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Zoot XT - experiences?

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Posted by Cassius
Jan 7, 2012 at 06:25 AM


Now that Zoot XT has been out for a while, I (and probably others) would be interested in the experiences of those who have used it:  Eg., what’s to like, dislike, ...


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jan 7, 2012 at 12:28 PM


Early in its beta release (which was what? 30 or so years ago now, I think) I hated Zoot XT (or version 6, as it is also known). That was when I was using Windows XP still. But a few months ago, my work PC died and I got a new one running Windows 7, and I found that Zoot XT felt much more solid—don’t ask me exactly what I mean by that, as I’m not sure. It’s just that Zoot felt like it performed properly, when before it did oddball things. (That also may have been related specifically to my computer, I have to admit.)

But here’s what I like about it now: It works a lot like the old Zoot that I loved, but without most of the limitations. I’m still shaky on a lot of the new features… and will be until Tom Davis puts together the help file. Many of these new features revolve around getting information in and out via the cloud, which I don’t really care much about at this moment.

So, I went from desperately trying to replace Zoot about a year ago, to jumping back in about three months ago.

That’s my experience so far.

Steve Z.


Posted by dan7000
Jan 8, 2012 at 05:23 AM


Do we have rich text yet?  And if so, how does it handle pasting rich text from, say, a web page into Zoot?  How well is formatting preserved?


Posted by Gorski
Jan 8, 2012 at 05:47 PM


Zoot XT is now very stable and I’ve been using it full-time for nearly two months. It still has bugs, but none are showstoppers, and the developer, Tom Davis, snuffs them out immediately when they are reported. Except for a recent break for a move, he seems to be working on it almost every day and posts frequent updates.

It’s currently a “release candidate” after being in beta for a long time. I had tried some of the beta versions and always encountered problems that kept me from wanting to commit to it for any length of time. I think those problems have been worked out and it’s quite fast now, even on XP (I run it both on XP and Windows 7)

I had been a Zoot enthusiast but abandoned it four or more years ago because it was plaintext only and lacked support for RTF, HTML etc. It became intolerable to me that I couldn’t highlight text. I also didn’t like that long documents were split into multiple items. Zoot now supports RTF and HTML and highlighting quite well. Long documents are no longer split up.

During my time away I used either OneNote or Ultra Recall. I’ve tried other apps but found them lacking for my needs compared to those two.

What I’ve always loved about Zoot is its flexibility—it really does much better than anything else I’ve used at handling high volumes of email, web clippings, notes, PDFs, etc. You can do this using automated “rules” and “actions” and “smart folders” as well as through tagging, flagging, dating and otherwise modifying items. Nothing else I know of gives you as many options or makes it as easy to do as Zoot. Zoot has many thoughtful—and undocumented—features built in that make manipulating information easier.

I’m an editor at a daily newspaper, and since going back to Zoot, I’m reminded how important its speed and flexibility is, and what drew me to it in the first place.

Both OneNote and Ultra Recall can be relatively laborious to use when trying to cope with a lot of stuff—say thousands of notes, emails, documents, etc.—because you have to manually move items around.

I like the way Zoot handles quick searching and filtering. I like the way almost everything can be done through keyboard shortcuts and the ease you can dump information into it from other programs, and the ease with which you can shoot information from Zoot elsewhere.

I like the way you can open multiple windows and work on multiple documents at once. You can’t do that with Ultra Recall except through some awkward workarounds. Development of Ultra Recall also seems to have ground to a halt.

I like the way you can put the same item in multiple folders. You can’t do that with OneNote.

I’ve written here before how I’m not a fan of Zoot’s integration with online web services like Twitter, Google Docs, Instapaper, Evernote, etc., because I think those will be changing frequently and burn up a lot of development time that could be devoted to polishing its more universal information handling capabilities.

That said, I like that it can be kept synched on multiple computers through Dropbox. It’s not as good as OneNote’s synchronization, but it’s been working well for me.

It has built in email and RSS feed reading and while they work fine, they aren’t as robust as standalone programs. I’d like to use the feed reader but it has failed on some feeds that work in Google Reader, for example. I don’t use Zoot for email, preferring to stick with Outlook and Gmail, but I like that I can dump email from Outlook into Zoot for quicker sorting and filtering into various projects.

It may that Zoot’s embrace of the cloud is a smarter strategy than I think it is and it’s becoming a kind of “glue” app that links together all these other information tools and online services. It could be that over time it will iron out these problems to the point where they’re not significant.

While Zoot is solid enough to use every day without worrying about losing your work, it doesn’t feel nearly as well put-together as OneNote or even Ultra Recall. OneNote, of course, has all of Microsoft behind it. Ultra Recall has only a single developer, I believe, but he’s not trying to do nearly as much with his program as Davis is with Zoot. Davis keeps adding and tweaking features so Zoot’s always in a state of flux, but of course he hasn’t released a final version of XT yet.

Zoot’s interface is eccentric compared to other Windows programs, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. I don’t like the default dark theme but you can change it, adjusting fonts and colors to your taste.

It has an internal browser based on IE. I don’t use it. Theoretically you can open Word or Excel docs inside Zoot, but that hasn’t worked for me. PDFs do work.

Zoot has a built-in outliner that I find strange. As best I can tell, it allows you to quickly create a folder structure in outline form, but isn’t an outliner as most here would think of one. It seems half-baked and useless, but maybe there’s some magic there I don’t understand. Davis is smart about this stuff and caters to and anticipates his users’ needs, which is more than you can say for most in this arena.

More than once I thought I wish Zoot did X .... only to discover that it does.

But I think you have to be a dedicated information-management junkie to take to Zoot. It would be hard for the uninitiated to pick up, even if it had a manual, which it doesn’t. But Davis has said he’s going to be devoting 80 percent of his time documenting how to use Zoot now that this version is almost finished.


Posted by Leib Moscovitz
Jan 8, 2012 at 06:17 PM


One consideration which might be relevant to some users: Zoot does not support Unicode (cf.  http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/866/10) - and for at least some of us this is a show-stopper.


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