Outline mode

Tell us what could be improved in MyInfo
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joshi
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Outline mode

Post by joshi » Thu Apr 26, 2007 2:09 pm

Although MyInfo is great for organizing information, I would also like to use it for traditional outlining - in other words, for laying out my thoughts in outline form before writing a lengthy document. However, MyInfo's document tree currently has a couple of limitations that make it less than ideal for use as a traditional outliner.

First, every entry in the document tree is considered a "document title" and is limited to 200 characters. The 200-character limit is usually sufficient for labeling a document, but not for entries in a traditional outline.

Second, the document tree does not have a word wrap function. Rather, it truncates lengthy document titles. This makes it difficult to write and read through long outline entries.

Like I said, MyInfo is fabulous for organizing information. If the two issues I mentioned can be fixed, it would make MyInfo an extremely powerful drafting tool as well. Like most people who write lengthy text documents, I use Microsoft Word, and its outline function is extremely clunky and not user friendly. I really like MyInfo's document tree interface and would use MyInfo a great deal more for traditional outlining but for the 200-character limit and the absence of word wrap.

jamal
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Post by jamal » Thu Apr 26, 2007 5:26 pm

This is interesting.. I guess why not? However, even if those two issues are resolved, can you really be happy using MyInfo for outlining? Yes, resolving those issues will allow you to enter text. Besides the tree that affords outlining structure, what else do you see that lend itself to using MyInfo for outlining? There are many unique and vital features of an outliner - such as promoting, demoting, hoisting etc. that MyInfo probably cannot satisfy because it is not an outliner tool per se. I like your idea, but am interested in knowing your thoughts.

joshi
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Post by joshi » Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:09 pm

I like MyInfo's tree structure for outlining because I like how it looks visually (very clean but with a lot of information visible on the screen). I also find it fairly easy to enter text, move it around, and open and close branches. I doubt MyInfo will (or should) ever be modified to be able to create an "elegant" or "formal" outline like the ones you can create using a word processor or a program dedicated to outlining. But I think that, with changes I suggested, MyInfo would perform nicely as a nuts-and-bolts outliner for people like me who want a tool that they can use to lay down their thoughts quickly and then edit and organize them easily.

You mention outliner features such as "promoting," "demoting," and "hoisting." I would think that it would be easy for MyInfo to promote and demote (if I understand the terms correctly) since it already allows you to move sub-branches to the right or left. Hoisting would be a great addition to MyInfo, and I believe others here have suggested that hosting functionality be added. But even without hoisting, I would prefer working in MyInfo's tree structure than in a program like Microsoft Word. (I should add, if it's not obvious, that I don't own a dedicated outline program and so my only point of comparison is with word processing programs like Word. There may be other features that dedicated outline program would have that just haven't come to mind.)

jamal
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Post by jamal » Fri Apr 27, 2007 7:54 am

Thank you Joshi for your comments. I do use an outliner - started with Brainstorm, but now use NoteMap.

I agree that implementing your suggestion will make it possible to use MyInfo for "quick and dirty" outlining. I think it would not change the look and character of MyInfo, but rather would provide advantages that it can be used for outlining, the documents so created can reside in MyInfo as part of your personal reference, they can be searched on etc. The changes seem to be straightforward, but Petko can probably comment on the impact and how easy/difficult it would be to implement. If such a small change can extend the usability of MyInfo without convoluting the character of the product, why not?

joshi
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Post by joshi » Fri Apr 27, 2007 12:52 pm

If the changes I suggested would be too difficult to implement, one other thought I had is to create an option that would allow the user to hit the "Return/Enter" key to create a new document, which would at least allow for faster inputting of data.

jamal
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Post by jamal » Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:52 pm

Petko,

There is no question that a limit of 200 characters is reasonable for document-names. However, removing this limit and allowing word-wrap can open up the use of MyInfo to create and manage outline documents as part of one's personal reference information. I see it as a clever "side effect" that users can take advantage of. So the question is: is it possible to accomodate this - as suggested by Joshi - without causing "bloat?" Going further, a cleaner way to provide this may be to define a new document type of outline, and facilitate the above for outline documents, in which case it will become a visible feature as opposed to "side-effect." Hope to see your feedback.

Petko
MyInfo Support
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Post by Petko » Tue May 01, 2007 5:26 pm

joshi and jamal, thank you for the interesting discussion!

In fact we consider improving the tree editor of MyInfo for the next version. This will allow MyInfo to present better the information stored in its topics. I can say that to some extent MyInfo 4 could be used as a traditional outliner, but since this is not MyInfo main goal, we have no plans for extending this functionality too much, because it will interfere with the other MyInfo features and with it's ease of use.

As you already know, in MyInfo 4 you will be able to format the document titles with different fonts, font sizes and colors. We could improve on that and add a word-wrap option for the tree and extend the title size limit. All these changes could be almost "invisible". They will add only one new menu command - Tree Word Wrap, so I think that it will not make an user interface clutter.

I think that, because not every topic will be used as an outline, it will be best if this option is per topic, like Show State Images and Show Tree Images options. What do you think about it?

kf
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Post by kf » Tue May 01, 2007 9:10 pm

Can you make it per-document or per-document-column? Would word-wrap be available as an option for text columns?

Kevin

jamal
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Post by jamal » Wed May 02, 2007 5:32 am

Thank you Petko for your positive response. Implementing it per topic is still great because it allows the users to create and manage outlines within MyInfo - making use of MyInfo's PRIM functionalities and outline capabilities together.

If it's per topic, the users will take one of the two alternatives : 1. Create all outlines in one topic. 2. Create outlines in appropriate topics (where they naturally belong) and turn on the "outline mode" for the entire topic which obviously will include other non-outline documents. It is likely that new users who will come along later will question the implementation. In my opinion, the right thing to do is to make it per document, which enables the user to create outline documents whereever they belong and turn on the functionality for that document only.

If it is implemented as a new document type, then the function turns on automatically for that document without any additional user interface to turn it on/off. This will also allow solid isolation and foundation for future enhancements or tweaking in this area, if need and justificatoin arise.

jamal
Posts: 130
Joined: Sat Jan 13, 2007 12:29 pm

Post by jamal » Wed May 02, 2007 12:57 pm

Petko, on second thought, if you're concerned about making it a "visible feature" and then not supporting it fully (as would be the case if you add a new document type for outline), I understand why you wouldn't want to create a new document type. Perhaps it can still be designed to apply per document rather than topic??

joshi
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Post by joshi » Wed May 02, 2007 1:36 pm

Thank you for considering this suggestion, Petko.

In terms of how I use MyInfo, a per-topic word wrap would work just fine. However, a per-document word wrap would offer greater flexibility. I assume you did not propose a per-document word wrap for one of two reasons. First, you may have thought a per-document word wrap would be more confusing to the user. I don't think that's valid concern. If the user in MyInfo 4 will be able to modify font size, etc., on a per-document basis, I think the user will easily understand that he or she can set word wrap on a per-document basis as well.

Second, it may be that implementing word wrap on a per-document basis requires substantially more code modifications or would significantly slow down MyInfo's operations. If that's the case, that's a legitimate concern. I fully appreciate (and agree with) your position of not making MyInfo something it was not intended to be. (And since I know very little about programming, I can't intelligently speak to the trade-offs involved).

Daly de Gagne
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Post by Daly de Gagne » Wed May 02, 2007 4:20 pm

I think word wrap should be available on a document basis. For scanning the tree, sometimes it is very helpful -- and faster -- to have the word wrapped name.

As well, from an information management and ease-of-use sense, it is important to be able to hoist and dehoist -- as a toggle -- sections of the tree. I hope that would be part of MI4.

Thanks.

Daly

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joshi wrote:Thank you for considering this suggestion, Petko.

In terms of how I use MyInfo, a per-topic word wrap would work just fine. However, a per-document word wrap would offer greater flexibility. I assume you did not propose a per-document word wrap for one of two reasons. First, you may have thought a per-document word wrap would be more confusing to the user. I don't think that's valid concern. If the user in MyInfo 4 will be able to modify font size, etc., on a per-document basis, I think the user will easily understand that he or she can set word wrap on a per-document basis as well.

Second, it may be that implementing word wrap on a per-document basis requires substantially more code modifications or would significantly slow down MyInfo's operations. If that's the case, that's a legitimate concern. I fully appreciate (and agree with) your position of not making MyInfo something it was not intended to be. (And since I know very little about programming, I can't intelligently speak to the trade-offs involved).

Petko
MyInfo Support
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Post by Petko » Thu May 03, 2007 9:08 am

Again, thank you for the serious discussion. Comparing all pros and cons, we have decided to make the word wrapping in the tree, per-topic.

The reasons are, first this way the new feature will be invisible for the users that do not use this functionality, this will add only one new command (word-wrap tree). Second, it will be much easier and faster to implement. Word-wrap is not even in our Roadmap, so we could not afford to spend too much time on it. And third, this does not exclude the possibility to add per-document word wrap in the future versions, if we have positive feedback from the users about this feature.

kf
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Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2006 1:18 am

Post by kf » Thu May 03, 2007 10:41 am

that brings up a good point petko. Are you making any changes to the settings dialog for v4? One thing that MyInfo has always seemed a little behind on is the amount of "user settings" control. I agree that the user should be able to start MyInfo and begin using immediately, but it's nice, as the user gets more advanced, to be able to tweak program actions. (I think keyboard shortcuts are a part of this, thanks for that!)

Perhaps MyInfo could use a tree-style option dialog to more efficiently layout the options? I'm not arguing for or against per-document wordwrap here, just bringing up a concern! Thanks,

Kevin

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