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Outlining in your browser

Dave Winer just linked to a bookmarklet — ijotEdit by Marc Barrot — that lets you write outlines in your browser. It’s OPML-based, of course. Very nice.

I have to admit, though, that I played with it with mixed emotions. I have nothing negative to say about it at all. On the contrary. And that’s the problem. For the past two months, my hobby has been writing an OPML-based, browser-based outliner because I couldn’t find free one that worked across Mac, Linux and Windows. I just two days ago got mine to the point of minimum usability, although it’s still full of bugs. But you can save and load the outlines you create with it, and it exports in RTF, HTML and text pretty reliably. The functionality is truly minimal: You can use the arrow keys to move lines or lines + children, but you can’t cut and paste structures; there are no tools for including links or graphics; it doesn’t do rich text; if you want to change the styles, you have to hand-edit the css file. But, hey, the little right and down arrows work! I could never get it to the point that I would share it with anyone else, and if I ever showed the code to an actual developer, the milk would come out her nose. But I got the arrow keys working in IE as well as Firefox and Chrome! (Well, the place I copied the key capture code from said that it would work in IE.)

So, why mixed feelings about Marc’s actual, real, working outliner? Simple: I lost the excuse for writing my own. I’m a hobbyist, so it shouldn’t matter. Oddly, it does.

8 Responses to “Outlining in your browser”

  1. [...] On-line browser based outlining – has raised it’s head again – and from who? Marc Barrot – of course! [...]

  2. David, I asked Marc to reboot his browser-based outliner because I knew people would want to use it, or something exactly like it, to edit blog posts in the new blogging tool I’m working on.

    As I said in my tweet, there’s no doubt in my mind that there are ways you could contribute, as a hobbyist and tweaker and geek — but at a higher level, because the foundation is already pretty strong.

    It would be great to work with you, if you’re interested.

  3. That was so sad and sweet and honest. More of this in the world, please. I’m so tired of macho posturing that calls for never being disappointed, never surprised by anything.

  4. Dave, that’s sweet of you. Thanks, and as a user I’m very happy Marc put up his outliner. But, my skills are not up to even tweaking. I am totally a blunderbuss amateur.

    For example, because I have problems with recursion, I internally represent the structure of the outline in a completely flat list, with the level of indentation tracked simply as an attribute.I suspect that’s not the way a real developer would do it. Or maybe not. The point is that I have no idea. Just hand me the ol’ blunderbuss. I have no ambitions beyond hobbying around.

    BTW, upon re-reading my post, I regret not being more forthrightly positive about Marc’s outliner. It’s very cool. My mixed reaction to it is _only_ due to my irrational need for a pretext for my hobby.

    So, thanks, Dave. i’ve been following your Scripting2 posts with great interest.

  5. Like Amy, I appreciate that you just told your story without thinking about how people would take it. If more people would do that it wouldn’t be considered so extreme, and we’d be able to deal with harder problems. My two cents.

    Anyway, the method you’re using is perfect valid. I’ve implemented three outliners in my career, the second one, the one that ThinkTank on the Mac was based on and Ready on the PC, was implemented the way yours is. One big array of pointers to records, each record saying what level the line is at, whether it’s expanded or collapsed, and other things. You can go all the way to a commercial product used by many thousands of people with that approach.

  6. Hey David It’s been a long time. I remember showing you iJot in Vienna 5 or 6 years ago. We were attending BlogTalk with Paolo and Matt. Anyway, I’d be happy to help. For instance, webOutliner, the outliner inside iJot, was designed to be integrated with any Web app. It has been done several times, with all kinds of back-end servers. You’re more than welcome to try and set up an outliner that will work best for you. You’d have a good reason to keep your hobby going – building outliners is a great hobby – and we’d both learn from the experience. Let me know if you’re interested.

  7. Marc, good to hear from you again. It has been a while!

    If there’s an easy way for me to see webOutliner, I’d love to see what a real piece of code looks like. Thanks!

  8. Rodney Niggemann

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