Friday, April 8, 2011

Outliner Rundown

I've been using outliners for years now.  I could probably track down when I first started using them by looking at my backups and seeing when my first outliner files started showing up, but I won't.  It's not important.

I don't remember exactly what I was doing when I discovered the concept of software outliners.  I remember I was looking for a tabbed interface in word processors, ideally something that would allow me to have a different document open in each tab as well as letting me have the same document open in different tabs, each tab open to a different part of the document.  Great for writing long documents or reports (table of contents in one tab, bit currently being written in another tab, bibliography in another tab, for example).

Somehow in this search I stumbled across the idea of an outliner, and I've been a devoted user of them ever since.  Continue reading for a list of the outliners I've used and what I eventually landed on.

I started with The Guide, which is a good program and I'm still kind of fond of it.  I started getting back into Linux and The Guide won't run in Wine (environment to used to run Windows programs in Linux). Some other developer(s) have started working on a new, cross-platform version of The Guide but I'm not sure what state their development is in.

I switched to Keynote, an old program (resurrected by someone else as the also-good Keynote NF), because it could run in Wine.

Then I switched to NoteCase Pro.  It's cross-platform.   Ridiculously cross-platform.  Almost as ridiculous as Blender's cross-platform availability.  The big selling point for me, it has a build for Maemo 5 - which means I can run this program on my N900.  That's a big selling point.  You can use the program for free, but in order to do some advanced things you need to buy a license (which I have).  The developer is very nice and receptive to feature suggestions.

Somewhere in this time period I started using Celtx, which I tried to use as an outliner for a little while but ended up just using it to write screenplays.  It has a really good, intuitive method for formatting screenplays as you type. Unfortunately, each release seems to get more sluggish, and each release takes longer to save files (up until I stopped using it altogether, I can't really speak to the most recent versions of it).  I do the bulk of my writing on a netbook, so I prefer light applications.

I started looking around for another outliner because I wanted something that can handle screenplay formatting.  It would be nice to have all my notes and my scripts in one place so I could refer back and forth between them without switching applications.

Other outliners I've checked out in my pursuit of better screenplay formatting:

  • KeepNote - Free and Cross-Platform.  Saves projects as a directory of files.  It's nodes are html-based but can't handle CSS, so no screenplay formatting.  I emailed this developer and he said in the future he plans to allow for more and different formatting options.  
  • Scrivener - Designed for screenplay and novel writing.  It has a Windows and Linux version, however it's really slow on my netbook.  It's kind of slow on my PC too, when handling large files.  The last time I used it was a few months ago, when Scrivener for Windows (and Linux) was in open beta.  I think it might still be.  Perhaps the stable release will be much faster.  It's not free or open source but it's quite good.  Well worth the $40 license fee if it runs well on your computer.
  • Cherrytree - Open Source and Cross Platform.  A relatively new outliner but it's quickly become one of my favorites.  The developer is also very nice and receptive to feature suggestions, although just look at his todo list and see all the things he has on his plate.  Worth a look.
  • GEdit.  Open Source, Linux and Windows.  In Linux I noticed that gedit has a file browser pane that lets you find files to edit.  This is when I got the idea to use files organized in folders with some sort of text editor with a browser pane in place of an outliner.
Unfortunately gedit doesn't handle rich text (it really shouldn't anyway), and I couldn't find one single rich text editor that has a file-browsing sidebar.  Not one.  This is pretty much where my search ended.

Almost immediately after I ended my search though, I found something quite accidentally that had a browser-pane and gave me access to rich text options.  It even handles screenplay formatting!  The really messed up thing is I'd stopped looking.  I gave up.  I seriously found this program the same day or the next day after I'd given up.

Some of you out there might already know what kind of program I used.  I'll let the rest of you in on it soon.  This article is getting pretty long, and I have a lot more to say about my new method.  Look for my next article later today or perhaps tomorrow.

Til then,


No comments:

Post a Comment