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little red hen needs help

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Posted by andyjim
Jan 31, 2014 at 04:50 AM


I am a lifelong journaler, and have long searched for software to provide me with a minimalist yet effective thinking/journaling/writing environment plus help me organize my thousands of past files and snippets, and the thousands more that I will write. (familiar story?)
I have several good ideas (at least I think they are good ideas) for the software I want. I’ve been designing it (term used loosely) for a few years. If I could find a software out there that’s anywhere near my design, I would pay hundreds for it in a heartbeat (and I am not rich).
But I have at last become convinced that to get the software I’ve needed for 20 years I will have to write it myself (said the little red hen). Yet I AM NOT A PROGRAMMER. I am a journaler and wannabe writer. But so determined am I to make this happen that I have begun studying programming on my own. I am in very early stages, but I think I need a mentor and guide. Writing software is not simple.
Some think I’m crazy to attempt this. Call it desperation. I need something that doesn’t exist, so I’ll have to make it happen myself. So I am turning to this community I’ve found so supportive. Can anyone suggest a plan?
Btw, my inquiry was rejected at a programmer’s forum. Those are for programmers, I think. I don’t want to become a software engineer, just get this project done.
Btw (the second), I think some folks on this forum might find my software of interest, if I ever get it done.


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jan 31, 2014 at 12:17 PM


That’s an ambitious goal. One I have fantasized about from time to time, but I definitely do not have the patience for it. However, if you want inspiration, just look at Keith Blount, who was basically in your same position six or so years ago. No programming experience. Wanted software for writing that he just couldn’t find anywhere else. Decided to create his own and Scrivener was born (after a few years of learning and programming). Anyway, I believe he has written and talked about this process and how he went about it. If you check out his website or Google his name, you may come up with some handy solutions direct from the horse’s mouth.


Good luck.

Steve Z.


Posted by Dr Andus
Jan 31, 2014 at 12:50 PM


It’s not unheard of (I’d put Story Turbo and Gingko in this category as well, where someone pairs up with a programmer). I’m all for new software, but I’d also ask whether a) is there really not a single software that could accommodate your needs (what are your criteria?) and b) could you not use a combination of software (a “tool chain”), perhaps patched together by macros or scripts (AutoHotkey, Python), so that they could act as a de facto single software that accomplish your aims?

Successful software need ongoing development, a user base that spots bugs and offers suggestions for improvements etc. Otherwise there is a risk that the software is left behind as operating systems move on.


Posted by jimspoon
Jan 31, 2014 at 01:59 PM


andyjim, if you tell us what features and functions you want to have in this program, I’m sure some here would point you to existing programs that may have them.  very interested to hear what you have in mind.


Posted by andyjim
Jan 31, 2014 at 06:39 PM


Thanks much, I knew I’d get useful responses here. Dr. Andus, I greatly admire your approach of chaining together several apps. I think that will ultimately be necessary for a complete system. My proposed app won’t do it all.
I’ll try to outline what I have in mind and why.
My thing is fresh thoughts. I generate them all the time. I don’t gather material, I generate it. So my needs flow from this MO. I need to be able to launch a new item instantly with a keystroke code. So many times I’ve had a thought, out of the blue and possibly unrelated to what I’m writing at the moment, but by the time I distract myself opening a new file or even simply backing out of a lower outline level to start a new heading, the thought has receded behind the mechanics of preparing a place to write it. I have shifted my mind out of hearing the muse and into preparing the ground. It’s a different, and for me, distracting mode to have to go into every time you have a new thought.
So, immediate new (and independent) item from keystrokes is one requirement.
I want an absolute minimum of distraction on the screen. No toolbars, no main window, the whole screen covered with a neutral, non-white (i.e. non-glaring) background. So at this point it’s just the blank screen and my new item, which itself has no toolbar, and minimalist borders. Not even a title bar at this point (optional, for later).  Now, in a split second, I can write the new thought without distraction.
There must be no requirement to name, class or connect the new item. Open it, and write. Then think about where the item belongs in the scheme. (I know that’s not a unique concept). Once it’s time to place the item, I want to be able to class by keyword(s), subject(s), topic(s), project(s), priority, and any other classes (customizable by user). I envision doing this in one table, attached to the item. Classing can be hierarchic but is not required to be. Ideally the system does not constrain you in any way. (I know CT in particular attempts to do this)
I want outliner capabilities, implemented in a minimalist way, within an item, as well as with tree structures for subjects, projects or any other class you want to look at from a tree perspective.
I want some column features, similar to Gingko, for lining up groups of items to work with. This would also occur within an otherwise empty screen. Did I say I like minimalist? Yet I want easy and intuitive manipulation of stuff.
I realize (though with very little use myself) that CT does many of these things, and other apps do as well, to greater or lesser degree. But the minimalist interface is a necessity for me because the way my peculiar mind works, and my proposed system for ‘classing’ or ‘keying’ items in a single table, after writing the item, appeals to my seeming need for order and disorder at the same time. Plus I don’t know of any app that does all this.
Even without being a programmer I can anticipate difficulties in all this, and there will be many wrinkles to iron out (nor have I presented all my design ideas). But this gives you an idea of some of what I have in mind and why.
One more ‘justification’ to add: I have 20+ years’ backlog of thoughts & items scattered. And I get worse every year, generating this past year over 300,000 words. I need to corral all this into a cohesive system that enables me to readily access everything I’ve written (and in the same app in which I write, because the shifting around that will be required if things are spread across various apps, folders, etc is intolerable). Some day I will write a book(s) from all these thoughts, so I need to be able to find and manipulate these thousands of items. This is why I need a multi-key system for classing and connecting things. I gotta be able to find it by subject, topic, keyword or any other scheme I may come up with. My proposed system will accommodate all this (I think). It would also (I think) be highly extensible, customizable and adaptable to many needs and styles.
Thanks for listening.


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