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Author Topic: Action Outline on offer at Bits du Jour, 2011-11-21  (Read 4899 times)
rjbull
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« on: November 21, 2011, 02:43:17 PM »

All versions of Action Outline, one of the many two-pane outliners/notekeepers, are on offer via Bits du Jour today, 2011-11-21.
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Curt
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« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2011, 04:08:24 PM »

A little warning:
the right to update (upgrade, they call it) is per year, not per version's number.
I have 3.3, but must pay for 3.4 (if I would, which I won't).

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wraith808
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« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2011, 05:20:30 PM »

That's the reason that I'm hesitating...
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Bionic71
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2011, 04:14:59 AM »

 smiley

Quote
Roberto Porcar James: http://www.actionoutline.com/ao_whatsnew.php
take a look by yourself... only you can know if its worth the price.

update 1: add colours
update 2: add undo
update 3: add pictures
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Steven Avery
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« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2011, 06:34:22 AM »

Hi Folks,

Has anybody compared to the tree-note programs (especially RightNote and TreedbNotes. The latter has a forum.)  Is there any real difference in using one or the other as an outliner (perhaps number of levels of the tree ? Use of screen real estate ? export ?). Any big gains or lacks.  (I think all three programs combine the Explorer style with the tab style, other note programs as well .. I consider this the basic need these days).

I did not get around to installing, but if it has positive feedback (e.g. better for writing articles because of some outline advantages) I will try .. and if very good write the author for an extension discount.  

On the other hand, if the note programs have better editing and advanced features, without ActionOutline having real pluses, then I will not download and test ActionOutline. 

I could not find much in the way of lauding or criticism on the Net.  It appears to be, at least, a good program. Is it an excellent program ? Why, or why not ?

One plus of AO is a new feature "custom font styles and colors!" in the outline/explorer section.  This is a good feature, that I do not remember seeing in the others. The drabness and lack of visual aid in the Explorer section is often a hindrance. (Biggest need in ListPro also, along with tabs. I would say that this feature should generally be indicated in reviews of programs.)

The version one-year update issue does not bother me much, as long as the program retains full functionality and the price today can be kept around $20.

Shalom,
Steven Avery
« Last Edit: November 22, 2011, 06:41:26 AM by Steven Avery » Logged
40hz
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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2011, 08:55:03 AM »

AO is a nice outliner. But I don't see anything in it that's compelling enough to justify the price or upgrade policy when there are so many other products out there that offer as much for less.

I'm also not particularly interested in seeing a huge number of formatting or 'extra' features in this category of software. To me, outlining should be lean & mean. If I want to create and maintain a knowledgebase, there are far better software choices out there to do that as well.

Just my 2¢.
 smiley

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wraith808
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« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2011, 09:20:26 AM »

AO is a nice outliner. But I don't see anything in it that's compelling enough to justify the price or upgrade policy when there are so many other products out there that offer as much for less.

+1 Agreed.
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rjbull
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« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2011, 02:31:05 PM »

I thought DC folk would be interested, but I didn't press the button.  I already have MemPad (free), an older version of Ultra Recall (too complicated for me) and AllMyNotes.  The latter currently has a generous upgrade policy, i.e. free, though retaining the right to charge later on if they need to, clearly stated.

I think there are brief mentions of Action Outline in the famous "General brainstorming for Note-taking software" thread.  I didn't realise the upgrade policy was so stingy, given that, as I understand it, it isn't updated very often, and I'm not much excited by fancy appearance either.
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40hz
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« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2011, 03:09:21 PM »

I think there are brief mentions of Action Outline in the famous "General brainstorming for Note-taking software" thread.  I didn't realise the upgrade policy was so stingy, given that, as I understand it, it isn't updated very often, and I'm not much excited by fancy appearance either.

I think it was the upgrade policy that was the showstopper for me.

But I also have a distinct preference for single-pane outliners.

FYI:

For quick & dirty stuff I use the freebie TKoutline. The SourceForge download page seems to be screwed up. But Softpedia has it here. It's a standalone executable so it's also portable. I keep a copy of this on almost every USB key I own.



Note: TKoutline is light on bells & whistles. So much so it almost feels more like a DOS app than a Windows app. Some people have even called it primitive. I think "primeval" is a more accurate description. And one of the reasons I like it as much as I do. It just does one thing very very well.

For more complex stuff I'll use a few different outliner apps that are geared towards specific types of work, the most used being the rather expensive (creative writing oriented) Outline 4D.

 smiley
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rjbull
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« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2011, 03:27:24 PM »

I also have a distinct preference for single-pane outliners.
[...]
For quick & dirty stuff I use the freebie TKoutline.
I nearly said, single-pane (and three-pane) outliners are now rare compared to two-pane, and it would be nice to see more.  You have an alternative to TKoutline in another single-pane outliner that's been mentioned on DC before: Noteliner.  It's just been updated, too, October 28, 2011:
Quote
As simple and lightweight as a text editor, with the power of an outliner, and the metadata of a to-do list--and now TABLES!
Whether it has the right balance of simplicity vs. features is for you to decide  smiley

the rather expensive (creative writing oriented) Outline 4D.
It looks a bit like it's trying to be a modern ECCO.  If it fits that bill, I suppose it justifies its price.

[Edit at UK time 2011-11-22, 21:45:-] Noteliner 3.3 Build2b is giving me an error. [/Edit]
« Last Edit: November 22, 2011, 03:48:32 PM by rjbull » Logged
40hz
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« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2011, 04:03:09 PM »

@rjbull: Thx for the link to Noteliner. I'll definitely check that one out.

re: Outline 4D - actually not much like Ecco which I also used to use. It's primarily designed to be a writing/plot outlining tool for movie scripts and novels - although it can be re-purposed to handle other things once you get your head around it. "Try before you buy" is a must with this tool since you either love or hate it. I have yet to see an in-between reaction to it. (In that respect, however, it does resemble Ecco. Grin)
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rjbull
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« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2011, 10:14:42 AM »

Thx for the link to Noteliner. I'll definitely check that one out.
I reported that Noteliner 3.3 Build2b wouldn't open for me on Vista Home Premium.  The author e-mailed back to say there did seem some compatibility issues with Vista/7 that he hopes to iron out in the next release.  Version 2.7.08, the last one I had, does work.

re: Outline 4D - actually not much like Ecco which I also used to use. It's primarily designed to be a writing/plot outlining tool for movie scripts and novels
Yes, that would be different; I always thought ECCO was heavily slanted towards business.
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Curt
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« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2012, 12:25:09 PM »

A little warning:
the right to update (upgrade, they call it) is per year, not per version's number.
I have 3.3, but must pay for 3.4 (if I would, which I won't).

Well, now I have version 3.4 never the less. I received an email a few minutes ago, offering the upgrade for $20 today only. Unfortunately the offer is for registered users only. I took the offer because I really like this program, despite their harsh upgrade policy, ("per year, not per version's number"). Who knows, I might even get version 3.5 for free...

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clean
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« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2013, 09:57:34 AM »

Steven: "I could not find much in the way of lauding or criticism on the Net." - Well, that was before the cnet review which says it all: You couldn't be more comprehensive in stating the problems with such kind of sw.

At the end of the day, there's two features which would constitute a strict minimum in such sw:

- A hit table. Meaning, not having to jump from one find to the next, perhaps 60 times before you finally get what you need, but have sort of a table, a list, possibly with attributes but not necessarily so, but with the context of your finds. You can replicate this feature wherever it's missing, with a good external search program (for AO, this would be File Locator / File Locator Light = Agent Ransack, and even for European characters if you don't mind entering them as 4 special chars instead of your ä or é), and you'd even get the context of your finds. Problem is, back from such an external hit table, you can't jump back to the corresponding line within the item in question, but you'll then have to go back to your PIM (here: AO) first, go to the file in question there, press control-f, enter your search term again (and presumably with its immediate context, in order to avoid false finds)... So an internal hit table, be it multi-file (as in MI) or just for the current file (as in UR), is absolutely necessary, from there, with a mouse click, you'll be in the line you need to work on.

- Boolean search. Less necessary than point one, but also extremely important. Why? Because of all these false hits you'll get with Boolean search missing. Most general searches (= will be different when you search for customer names or such, e.g.) will be about rather general terms, with some other probable terms within their vicinity, but with the control-f in AO and such progs, you'll never ever find them - or you'll have 60 or 180 "hits". Hence the interest of external progs like File Locator above, in spite of the incredible fuss to then get to your real hits, manually: They not only give hit tables, but hit tables of finds in the form of "abc [AND] xyz [OR] jkl [NOT] mno" - you will not appreciate this functionality enough before having to search, one by one, 200 or more finds in the form "abc" only, in programs like AO and without having a knowledge of the existence of progs like File Locator.

So, as explained above, external search progs can help you out from sheer madness when using progs like AO, but I think it will have become evident that you should avoid any prog that doesn't offer both of the aforementioned features.

Any other elaborate feature should be considered "nice to have" in comparison, but unproper search is dealbreaking.

And then, we've got all these annoyances with otherwise sophisticated sw, e.g. the continuous absence of formatting in the tree of (rock-solid) UR (whilst MI offers this feature but isn't stable enough) - etc., etc., etc. - there isn't any one decent of such progs. But AO and such might work for people who've got 1,000 or so different items - in many weeks, that'd be my weekly output.

Anyway, if ever you've got your stuff in such progs like AO, have a very close look on tools like FL that could save your day, and many days in a row.
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rjbull
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« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2013, 12:18:50 PM »

@clean:

You'd probably like the way AllMyNotes Organizer does things.  It offers Google-like as well as simple search, and the hits are presented in a sort of "mini-tree" that clearly indicates that things are filtered.  It's one of the ones that only operate in memory, so it won't do for really large databases, and its other features may or may not grab you.
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helmut85
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« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2013, 08:06:49 PM »

rjbull, Thank you for this hint. In fact, I regularly trial all these outliners several times a year, and I discarded the one you mention just several weeks ago, again, but without remembering what the dealbreaker was - I'll remember to add it here in some months, after my next trial of the thing. But since it has got a hit table, it probably doesn't have Boolean search, and it's not "Boolean search" I'm after, because that might sound impressive or sophisticated or something, it's simply the problem that I really need the hit table AND Boolean search, if I want to avoid having tenfold "hits" I then have to discard. (see below)

There's another prob with search: Of course, nowhere in all these, you'll get "semantic search", i.e. automatic inclusion of "dog" in your search when you'll search for "spaniel" or "retriever", or even better, the other way round, from general to specific (since all the specifics are more difficult to remember and to manually list up then some general terms).

So you know you'll have to do without that from the beginning. But the real prob is, you'll (hopefully) use all sorts of synonyms all over the place (we're not speaking of very "technical" or legal stuff here, but of texts people might be more or less pleased to read, so variation in expression is mandatory (many of us are limited here by English being their lingua franca, but not their native language)), and how to find something then, without Boolean search?

I want to say, even when you do the "semantic search" yourself, by listing up the possible synonyms in your search, with OR, it's necessary that your IMS (information management system) can handle these OR's! And that's an even bigger problem than the first one, i.e. to discard false hits.

It's really the combination of hit tables and Boolean search that's of utmost importance. Hence the attraction of MI, UR and the like, in spite of their lack of real development and their non-extermination of annoyances they got 10 years ago and will perhaps never weed out.

The more I see the absence of development in these "big players" in the field, the more I regret the demise of askSam - AS, as it was, but being stable and without all these hellish bugs making people lose data, would have been preferable to them all.

Even what's been left of their forum,

http://listserv.vt.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=ASKSAM-L

has been left untouched for another 4 months now, but I regularly check there, and if ever askSam will become more or less bug-free, I'll tout it with all the persuasive power I'll have left then. So much for little outliners. ;-)

EDIT:

Oops, I mixed up my accounts, finally, but my identical pc number for both was speaking enough. Well, I'd been really angry about my contributions being called spam and myself being thrown out, but then, I wasn't decided to sulk forever, all the less so since I had very well understood there's some smart and affable folks around here.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2013, 08:20:07 PM by helmut85 » Logged
rjbull
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« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2013, 04:08:18 PM »

I really need the hit table AND Boolean search, if I want to avoid having tenfold "hits" I then have to discard.
[...]
nowhere in all these, you'll get "semantic search", i.e. automatic inclusion of "dog" in your search when you'll search for "spaniel" or "retriever"
[...]
the real prob is, you'll (hopefully) use all sorts of synonyms all over the place
[...] and how to find something then, without Boolean search?
I hear you  Sad  I used to use the mighty Dialog online information system with its large collection of huge patent, scientific and technical databases, with literally millions of records.  I was used to building complex Boolean searches.  I don't think there is anything like what you're asking for as a desktop application with an affordable price.  The closest would be DB/TextWorks by Inmagic Corp., but this is meant for powering corporate libraries and the like, with price to match.  It's true that they made the DOS version of Inmagic (which used to cost $1,200) free: see the Information, Reference, Research page of the Free Software for DOS Web site.  That's good, but obviously DOS software is getting harder to use on later versions of Windows.  Even then, Inmagic has (if I remember correctly) only a limited number of synonyms, but it does have serious Boolean searching power.

My impression is that developers of Windows desktop applications either don't understand the needs of serious text searching, or they think end users won't understand either how to use the program or its the value, or they can't make such a program at a sensible cost, or all of those.  Also, I think some of the programs that do exist reflect too much what programmers want for themselves, rather than being robust search engines for anyone with a large collection of texts.  It's a shame, because I'd like the same sort of thing you do.

I regret the demise of askSam - AS, as it was, but being stable and without all these hellish bugs making people lose data, would have been preferable to them all.
Do you mean that the most recent version of askSam isn't reliable?

A few more you might consider, if you haven't already, but be warned that I've only used NoteFrog and Archivarius 3000 so far:

  • NoteFrog
    Works in memory and currently limited to 25,000 notes, no way to drop things out of the hits list, limited to Boolean AND, but nice to use within its limitations.  Online simulation to save you the download  smiley
     
  • dtSearch
    Some comments about this on DC; expensive.
     
  • InfoQube Information Management System
    Quite a few comments on DC; the developer (pplandry) posts here.
     
  • Archivarius 3000
    Very good desktop search engine.

So much for little outliners. ;-)
They do have their uses  smiley  But IMHO they aren't ideal for really big jobs.

Oops, I mixed up my accounts I'd been really angry about my contributions being called spam and myself being thrown out
You mean, clean and helmut85 are the same person?  smiley

I had very well understood there's some smart and affable folks around here.
I'm glad you felt able to come back.  You'd have to ask the moderators about why you were spammed out; it's usually because a post looks like some kind of advertising.
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helmut85
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« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2013, 03:30:05 PM »

rjbull, thanks for the warm re-welcome!

I never bought dtsearch, but it's decidedly the best of those search tools: It's all about finding things or not, in proprietary file formats, and especially with accented characters like ü and é and ù, here, dtsearch excels whilst Copernic and X1 are very bad (for standard file formats, X1 seems first-rate though). (For Archivarius, I know many people are fond of it; in my special case, it didn't work well, then crashed...) - As said here or elsewhere, the problem with external search tools is, you then have to go back to your "db" / "pim" / text program, etc., and do another, now more specific search, in order to get to the real "hit", in your application (it occurs to me at this moment that some search tools might be able to have you "go" right to that "hit", from a mouseclick in their hit table, when it's standard progs like Word - but forget this for more exotic file formats).

Both Ultra Recall and MyInfo allow for Boolean search, as does IQ and only SOME other pim's: I remember one which had it, but without "no", and no hit table then; another had the hit table, but no Boolean search, and so on - but it's no wonder that many people use UR or MI in spite all any respective problems of each they otherwise cause.

I once stumbled upon DT/TextWorks, and would be willing to pay 1,200 bucks for a prog that really "has it all", but I discarded it then because of their "ask us for a trial (instead of just downloading it) and for a quote (instead of giving the price) - so I never even got to a screenshot of it, let alone a trial. Then, it's a db, which means it's not a tree superposed upon such a db, as UR and MI and IQ and others are, and even the later AS got trees-on-the-fly (by first line, or by field content - very smart thing, the only prob being that with 5-digit record numbers, this regularly took minutes or even crashed (they dumped their forum because it really become much too much negative feedback from almost everybody). As I today said in my KEdit thread, lately it's MI that seems to leave UR trailing, not because MI was so good suddenly, but because there is steady if slow development, whilst UR don't do much upon their roadmap ("not much" being an euphemism for "nothing" here).

In the web, we use Boolean search all the time, in google (and let alone ebay or specialized sites like Dialog you mention), and most people do it even without knowing: In google, they enter two or three search terms, in order to refine their search from start on: a b is a AND be: people do it intuitively, there. (It's for OR that google asks for some knowledge, since that is an (a,b), far from intuitive but some of us know. Not a is -a, etc., and so it's possible to find things.

Whilst in a non-Boolean pim, you CAN'T search for a b, entering a b there would search for "a b", but not for records with a and b, so these desktop pims are mostly really three steps back from what we use, in the web, all time, even without paying attention.

And there's another thing, many such "basic" desktop pim's do not even allow for searching "just in the tree" / "text only" / both, but invariably search everywhere - but then, it's evident that a search "tree only" will perhaps render 5 hits, from which you choose the right one, whilst the same search "everywhere" will get you 200 "hits" in which then you'll have big problems to identify the one you need, without any possibility to refine your search with a second term that also must be within the same record, since in such progs, as said, a b will not work this way - so you are lucky when you remember a second here that also might be in that record you need, but which is only in 120 "hits"... so no discussion here, if a pim only allows for "normal search and then everywhere", it's to be qualified CRAP, whatever it other qualities might be.

As for Notefrog, if I understand this prog well (without ever having trialled for more than just 2 or 3 minutes or so), it relies exclusively upon searching, since there is no tree: at the left, it's the hit table!

Since I used askSam for almost 20 years or so, from early DOS on, and it got its tree-on-the-fly from version 6 only, I know both worlds: search-only (but in the spectacular AS way), and trees, and I must say, I function with trees, holding together related info, and also offering "a dedicated place" for your info, i.e. within a big tree, you remember, more or less (depending also on the good construction of your tree), "wherearound it must be", and I rely very heavily on this feature, i.e. I "search" for my contents by approaching them physically, by opening up headers, then sub-headers: for me, this is an extremely natural way of getting to info.

On the other hand, my memory for real searching often fails me, and even Boolean search doesn't help too much: I remember a search term: hundreds of hits; I suppose another one should also be in those records (but if I'm mistaken here, I'll inadvertently exclude the record I'm searching for!), and even with the combination, I get too many hits, and then I don't really see a third search time that might have been around there - but perhaps not? And then, with all those more-or-less-synonyms no such current program handles equal!

So I must say that with searching, even with good searching, I've got some problems, hence my interest in sophisticated trees. But of course, searching is of the highest interest wherever you have put something OUT of its tree-heading-subheading "way": somewhere else! There, with a hit table and Boolean search, it's 100 times better than with "just normal search and everywhere": I have to spend several minutes on such a search, sometimes, but I find the thing, in the first case; with only basic searches an 100 hits to then be accessed one by one...

But my point here is, even Boolean search isn't good enough, it should include "semantic search", i.d. half-automatic synonym provision. Meaning: You search for dog, and before searching, the program would list up breeds, "puppy", "cute", "ferocious", whatever, in order for you to decide which of these terms should be searched for (and it's even possible to have some of these in different OR groups).

Couple this with an index, and the prog would only present you such breeds (in our example) that really are present somewhere in your texts, and not unnecessarily clutter this first "what to search table" with search terms, taken from a dictionary but which ain't in your text!

Then, this, for several languages, and for combinations of languages. And finally, you could give the program hit numbers when you work within the "what to work" window, meaning your processing the search terms there will give you real-time results how many hits you'd then get.

I know of a list one very early Dos text db which offered some semantic search (but not in the sophisticated I describe here) - askSam was a best-selling program then and "killed" it, by way of most people then buying AS instead. One of the big ironies here: After having got its then really comfortable market position it then held for years, AS was NOT able to implement any semantic search functionality. So today, we're worse off than we were 20 years before, except for visuals: Of course, Windows ( /Mac ) is pleasant to the eye when Dos gets quickly unbearable because visually at least, we get so much "more" today.

Thank you very much, also for the free Dos progs link. I've encountered another such link, with defunct sw, Windows and Dos combined, like early Wordstar versions, 1-2-3 and such, but wasn't really enthousiastic about these. Your link is for defunct progs that are much more special and much more interesting, incl. Inmagic Plus there, citation: "These are not trivial products." - right they are. Will have a good look into this site!

Btw, this semantic search, google does it all the time for you, and even without taking your advice upon them doing so. Hence the interest of having such a system at home, but with you controlling what's found here, and what's discarded from the results. But no, even those specialised tools, incl. dtsearch, don't do semantic search, let alone let you control it. And this, 35 years after the intro of personal computing. /rant
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« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2013, 10:38:05 AM »

I once stumbled upon DT/TextWorks, and would be willing to pay 1,200 bucks for a prog that really "has it all", but I discarded it then because of their "ask us for a trial (instead of just downloading it) and for a quote (instead of giving the price) - so I never even got to a screenshot of it, let alone a trial.
I don't think this is suspicious of shady practice.  They're a serious software company, with a serious product, but they're probably expecting to deal with medium-sized enterprises needing to run a company-wide library system.  In that case, they're probably expecting to face aggressive purchasing departments.

Then, it's a db, which means it's not a tree superposed upon such a db, as UR and MI and IQ and others are, and even the later AS got trees-on-the-fly
True, but for large data sets that doesn't bother me.  I was used to searching Dialog, after all.

As I today said in my KEdit thread, lately it's MI that seems to leave UR trailing, not because MI was so good suddenly, but because there is steady if slow development, whilst UR don't do much upon their roadmap ("not much" being an euphemism for "nothing" here).
I didn't upgrade to the latest version of UR for that very reason, and there are even people in the UR forums saying the same.

And there's another thing, many such "basic" desktop pim's do not even allow for searching "just in the tree" / "text only" / both, but invariably search everywhere 
Horst Schaeffer's MemPad does, but, Horst made it as a tool for keeping one's own thoughts in, with the tree structure as very much the primary way of organising and finding things.  I'm still looking for the ideal text database.

As for Notefrog, if I understand this prog well (without ever having trialled for more than just 2 or 3 minutes or so), it relies exclusively upon searching, since there is no tree: at the left, it's the hit table!
That's more or less right.  The list at the left is note titles.  That narrows down as you add text into the search box(es); it has a very nice "search as you type" "live search."  But, it isn't truly a heavyweight application.

even Boolean search isn't good enough, it should include "semantic search", i.d. half-automatic synonym provision.
In my limited experience, it isn't a common feature of desktop products.  Apart from Inmagic, I've only seem something like it in Dialog's EXPAND command (or the STN equivalent).  It was very useful for collecting together all variations of a company name, including the most likely misspellings.  In desktop apps, I think I'd like to be able to swith synonymy on and off, maybe even to have multiple synonym sets I could switch between.  Pipe dream...

I know of a list one very early Dos text db which offered some semantic search (but not in the sophisticated I describe here)
Maybe Anyword?  I tinkered with it a little, but it indexes existing text and gives you a nice Dialog-like way of searching it.  If you changed the text, you had to re-index.  I wanted something more integrated.  It was a very old program, and I couldn't get it to work under later Windows.

Your link is for defunct progs that are much more special and much more interesting
Disclaimer, of sorts; I contributed to the Free Software for DOS list  smiley

And this, 35 years after the intro of personal computing. /rant
I feel your pain  Sad  Most modern Windows software is intended for novices to get something done at all, and to be "easy to use."  But that's turned into patronising users as unable to get to grips with anything above the trivial, and bamboozling them with eye-candy.
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