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Time forgot Outliners, I did not

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If you remember the 90s software era with all its little shareware gems and before the advent of rich webapps, you'd remember the curious little category called outliners. Starting from the trusted Ecco Pro to Treepad to Keynote, there was just something about the whole concept that is hard to shake off once you get hooked. Ever tried to remember a ton of stuff while surfing around a particular topic and still wanted a sane organizational structure to your notes - well outliners do just that.

For those unfamiliar to the concept, it’s a note taking software that maintains a bulleted, tree-like or hierarchical structure of the notes you take. This may sound simple, and it is, but it’s an immensely powerful general purpose utility right there. Even the code-folding concepts in programming text editors found their origins in outlining. They once ruled the information organization world but now have newer counterparts - EverNote and OneNote. But what makes outliners great that they did not get obsolete, they are still as useful today as they were a decade ago.

They were basically divided into 2 categories - one pane and two pane. The former kinds make heavy use of bullets and sub-points whereas the latter use the tree like navigation mechanism. An example of a one pane outliner is Ecco Pro and though it has not been updated for nearly a decade now, it still has a huge fan following. My current favorite is a two pane outliner called Treepad which has a freeware lite version available, although it has substantially lesser features than its paid editions. However, it’s an old horse that gets regular improvements and is a very mature piece of software. Keynote is a very popular and open source two pane outliner that has recently been resurrected as a project.

If you ever need a simpler way of noting down things, remember outliners, simple and efficient tools from the past.

Some links and further reading:
Comparison of Outliners
TreePad Outliner

A screenshot of Ecco Pro (courtesy Wikipedia)
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3 Comments On This Entry

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WolfCoder Icon

09 December 2009 - 09:30 AM
I've always used paper.
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wmhogg Icon

13 December 2009 - 02:59 AM

WolfCoder, on 9 Dec, 2009 - 08:30 AM, said:

I've always used paper.

Although Ecco Pro is defunct, there is an outliner I have used for years: Action Outline - full featured at http://www.actionoutline.com/

I keep each client's project as an member of the tree-view in the left-hand panel and then the right-hand panel contains the text. Clients are amazed that I can go back and find the code and everything I did for them so quickly. I think I've tried all of the outliners at one point - remember "Instant Recall" in DOS?
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rahulbatra Icon

13 December 2009 - 06:14 AM

wmhogg, on 13 Dec, 2009 - 02:59 AM, said:

WolfCoder, on 9 Dec, 2009 - 08:30 AM, said:

I've always used paper.

Although Ecco Pro is defunct, there is an outliner I have used for years: Action Outline - full featured at http://www.actionoutline.com/

I keep each client's project as an member of the tree-view in the left-hand panel and then the right-hand panel contains the text. Clients are amazed that I can go back and find the code and everything I did for them so quickly. I think I've tried all of the outliners at one point - remember "Instant Recall" in DOS?


ActionOutline seems pretty nice. Will give it a whirl soon. Unfortunately, I've never tried Instant Recall (got some screenshots?). Infact my earliest memories besides the ones mentioned date back to another defunct outliner called Skwyrul. It was stopped around 2000 I think but was pretty full featured back then.
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