Friday, July 4, 2008

Notetab as a Plain Text Wiki

Desktop wikis are ideal for note-taking. At least that's the answer you would get, if you asked me! Some people believe that plain text is the best way to go in data storage. I am not one of them. Rather, I believe that a database is the best way to store information and that trying to replicate the functions of a database with a plain text setup will cost largely unrewarded effort.

On the other hand, there are situations where plain text is useful. It can be useful for short notes; it can also be useful for long-term storage in a non-proprietary format.

It appears to have been the latter possibility that has inspired The Plain Text Wiki for the Mac OS editor TextMate. This, in turn, inspired the PlainTextWiki Toolkit. Each is an interesting variation of an idea that I find theoretically interesting but practically not very useful.

Notetab Pro, my favorite text editor, can also be used as a primitive wiki-like application, a.k.a. plain text wiki. Notab Standard and Notetab Pro come with the outline view. The trial version also includes this capability for the first thirty days; and even after the evaluation period is up, it can still read outline files, but not write them (if I remember correctly).

In any case, in an outline document any outline item can include links to any other outline item. One simply has to include the name of the outline item in square brackets like "[so]". To create a new outline item is as easy as:

(i) Pressing "Shift+Ctrl+A" - You will then be prompted to enter the name for the new heading.
(ii) Selecting some text, and pressing "Shift+Ctrl+B". - This command automatically inserts square brackets around the selection, adds the heading to the list, and opens it for input. This is very close to linking in wikis.
(iii) Using the outline heading submenu to add a new heading.

To remove a heading, select it in outline view and press "Shift+Ctrl+R".

In Notetab Pro, the links can be colored, just like in Wiki. Since Notetab can be scripted, other behavior could be added. Autohotkey can be used as well.

The links are static, however. If you change the name of the outline item, the links to it in other items do not get updated automatically.

I find this fairly limited wiki capability interesting, even though I don't use it much because I use another much more capable desktop wiki in my daily work. But a Notetab Wiki appears to me at least as convenient as the other two "solutions", if not more so. Why? A Notetab outline file is just one file, not many.

1 comment:

MK said...

You can also use simple text files. If you have a file named "trial.txt" in the same directory as an open text file "[trial]" becomes a link to that file that can be opened by CTRL-doubleclick or F7. So you can build a simple file based wiki. I would not recommend this for your primary wiki, however.