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Text editors with "smart folder" / "saved search" / filter functionality

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Posted by Lucas
Sep 10, 2015 at 10:11 PM


So as not to interrupt the thread about org-mode, I figured I should start a separate thread to respond to MadaboutDana’s comment about Ulysses. For reference, the discussion started here:


I took the opportunity to mention some thoughts about how I would like to see a text editor with “smart folder” or “saved search” functionality. And MadaboutDana mentioned Ulysses as a good implementation.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear or my terminology may be imprecise, but what I am actually looking for is a “smart folder” or “saved search” (or “filter”) that collects not files but rather lines of text that meet certain conditions. Ideally it would be possibly to specify whether to search a given document or various documents, but in either case the results would be displayed as lines of text meeting the given conditions. Some text editors, such as UltraEdit, do make it possible to save searches or filters, but they do not, as far as I know, allow for multiple saved searches/filters to be displayed statically in the folder pain, whereby one could click on them directly and organize them as needed. Rather, of the implementations I have seen, they all require selecting saved searches/filters from a drop-down list.

(I believe Scrivener does this, but then it doesn’t save in plain text.)


Posted by yosemite
Sep 11, 2015 at 06:37 PM


That sounds very specific… perhaps you could program or script it yourself, in an editor like sublime, atom, jedit, etc.

I do know of something that will do this though - it’s workflowy!  It’s not a text editor, and it doesn’t have “multiple documents”, so it probably won’t suit your needs. But it’s interesting because it can do exactly this - save powerful filters.  For example I focus/hoist/zoom in to any part of my outline and then put this in the search box:

ant bear OR trip buy

...and it will highlight in yellow all those search terms, and show only those lines that either (1) contain “ant” and “bear” anywhere on the line, OR (2) contain “trip” and “buy” anywhere on the line, OR (3) both (that is, all four terms, even if interspersed).

I can then “star” this and it saves my current focus/hoist/zoom level along with that search term/pattern.  Later if I go to this “starred page” it performs that search again, and it will find whatever results exist then (could be less or more depending on what’s changed).

Also the search is “as you type” aka incremental and results show immediately with every keystroke. 

Note workflowy search can do “AND”, “OR”, “NOT”, and quoted strings.  It can’t do regular expression search syntax, which is another thing that most of the powerful text editors can do.


Posted by Dr Andus
Sep 11, 2015 at 07:14 PM


yosemite wrote:
>I do know of something that will do this though - it’s workflowy!  It’s
>not a text editor, and it doesn’t have “multiple documents”

But you’re only one or two clicks away from a plain text export, and each item is a mini-document of sorts (with a title and a note)


Posted by Lucas
Sep 12, 2015 at 03:57 AM


Thanks very much for the comments about WorkFlowy. Indeed, I had been unaware of the starred pages feature, and given that WorkFlowy works offline and has mobile apps, it does indeed come close to what I was looking for. However, the inability to rearrange starred pages would be a major limitation for me. I would want to use dozens of such starred pages (at least), but in order to be practical I would need at least to be able to rearrange them (of course even better would be the ability to organize them hierarchically). I’ll definitely keep an eye on WorkFlowy to see if this feature gets further developed.

(Meanwhile I’ll keep relying on my mainstays, Tinderbox on Mac and InfoQube for those occasions when I’m on Windows, both of which I’m happy with. But I’d like to find an additional solution to throw into the mix that would create documents editable on mobile, hence the interest in an org-mode-like plain text solution.)


Posted by Mick S
Sep 16, 2015 at 11:02 PM


Lucas, I do something very much like what I think you’re looking for by combining Emacs with Ultra Recall. As mentioned in the thread about Org-mode, I keep my data in plain text files that I (mostly) edit using Emacs Org-mode. These files exist as plain text either on a local drive or dropbox but are synced to a UR data base.

I can edit them as needed on any device that can deal with plain text and add tags or notes or whatever as required. UR’s saved searches allow me to easily find tags or anything else I need later. I have about a dozen tags I use frequently with corresponding searches saved in UR. UR also allows me to construct ad-hock combinations and groupings of material as needed without affecting the original data, which is very handy.

This system is not prefect but all things considered, it works well for me and I haven’t been able to find another approach that offers quite the same degree of flexibility.


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