All I want for Christmas is BBOutliner

by Giles Turnbull

With the release of OmniOutliner 3 recently, I had the opportunity to make a side-by-side comparison between it and the new outliner on the block, TAO. I've written about both apps here before, and I think each of them is an excellent piece of software.

OO3 deserves the praise it gets because it is, without any question, very high quality software. The guys at OmniGroup have put such a lot of work into making it a useful and beautiful tool for manipulating thoughts, and it shows. Open up an OO3 document and it just looks gorgeous.

But TAO always draws me back to its arms, even though it has far fewer features. Why? Because I think it's a better writing environment, and I'm a writer by profession, so that matters to me.

My todo list is essentially a list of things to write. Using TAO, I can keep the list in one place, along with all the drafts as they progress. Rather than having to remember where each file is, I can keep them all in a single (admittedly, pretty huge) TAO file and work on each one as I get inspired. I find this an extremely productive way of working.

But there's one problem with TAO as well, and that's that it isn't BBEdit. Lots of the things I write, both for personal satisfaction (OK, blog posts) and for profit (articles for O'Reilly Network) need to be created in HTML, and that's one thing that TAO does not support. I tend to write everything using the oh-so-simple Markdown markup, then use a script to convert it to HTML. BBEdit makes this whole process swift and easy and, well, just really nice. Writing for the web made very simple indeed.

This system makes me very reluctant to move away from BBEdit. After experimenting with TAO for several days, today I exported the resulting outline to text and edited it in BBEdit. By using split editor mode, the quick find function, and setting plenty of useful markers, I can use a single (pretty huge) text file as my "outliner", todo list (urgent tasks are at the top) and writing space. My beloved Markdown script is only a customized keystroke away, and I am a happy writer once again.

There's only one problem with BBEdit, and that's that is isn't TAO. While using TAO, I fell in love with the outliner concept and the wonderful ability to collapse and expand sections of text, like sections of my brain.

So here's what I want: BBOutliner. If BBEdit supported the folding feature found in some of its rivals, that would probably be enough. How about it, Bare Bones? Go on. Go on, go on, go on...

What dream application do you want for Christmas?


2004-12-22 22:19:04
TOA is a Cocoa app
Since TOA is a Cocoa app you can install something like TextExtras and then use the user scripts feature to write a simple script to convert the content of a text area to HTML via markdown. TextExtras will add a menu with a list of scripts that will become active in any standard Cocoa text area.
2004-12-23 11:18:32
TOA is a Cocoa app
I believe it's still a Carbon app.

Siegel doesn't seem to get that lots of BBEdit users use it not to just code, but to write. Otherwise, why remove smart delete and insert? Anyway, I agree about the outlinng. Why have to use a bunch of apps with varying formats.

2004-12-24 03:13:30
TOA is a Cocoa app
The guys at BareBones are pretty considerate of feature requests. Even if that means bringing back features they've canned (or consigned to the dustbin of history as they say). A note to support is always worth it.