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Retrospective outlining

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Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Apr 1, 2012 at 11:48 AM


This is an interesting topic. It relates to a feeling I’ve long had about outliners, namely that the ones which of restrict your outline to individual blocks of text are not really outliners at all. They are hierarchical information managers. A true outliner allows you to see the entire structure—including the text related to each heading of the outline—in a single window so that you not only understand the structure, but you also understand the flow of words.

In other words, what you’re looking for is an outline view and a document view, in which the document view shows your entire project in a single pane. Changes made in either view are instantly reflected in the other. Alternatively, an application could work the way old GrandView did. It was a single-pane outliner in which your text was visible inline, but could be switched on or off, so you could see it all, or just the structure. In my view, none of the current outliners (OmniOutliner, Neo) handle inline text well enough to really pull this off.

In fact, the number of applications which actually do this is very small. Scrivener comes close with its scrivenings view, which shows your project in one flowing document, and has the option of displaying titles. You can edit titles and text in the scrivenings view and those changes are reflected in the Binder. However, in a quick test I just made it looks like you can’t rearrange the sections in the scrivenings view without messing up the Binder. (This relates to the Mac version of Scrivener. I doubt the PC version is even this sophisticated.)

I would say that ConnectedText is likely the best at this, another reason for admiring it.

Steve Z.