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Plain Text (as in .TXT) Outliner?

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Posted by steveylang
Mar 19, 2013 at 06:32 PM


Thanks for all the suggestions so far! I am primarily Mac but am interested in both Mac and Win, and hopefully Win users find some useful suggestions here. Many of these applications look very good, and are pretty close. Some feedback (not for sake of nitpicking the suggestions, but for sake of discussion):

I think the closest so far is jEdit- I am indeed primarily think of a 1-pane outliner.
Insight is very interesting as a true 2-pane outliner, not 100% plain text but I think that would be impossible to do with a 2-pane outliner that spans multiple text files.
NoteTab looks like an ‘almost outliner’, in that there is only a top level hierarchy, but still very nice that everything is contained in a single text file.

jEdit functionally does everything I asked for (plain text file format, singe-pane outlining, cross-platform). I only wish it had a proper modal outlining interface (is ‘modal’ the right term here?), with a navigation mode (easier for expanding/contracting and moving items) as well as a text editing mode.

Thanks again!


Posted by steveylang
Mar 19, 2013 at 06:36 PM


Sorry forgot to add 1 more- EmEditor’s Outline plug-in looks very good. It’s basically a 2-pane outliner, but since it’s all in a single text file that’s close enough to me.


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Mar 19, 2013 at 08:31 PM


@Lucas: Thanks for the heads up on Jedit; it’s just what I needed to take the place of Emeditor in Linux!

>EmEditor’s Outline plug-in looks very good.
>It’s basically a 2-pane outliner, but since it’s all in a single text
>file that’s close enough to me.

You don’t need to use (or even show) the tree pane—the “custom bar” in Emeditor terminology. You can do all your outlining in the text content pane, by enabling “outline as a guide”.


Posted by Lucas
Dec 24, 2013 at 01:43 PM


Earlier in this thread I mentioned jEdit as a solution for outlining (tab or indentation-based folding) with a text editor. I can now recommend Sublime Text (Mac/Windows/Ubuntu) as an even slicker solution to achieve the same:


or the latest beta (that’s what I’m using)


With Sublime Text, I didn’t have to adjust any settings after downloading the program—- the tab-based folding seems to work automatically. Just note that the default behavior is that the folding arrows, which appear in the “gutter”, only show up when the mouse is hovering over the gutter. Also, since this software is designed for developers, it’s a little confusing at first to figure out how to adjust basic settings (to hide line numbers, for example). Basically, you have to open the default settings file, find the setting you want to change, and then write that change in the user settings file. A little cumbersome for non-developers like me, but it’s a nice program. Not free, but the beta is free for now, and of course there’s no lock-in with a text editor.


Posted by Lucas
Dec 24, 2013 at 02:15 PM


I should clarify that jEdit is actually a bit smarter with indentation-based folding: Unlike Sublime, jEdit also does hierarchical folding based on indentation with spaces, as opposed to only with tabs. (There may be a way to configure Sublime to do the same, but I’m not sure.) In general, anyway, Sublime is a slick program, so potentially useful to have in one’s toolbox.


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