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Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Dec 13, 2007 at 11:00 PM


PPL wrote:
>But Ecco was a great ouliner and a Windows app…

Here is where I disagree with you. Ecco was a great application, but it was only a servicable outliner. Its power came from its use of columns and all the ways the information in the outline could be categorized and manipulated. But if I were rating only Ecco’s outlining and writing capabilities, I would give it a moderate rating at best. NoteMap and Inspiration are more powerful outliners. Even a program like TKOutline is comparable to Ecco—in its outlining features. In my mind, Ecco was a PIM not an outliner… That’s not to say you couldn’t use it as an outliner, as many people do. It is servicable in this capability, as I said. But it was far from GrandView, NoteMap, Inspiration or even MaxThink in regard to raw outlining power.

Steve Z.


Posted by Derek Cornish
Dec 14, 2007 at 07:24 PM


Stephen Zeoli wrote:
>Ecco was a great application, but it was only a servicable outliner.

Yes, Ecco’s outliner is elegant, but limited - about the level of PocketThinker (but prettier) maybe, and probably as good as its designers thought it needed to be in the context of a PIM.

The quality of outliner one gets seems to depend - not surprisingly - upon the overall purpose of a piece of software. We’ve all seen programs that start as single-function ones, then morph into complex multi-function ones. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But the likelihood of getting a fully-featured outliner as a later addition to a program with a quite different core mission does seem to be rather small (viz, Ecco, InfoSelect, OneNote).

Unless you start with outlining as a central organizing goal then it when it does finally arrive as another feature, it tends only to be as “good as it needs to be” for whatever the core purpose of the software is. GV clearly started out - aka PC-Outline - with the intention of being a powerful outliner, and then added PIM features to it. That way the core mission of the software never got lost or compromised. (How good its PIM features were is another interesting debate.)

Maybe this also accounts for the difficulty of providing an attractive writing environment in a PIM - or, indeed, in many two-pane “outliners” - given all the other goals and distractions. With all these programs, writing per se as a creative activity demanding its own set of essential features seems to get lost among all the other priorities.



Posted by letsemoir
Jan 12, 2010 at 06:58 AM


I am using the DOS version of MaxThink and I also ordered the printed manual from Neil Larson (creator of MaxThink). Bought them 2 years ago, costs more than the windows version. With the manual and tutorial files, I can really appreciate the fluidity and cohesive capabilities of the software. It’s hard to learn the software without the manual.

What MaxThink really shines is the way it can coax your mind into different modes of thinking, almost effortlessly. You’re missing the big picture if you allow the formats of text, structure in general and navigation to inhibit this flow. Windows itself is too much information (TMI) in terms of display, compared to DOS which is a blank slate. TMI affects the way you think.

MaxThink is primarily a tool for thinking (great thinking, I would say…). The commands built in MaxThink follows Bloom’s taxonomy (low level thinking skills - memory, understanding, application whereas high-level thinking skills - analysis, evaluation, creative, synthesis etc).

a sample of Table of Contents in the manual

Chapter 06
Analytical Thinking - discoveries by breaking information into component parts, to better understand all inherent relationships, dependant on outline manipulation processes

Chapter 07
Evaluative Thinking - Integrating information and values using attributes external to the information itself (those in your mind), dependant on list manipulation processes

Chapter 08
Creative & Synthesis Thinking - Combining existing information in new ways, humans are spectacular in pattern-recognition but deficient in short-term memory (5-9 items at a time). randomize the items and suddenly the mind creates a new perception on the items.

Chapter 09
UNDO & LOCK commands
Experimental Thinking - Curiosity and Observation, curiosity being an inclination to ask unbiased questions of information, types of questions asked determines the types of thinking used to produce answers

Chapter 10
GET, PUT, GATHER commands
Systematic Thinking - Organizing information in pre-planned ways

Chapter 11
SORT command - organizing information by attributes contained within the information (the opposite of prioritize)

* Chapter 12 *
Perceptual Thinking - Aristotelian, Boundary, Focused, Structural & Linguistic Approaches
- Aristotelian : classification affects how you think, we control the conceptual knife
- Boundary : new ideas are found at conceptual boundaries
- Focused : eliminate textual distractions to thinking
- Structural : communication transmits structure as well as words (guess which you hear first)
- Linguistic : Language controls conscious vision, insight is nothing more than a shift in the meaning of language/memories

Chapter 13
JOIN & DIVIDE commands
Frame Thinking - organizing information into idea units, frames is the smallest unit of information that contains a complete idea

Chapter 14
JUMP & X commands - ways to rapidly traverse information structures, define 20 “jump-to” locations in each outline for current/future reference

Chapter 15
Z command - instantly switch and transfer information between 2 separate outlines

... chapter 29

Currently, I use MaxThink in Slackware Linux, via dosemu, which gives fullscreen, font changing, anti-aliasing etc. Dosbox is also available for windows. I prefer the DOS version over the new windows version of maxthink, and would consider upgrading if the new version is better.

If anyone is serious about learning maxthink, buy the printed manual and the tutorial files, email Neil Larson. Audio tapes are available too, iirc. If you miss the tutorial files, I can provide them plus the built-in help system. Neil didn’t have these files on-hand when I bought Maxthink, I got them from another forum.


Posted by Derek Cornish
Jan 12, 2010 at 05:44 PM


@letsemoir: I bought Maxthink DOS some years ago during a period of acute CRIMP mania, my purpose being to compare it with Grandview, which I had been using for a long time under WIN98 and XP. I strongly agree about the DOS version. In fact the feature sets of GV and MT (DOS) are very similar indeed. Although I prefer GV, finding it considerably easier to use, my preference might have been different had I started out with MT.

@others using Maxthink for Windows: it’s now been a month or so since you started using Maxthink. How have you been getting on with it?

@Steve: is it worth giving MT(W) the benefit of another of your excellent reviews in your “Welcome to Sherwood” blog?



Posted by gunars
Jan 12, 2010 at 08:55 PM


I remember using MaxThink DOS when it was a new program and found the various binsort, randomize and prioritize functions very useful for brainstorming.  Later, I moved on to GV, InfoSelect and Ecco I just dug up my old copy which is version MAX 89 (3/1/89).  For those of you who bought the DOS version more recently, what version do you have?


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