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One- and two-pane outliners versus hypertext

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Note: This message is from the outliners.com archive kindly provided by Dave Winer.

Outliners.com Message ID: 5300

Posted by kuehnm
2006-02-18 15:25:54


There was a discussion-thread some time ago about whether two-pane outliners or databases that implement a tree, like Jot+, the various versions of Treepad, TexNote, etc. etc. are outliners or not. (I forgot when exactly this took place and there is no search function in this forum, but perhaps the authors of the entries remember.) I found that very useful.

My view is that the true spirit of outliners lies in the one-pane variety, like More and Acta. Especially Acta was not meant for large databases but for structuring a document or limited information quickly and effectively. There appear to be successors to this type of application in the Mac World, but not in the PC World. You can run Acta on a Mac even today. It is also possible to do on a PC with an emulator. I actually installed Mini VMac on my PC to have access to Acta and More. Works well enough (though printing is a problem).

TkOutline is the only half-decent one-pane outliner that works on the PC. Ecco is already more than one wants for a quick outliner and goes more in the direction of a database. BrainStorm doesn’t want to be an outliner, but it comes close.

In any case, I would say that one-pane outliners have a definite use as a means for outlining a shorter document or limited information.

Are two-pane “outliners” ideal for storing large amounts of data? I don’t think so. The reason is, as Steve Zeoli pointed out in a previous thread, that the outline structure soon becomes difficult to maintain and that it will quickly become difficult to say where a certain piece of information should go. There are work-arounds, of course. And one can use such applications ... but it soon begins to feel “not quite natural.”

A Hypertextual database application seems better to me, because it allows for “unlimited internal branching,” since it does not commit you to a pre-defined structure. It also allows for meaningful clusters among the pieces that make up the information, while at the same time always keeping open the possibility of structering and re-structuring the information (like an outliner). Perhaps it might be said that a a hypertextual (or wiki-like) database is like a two- or many-dimensional outliner. Hypertext and outlining are thus complementary and not opposed (as common wisdom has it).

At least that’s what I think. I would be most interested in what fellow “outliners” in this forum think.



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