but when you’ve made a boo-boo, you’ll probably want to have this page bookmarked.

Well, you guys know the routine by now. Email me with your questions, comments, or suggestions, or leave me a word here at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

Click here to see all my past tips.

Jason Nguyen

3 Responses to “Tip of the Week #14: Fix it! I made an oopsy…”

  1. Robbin April 5, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    I am having trouble with my tables. I am including resource lists to each page by including a thumbnail image of the resource with a brief annotation. For design purposes, I’m putting them in tables. However, I can’t seem to get the tables to work right in pdwiki. I find that they line up next to check other rather than one below the next. The only workaround I have been able to find is adding lots of blank space, but that doesn’t look good on every browser. What’s a pd to do?

  2. Josh April 13, 2007 at 1:43 pm #

    Sometimes when I am at school acsessing Project Fiction and other wikis the formatting and CSS is messed up.

  3. Jason April 17, 2007 at 2:02 pm #

    Robbin: Are you inserting the tables on new lines right from the start?

    Josh: It may be caused by old browsers, as the CSS should work fine in all the modern browsers.

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