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Whoops! I meant: IdeaMason vs UltraRecall

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Posted by Hugh Pile
Mar 22, 2007 at 05:11 PM



What would make UR a better writing tool for me? I spent quite a while thinking about this last year. The answer came to me when I read a thread in this forum called something like “An Outliner of Outlines”. UR would need an outliner of outlines, explicitly within the software. (But actually I don’t think it should have one, because I don’t think UR is or could be a top-notch writing tool.)

I think many people write in a non-linear fashion, gathering bits and pieces of research, writing up their own “best bits”, adding bridging material, tucking in project to-dos and so on.  If one works in this fashion, and wants to stay in a single piece of software (of course one doesn’t have to), one needs a repository/library/database/binder for the bits, and then separately one needs a true “structural” outliner to fit them all together. (The repository doesn’t have to be a heirarchical tree; it could work with tags.)

Not many programmes have this dual outliner functionality. IM does. Scrivener (for the Mac) does. UR doesn’t. I thought I’d made a small breakthrough last year, when, as I wrote in this forum, I’d put MS Word into UR and was able to template its outliner in UR. But Word lost its menus (not its buttons) in the process, and the functionality seemed a tad clunking. For me it wasn’t a solution.

An ideal writing tool would also require such functions as simple ways of importing and exporting text, RTF and Word files, smooth handling of citations, project and document targets, timers and word counts, a recent history pane, versioning/snapshotting, a word usage counter, formatters that help with basic writing styles (academic, novel, filmscript, TV stage-play), revision/review/tracking tools, annotation tools, and several other widgets and gizmos that would make the writing task easier and more pleasurable. For fiction, a lot of people would favour formatted character and location sheets and the like, but personally I think that’s a Nineties fashion which I’m glad has passed.

But the fundamental requirement would be an outliner of outliners. Once I’d have tried to encourage the developers of UR (and similar programmes) to go in this direction, but now with the emergence of such tools as IM and Scrivener (and probably others that I’m unaware of), I think that’s unnecessary (and probably potentially bloating for perfectly good knowledge-managment software).