TAO, a really neat outliner

by Giles Turnbull

Related link: http://blue-beach-systems.com/Products/Software/TAO/

A few days ago, prompted by Matt Neuberg's rave review of TAO in TidBITS, I decided to download it and have a play.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I fired up the app, started typing, and saw a feature I have been dreaming about in a text editor for ages now - live word count. Not only that, a live word count that only counts the number of words in the item currently being edited. This, to me, is gold dust.

Let me explain why. I write various things for various clients. All sorts of articles, columns and miscellaneous bits of copy. Keeping half-finished bits of text organised and sorted problem is the biggest problem of my working life.

But what TAO offers is the chance to store all these works-in-progress in one file -- ok, at times it might be a particularly large and ungainly sort of file, but it will still be one place where I can keep all my stuff.

Not only that, but this live word count shows me just how much work I need to do on each piece of unfinished stuff. I can see at a glance whether I've gathered together enough content for this week's 700-word column, and if I need to set about gathering more for future columns, or have spare words in hand.

The crucial test for TAO is the one I apply to all editors I use: can it type as fast as I can? If the letters take longer to appear on screen than it takes my fingers to hit them on the keyboard, the editor is no good to me. I can't stand having to wait for software to catch up. So far, after a couple of days of use, TAO is doing adequately, but is not as fast as I would like. Saving takes just a second or so too long; and the larger this file gets, the slower the app responds to commands and new text input. I can see this is going to need a little more exploration.

Trying out TAO like this has encouraged me to really look into other outliners properly. I've spent much of today downloading and trying out all sorts of outliner tools, making some interesting discoveries along the way.

The most interesting of these is that TAO remains the best, for my needs. I need a tool that helps me write; of the apps I've tried out, only TAO operates as I'd like, combining the roles of text editor and outliner.

For anyone wishing to conduct their own outliner comparison tests, there's few better starting points than About This Particular Outliner's The Future of Outlining, an excellent article that includes links to pretty much every current outliner available for OS X.

Outliners: love 'em or hate 'em? What do you think of this one?


2004-10-20 21:39:41
Another option
Not an outliner, but it sounds like you should give Ulysses a try, it's a great place to write:


2004-10-21 18:25:46
The descendent of the grand-daddy of Outliners (More/ThinkTank) is now Open Source

Frontier is also cross platform - v 10.a1 is available from http://kernel.scripting.com

David PR Bailin
2006-05-08 16:25:11
Go to outliners.com for full story. TAO is an OS X implementation of the most important concepts of Thinktank/MORE by Dave Winer. The BEST outliner ever. Has cloning and hositing. This started many years ago for the IBM PC as Thinktank.