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At last -- my review of ConnectedText as an outliner

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Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Oct 24, 2012 at 03:36 PM

 

I’ve finally gotten my review of ConnectedText as an outliner posted. Since it has been so long since I was writing the other reviews, I decided against using the same format for this review, as I’ve sort of lost the mindset I was in and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be making a fair comparison.

You can find the review here:

http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/outlining-in-connectedtext/

As usual, I welcome corrections and opposing views in the comments section.

Steve Z.

 


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Oct 24, 2012 at 07:33 PM

 

Thanks Steve, interesting as informative as always. You did the right thing to not include ConnectedText with the previous batch of comparisons and to focus on its outlining features. I believe that CT would have actually faired rather poorly in such a comparison, as its wiki features (which represent its core functionality) are mostly irrelevant to outlining.

Thanks also to Dr Andus for the very useful complementary tips.

I personally have not yet warmed to up to ConnectedText for reasons beyond its actual functionality: it is an excellent personal wiki, but my work requires more and more collaboration on common archives. In addition, I’ve been rather rather spoilt by the likes of Dokuwiki: I have come to expect cross-platform operation of all wiki software.

 


Posted by Dr Andus
Oct 24, 2012 at 11:22 PM

 

Alexander Deliyannis wrote:
>Thanks also to Dr Andus for the very useful
>complementary tips.

You’re welcome…

> I believe that CT would have actually faired rather poorly in
>such a comparison, as its wiki features (which represent its core functionality) are
>mostly irrelevant to outlining.

...but I respectfully disagree :) Although wikis are often hailed as our liberators from hierarchical thinking, it is possible and can be even useful to view a wiki as a hierarchical structure.

As I said in one of my comments on Steve’s blog, the wiki’s homepage is basically level 1 of a hierarchy, and any outbound links are level 2. Links from those are level 3 etc., etc. You have cascading parent-child relationships like in an outline.

I find CT’s Navigator tool particularly helpful for constructing specific hierarchies purposefully. CT thus allows you to freely switch back and forth between a flat and a hierarchical experience, and you can completely forget about your hierarchy until the next time you need it again.

In the beta v. 6, Eduardo has now introduced a feature that allows one to remove individual topics from the Navigator view, so even if you have a particularly dense network of topics, you will be able to construct selective views of your hierarchy.

As I said on the blog, there seem to be at least 4 different ways of outlining in CT at the moment, and I have the nagging suspicion that there might be some other ways I haven’t yet thought of (given CT’s modularity).

 


Posted by Dr Andus
Oct 25, 2012 at 12:13 AM

 

Steve,

many thanks for the review. If by any chance you’re (or anyone else is) totally bored now and don’t know what to blog about after this ;-) a review series I’d be interested in is a comparison of outliners/writing tools for the latter stages of writing, i.e. transitioning from a basic outline to a first draft.

Mostly I’m thinking of single-pane outliners with inline note capabilities, and perhaps some tools for fiction and non-fiction writers. I have looked at this category recently and was surprised how thin these are on the ground (or rapidly ageing and being abandoned) and how poor the integration is across the writing process.

In the “outliners with inline notes” category the only ones that seem to be still developed are Inspire and UV Outline (and perhaps CT, if we include its “editor with folding” feature). The oldies include Outline 4D, LexisNexis Notemap 2, and Maxthink.

Having adopted Outline 4D for this purpose, now that my outline is filling up (13k words), I’m starting to feel that the next stage in writing would be to turn to a 2-pane outliner, to break up the outline again and start working on smaller sections (unfortunately Outline 4D doesn’t have hoisting).

So my ideal tool would be one where you could start out working in a single-pane environment to create a basic outline. Then, by a switch of a button you could turn on the inline notes feature, and start adding flesh onto the skeleton.

Then when the annotated outline grows too big (over 10k words), I would like to be able to switch very easily to a focused view, either by turning the single-pane outline into a double-pane outline with the inline notes in the second pane, or some easy hoisting feature.

Finally, one would want to export it and keep all the headings, so they would be recognised in MS Word for instance.

Scrivener, CT, and Outline 4D can do much of this (NoteMap also looked good), but none of them can do it from start to finish as smoothly as I wish. Inspire can possibly do the whole thing but I just can’t handle it from a usability point of view.

Okay, don’t worry, I’m just joking about the review series, but if anyone has any further thoughts or suggestions regarding this process, I’d be interested to hear it.

 


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Oct 25, 2012 at 05:29 AM

 

Dr Andus wrote:
>Although wikis are often hailed as our liberators from
>hierarchical thinking, it is possible and can be even useful to view a wiki as a
>hierarchical structure.
> >As I said in one of my comments on Steve’s blog, the wiki’s
>homepage is basically level 1 of a hierarchy, and any outbound links are level 2. Links
>from those are level 3 etc., etc. You have cascading parent-child relationships like
>in an outline.

Yes of course, but here’s the catch:

- Where can you actually see and work with all levels of that outline?

- Wikis don’t guide you towards hierarchical thinking. Unless you have a plan in your mind, you are most likely to connect everything to everything, with no consideration of levels.

 


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