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askSam vs. Zoot? and vs. others

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Posted by 22111
Oct 6, 2013 at 04:43 PM


Armin, thank you for this overview.

Some software chokes with large databases, AS for example: Its users who use it for specific, well-rounded tasks don’t encounter too many problems, in general. On the other hand, new AS users would be lost since they don’t have its (excellent) search language codification available anymore that makes the strength of AS but is not contained within the help file, and that old forum in which you could find all the “tricks and tips” is long gone. With Zoot, it’s the other way round, effective help is not available YET - so this is a might brighter perspective.

But as some other such programs, Zoot seems to offer it “all contained in one big database”, and it’s evident its strenght will play then, for example mail integration and then dividing up your stuff into several databases is not really a good idea.

But I’ve become wary of data monsters, so my question is: How many items? How many problems?

I’ll give an example: TheBrain - they give examples of “brains” with 6-digit figures of items, and lots of interconnections, and it doesn’t seem to present any problem. But then, real users say that even with just 3- and 4-digit numbers of items, IF they systematically have text within the content fields of those items, TB chokes, and some people even lost almost all their content, not speaking of response times multiplying.

On the other hand, UR seems to be very stable, even with big data, which is a reason even people who don’t like it anymore, stay with it.

Also, UR has very good management of external data just linked to it, for example pictures, which are separate items in the tree, but which in fact are just linked to, and if you browse your tree, response times are so good you will not become aware that here, UR shows internally-stored rtf text, and there, it switches to a picture browser, within the same frame, in order to display the external picture, and if you have many such pictures (for example for a home-made real estate application or such), every such picture is about zero data in the UR database, but easily 2 or 3 million bytes within Maple or Jot+ (because of their importing pictures, and “translating” them into a very bad pic format, so even 30k jpg’s become blown up to more than 1 million bytes).

In the end, it’s details like these that make you decide upon this outliner or that one: quite specific info but which in your everyday life with the application, will make your workflow smooth, or make you look out for the next outliner out there.

My looking around being caused by UR’s non-availability of formatting for tree entries - this might appear ridiculous, but I too much crave for this formatting in order to become ever happy with UR.

That’s why more insight, user experience detailing strengths and less good points are so helpful.


Posted by Armin
Oct 6, 2013 at 06:16 PM


22111 wrote:
>But I’ve become wary of data monsters, so my question is: How many
>items? How many problems?

This has been recently discussed in the Zoot-Group:

There Tom Davis said:
> The main factors which affect Zoot performance are:
> * Amount of RAM
> * Speed of Hard Drive(s)

I had once problems with a huge feed database in Zoot, which contained 40.000 and more items (RSS,Twitter) and which was slowing down the system while fetching new items, but that’s long ago (2 years or so). I guess Tom Davis (developer of Zoot) did something in the meantime to avoid this. I cannot say anything about including huge photosets into Zoot and how that works, because I only use small amounts of images in my Zoot databases.

> My looking around being caused by UR’s non-availability of formatting for tree entries - this might appear ridiculous, but I too much crave for this formatting
> in order to become ever happy with UR.

Although I do not know what exactly you mean by tree entries, according to formatting:
In Zoot you have three panes.

1. A folder tree with folder names (simple folders, smart folders and GTD-folders), you manually can modify the color of the folder (name) but you cannot set them to italic or bold (they are automatically bold, if they contain unread items). Folders with feed accounts get if provided the favicon as their folder icon.

2. The item grid shows the subject and the selected fields of each item located in a folder. You can select the fields you want to see in the item grid and you can build different user-defined views for this item grid. The text of the item’s subject only can be formatted via color in the item grid. The subject is bold, if its item is unread. Within smart folders using RULES and ACTIONs you automatically can modify the color of the item’s subject.

3. The content of the item, in former versions of Zoot when items were plain text only this was called “body” of the item, now it’s the editor pane. The item body can be plain text, RTF or HTML. You can select and change this. So you are able to format the text of the item as you want. There is also a useful comment field (which could be inline or excluded) for each item, if you want to take some notes or remarks to a full text document (I use color for analysing articles and put e.g. footnotes or references into the comment field).

sorry for any mistakes in English, it’s not my native language and I’m in a hurry. ;-)



Posted by 22111
Oct 7, 2013 at 10:25 AM


Armin, thank you so much for your very helpful details!

Informative link I had not seen; I suppose that with just linking photos instead of really importing them, Zoot should do rather well.

Thank you, too, very much for your description of Zoot’s 3-pane layout; I must admit that for a moment, I had totally forgotten this very important aspect.

Of course, I mean every possible item within the UR tree, by “tree entries” - the current one is bolded by UR as long as it is the current one, instead of for example having some grey background, and then it reverts to regular font, when you switch to another entry (entry meaning item, be it a detail, a sub-heading, a heading… since 2-pane outliners mix up folders and their content in their tree), so your only chance to differentiate tree entries visually is by applying different icons.

3-pane: I think that in theory, it’s extremely useful to do NOT mix up “folders”/“sub-folders” and “items”, so I “trialled” (played around with) Zoot when it was in early XT, and I observed this:

Tree is to the left, as usual; good. Then the item list is on top, very large, and beneath it, the content, same width. For content, you need this large width, but certainly not, except in special cases, for the items list, so there is much screen space lost here.

On the other hand, again in most cases, you will need as much height for the items list as possible, which means it should be, as the folders list, as height as your screen, in order to show some dozen of items within the current (sub-) folder. So I tried to change the layout from

1 2/3 (3 under 2)

to 1 2 3 (1, 2, 3 in a row from left to right)

as is possible in Outlook, and in some pic viewers, but I didn’t succeed, and as I remember now, that was the reason for which I quickly lost interest in Zoot before really trialling.

So my double question here would be, did the developer change this fixed layout to make it more malleable, or why not, if he didn’t?

I could imagine some philosophy behind, being “create a maximum of folders/sub-folders, and then put only 7 items in each”, but unfortunately, when having created too fine a web of sub-folders, I often then encounter the problem that I don’t know afterwards into which (obviously TOO) fine-grained sub-category I put some item, so I prefer longer lists, most of the time, and broader sub-categories, which in such a 1 2/3 layout would necessitate lots of mouse clicks to the up and down arrows of this field.

So, did I overlook possibilities for a better layout, or has this really been made on purpose?


Posted by Graham Rhind
Oct 7, 2013 at 01:17 PM


22111 wrote:

>>some man (here, I think) says the developer of Zoot doesn’t answer his
>>mails anymore, since he mentioned too many bugs to the developer…

That might have been me (but not because I mentioned too many bugs). In all the time I was working with Zoot, as a paid customer, I got, I think, just one response from Tom to any question (and I’m not a demanding user).  I didn’t get any response to a recent request for help upgrading. Tom is idolised by many, but for me any support there is is just too fragmented. Regardless of the excuses people find for this/him, I won’t use Zoot again.



Posted by 22111
Oct 8, 2013 at 10:19 PM


Yes, I remember. As said, Ultra Recall help is not interested in new ideas, and is judged cold by its users, but if you have a technical question, let alone a bug to report, they will answer you, and will answer as long as you get it, several times if necessary. So I always respected their “tone”, since in the end, you knew help was (and is) there.

On the other hand, I am quite intrigued by Zoot, since there are not so many outliners that integrate e-mail, and Zoot seems to do it best (from what I hear). InfoSelect is close second, it seems, and even in UR there is some Outlook “integration”, but nobody ever can be happy with it, as with its function to “import” file system folders - it’s all about lack of synchronization: Some good ideas to start with, and then coding becomes difficult, and all those needed additional functions are left out. So if Zoot really integrates e-mail, in the way of it being its own frontend to send and receive e-mails (if I understand well what I’ve read about it), this cannot be bad. (All the other outliners leave you alone in your struggle with e-mail, or do I overlook some other program that tries to integrate it? I am not speaking of crm programs where your content space is just for some remarks, but full-grown outliners: Just Zoot, InfoSelect, and then UR, but just in the way of an appetizer of what could have been.)

But then, could somebody answer my question about Zoot’s layout? Is it always as inflexible as when I trialled it, a much too broad, and much too flat item list pane, above the content only, and not possible between folder pane and content pane, full height? That’s the real problem I see with Zoot, and it should be so easy to make it flexible in the described way, the same way as in XnView and so many other programs.


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