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Structured Document Editors?

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Posted by Lucas
Jul 12, 2010 at 01:19 PM


I recently came across Sense, a “structured text editor” or “advanced document editor” from Silva Elm:


The software turns out to be a bit buggy, but it has a key feature that so far I have found elsewhere only in Scrivener. It behaves like a two-pane outliner, but it is possible to edit the text in the right-hand pane as a single combined document. For me this is a useful set-up for composing documents. I can work on the structure in the left-hand pane, and I can work on the text in the right-hand pane. When I click on a section in the left-hand pane, the corresponding text is selected in the right-hand pane. (In Sense, it is even possible to show or hide text in the right-hand pane by expanding and collapsing the hierarchy in the left-hand pane.) But in WhizFolders, for instance, while there is a combined view available, it is not possible to edit within the combined view. The same goes for Biblioscape, Ideamason, and others. For me, it’s essential to be able to see what comes before and after a given section as I work on it, so I don’t like working in editors in which only a single section is available in the right-hand pane.

If Silva Elm weren’t so buggy, it would basically fit this particular need. Scrivener is only on Mac, of course, and there are other aspects of it that don’t work for me anyway. Does anyone know of any other software that offers two-pane outlining with an editable combined view in the right-hand pane?



Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jul 12, 2010 at 06:14 PM


The only thing close to this for Windows that I can think of is Writers Blocks. This is an application that has been around awhile, hasn’t been updated in five or six years (maybe even longer), and is on the expensive side. I mention it because I think it is an interesting program that if updated and given a bit of a UI makeover would be a useful application.

Instead of a tree-structure for organizing your writing, Writer’s Blocks uses multiple miniature word processing windows that you arrange in columns. You can then view these individual chunks as one document, which—I’m pretty certain—you can edit in place.

I’m not recommending Writer’s Blocks, but I think you might find it interesting to look over and play with the trial version.

You can find it here:




Posted by Lucas
Jul 12, 2010 at 06:44 PM


Thanks very much, Steve. I tried Writer’s Blocks before, but I didn’t remember that it’s possible to edit the combined document. I guess the only downside with Writer’s Blocks would be that the blocks cannot be organized hierarchically (from what I remember). But perhaps I should have another gander.

In the meantime, I’ve been continuing to experiment with Sense. Despite the annoying little bugs and slim feature set, I’m finding that it’s unique capabilities make it quite useful. It also appears to be under active development.



Posted by clacha
Jul 12, 2010 at 07:47 PM



We are using Scenari for audit missions authoring: The document structure implements the audit methodology.


Kind regards


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jul 12, 2010 at 08:24 PM


FYI, I sent an e-mail today to Ashley Software, makers of Writer’s Blocks, asking about the status of the program. I got this pretty quick reply:

“The new version has taken longer than we anticipated but we are happy to report that we are about to start beta testing!”

I hope they’ve put a lot of work into upgrading the user interface and editor engine, because this is an interesting and unique application.



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