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Messages - Dormouse [ switch to compact view ]

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I've decided to experiment by trying to write a complete book in only one file.
I wouldn't try it with anything except plaintext.
And maybe I wouldn't try it without WM3, which makes restructuring easy.

Previously I have done shorter stuff - up to maybe 10k words - in one file, with longer done in sections.
That's quite easy when everything is straightforward, and it is obvious where all sections and sub-sections fit. But not otherwise.
WM3 offers two options to deal with this:
  • standard markdown file using different heading levels for organisation;
  • organisation through projects and sub-projects etc, which is effectively very similar to the Scrivener et al system.
The downside of the second is that it can be more complicated to with using other editors (it requires also setting up a folder system to make all files easy to find); the downside of the first is simply that of navigating a very long document.
The advantages of a long document include easy file maintenance and management; ease of reading and reviewing any part in context; easy access with any editor; find and replace all simply using any editor.

We'll see. There will be an ideal size for each file. It is bigger than I have been doing so far, but may well be smaller than a whole book. If sections were clearly discrete, I'd do those - but that's not the case here.

General Software Discussion / Re: What's the future of OneNote?
« on: June 04, 2021, 04:28 AM »
irc 365 saves notebook on OneDrive
In 2016, using the same account, you can access the cloud file and then save it locally.

Luckily I'm not in the US so wouldn't affect me anyway (yet) & I don't have any Amazon speakers or doorbells etc (ditto).
And now, for sure, I never will.

General Software Discussion / Re: What's the future of OneNote?
« on: June 03, 2021, 05:50 PM »
I used to know the answers to some of the questions. I'd use both the 2016 version (all the old functions + Onetastic macros) and the latest version (for better cross-platform & mobile access). Couldn't answer the questions when I saw them, because, it seemed to me, that the best answer was to stop using OneNote, which is what I have clearly done.

I always had a love/hate relationship with it anyway.

My guess is that they had a strategy. Then they changed it. Then they modified their stance, a bit. For now.
Next there will be another strategy.
I think their problem is that OneNote is a large and complex program that few Office customers use. And the free cross-platform giveaway has probably not gained huge traction, but those users will make only simple demands of it.
But those customers who do use the complexity are often very keen indeed.
afaics, it will either die, be killed, mutate into something different and simpler, or will become an add-on to Word.
(The last mightn't be okay if they did it properly - first time for everything - option for better file management for some files via a ON database, more tools, and a couple of different views.)

Mini-Reviews by Members / Screenplay software
« on: June 02, 2021, 01:27 PM »
Since I'm not a screenwriter, I didn't consider the screenplay options. I'm aware that Final Draft has a nifty looking Storyboard attached to the venerable program, that looks like a creaker. (Though I'm also aware that one screenwriter uses Scrivener for all the plotting up to the writing stage!) All database programs, but with the formatting requirements of screenplays and the ubiquity of the PDX format, I'd probably stick with database myself.

I don't intend to look at all the software options here, but I did notice Prewrite which is a Plottr-like program for screenplays (novels apparently coming soon; poor old fact writers will have to get by as they can). Felt a bit rigid, and without outstanding ideas, but I did appreciate its Statistics view. I couldn't see anything automatic about it, but I have always liked tracking a variety of parameters cross timelines. Problem here is that they seemed to be predefined (I'll need to check that). In practice, input of the figures would likely be much easier into a spreadsheet which would give total flexibility and multiple graph views.

I really like it so far.

I'm glad you like it. Seemed worth mentioning.
I'm afraid that I only looked at their webpage and the videos. Once I could see it wouldn't work for me, I looked no further

What did you use to make that diagram?


Just seen Speare mentioned on the Obsidian discord. For writing in snippets and organising them into larger documents.
Pretty, but no idea how it would stand up to real use. Web app + iOS and Android. Expensive ($60 a year or $15 monthly).
Some aspects remind me of Gingko but prettier and less useful.
Wouldn't suit me at all, but might interest some.

I like FocusWriter. No learning curve, does what I need, integrates well with everything else.

Despite my shift to simple files, it's paradoxical to note that this troublesome project is now being worked on with three programs, all using databases.
Mindomo, despite its good exporting is still a database program. And primarily a web one at that.
WM3 is using a json database. I have a linked file, but I'm using the database because I want the folding specificity (this arises from the chosen first draft sequence, not my normal practice).
And, for good or ill, I'm using Plottr for some of the lifting.
I never minded using databases for processing, and most of the underlying data is in plain files, but nevertheless I'm using databases. But they'll all go when (if) I finish the project.

General Software Discussion / Minor irritation
« on: May 18, 2021, 06:58 PM »
Plottr notes, including the notes for scene cards, can contain links.
I naively thought it would be neat to be able to use these links to open the document in the program used to write them.
So tried with WriteMonkey (3) and Obsidian, and No and No. Obsidian opens the program, but only the most recent file. WM3 doesn't open at all (maybe because it's not an installed file?).
There are many programs that I could use, and I suppose that the best choice will depend on what I would usually want to do in that workflow (and I can't know that yet). But it is disappointing, especially if it turns out that I'm likely to want to write; most editors are entirely usable, but I don't like many for writing. Atlantis possibly best after WM. But a bit heavy for a little txt file.

And the link only opens with the default program; there's no right click open with.
But easy enough to change default, so I'll just switch when I know what I want.

I'll have a look at Jarte Plus (no longer being developed, but now free) and have downloaded FocusWriter (no zoom!) as options. I've no idea how much I will use file links as an access method or what I'll be doing if I do, but I'd rather establish my options sooner rather than later. Setting the default colours up is key, and both these do that well enough. So they're reasonable alternatives to Atlantis. I would have looked at Write! too if it had a free trial, though it doesn't really sound like what I'm looking for.

General Software Discussion / File Management
« on: May 14, 2021, 03:09 PM »
I have OneCommander installed (v2 + v3 beta), and look at it from time to time. The attraction is Miller columns, and that does offer a genuine alternative in the way the file system is presented.
My heavy use of nested vaults (folders) requires easy navigation through many layers of folders.
Solutions to this include the many tabs of most file managers and the four pane view of Q-Dir, but I have found the Miller Column implementation in One Commander v3 far superior. As a mouse user, the key feature is being able to move the mouse quickly through the layers with hover giving a full expanded view of all the file details in that folder.

I noticed that X2 introduced Miller Columns with v5 earlier this year and thought I'd test it out, but afaics its implementation isn't half as useful. It does add the columns, but full details are only in the furthest right and I found no setting that allowed me to change this behaviour. I will admit that my search could have been more thorough, but going through the menus and features seems even more complex than DO and I couldn't find a dark mode which means automatically that I won't buy it.

DO 12 is fighting its last battle here, early Summer of 2019 should see DO 13.
Just noticed this prediction.
As of May 2021 DO is on 12.24

To ease the pain, I thought this might help:
How to Learn Regular Expressions
Thanks. I'm gathering a list of resources, just in case, so I've added it to that.
I'll avoid regex while I can, because normal search does everything I want for now, and probably would be good enough for 99% of the time anyway.

Just an update to the programs I'm using.

Files remain central, but I now do no format conversion without explicit reason. This means that if a file starts as an .rtf or .docx it may stay like that and I will work with a program that can use that format. My own writing is usually in .txt.

Most of my files are in Obsidian vaults, with heavy nesting (especially for projects) even when Obsidian cannot read those files. I use wikilinks extensively even when the program I am using cannot interpret them - they are nearly always written with a mind on future use anyway. I use #tags, preferably written in the file but otherwise done using the file explorer; these systems aren't consistent some use metadata, some a database in the folder, but the tags are; not ideal, but I decided in the end that tagspaces was too slow for me. I use search programs, and imagine that I might end up learning regex, but I'll go no further in that direction than I have to.


Mini-Reviews by Members / Conclusions
« on: May 03, 2021, 01:36 PM »
My project is now obstruction free and pressing ahead, so this large and unwieldy process has achieved success for my personal objective, however limited my software insights. Success achieved mostly by thinking, as was always going to be the case, but I needed to find techniques that allowed that thinking to be progressive and developmental rather than always getting pulled back into the whirlpool.

Program/technique outcomes:
  • I observed that my initial recourse with ideas was nearly always to pen and paper techniques (usually digitally). Never stayed there long (draughtsmanship and writing too poor), but always went there first.
  • I recorded the process, observations, indecisions, problems, intermediate outcomes and, eventually, this post in Obsidian. This was in its own nested vault which will now become just a sub-folder.
The balance between visuals and text turned out to be a harsh and exacting requirement; when it did not feel right, I moved on very quickly:
  • failed on this (text not good enough);
  • Outlining failed because it wasn't visual enough;
  • as did Notezilla on one task (I couldn't change note shape).
  • The survivor for the creativity brainstorming was Mindomo, which was slick and flexible once I'd got used to it, and had a wide range of visual options and two for text.
Other people may make very different choices.

I spent what felt like an immense amount of time going backwards and forwards between Jutoh Storyboard, Plottr and spreadsheets. This resolved almost immediately when I saw Plottr's new Acts feature (in beta); this transformed it, from being attractive but not having all the functionality I needed, to ticking all the necessary boxes for detailed plotting. Key features of the program for me include sophisticated filters, expanding and reducing sections, powerful tags, story bible, export process to txt/md (including wikilinks), ease of use. I remain mindful that it seems to be in rapid development still and has not demonstrated longevity or financial stability (hopefully aided by the SaaS looking sales model).
I will still use the other programs:
  • Jutoh Storyboard - for playing around with things in grids;
  • Spreadsheets - for tables where cells don't need to change position and for analytical data;
  • Timeline 3 - for complex event timelines.

I will also use Notezilla as a general factotum or go-between. Potentially even as a deputy to pen and paper.

Writing will be done in WriteMonkey, Obsidian or any other program that takes my fancy. I will use Atlantis, Docs, Word, even Scrivener, etc whenever I perceive a specific need. All files and notes will be kept in Obsidian vaults.

This is quite a big thing for me as it feels like a major shift in some of my core workflows. The trigger may have been a fringe project, but I doubt I will maintain alternative approaches to the same tasks.

UPDATE one week later
I've spent most of my time in Mindomo, which is just as it should be. Getting on with the job rather than playing with programs.
A visual/text mix has always been a fundamental part of my creative and organisational workflow.
(I'm still irritated with myself that I have only just caught up with software developments. Some of that is, no doubt, that my internet is now more reliable and much faster so that web apps are no longer completely out (still need the local option though), so I've been able to look wider.)
Still expect to use Plottr for the next stage, though doubts are creeping around in the background of my mind. If the needs are simple, will I need it? Will it be the best answer to any complexity? We'll see.

I'm coming to realise that I don't like using Obsidian for serious writing. I don't even like sharing the files with it. I don't know why. It works perfectly well. The table and link technique is ideal for organising and managing a MSS. I'm quite happy using it for notes and short pieces - which is, after all, what it was designed for - but not for longer pieces. (I'm also vaguely aware that my preferences shift depending on whether a piece is short, long short, medium/moderate, long and very long.) I am able to write with many programs, and don't object to mixing and matching, but, I suppose, I dislike nearly all of them in one way or another. Such are the personal idiosyncracies in the search for a perfect system.

On reflection, I think it is down to file explorer. I'm used to seeing files in a hierarchical sequence reflecting position in the MSS. I find the explorer pane hogs too much space for the number of files displayed. The table of links is perfectly serviceable, but somehow the appearance disrupts my focus; too habit bound, I guess. Maybe I should look for reformatting the explorer pane, but I'm sticking to vanilla program until I'm totally confident of stability and data security (I'm keeping the number of moving parts I have to watch as small as possible).

Review done.

Of course, that's only Part 1 of the process - checking out the tools. The main part - using them - still awaits.
I'll write a summary record of what I do, which tools I use, and why. Just for completeness really. My process will be idiosyncratic I'm sure, and of little interest to anyone else; maybe it will help me in future, especially identifying what didn't work.

Pointing at the start of the thread is probably more useful: Review
True. And done. Thanks.  :up:

General Software Discussion / Review completed, such as it is.
« on: April 24, 2021, 05:56 AM »
Review done. Superficial, aimed at my own needs and my own working practices and subject to editing, tweaking and improvement.
But done.

There's also DocXManager (formerly Writing Outliner) -

I'm afraid I won't be looking at this in detail after all. I downloaded it but found no sign of a dark mode, even though Word is in dark mode on my machine. Nor could I find an easy way to change the colour settings for the various panes.

From what I saw, the corkboard view was very simple and outlining the same as any two pane outliner.

a custom desktop wallpaper designed to suit your own personal organization, workflow, or brainstorming needs.
I was sort of aware of the possibility without ever considering it further.
But now that you've pointed it out, with illustration, I agree, and can see all sorts of extra possibilities:
  • There could be a kanban wallpaper; (I've been looking for wanting an alternative to Trello for some time - I like Trello, but it doesn't really fit any of my workflows);
  • or, eschewing wallpaper, the screen could be tiled with documents and notes attached to those documents. And you could choose which documents you wanted on screen at any one time.
  • brain burned out with the immensity of the scope

It's amazing how many possibilities there are in such a deceptively simple program. Thank you.

I've seen you talk about Transclusions before, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around what they entail. Do you have any examples you'd be willing to share?
I'll try to explain, because I think that will be easier.
Transclusion = Embed

The Syntax
[[linked file]]
![[transcluded file]]

So, if I'm writing a section, which I want to contain three photos, I will put in three links to those photos which preserves all my screen space for the writing.
There can be many photos to a section and, for example, four sections to a chapter. Each section to contain the photos as links.

I will have one note per chapter. All that note will contain is links to the sections, leaving plenty of space for comments produced during editing, review or development.
I will have one note for the book as a whole. All it will contain is links to the chapters. All easily fitted on one page, plus a few comments if needed.

The comments will not show on preview, export or print.
If I add an exclamation mark in front of every link, they then become transclusions. And an export of the book will include all the chapters and sections including the photos (apparently they can go many layers deep). If the CSS is right, then it's formatted just like a normal book.

This is the way I use them, I'm sure other people have very different uses.
The ease of adding or deleting the questionmark makes it very productive.

I've been interested to notice that my interest in new developments in Obsidian has dropped right away.

Apart from the students & developers who appear to be the core of the user group, I ought to be a prime target, since I make a lot of notes, am an active writer, and most of what I write has been in .md or .txt for a long time. They see Obsidian as a PKM application, but much pre-existing K is stored in non markdown files. The freedom of feeling that I could forget about conversions and just work with data and files in original format has been liberating.

I'm a little surprised I didn't develop it before, as I'm sure many people have been doing it for years, but the concept of nested vaults has been key. (And, conceptually, the 'vault' is quite different in this context to 'folder'.) But it absolutely requires relevant files to be in the vault. It's data and file organisation by project rather than folder. It means a 'vault' can be copied and moved separately on to any device or shared with other people, with no impact on anything else. Links work, but then the file location has to be considered and managed separately. I don't mind having more than one copy of a file if necessary, but once a project is completed the vault is automatically subsumed into something larger and any issues with doubling can be dealt with then. I'm not keen on symlinks, but maybe that will change.

For tags, I'll use a mix of #tags in text files and windows meta fields, and the XY database approach. This does imply potential issues in some future decade but the theoretically more resilient approaches just come with too high a cost at this point.

And I'll save everything into the nested vaults. (I am aware that this may cause Obsidian itself to slow dramatically.) I'll use Obsidian where it works, and other programs and formats when they are better. I'm happy to type wiki-links and #tags into all text tiles, whatever their extension.

Search will give me #tags and [[backlinks]] and identify the existence or not of files for [[links]]. The greatest friction will arise from creating the linked files that do not already exxist. That's okay, I anticipate it taking time to establish the best search system and optimal way of creating those files. Obsidian has system for marking blocks and linking to headings; I've never use either and have always felt the block marker to be an ugly kludge. I doubt I will need a replacement, but think I will just use a timestamp if I do.

Tranclusions are another matter. They are, effectively, a property of Obsidin .md files. By continuing to use Obsidian, I won't lose anything I have but I don't have an alternative for other formats.

OK. You've convinced me. I'll add to the segment. Possibly it will take first place. It is what the segment was originally for.
And, have actually added to my list for checking out with my project. Looks good. Thanks for the suggestion.

Mindomo can do disconnected nodes, and doesn't need fixed rules either, except on export. But I don't regard it as a core part of the review - more a consequence. I might use it in future,  but it's overkill for the review.

Which does leave the segment without a good example.

PS I'm not looking for isolation, so feel free to interject any time.
Though I am doing the survey for my own purposes really, with the review only being a record, so I don’t mind being on my own either.

Flowchart < the most basic expression for your matter?
I did consider it and I like it as an idea. I use Edraw, which is pretty good with multiple options, and all the programs are usually better visually than mindmapping equivalents (more expensive too).
But they're usually designed to show the final outcome rather than in process development. I've never been keen on the basic principle of mindmaps (the central node starting point), but often the software can produce concept maps which can be a reasonable approximation to flowcharts. One of the initial reasons for choosing was a degree of visual similarity to flowcharts.

Equally, though, I wanted to keep my work to a minimum and only look at one example of each technique (the corkboard and storylines equivalents being an exception because they are, theoretically, designed for the purpose). I decided that mindmapping progs had a more useful range of import options and that they, with pen and paper, offered a sufficient facsimile of flowcharts.

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