SharePoint Server 2013 wiki site structure and usage are poorly documented. Let’s investigate how we can leverage SharePoint wiki sites for maximum effect.
Latest posts by Timothy Warner (see all)

If I had to pick only two Web sites that I would be allowed to visit for the rest of my life, one of them would be The Hawaiian word wiki means “quick,” and that is an apt term to describe these collaborative Web applications.

Microsoft SharePoint has included a wiki Web site template for the past couple versions. However, in my experience Microsoft has done a poor job in documenting their underlying structure, prerequisites, and usage best practice.

A common question for new SharePoint wiki administrators is, “Where can I find a wiki markup reference?” Here’s the short and unfortunate answer: Microsoft wikis don’t behave precisely like industry standard wiki software such as MediaWiki or PmWiki. More on that later.

Deploying a wiki site in SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2013 gives us two deployment options for what Microsoft calls the “Enterprise Wiki” site template. We can create the wiki site either as a top level or subsite within a site collection, or we can deploy the wiki as a separate site collection.

In my opinion, it is advisable to choose the second option due to the following reasons:

  • Site collections have their own permission structure
  • Site collections have their own content type, column, and Web part galleries
  • You can advertise the wiki site to your users as a host-named site collection (for instance,, instead of something like

As you can see below, site owners/site collection administrators get a different collection of default site assets. Bottom line: You get much more flexibility when you create a SharePoint wiki as a site collection.

Default wiki site assets

This is a composite image showing the default wiki site assets as deployed to a subsite or to a separate site collection.

Now about prerequisites: in order to create a wiki site of any scope, you need to ensure that the SharePoint Server Publishing feature is enabled for the target site collection and site.

The Publishing feature is important because it allows us full control over each individual page in the wiki. Speaking of which, you can find your wiki pages in the Pages document library, as shown in the screenshot. In the figure I highlighted the content types that allow us to create three types of wiki pages.

SharePoint document library

Wiki pages are stored in a typical SharePoint document library.

About that wiki page syntax

Believe it or not, only one traditional wiki syntax item exists in the SharePoint wiki site definition. If you want to create a new page from a word or phrase on a wiki page, enclose the word(s) in double square brackets like so:

The quick brown [[fox]] jumped over the lazy dog.

Wiki links to pages that don’t exist yet show up in the interface with a dashed underline as I demonstrate in the screenshot below. The word or phrase that is enclosed in the square brackets becomes the default name of the new wiki page. Speaking of which, the new page is provisioned when you click the link for the first time.

The other thing you can do with wiki links is change the default page name on the fly. You do this by typing the link text, a pipe character, and then the page title. Check out this example:

We use [[SharePoint | Microsoft SharePoint Server]] because we need a way to collaborate online We ueffectively.

To see the result of the above syntax, take a look at the screenshot.

Wiki markup syntax

You can create internal links quickly using "standard" wiki markup syntax.

Here’s the real disappointment for those of with prior experience with industry standard, open source wiki packages: SharePoint wiki pages consist of a mishmash of HTML and SharePoint’s own meta markup.

The good news is that you can markup your page by using the Ribbon interface in exactly the same way that you create content in, say, Microsoft Word. To create an external hyperlink, for example, simply use the toolbar button.

The bad news is that we have (very) limited control over the underlying page content. You can see what I’m talking about in the screenshot below. Pay special attention to the highlighted text—that defines the “quick brown fox” sentence we looked at earlier in this article. That doesn’t look like any XHTML I’m familiar with!

SharePoint wiki page source code

SharePoint wiki page source code is difficult to interpret.

Branding concerns

I’m sorry if I come across as overly critical of the SharePoint wiki sites. To be sure, this feature allows businesses to seamlessly integrate wiki content into their existing SharePoint farms with a minimum of muss and fuss.

A common business need for SharePoint adopters is branding sites to conform to corporate requirements. To that end, Microsoft gives us the nifty Design Manager feature to assist us in both branding as well as standardizing our wiki site.

From your wiki site, open the gear icon and select Design Manager from the drop-down menu. The navigation links on the left side of the page map to your eight available configuration paths:

  1. Welcome: Import a preconfigured design package or switch to a built-in composed look (theme)
  2. Manage Device Channels: Apply alternate style sheets depending upon the type of device accessing the site (for instance, computer, tablet, phone, etc.)
  3. Upload Design Files: Upload an HTML version of your Master page with supplemental CSS and js files and SharePoint will perform the conversion for you
  4. Edit Master Pages: Customize available master pages. I show you the interface in the screenshot below.
  5. Edit Display Templates: Customize how wiki page results appear in Search-driven Web parts
  6. Edit Page Layouts: Customize Web page zones and content areas for your wiki pages
  7. Publish and Apply Design: Assign your newly created and/or edited master pages to the wiki site
  8. Create Design Package: Export the current site’s design so that it is available to other wiki sites throughout the farm

SharePoint Design Manager

SharePoint Design Manager (not to be confused with SharePoint Designer) lets you customize master pages for your sites.

Design Manager is pretty cool, I must say. You should know that Design Manager functionality is available to any SharePoint site collection that has the SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure and SharePoint Server Publishing features enabled at the site collection and site level, respectively.

  1. Jon 9 years ago

    Hi Timothy,
    I think the top ribbon they use in office and SharePoint make things much easier to do. I did love that upgrade.

  2. Tim Warner 9 years ago

    Hey Jon, thanks for your comment. I agree–the Ribbon interface is pretty cool. The Minimal Download Strategy, in which UI elements that are fairly static are downloaded once to the client and not reloaded, makes for a more natural user experience. -Tim

  3. Jon 8 years ago

    Hi Timothy,

    Thank you so much for this article. There’s really very little out there about SharePoint 2013 wiki sites. Would you happen to know if there’s a relatively simple way (commercial tools or methods) to export the content of a SharePoint wiki to MediaWiki? If my company is stuck using SharePoint wiki for now, would you recommend any techniques to make the process of exporting the content of the SharePoint wiki to MediaWiki easier?

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