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"outliner mode" file manager

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Posted by jimspoon
Sep 9, 2019 at 09:36 AM


One of the defining characteristics of an outliner is the ability to rearrange items in a tree hierarchy very quickly using keyboard shortcuts.  For example, Ctrl+arrow keys to Move the item Up/Down/Left/Right, Enter key to create a new item at the same level.

Then I thought, why couldn’t a file manager work the same way?  Now Ctrl+arrow keys would be used to move selected files/folders to be a under a different folder.  Pressing Enter would create a new folder at the same level.  Perhaps there could be a different shortcut could be used to create a new text file at the same level as the currently focused item.

I think this might be more efficient than the existing methods of select, Ctrl+X/C, navigate, Ctrl+V, navigate.

Also, the concept of ordinal position of items within a folder could be introduced to items in the file system.  That is, the items (files/subfolders) within a folder would be manually arranged in a certain sequence, perhaps represented by a number.  This ordering could be altered by the Ctrl+Up/Down keys.  Sort commands could be used to change this ordering - the items could be resorted by different properties (e.g. filename ascending).  Ideally, this ordering could be a persistent property of the folders/files - not just something done “on the fly” when we ask a file manager to display items in a certain sort order.

Perhaps there is a file manager out there that already works this way?  Or at least partially - I don’t imagine there’s a filesystem out there that incorporates the persistent ordering concept I described.


Posted by jimspoon
Sep 9, 2019 at 09:45 AM


Just to elaborate one point.  In the file managers I’ve seen, the “tree” pane shows only the hierarchy of folders - files are NOT shown in the tree.  With my idea, files would also be shown in the tree.  And moving the files would be a matter done by Ctrl+arrow keys in the hierarchy to the new desired location under and to the right of the parent folder.  Also, now that I think of it, when such a move is completed, the user would have to be prompted to select whether the operation is a Move or a Copy.


Posted by Chris Thompson
Sep 9, 2019 at 02:16 PM


There was one research project that worked exactly like what you’re describing. It was called Project Planner… scroll down for more info here: https://kftf.ischool.washington.edu/projectdetail.htm#p_planner  I’m not sure if it’s still available for download, what the status is, or what the relationship is with another related research project called “Planz”.


Posted by Pierre Paul Landry
Sep 9, 2019 at 04:00 PM


Hi Jim,

Would a combination of macOS-like Finder (Miller columns file explorer) + the ability to also see files in the folder tree be good for you ?


IQ Designer


Posted by jimspoon
Sep 9, 2019 at 04:21 PM


that’s awesome, Chris!  thanks so much for your reply.  I am going to study that Project Planner closely.  I’ll see if I can interest the xplorer2 developer in developing an “outliner mode”.  If only to plant the seed in his head.

What kind of got me thinking of this idea is my use of the Linkman bookmark manager.  It seems Bookmark Managers frequently incorporate the feature of a persistent manual ordering of items within a folder.  But I just checked out Linkman, Chrome, and Firefox bookmark managers, and it seems this ordering can be accomplished only by drag and drop.  No Move/Up/Left/Right options appear in the item context menus, and I assume there is no keyboard shortcut (I might be wrong).  I use a Chrome Extension called Tabs Outliner that does have keyboard shortcuts for Move Up/Down/Left/Right. 


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