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Posted by jimspoon
Sep 10, 2011 at 01:38 AM

 

a spinoff from the “state of the art” thread.

I’ve come to a few conclusions (for my own use, anyway).

An “outliner”, in a strict sense, is a tool for displaying text segments of variable length in the familiar hierarchical tree, the highest level starting at the left (except for Hebrew and Arabic I guess!) and each subsequent lower level being indented one tab stop to the right than the next preceding higher level.  To be an “outliner”, a program has to enable you *within the confines of a single-pane* to:

(1) see the entire outline in a single pane, or as many items as will fit in the pane. 
(2) expand or collapse the entire outline or any item to any desired level, using keystrokes.
(3) split an item via keystroke into two items, or merge multiple items into a single item.
(4) move items (with their subitems) to any other place in the hierarchy, using keystrokes.

Examples: Grandview, Ecco, Infoqube.

I contrast this with programs that display the contents of only a single item at a time in an editor pane, with arrangeable item “titles” in a separation navigation tree pane.  (e.g. UltraRecall).  I need to be able to see the entirety of the multiple text items in their context as I am expanding, collapsing, splitting, or rearranging them.

(In UR, you can display a grid of child items, and you could display a column of multi-line “item text” cells in this grid - but they are not indented in the grid.)

Now UR looks like a great information manager - for displaying / filtering / sorting multi-field items in a grid.  But I’ve come to realize that when I’m brainstorming, the outlining functions mentioned above are essential. 

Ecco and Infoqube do a good job of combining the outlining functions, AND the grid of multi-field items.

Of course, sometimes we deal with units of information - entire web pages, tables, graphics, etc that don’t fit well into the outliner pane - these properly go into a separate editor/viewer pane.  UR and Infoqube do well on this.

Generally I think it’s a bad idea to put your information into the “text editor pane” as opposed to the outliner pane, unless you really have to.  The more you break up your info into separate outline items, the more flexibility you have for viewing/arranging/filtering/sorting that info.

Another little point about terminology - I’ve never liked the term “single-pane” outliner, because it implies that the fewer panes you have the better.  It’s not how many panes you have, what matters is how much you can do in the outliner pane, without having to jump between panes.  But if “single pane” outliner means that you have the full panoply of outlining functions all within the contents of a single pane, then that’s ok.

So for my purposes Infoqube looks like the state of the art, though I’m still relying on Ecco for now.

(btw - “Mindmap” programs leave me completely flat - give me outlines and grids!)

 


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Sep 10, 2011 at 11:02 AM

 

jimspoon wrote:
>An “outliner”, in a strict sense, is a tool for displaying text
>segments of variable length in the familiar hierarchical tree, the highest level
>starting at the left (except for Hebrew and Arabic I guess!) and each subsequent lower
>level being indented one tab stop to the right than the next preceding higher level.  To
>be an “outliner”, a program has to enable you *within the confines of a single-pane*
>to:
> >(1) see the entire outline in a single pane, or as many items as will fit in the
>pane. 
>(2) expand or collapse the entire outline or any item to any desired level,
>using keystrokes.
>(3) split an item via keystroke into two items, or merge multiple
>items into a single item.
>(4) move items (with their subitems) to any other place in
>the hierarchy, using keystrokes.
>

I agree with this list, but would add to it the following:

VIEW META-TEXT INLINE. The “tree” part of the outline usually consists of the headings/topics, not the content associated with each. When you write two paragraphs about sub-sub-head X, where do you want to view that meta-text? If my outline is of an article or a report, I want to view that meta-text inline, as part of the tree, not in a separate window. Why? Because reports or articles (any written communication), the information is not read as a collection of individual index cards, but as a whole and the writing should flow properly. If you have to view the notes you’ve associated with each topic as individual blocks (as a two-pane outliner forces you to), you can’t as easily make your writing readable as a whole.

My blog post about Grandview shows how that application did this better than any outliner I’ve ever used since:

—- http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/grandview/

Steve Z.

 


Posted by JBfrom
Sep 10, 2011 at 11:26 AM

 

Steve just from glancing at it Org-Mode might do everything that Grandview did, and if not you can certainly customize it.

See here and skip down to the Org Mode Intro section. http://www.cyborganize.org/productivity/videos/fast-start/emacs-org-mode-installation-configuration-and-tutorial/

I don’t use Org-Mode for heavy duty outlining anymore but I used to.

 


Posted by Daly de Gagne
Sep 10, 2011 at 01:10 PM

 

Steve, just occurred to me - given the strengths of Grandview, and how good it looks so many years into a post-DOS world, I wonder if you have any thoughts on why no one has tried to make a Windows version or equivalent to Grandview?

Thanks.

Daly

Stephen Zeoli wrote:
> >
>jimspoon wrote:
>>An “outliner”, in a strict sense, is a tool for displaying text
> >>segments of variable length in the familiar hierarchical tree, the highest level
> >>starting at the left (except for Hebrew and Arabic I guess!) and each subsequent
>lower
>>level being indented one tab stop to the right than the next preceding higher
>level.  To
>>be an “outliner”, a program has to enable you *within the confines of a
>single-pane*
>>to:
>>
>>(1) see the entire outline in a single pane, or as many items as
>will fit in the
>>pane. 
>>(2) expand or collapse the entire outline or any item to any
>desired level,
>>using keystrokes.
>>(3) split an item via keystroke into two items,
>or merge multiple
>>items into a single item.
>>(4) move items (with their subitems)
>to any other place in
>>the hierarchy, using keystrokes.
>>
> >I agree with this list,
>but would add to it the following:
> >VIEW META-TEXT INLINE. The “tree” part of the
>outline usually consists of the headings/topics, not the content associated with
>each. When you write two paragraphs about sub-sub-head X, where do you want to view
>that meta-text? If my outline is of an article or a report, I want to view that meta-text
>inline, as part of the tree, not in a separate window. Why? Because reports or articles
>(any written communication), the information is not read as a collection of
>individual index cards, but as a whole and the writing should flow properly. If you
>have to view the notes you’ve associated with each topic as individual blocks (as a
>two-pane outliner forces you to), you can’t as easily make your writing readable as a
>whole.
> >My blog post about Grandview shows how that application did this better than
>any outliner I’ve ever used since:
> >—-
>http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/grandview/
> >Steve Z. 

 


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Sep 10, 2011 at 04:51 PM

 

Steve,

I agree about the need to view flowing text as a continuous whole. At the same time, I like the kind of bird’s eye view that the navigation tree of a 2-pane outliner gives me. I am hopeful that I have found the best of both worlds in Sense, where the right pane shows the text from start to finish and the position is synced with the tree.

Admittedly I have not put it to heavy use; since late last year I have done very little longform writing. This is probably destined to change soon, so I should be providing some further testimony.

Stephen Zeoli wrote:
>If my outline is of an article or a report, I want to view that meta-text
>inline, as part of the tree, not in a separate window. Why? Because reports or articles
>(any written communication), the information is not read as a collection of
>individual index cards, but as a whole and the writing should flow properly. If you
>have to view the notes you’ve associated with each topic as individual blocks (as a
>two-pane outliner forces you to), you can’t as easily make your writing readable as a
>whole.

 


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