Saturday, November 2, 2013

Outlines in ConnectedText—An Opinion

ConnectedText has evolved over the last seven years into a very versatile application that can do all sorts of things. Among these, outlining stands out. You have not only the outline view that allows you to write outlines, but also the TOC view that allows you to outline topics. So you can set it up as a two pane outliner in which the topics themselves can be outlined again.

This is why some people have begun to view it as an "outliner program," that is, as a program whose primary purpose it is to outline, i.e. arrange material in a hierarchical way or to create trees. But this is not its primary purpose.

ConnectedText primary purpose, as I see it, is to create a mesh or large sets of interlinked topics. It is designed to work like the Internet. In fact, it is primarily a personal wiki. And while wikis can be organized hierarchically, this is not the best way to use them.

Connectedtext's outliner seems to me designed as a higher level tool that allows you to organize material for a particular job, like writing a paper on the specific subject. It is very useful because it has access to all the material you may have collected in the wiki for several years. The German program which in some ways is similar to ConnectedTextZettelkasten calls such a function "Schreibtisch" or "writing desk."[1] It's an affordance that helps you to process the stuff in your collection of interlinked topics. It is thus built upon a network of topics created first.[2]

Now, none of this means that you cannot use the outliner as the primary application, just as you can use a butter knife like a primitive screw driver. But you should be aware that a butter knife was not designed to be either a screw driver or a carving knife.[3]

1. For an English description see here.
2. Historically speaking, the outline function came fairly late in the development of ConnectedText.
3. I learned this truth the hard way, after being punished as a kid for having vandalized some of our family silver by abusing it this way. The difference between silver knives and ConnectedText is, of course, that you cannot break the latter.

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