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I have always been fascinated with the concept of an outliner. A computer application that does nothing more than facilitate the expression, collation and reorganisation of thoughts is, to me, the most fantastic thing of all. I am not alone in this thought, and outliner fans can get quite animated and excited about the topic.

I got thinking about outliners today when I found the excellent articles on :

  • Outliner History
  • Outliner Features-Part 1
  • Outliner Features-Part 2
  • Outliner User Interfaces
  • There are more! Just search for "outliner" on
  • The problem is, no one thinks in quite the same way, so there is not really a one-size-fits-all outliner. Strangely, if you read around the web, most people's real favourite outliners are discontinued applications. Programs like MORE or NisusOutliner are very popular - and yet no longer sold! MORE is mercifully freely available, but as it is a Classic Mac application, using it is slightly frustrating and will be impossible on Intel Macs.

    My problem is even tougher : I have never found an outliner that suits me as much as the standard outliner in the Apple Newton. There is something about the physical and tactile feel of holding a sizeable unit and using a pen to write and draw. The Newton enhances on the qualities of paper by letting you reorganise, edit, fold etc. Everything that outliner software does for you, but on a small tablet.

    I still use my Newton, but the complexity in communicating between it and my Mac are too frustrating for normal use. If truth be told, the jeering I get when using it in public are probably more of a barrier!

    I have often toyed with the idea of writing my own outliner application. Perhaps now is the time to actually do it. Maybe I will be lucky and Apple will release an OSX tablet soon, and I can Inkwell-enhance the outliner. Then, at last, my Newton can enter into a well deserved rest!

07:33 PM, 09 Nov 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink

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