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Some outliners and the features Unicode, search in the tree, website publishing

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Posted by Tester
Nov 25, 2013 at 10:28 PM

 

Perhaps it is of interest for some readers - or perhaps someone can recommend a convincing alternative. ;-)

Since a while I am looking for an outliner (information database) whose main functions should be to replace (sometime in the future) a dictionary that I maintain up to now in Word (as common doc-files) and to publish it as a website in the Internet.

I have tested numerous programs of that kind and unfortunately I have to say that with none of them I am completely (and not even almost completely) satisfied.

It is self-evident that the software should be able to transfer correctly the contents of a word document (including tables etc.) without any change in formatting. Moreover it should offer the possibility to edit the tables, to create hyperlinks etc. Programs that do not even fulfill these basic conditions (and there are various of them) are ruled out anyway.

Of importance would also be that the program can handle a bigger database (some thousand items / documents) without crashing or causing big delays during opening, saving or searching. But I could not test this in detail because with the exception of my two favorite programs (azzCardfile and Myinfo) I filled the databases only with a couple of items (= text documents in my case). Useful information about this aspect (the performance of a program in case of a bigger database) is included in the detailed reviews of various outliners that I found here: http://pauljmiller.wordpress.com/

Beside of these criteria, three features would be indispensable for me:

a) support of Unicode
b) comfortable search function within the tree (= within the item/document titles = the keywords in the case of a dictionary)
d) possibility to export the database as a website (that means: not only producing html-files, but also the tree structure) 

It is strange that not only one program can offer all these three features in a satisfying way. I will start with the three programs that made the best impression to me (azzCardfile, MyInfo and Memo Book), afterwards I will mention some others in alphabetical order:

1. azzCardfile (Azz Cardfile):
http://www.azzcardfile.net/ and http://www.azzcardfile.com/
Pros:
Concerning the search function, azzCardfile is for my needs clearly the best program I could find:
Above the tree (= the list with the keywords) – or better: integrated within the tree – you have a search field (“Filter”) that is steadily “opened”. That means I do not have to click anywhere in order to activate this search function. When beginning to type a keyword, the tree already shows me the filtered results (and the first matching document is automatically opened in the editor). Concerning the filter I have the option to search only for whole words (or not) and to search only for words who start with the letters I type (or not, so that for example the search for “nation” would also show me “international” etc.).

(Moreover azzCardfile offers a good fulltext search [within the contents of the documents], but this function is not of such a big importance for my needs.)

Cons:
- No possibility of exporting the database a a website. That is (for me) the big diasadvantage of the program. Otherwise I would regard it as the best one for my purposes.
- The program has a number of small bugs and an uncomfortable way of opening hyperlinks. But I think these flaws could be eliminated in future versions.

2. “MyInfo”
http://www.milenix.com
Pros:
I would regard it – together with azzCardfile – as the best program (always spoken for my individual needs of course) and I am inclined to buy it after the end of the trial period.
Nevertheless there are various disadvantages too:

Cons:
- The search function is by far more inconvenient than the one from azzCardfile. Within the toolbar you have a permanently open search field too (that is positive) but in order to search within the tree (= the document titles) you have to type every time the word “title:” (followed by the keyword), afterwards you have to confirm the search by clicking on the search symbol etc. The pleasant thing is that the developer is planning to improve considerably the search function in future versions. And this plan is an important reason why I regard this program as my potentially favourite one.
- The export as a website works easily and without problems but formatting is not fully retained in the web version: especially line spacing is too small (and the width of the tables is bigger than in the editor). That means that the appearance of the text on the website is rather unattractive. For this issue the developer also announced an improvement (but unfortunately not within the next time but only in the long run).

On the whole, MyInfo is a nice program but I am still unsure if I should spend quite a large amount (99,95 Dollar is the price for the professional version) as long as the mentioned problems are not resolved.

3. “Memo Book”:
http://www.memo-book.net/en/overview-en.html
Pros:
Easy to use; quite comfortable search function; possibility to export as a website with better results than MyInfo concerning the line spacing (as it is retained as shown in the editor).
Cons:
- For some (unknown) reason this program uses in its editor a zoom instead of adopting the font size of a pasted text as it is in Word. And with this zoom you cannot chose a zoom factor by yourself but you have only the possibility of 100%, 150% and some others. 100% is by far too small, 150% ist too big. So the program is obviously not able to give you in its editor the same view of a text that it has in Word (concerning its size). After exporting as website all is o.k. again: You see the text in its “correct” size (as it was in Word). But as I would work with the documents mainly in the editor, the program is useless for me because of this completely silly and unnecessary zoom.
- Another important issue: I found no possibility to sort the documents in the tree alphabetically. You can make it manually, but I expect from such a software that it can do this automatically. Such a feature exists for the attachments of files and for the lines of tables but obviously not for the tree items! At least I could not find it.

These two annoying flaws are a pity because they make useless for me a program that otherwise could be quite attractive (and with 49 Dollars is not very expensive).

4. “Aml Pages”:
http://www.amlpages.com/about.shtml
Has a quite confusing user interface; no export as a website.

5. “EssentialPIM”:
http://www.essentialpim.com/
Pro:
It has a quite comfortable search function and is easy to use.
Cons:
- an annoying issue concerning the hyphens when pasting a text from word; moreover tables are smaller than in Word
- no export as a website

6. “InfoRecall”
http://www.inforecall.com/Index.html
Pro:
It has a quite comfortable search function and is very easy to use (concerning the creation of new documents etc.)
Cons:
- Unicode in general works, but not in the titles of the documents
- no export as a website

7. “InSight”:
http://www.dataomega.com/insight/index.htm
That’s a quite unpleasant program:
Very expensive (124,95 Dollar), but it was not even able to retain the formatting details from Word (font size, tables, underlining etc.) when pasting a doc-text!
I only mention this program because they say that it has the possibility to create a website. (I did not try it after I saw that not even the basics work.)

8. “Maple”:
http://www.crystaloffice.com/maple/
You can export the database as a website but in its tree (document titles) the non-latin characters are not depicted correctly (only in the text of the documents they are o.k.).
Moreover again a problem with the formatting on the website version: font size is too big, line spacing is too small.

9. “MemoMaster”:
http://www.jbsoftware.de/memomaster/
Pro: a search function that is almost as good as the one of azzCardfile
Cons:
- although Unicode in general seems to be supported, you cannot make a search for words with non-latin-characters
- no export as a website

10. “myBase”:
http://www.wjjsoft.com/mybase.html
Pro:
relatively comfortable search function
Cons:
You have the possibility to export the database as a website but in practice this feature is completely useless because important parts of the formatting are lost in the html-files: line spacing and font size are completely different compared to the editor, tables are completely “destroyed” etc.
(There is also an add-on called “myBase CGI” for publishing of the database on a website but this add-on requires a special web server.)

11. “My Notes Keeper”:
http://www.mynoteskeeper.com/index.html
Pro: quite comfortable search function
Con: no export as website

12. “RightNote”:
http://bauerapps.com/
I saw only negative aspects (for my needs):
You can export to html-files but not create a “full” website; the export to html-files does not work with titles that have non-latin characters etc.

13. “TreePad”:
http://www.treepad.com/
Pro:
It offers you a comfortable feature to create a website (in certain versions even with a search engine); the appearance of the website can be easily configured in various ways and is perhaps more attractive than the result with MyInfo.
Cons:
No Unicode support in the current version. They plan a version with Unicode (called “treepaduni”: http://www.treepad.com/treepaduni/), but it is still not available and moreover its functions will be quite reduced: They write that “because we do not want to be overly ambitious, initial releases will not support the entire feature set of e.g. TreePad PLUS, such as images, tables, underlined hyperlinks, bullets, indents”.
That means that “treepaduni” will not be of any use for me too (at least not in its “initial releases”).

14. “TreeProjects”:
http://personaldatabase.org/
Pro:
The search function is almost as good as the one in “azzCardfile”, links can be created even more comfortable than with “azzCardfile” – a nice program and easy to use
but:
Con: no possibility to export as a website

15. “Ultra Recall”:
http://www.kinook.com/UltraRecall/
Pros:
Another software whose function is almost as good as the one in “azzCardfile” (but you have to click in order to open the search field).
Cons:
- The alphabetical order in the tree is not always correct (at least in case of titles with non-latin characters).
- The export as a website does not work flawless: for example there is no export of documents (“notes”) which have non-latin characters as title. And the line spacing on the website is not correct (similar issue as with MyInfo).

16. “Web Idea Tree”:
http://www.webideatree.com/
As the title says, you can create a website; but this seems to be a quite complicated process (if you are not familiar with this matter). Moreover the program did not depict non-latin characters although they claim on their website that Unicode is supported.
Maybe that this program has its merits, but for me it was too complicated.

17. “Whizfolders”:
http://whizfolders.com/
No possbility to export as a (full) website. (Only html-files of the documents can be created.)

As you can see, the general impression is not overwhelming.

 


Posted by 22111
Nov 26, 2013 at 12:37 PM

 

Peter,

Comparative reviews of specific features are very rare here, whilst we all crave for them, so I would like to thank you immensely for this one; such posts are of tremendous interest, when most participants of this forum seem to withhold such insight: Thank you so much! (And I haven’t been aware of many of the problems you state, even in programs I thought I knew.)

Re MyInfo’s “title: xyz”, etc: MI had been conceived as a multi-db outliner (hence not only the weird denominations (“document” = item, “topic” = file; Petko should do away with these!), but especially the “search over all currently opened (and also, “over all existant”) db’s” command, which is quite unique and extremely helpful.

But lately, it seems the developer is going to another concept, developing now the ability for MI to handle 5 GB db’s (or even bigger ones); avid readers of my writings will know that I am diverging from such a paradigm since it is, to the contrary of the original MI one (and mine, today), not scaleable to big corporations (and I know that in big corporations, NTFS is not the general file system to begin with…) - for “home office use”, though, I cannot but congretulate Petko for his move.

Back to “title: xyz” in MI, or allow for another sidestep, MI is on bitsdujour.com quite regularly, for 40 $ instead of 100, and that might a price appealing to you; in fact, it should have been there in the last weeks or so, and it probably will there rather soon; on the other hand, its version 7 should be out in some time, and perhaps, on bits, when people ask for it, Petko will include the upgrade within the price there.

Now, finally, “title: xyz” (I beg your pardon for my recurrent digressions): NOBODY who’s into IM should ever take into consideration to continue to do his work without a good macro program, and my introduction, on donationcoder.com, on “AHK for beginners”, should enable ANYBODY to be able to get started with AHK within (realistic) 2 hours - of course, there are other alternatives to it, commercial ones, and then, AI, AutoIt, but as Prof. Kühn (and due in part to his choice), I “went” to AHK instead, sometimes regretting my choice, but most of the time, I am very pleased with it, and for special tasks AHK is not able to fulfill, there is always the possibility to access Windows internals (or other scripting languages like Perl, etc.) from within AHK.

I’m certainly not calling an “idiot” anybody choosing some other scripting language than AHK, but I’ve got deep doubts about anybody who knows about my AHK intro on DC, and then deciding to continue without ANY such scripting tool (or a good commercial macro tool if he insists on buying something for it).

Thus, at least some of MI’s weak points could easily be overcome, and the “title: xyz” thing among them, so this should not be a valid criteria in your choice.

On the other hand, NO current outliner is worth to be considered to export to web 1:1, TreePad (your number 13) coming closest; I had not been aware of the Unicode problems there, all the less so that I had assumed that their, more “modern”, “Enterprise” version, not to be mixed-up with their “Business” version, did not have the same technical “origins” as their ancient versions all developed ages ago.

Please allow for another digression: Surfulater again - when you look into the developer’s blog where he speaks of his latest developments, you will see there the screen shot of a “tree component” which, if I don’t identify it totally erroneously, but rather correctly, is in the range of about 800 dollars (now compare with UltraRecall (your number 15) where every component must be free in order to be acceptable to the developer).

What I want to express, is this: Don’t even try to look out for some “one-for-all” sulution, but accept the fact that for a good-looking website, you will have to use some tree component (commercial or free) for your website, hence the need for some scripting (and some “exporting”) in-between.

This would also mean that you need text creation tools with rock-stable export to html, and from there, you’ll be then able to do a lot of automatic replacements, also of special characters you will have put into your original text in order to trigger pre-figured repartitions of data within the website data repository - the alternative being to use a CMS (free or commercial), but I think a one-person entity will perfectly do with “scripted exporting”, instead of using a CMS.

The good news is: As soon as you accept the non-integrative approach done by just one single tool, your choice will enlarge considerably again.

Don’t take me wrong here: I would have been too easy to have it the way you imagine - people would know about such simple solutions, and would fall back on them by millions, instead of paying developers to do some real (or often just quite standardized) work.

If you don’t trust your scripting means enough (and if you want to have a rather easy, almost-free solution), there is always the possibility to do some of the necessary automatic changing of öäüéàè and such early on, and then do some tweaking of the code generated by TreePad, to have a more appealing result, instead of applying a resolute two-or-three tool integrative solution (the same would apply to other outliners, but I think TP, on its own, comes nearest to what would be the end result, so here the amount of the necessary “scripting a little bit though” would be minimized).

And it goes without saying that tweaking the “little annoyances” in MI or any other standard application, by means of AHK or any other such tool, is perfect “education” for then doing some more scripting for “real tasks” you’ll need to be done in order to integrate things.

A last word: Of course, a web tree should be navigateable as your local pc outliner’s tree is, i.e. by keyboard, both for expanding/recollapsing, and for displaying the respective content - and this can be done by JavaScript, for one, and probably by some other means.

 


Posted by 22111
Nov 26, 2013 at 12:42 PM

 

Oh, I left out one important aspect which might deeply affect your choice. There is NO need for your outliner to do the export “in one”. Many outliners allow for exporting the tree, separately, and then you will probably have two different entities: The exported tree, to be replicated by the (free or commercial) web tree component, and perhaps some several hundred single html files, but this would be absolutely perfect, together! So, again, don’t look out too narrowly for an “integrated” (but possibly rather bad) “solution”.

 


Posted by 22111
Nov 26, 2013 at 12:57 PM

 

Here’s a very good resource for the “intermediate” tools

http://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/141674/which-programming-language-for-text-editing

which made me think twice about my intention to learn Perl

but even naked AHK is able to do all the necessary replacements in the task at hand.

 


Posted by Tester
Nov 26, 2013 at 05:05 PM

 

22111, thank you for your kind words and for your advices. :-)

22111 wrote:
> Don’t even try to look out for some “one-for-all” sulution, but accept the fact that for a good-looking website, you will have to use some tree component (commercial or free) for your website, hence the need for some scripting (and some “exporting”) in-between.

I understand your approach but I doubt if my knowledge about computers and my patience are sufficient in order to start to deal with scripting. That’s the appeal of the “one-for-all-solutions”: you can concentrate on the basic work (writing, organizing your data etc.).

22111 wrote:
> NO current outliner is worth to be considered to export to web 1:1, TreePad (your number 13) coming closest

Yes, maybe TreePad. And especially Memo Book gave me the impression that the web version corresponds exactly with the “original” version (at least in some fundamental details I looked at, as e.g. line spacing). That is the main reason why I decided to characterize Memo Book as one of the best programs I have tested.

Concerning MyInfo, I am optimistic that the issues in connection with the website version can be resolved as Petko stated that he will take a look at it. (Anyway we talk of merely visual aspects, affecting “only” the appearance on the website. In its functionality, a website built with MyInfo is fully o.k.)

As regards “Surfulater”, I tried it too, but it (also) did not convince me - for some reason I do not remember as I did not make a note of it. I would have to install and to try it again so that I could tell.

 


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