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Last post Author Topic: Outlining software recommendations?  (Read 15310 times)

superboyac

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Outlining software recommendations?
« on: January 22, 2011, 04:47:56 PM »
Hi everyone, I know this topic is discussed in several places here, but this is something a little more specific.  I'm looking for a software that can handle outlines VERY easily.  Currently, I rely on InfoQube for this, but (and I hate to say this) it is way too unpolished as far as the interface goes for me to rely on it without spending hours upon hours fixing my information in the database simply because i don't understand exactly how everything is happening.  So, until it gets cleaned up, I need an alternative.  I'll describe as clearly as I can what it is I need:

NOT a notetaker
I am not looking for something to take notes.  So I'm not looking for something with a notepad like pane where I can type paragraphs and a lot of text content.  I am simply looking for outlining capabilities which I will explain below.  For notetaking I already have several excellent options: evernote, cintanotes, Onenote.

PURE outline features
This is where IQ is klunky as far as the UI.  I need to be able to easily move items in an outline around.  So in a hierarchy, items can be moved up/down and in/out of parents (tabbing in or out is also the term used, basically, moving things under parent items or back out of them; also, going right/left).  I hope that is clear.  The other outline feature I need is SORTING.  I need the sorting to be stable and flexible.  So, if I manually sort items in a hierarchy in my own way, it needs to stay that way.  In IQ, there are a million ways to sort and they get very unstable.  if you accidentally click on something, it might resort everything alphabetically or numerically, and ruin your custom sort.  And you can't go back easily.  This is partly due to a lack of a good undo function, and also due to purely interface issues where it's too easy to screw things up and too hard to fix screwed up things.

So that's my wish.  I am very skeptical of finding anything, to be honest.  InfoQube was a lifesaver when it came out because it really did things in a way no other programs could do it.  I have tried very hard to rely on it, but I literally have spent more than twice as many hours fixing things in the program than I have actually trying to use the program to do work.  And it's not because I don't get it or anything.  It's because it's too klunky.  But it is remarkable in what it can do, so that's why I'm skeptical anything would do it better.

You know, Excel would be perfect for this if it had the ability to outline.  If you could create parents and children relationships in Excel nicely, it would be perfect.  But you can't.  yes, I know Excel has an outlining feature, but it's pretty useless.

Any suggestions?

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2011, 04:51:26 PM »
This one seems promising, called Sain Outliner:
http://www.sainsoftware.com/

I'm going to give it a shot.

[edit]
Ah.  Forget it.  It's too simple.  I need something that can create a lot of custom columns.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2011, 04:59:27 PM by superboyac »

40hz

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2011, 05:45:56 PM »
Somewhat outdated list of a few dozen can be found here

Might be a place to start. :)

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2011, 05:51:26 PM »
Somewhat outdated list of a few dozen can be found here

Might be a place to start. :)
I've actually been going through that list for the past hour!  I'm not really finding anything there.  Unfortunately, the words "outliner" "notetaker" "information management" "organizer" are all synonyms for this type of software.  So most of those things are just notetakers with a tree hierarchy.  And I've been through the whole notetaking thing in the uber-long thread here from years ago.

I have a gut feeling your Outline 4D software might offer some hope.  After thinking about it more, I really think I'm looking for something like this:
Excel, with the ability to EASILY indent rows in and out, to create parent/child relationships.  If Excel was able to do that, i think it would be just about perfect.  Unfortunately, even though Excel has an indent feature and a grouping feature, it doesn't do what you think it does.  It's very weird.  I literally just want to use the cells and functions just like I normally would in Excel, but I want to be able to move rows in and out, up and down, and the items need to be visually indented to indicate the parent/child relationships.  It needs to be very "visible".  I need to "see" that a child belongs to a parent.

Renegade

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2011, 07:54:39 PM »
Have you looked into mind-mapping software? That might do what you want, although it is a bit of a different paradigm.
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Paul Keith

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2011, 08:09:54 PM »

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2011, 08:24:17 PM »
Have you looked into mind-mapping software? That might do what you want, although it is a bit of a different paradigm.
Yeah, I use mindmaps for other things.  I can't do it for this case, because I need to be able to import and export large blocks of information.  So i need to be able to bring in and take out stuff from the outliner into Excel and text files, and so forth.  Mindmaps can't do that because of the way they display the information.  That's why I need exactly what Excel does (interface-wise), but with the ability to move rows in and out of parents, which Excel can't do.

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2011, 08:30:38 PM »
Credit goes to mwang: http://www.donationc...ex.php?topic=17606.0

Software link: http://treesheets.com/
Paul!  And mwang!  That might actually be the solution!!  Oh man, I have to say, even if I don't end up using this for what I described here, that program is pretty freaking awesome.  I think it's going to be a winner.  Thanks Paul, that might be a lifesaver for me.

What I LOVE about it is that it works just like my brain works when I'm trying to solve any kind of problem.  I seriously think in grids and outlines.  I can break anything I do in my life into a grid and outline.  So this program allows me to do that quite easily.  The interface is superb.  I actually was thinking of this EXACT thing a while back when thinking about the best way to do a mock website.

If this program adds some formula support so it can do automated functions could be added to the cells, it would rock.  InfoQube does this, and that's why its so powerful.  If Infoqube or Treesheets can combine each other's strengths, I truly think it would revolutionize personal information management for the future.

tomos

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2011, 01:30:02 PM »
Treesheets looks very nice.
I guess what would be important would be ease of import/export (in case the formula support is slow to get implemented and you get itchy feet)

If Infoqube or Treesheets can combine each other's strengths, I truly think it would revolutionize personal information management for the future.
You gotta start making a list for Pierre (to implement in IQ) :)

Re your first post (above) - I find it a doddle to move items around the hierarchy in IQ
Select item(s) and Alt+Arrowkeys is all you need.

I've never worked with manual sorting in IQ, so I cant help much there - I know Armando does all the time (but that doesnt necessarily mean it's easy :-)
There is a method of making a manual sort permanent (via a number field) but again I'm not sure about it - maybe Armando will comment about it...


EDIT/ minor
Tom
« Last Edit: January 23, 2011, 01:36:05 PM by tomos »

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2011, 02:56:12 PM »
Treesheets looks very nice.
I guess what would be important would be ease of import/export (in case the formula support is slow to get implemented and you get itchy feet)

If Infoqube or Treesheets can combine each other's strengths, I truly think it would revolutionize personal information management for the future.
You gotta start making a list for Pierre (to implement in IQ) :)

Re your first post (above) - I find it a doddle to move items around the hierarchy in IQ
Select item(s) and Alt+Arrowkeys is all you need.

I've never worked with manual sorting in IQ, so I cant help much there - I know Armando does all the time (but that doesnt necessarily mean it's easy :-)
There is a method of making a manual sort permanent (via a number field) but again I'm not sure about it - maybe Armando will comment about it...
Yes, I do really want to make a list for Pierre, but I just don't have the time.  I keep in touch with Armando all the time, he's amazing.  He really uses IQ heavily and understands pretty much everything about it.

Please read this before continuing:
Pierre, Armando, etc.  The stuff I wrote below is just a rant.  Please ignore it, it is not really constructive at all.  I don't intend it to be anything negative about the program.  On the contrary, I desperately want the program to be very successful.  I apologize for this.

tomos, I'm not sure how heavily you use IQ, but once you really use it heavily, things get difficult.  Yes, it's easy to move items around.  But once you start having hundreds of items in a grid, each with several levels and very particular sorts, along with linking several items in various places (like shortcuts for an exe), bad things can happen real quick.  items start disappearing for no apparent reason, but they are still there in a sense, you just don't know what happened.  Then, if you drag/drop items here and there, into and out of parents, the screen view jumps around a lot, you lose your spot, and you don't know what happens.  So you spend a minute reorienting yourself in this huge list of items.  Copying and pasting items can get very hairy.  It's hard to understand how the items get pasted or inserted in.  Do they go under the place you've selected to past in?  Are they children, are they parents?  Again, after pasting, the screen does a couple of funky jumps, and you have to reorient yourself again.  Then, if you've selected several items that are not grouped together and you paste it somewhere, I've seen where nothing gets pasted.  Then you go back and try to see what happened, and you might find some items have changed or disappeared.  You can't undo because there's no real undo feature.  You start getting real nervous about what's happening to your data.  What are links?  What are original items?  If you accidentally click somewhere, and the sorting or the view changes drastically, you can't just undo it.
Then, there are the item properties which help you keep track of everything, but those can get confusing.  I'll look at an item to see where it is linked, i.e. how many "parents" does it have.  Sometimes it will say zero, but you can see that it's under some item, so you're like, what the heck?  So you click on refresh, which sometimes fixes it, sometimes not.  That's another thing, the refresh, if you make certain changes to your items, you don't see the changes immediately, so you want to refresh.  But by not seeing things change immediately, you can't tell what happened.  So all of this just makes you more nervous about relying on the program for very large and important information management.  You can very easily lose track of what is going on.  I literally have spent at least 5x more time trying to figure out what is happening in IQ than I do actually using it to do productive work.
Then there's printing issues.  So often, I prepare a very nice grid with awesome information, and I need to show it to someone.  So I need to be able to print a pdf, or just print whatever view I'm currently looking at.  Well, no matter how you do it, you'll never be able to get something printed that looks anywhere near as nice as whatever you're looking at on the screen.  If you just print it, it will be very very ugly, and not something you want to show anyone.  So then you'll use the html export dialog, which is ridiculously complicated and not intuitive, and even if you finally understand it, it takes forever before you can turn it into something presentable.  Usually, I have to export a selection to Excel, massage it in there, and then print it.  But I can't EVER just print something quickly and go to a meeting or something.
So that's my InfoQube experience.  I know it sounds bad, but I love the program.  I wouldn't go through all of this if i didn't think it was something very special.  But it's not in very good shape now, it's not reliable, in my opinion.  Pierre keeps adding very nice features, and it is feature packed.  And I respect whatever strategy he has, and I also respect the fact that it doesn't bring in a lot of money so he has to make sure he does other things to make a living.  i get that.  but strictly from the program's standpoint, if i were him, I'd stop adding any more features to the program (calendar, gantt charts, etc.) and spend a year or so doing NOTHING but interface issues.  I mean a complete overhaul.  I'm telling you, if the UI was done right, the popularity of this program would be off the charts.  The mistake a lot of developers make is thinking that adding tons of features will make a program more attractive.  But making a program easy to use, fun to use, will be much more valuable than any more features that can be added.  The day that I stop being nervous about relying on IQ for my information management is when IQ will start becoming much more popular.  I'm 99% sure.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 05:11:41 PM by superboyac »

tomos

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2011, 10:45:58 AM »
^ Re IQ, yes, points taken!
I presume he's implementing calendar etc cause a lot of people say they just wont use it otherwise.
I seem to have (unintentionally) avoided some things that you describe as particularly troublesome (e.g. copy & paste, especially of multiple items). I do move stuff around but tend to move individual or adjacent items per drag and drop. As said above, I rarely if ever use manual sort - I do sort by various columns (sometimes by multiple columns) a fair bit though. (Sorting currently can have some quirks depending how you implement it.)

Me - I DO have a share of items - just checked, circa 7000 now - with some grids having ~ 500 items in hierarchy (but usually at most a handful of levels deep). I've been using it for work for three yrs now - this is within fairly structured grids designed to keep track of work progress on drawing files (I estimate I have 700 drawing files linked). You could say, I know what it can do for me (which is quite a bit) - I use it that way, and dont usually stress it beyond that.

Let us know anyways how you get on with Treesheets  :up:
If I have time at some stage I might give it a go myself (& pester Pierre with a list :) )
Tom

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2011, 10:59:46 AM »
Yeah, InfoQube is an awesome program.  It just does things no other program even comes close to.  What's happening with the program (IMO) is a "squeaky wheel gets the oil" or whatever that saying is.  The users who are involved with Pierre (forum users, Armando, etc.) are the ones that Pierre is obviously going to listen to the most.  Most other users will open the program, get intimidated, and never use it again.  So obviously Pierre is not going to hear from them.  Now, i would have ditched it a long time ago if any other program could offer anything near what IQ can, but there is nothing.  I mean, it's just so amazing what it can do with information.  So the people saying they won't use it for the Calendar or whatever are not a lot of people.

So if Pierre really wants to attract more users, he has to make the interface much more elegant, so that the power of the program is accessible to people who are giving it the 10-minute test run.  That means he has to soon stop adding features and dedicate himself to overhauling the interface.  Only then will more users get attracted to the program.  Word of mouth alone will spread.  Right now, there might be a little word of mouth but 90% of normal users will be very intimidated and not use the program.

Now, I believe I know how to improve the interface to be this way, but first Pierre has to be convinced of what I said above.  If he's not, then I'm not the squeaky wheel that's going to get the attention.

mahesh2k

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2011, 11:29:44 AM »
Quote
Software link: http://treesheets.com/

 :up: Thanks for the link, paul.  :)

40hz

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2011, 11:36:45 AM »
Treesheets is pretty awesome. Does have a different way of doing things. But itworks. 

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2011, 11:55:38 AM »
Treesheets is pretty awesome. Does have a different way of doing things. But itworks. 
It's a great idea.  But it's going to need a LOT of development before it's something that can be relied upon.  Right now, i can see myself using it as a temporary place to create certain kinds of grids and hierarchies.  But I'm not going to use it for long term storage of information.  First, the formula development needs to get implemented, like the author intends to do.  So you can have some way of doing fancy things with the cells, like having formulas in there, or linking cells to other cells, etc.  It also needs a +/- thing so you can roll up or roll down hierarchies for visual purposes.  We need more styling control for the cells.  Right now, there are three styles available.  We're going to need to be able to create our own styles.  we also need to be able to customize our own keyboard shortcuts (this goes for IQ as well).  There are too many commands.  With so many commands, the author can't expect the user to rely on what he thinks is the keyboard shortcut.  We need to be able to do what works for us.  The cell movement/selection needs to improved to be more flexible and easy way, even though it seems like he has taken great care to do that.  But it still needs a little more.  For example, i need to be able to quickly (keyboard shortcut) move items up down in and out of hierarchies.  You can do those movements right now, but moving in/out of hierarchies can get hairy.  Anyway...

Armando

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2011, 02:11:07 PM »
Hi superboyac, I just sent you an e-mail.

Do I have to say that there are valid points in what you say about IQ (which I use for my everyday work -- which means very different projects ranging from task management to programing) ? Yes, the UI needs some work, bugs need to be ironed out, and you're fed up. These points are common with beta software.  :) Granted, IQ has been in beta for a long time now, but still...

Now... I really didn't want to intervene in this thread. After all, it's none of my business if one prefers something over something else, etc. But there are also some inaccuracies in your more specific criticisms of IQ, which surprises me since you use it heavily. I don't have the time to go into each of them. I'll just pick the last one :

Quote
we also need to be able to customize our own keyboard shortcuts (this goes for IQ as well)

Almost every single keyboard shortcut is customizable in IQ. And not only that, but you can save various customizations and load them at will. And they're not customizable through some strange and unknown IQ UI mechanism. They just use the "standard" MS Office way... Anyhow.


====

Some thoughts about constructive criticism :

I still don't understand why you don't post whatever criticism, comments you have about IQ's development, bugs, etc. on the IQ forum? This is a personal choice, of course. And I personally don't mind... I just wonder.

Writing about IQ's defects here or on some other website/blog usually won't be as useful in terms of IQ's progression. Not sure that the developer has the time to check out all forums for bug reports, comments, suggestions list, etc. Not to mention the other IQ users -- how can they be aware that this or that is discussed in DC instead of the IQ forum ?

As far as I know, you have very rarely dropped by to express your opinions on this feature, reported a bug, etc. I did... Sure, IQ's forum is slow, etc. etc., but so far I and others, have been able to use it to discuss stuff (and, believe me, we're busy too).

So if Pierre really wants to attract more users, he has to make the interface much more elegant, so that the power of the program is accessible to people who are giving it the 10-minute test run.  That means he has to soon stop adding features and dedicate himself to overhauling the interface.  Only then will more users get attracted to the program.  Word of mouth alone will spread.  Right now, there might be a little word of mouth but 90% of normal users will be very intimidated and not use the program.

Now, I believe I know how to improve the interface to be this way, but first Pierre has to be convinced of what I said above.  If he's not, then I'm not the squeaky wheel that's going to get the attention.

If you don't ask Pierre what are his plans for the next year, or what IQ's development involves, it's easy to speculate that he should to this or that... And if you know what changes should be made to IQ for it to become "better", you should definitely write that specific "feature"/UI change list (I'm still waiting for it)...  Before it's too late.  But you should understand and accept that your list is/will be just a list. Like all "lists"/opinion, its importance will be evaluated in terms of intelligence, effort, feasibility, logic, effects, etc. Hopefully, in any project development, it's the soundness of the proposition that should counts, no who says/writes it.

In the end, what's hard is for the developper to be able to know what's the "best" choice among many... And how to spend his precious energy and time. The "best choice" is usually not that obvious (whether we're dealing with software development or anything else). Isn't that one reason why so many business/projects "fail" or don't succeed as well as they could've (to various degrees) ?

johnk

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2011, 03:04:23 PM »
How about Noteliner - a simple and traditional pure outliner? However I'm not sure what you mean by needing "custom sorting"?

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2011, 03:09:06 PM »
Armando, I fully agree with your post, i normally always agree with what you say.  I even agree about your criticism of what I wrote!  I have to admit, the things I said are not very constructive, i just used it as a venting outlet.  I don't mean to frustrate you or Pierre, because you guys have put so much time and effort into all of this, and have been very nice and accommodating to boot.  The problem really is me, i need to take a chill pill.
The forum thing is a very personal thing for me.  I know it doesn't make sense to others, and I know it's even worse to complain about it when it's really a stupid reason on my part anyway.  I promised last year sometime to stop participating in forums because of time and emotional (and other personal) issues.  So I'm only doing donationcoder, and most of the reason for that is because of the nearly flawless design of the forum.  I like to say it's the people, but that's not the primary reason (no offense, I hope).  You should see the commotion I caused in the Lakers forum a few months ago.

If I were you guys, I wouldn't pay any more attention to my complaints and whining (this goes for most people here).  It's just me.  I'm using the forum to vent, and I shouldn't do that because I'm just throwing my negativity out in the open and frustrating others, and it's not their fault at all.  This is the person I've become, I suppose.

Infoqube is a fine application, one of my favorites.  I want to help, but I can't right now.  One of y nicknames in college was "All or Nothing".  That's because if I did something, I'd go to the extremes to get it done, but I couldn't just do it like a normal person.  If I decide to do it, it becomes an obsession with me.  If I don't care for it, I don't do it at all.  Like in a weird way.  Believe me.  Just yesterday, one of my friends asked me how my broiler works in my house that I've lived in for 5 years.  I had no idea.  Why?  because i don't really cook ever.  If I don't cook, I don't need to know anything about cooking, including how to turn the freaking boiler on/off.  I know it's insane, but that's how I'm wired.

So sorry about what I wrote.  I'll try to keep myself in check in the future.  I'm trying to only complain publicly if I can also provide a possible solution at the end of my complaint.  I don't want to complain just for the sake of complaining, that's too negative.

Armando, Pierre.  You guys are doing great.  I'll try to offer more constructive criticisms in the future.

Armando

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2011, 10:05:05 PM »
Opinions and criticisms are legitimate... Even if there are a few inaccuracies... ;)  It's not like you've been impolite and I understand where you're coming from. In my own IQ day to day usage I found a balance (especially with the latest IQ release) where I get a lot done without too much tinkering. But I do know where/what are the problems, etc.. I stick with it though as I know that Pierre is committed and I couldn't achieve with another software what I'm able to do in IQ.

rjbull

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2011, 02:12:21 PM »
How about Noteliner - a simple and traditional pure outliner?

Interesting find, johnk!  But looks to me like it's best for getting the basics of ideas down, less like a tool you'd use to write long documents/books.  The text manipulation features are rudimentary.  I'd like more keyboard-friendliness too.  Can't see a keyboard method of expanding/collapsing nodes, for example.

johnk

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2011, 02:33:50 PM »
I'd like more keyboard-friendliness too.  Can't see a keyboard method of expanding/collapsing nodes, for example.
Ctrl-Space for one node, Shift-Ctrl-Space for all nodes. There's a list of shortcuts in the manual (the "manual.nte" file in the program folder).

superboyac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2011, 02:37:07 PM »
How about Noteliner - a simple and traditional pure outliner?

Interesting find, johnk!  But looks to me like it's best for getting the basics of ideas down, less like a tool you'd use to write long documents/books.  The text manipulation features are rudimentary.  I'd like more keyboard-friendliness too.  Can't see a keyboard method of expanding/collapsing nodes, for example.
Yes!  +1
Excellent simple utility.  I will definitely put this in my toolbox.  It's the best simple outline creator I've seen.  i probably won't use it too much between Infoqube and OneNote, but as it is, I'm starting to use Onenote less anyway.  I find IQ the best for really sophisticated information storage, and now I rely on very simple tools to do less formal type of information management.  Like Cintanotes is good for just dumping stuff in.  And now I might use Noteliner anytime I need to whip out an outline really quick.  I'd just as soon do it in Infoqube, but printing is a problem.

rjbull

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #22 on: January 25, 2011, 02:38:12 PM »
I'd like more keyboard-friendliness too.  Can't see a keyboard method of expanding/collapsing nodes, for example.
Ctrl-Space for one node, Shift-Ctrl-Space for all nodes. There's a list of shortcuts in the manual (the "manual.nte" file in the program folder).

So there is, now I've unzipped it again.  I had it loaded before, but couldn't see much in it.  Maybe I grunged it.

Thanks!  :)

wraith808

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #23 on: January 25, 2011, 02:56:13 PM »
Writing Outliner for MS Word is 29.00 today only on Bits du Jour.  I haven't used it, but I'm leaning towards getting it.  I don't know if it will satisfy your needs, but I figured it might be worth a look for you too.

J-Mac

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Re: Outlining software recommendations?
« Reply #24 on: February 02, 2011, 10:11:59 PM »
Writing Outliner for MS Word is 29.00 today only on Bits du Jour.  I haven't used it, but I'm leaning towards getting it.  I don't know if it will satisfy your needs, but I figured it might be worth a look for you too.

I pondered this one but in the end decided not to spend that much. Office 2007 is really tough on outlining. They removed the old formats and now you basically have to build a "style" for any outline format you want to use. At least that's how I understand it. Looks like more trouble than it's worth for me, as I only use outlining in Word once in a great while. Not often enough to purchase the Writing Outliner, even at the Bits discounted price.

Thanks!

Jim