Ikiwiki is a wiki compiler, which means that, unlike a traditional wiki, all the work needed to display your wiki is done up front. Where you can see it and get annoyed at it. In some ways, this is better than a wiki where a page view means running a program to generate the page on the fly.

But enough excuses. If ikiwiki is taking too long to build your wiki, let's fix that. Read on for some common problems that can be avoided to make ikiwiki run quick.

(And if none of that helps, file a bug. One other great thing about ikiwiki being a wiki compiler is that it's easy to provide a test case when it's slow, and get the problem fixed!)

rebuild vs refresh

Are you building your wiki by running a command like this?

ikiwiki --setup my.setup

If so, you're always telling ikiwiki to rebuild the entire site, from scratch. But, ikiwiki is smart, it can incrementally update a site, building only things affected by the changes you make. You just have to let it do so:

ikiwiki --setup my.setup --refresh

Ikiwiki automatically uses an incremental refresh like this when handing a web edit, or when run from a rcs post-commit hook. (If you've configured the hook in the usual way.) Most people who have run into this problem got in the habit of running ikiwiki --setup my.setup by hand when their wiki was small, and found it got slower as they added pages.

use the latest version

If your version of ikiwiki is not 3.20200202.4, try upgrading. New optimisations are frequently added to ikiwiki, some of them yielding enormous speed increases.

run ikiwiki in verbose mode

Try changing a page, and run ikiwiki with -v so it will tell you everything it does to deal with that changed page. Take note of which other pages are rebuilt, and which parts of the build take a long time. This can help you zero in on individual pages that contain some of the expensive things listed below.

expensive inlines

Do you have an archive page for your blog that shows all posts, using an inline that looks like this?

[[!inline  pages="blog/*" show=0]]

Or maybe you have some tag pages for your blog that show all tagged posts, something like this?

[[!inline  pages="blog/* and tagged(foo)" show=0]]

These are expensive, because they have to be updated whenever you modify a matching page. And, if there are a lot of pages, it generates a large html file, which is a lot of work. And also large RSS/Atom files, which is even more work!

To optimise the inline, consider enabling quick archive mode. Then the inline will only need to be updated when new pages are added; no RSS or Atom feeds will be built, and the generated html file will be much smaller.

[[!inline  pages="blog/*" show=0 archive=yes quick=yes]]

[[!inline  pages="blog/* and link(tag)" show=0 archive=yes quick=yes]]

Only downsides: This won't show titles set by the meta directive. And there's no RSS feed for users to use -- but if this page is only for the archives or tag for your blog, users should be subscribing to the blog's main page's RSS feed instead.

For the main blog page, the inline should only show the latest N posts, which won't be a performance problem:

[[!inline  pages="blog/*" show=30]]

expensive maps

Do you have a sitemap type page, that uses a map directive like this?

[[!map  pages="*" show=title]]

This is expensive because it has to be updated whenever a page is modified. The resulting html file might get big and expensive to generate as you keep adding pages.

First, consider removing the "show=title". Then the map will not show page titles set by the meta directive -- but will also only need to be generated when pages are added or removed, not for every page change.

Consider limiting the map to only show the toplevel pages of your site, like this:

[[!map  pages="* and !*/*" show=title]]

Or, alternatively, to drop from the map parts of the site that accumulate lots of pages, like individual blog posts:

[[!map  pages="* and !blog/*" show=title]]

sidebar issues

If you enable the sidebar plugin, be careful of what you put in your sidebar. Any change that affects what is displayed by the sidebar will require an update of every page in the wiki, since all pages include the sidebar.

Putting an expensive map or inline in the sidebar is the most common cause of problems. At its worst, it can result in any change to any page in the wiki requiring every page to be rebuilt.

avoid htmltidy

A few plugins do neat stuff, but slowly. Such plugins are tagged slow.

The worst offender is possibly htmltidy. This runs an external tidy program on each page that is built, which is necessarily slow. So don't use it unless you really need it; consider using the faster htmlbalance instead.

be careful of large linkmaps

Linkmap generates a cool map of links between pages, but it does it using the graphviz program. And any changes to links between pages on the map require an update. So, avoid using this to map a large number of pages with frequently changing links. For example, using it to map all the pages on a traditional, highly WikiLinked wiki, is asking for things to be slow. But using it to map a few related pages is probably fine.

This site's own linkmap rarely slows it down, because it only shows the index page, and the small set of pages that link to it. That is accomplished as follows:

[[!linkmap  pages="index or (backlink(index)"]]

overhead of the search plugin

Be aware that the search plugin has to update the search index whenever any page is changed. This can slow things down somewhat.

cgi overload workaround

If the ikiwiki.cgi takes a long time to run, it's possible that under load, your site will end up with many of them running, all waiting on some long-running thing, like a site rebuild. This can prevent the web server from doing anything else.

A workaround for this problem is to set cgi_overload_delay to a number of seconds. Now if ikiwiki.cgi would block waiting for something, it will instead display a Please wait message (configurable via cgi_overload_message, which can contain arbitrary html), and set the page to reload it after the configured number of seconds.

This takes very little load, as it all happens within compiled C code. Note that it is currently limited to GET requests, not POST requests.

scaling to large numbers of pages

Finally, let's think about how huge number of pages can affect ikiwiki.

  • Every time it's run, ikiwiki has to scan your srcdir to find new and changed pages. This is similar in speed to running the find command. Obviously, more files will make it take longer.

    You can avoid this scanning overhead, if you're using git, by setting only_committed_changes. This makes ikiwiki --refresh query git for changed files since the last time, which tends to be a lot faster. However, it only works if all files in your wiki are committed to git (or stored in the transient underlay).

  • Also, to see what pages match a PageSpec like "blog/*", it has to check if every page in the wiki matches. These checks are done quite quickly, but still, lots more pages will make PageSpecs more expensive.

  • The backlinks calculation has to consider every link on every page in the wiki. (In practice, most pages only link to at most a few dozen other pages, so this is not a O(N^2), but closer to O(N).)

  • Ikiwiki also reads and writes an index file, which contains information about each page, and so if you have a lot of pages, this file gets large, and more time is spent on it. For a wiki with 2000 pages, this file will run about 500 kb.

If your wiki will have 100 thousand files in it, you might start seeing the above contribute to ikiwiki running slowly.


If you have a repeatable change that ikiwiki takes a long time to build, and none of the above help, the next thing to consider is profiling ikiwiki.

The best way to do it is:

  • Install Devel::NYTProf
  • PERL5OPT=-d:NYTProf
  • export PERL5OPT
  • Now run ikiwiki as usual, and it will generate a nytprof.out file.
  • Run nytprofhtml to generate html files.
  • Those can be examined to see what parts of ikiwiki are being slow.