Update 1: The latest news – after in depth communications with my dear users, we’ll be stick with MS Word at the moment, instead of a standalone version, in other words, we’ll be enhancing the design of the WritingOutliner.
In order to take WritingOutliner to the next level,
we have a new plan (yes,again).
A new version of Writing Outliner software is ready for download now. This is a minor update with just one fix for the potential, critical data lost problem.
As announced in the previous blog post, significant modifications are being made to Writing Outliner software, and while Paul Yip (a new development member of the Writing Outliner software project team) was working on those changes, he finally reproduced the problem and he seems to have found the source of the problem and have fixed it, so we decided to release a new version based on the original version, before the significant changes are ready for download.
All Writing Outliner users are highly recommended to upgrade to this new version.
To upgrade, registered users please click the ‘Check for updates‘ link which can be found at the bottom of the left pane in Writing Outliner.
Trial version can be download here.
Start from today, from time to time I’ll write about new functions being added as the Writing Outliner software developments goes.
And this is the new ‘Auto Title Case‘ for document titles, now when you first time edit a document title in the outline, Writing Outliner software will automatically turn the title into ‘title case’. It’s a small function, but image the time it can save us in the long run 🙂
The following screenshot should demonstrate it well:
As you might already know, the upcoming new version of Writing Outliner (a word add-in that makes writing book-length long documents much easier) will include a corkboard feature that allows you manage your documents with index cards in a writing project, or you can use the note cards for plotting, or just use the note cards to jot down your ideas, etc.
Here is the preview screenshot of how the cork board and the cards will look like, I’m trying my best to get it out by the end of this month, or maybe earlier next month.
I’ve just uploaded a new beta version of Writing Outliner – 0.9.9.492 Beta 4 (Update 1).
This version includes the following bugfixes and enhancements:
- Enhancements of document compilation (merging separate documents into a single one):
- Compilation error under Vista Enterprise + Word 2007.
- Style handling problem reported by forum member MuppetGate in this forum post (happens only when ‘Include titles’ option is not selected).
- Now the ‘compiled output’ will not be opened in the current document tab, but instead, open in a new tab (and one tab only). This is more convenient as it will not change your current document selection.
- Shows an icon on the ‘compiled output’ document tab so that it can be identified easily.
- Occasional error (something like ‘Access violation’) that happens when closing Microsoft Word.
- Shows a balloon hint window to tip the user that he/she can restore the Writing Project Manager pane when it’s is minimized. Some users reported they lost Writing Outliner, I guess this might be the reason 😉
Download address of this beta 4 (update 1) of Writing Outliner Word add-in. Note there is an alternative download link at the bottom of the download page.
Since I’m implementing functions related to styles and templates for Writing Outliner Word Add-in, I’m doing some research on the Internet, and I found this user’s guide to Microsoft Word by Charles Kyle Kenyon, it’s a very good article for Word users, especially legal users, who deal with large Word documents which contains complex numbering, styles and so on. I recommend it.
Style in Word is a good tool for formatting large documents, however, the UI design of Microsoft Word seems does not encourage the use of style.
Obviously, as a Word addin which claims its main purpose is to deal with book-length documents in Word, Writing Outliner should take advantage of the underlying styling features of Word. There are also several posts related to styles in the Writing Outliner Word addin beta test forum.
So this will be my next major work for the upcoming beta version 4. And here is my proposal, and I appreciate all kinds of input.
Note: if you haven’t tried Writing Outliner Word Addin nor you have looked at the screenshots of it, you’ll find the following description a little difficult to understand, because it’s based on the UI of this Word addin.
- In the left project outline, there is a top-level folder called “Template Repository”.
- Under that “Template Repository” you can insert new Word documents, each of which defines a set of style sheets you can use in any Word documents all across the project.
- In each “style template document”, you define styles in a visual “what you see is what you get way”, look at the screenshot below, each text line in the “style template document” defines two things:
- The text line itself is the style name.
- How a line looks like is exactly how that style that’s named after that line looks like.
- Once a “style template document” is defined, you can select a specific “style template” for each drafts in the writing project; If you don’t specify one, the default one will be used.
- You can only define styles in the “style template documents”, because the styles are global in the project. Does this make sense?
That’s all for now as a starting point. Honestly, I don’t have too much experiences of using styles in Word, so I will really appreciate your input!
Finally, I can start the beta test of Writing Outliner Word Add-in today!
What you can do with this version?
- Project-centric writing, keep all files together;
- Use the Project Manager Outliner to outline book-length documents, each outline item is associated with a Word document.
- Tabbed document editing – edit multiple Word document at the same time;
- Instant, Google-alike full text search, find any documents in the project, you can search by text, title, status, label, tags, notes, synopsis, or match all these fields!
- Document tagging and search by document tags, for example, search by “tag:MyTagA or tag:MyTagB“
- Attach icons (status and label) to documents and search by the icons, for example, you can specify the status icon of certain documents as “Needs Review”, and when you want to see only those documents, all you need to do is to input “status:needs review” in the search box.
- Import existing documents (supports doc, docx, RTF, text, wri, all file formats that supported by MS Word).
- Embedded File Explorer tab for viewing and importing files in your harddisk, or exporting files from a Writing Outliner project to disk.
- Drafts compilation and branch compilation, the Drafts folder or a specific document branch will be merged for output.
- And so on…
You can see some screenshots in my previous blog post.
And I hope you think this is a good start!
Download and feedback
Please download the beta version here.
Please report bugs, make suggestions and post comments in the beta test online forum.
I have just uploaded a new version which solves the following two problems:
- Error message is displayed when opening the sample project: “Wrong Project Property: Modified (Last Modified Time)”;
- The error report technical information does not contain the most important info for locating the source of the problem.
Sorry for the problem, please download it again!
If you couldn’t download the software with the above link, please DO let me know, and try this download link.
I’m finalizing the preparation for the beta test of Writing Outliner Word addin, just now, I have setup a forum for discussion of the beta test process, it will be ready before the 15th of this month, there are some other things to do before that though. In the mean time, please have a look at the new screenshots of this Word addin.
Using Microsoft Word™ as an outliner software
The main screenshot of Window 2003 with a Writing Outliner project opened, doesn’t it look a outliner software 😉
Search your word documents like Google!
Yes! The search function in Writing Outliner is almost as powerful as Google 😉 With it you can instantly find any Word documents. An example search string (search documents that contains phrase ‘New York tims’ and doesn’t contain ‘dontIncludeThisWord’ and have two tags: mytag1 and mytag2 ):
“New York Tims” tag:mytag1 OR tag:mytag2 -dontIncludeThisWord
Browsing Disk Files Inside Word
One of the important idea behind Writing Outliner for Word is: Do all things related to writing in Word with tabs without even leaving Word. And this embedded File Explorer is an example, with it you can easily drag and drop files to import them into the project, or the other way around, drag documents from a Writing Outliner project to export it to the disk. And your can smoothly view your research files on the disk without switching to other windows! The embedded File Explorer is full featured like Windows Explorer!
Easily word document tagging
The document tagging function is very usable, I learnt a lot UI design ideas from Gmail, Actually, I’m a lazy man, I hate unwanted mouse clicks 😉
The blank-project wizard tab
Stay turned, the beta testing starts soon!
FrameMaker vs Word
I recently started a ‘What are the missing features in Word as a technical writing software?‘ discussion in the ‘Technical Writer Forum‘ linkedin group, surprisingly, many respondents mentioned Adobe FrameMaker which I don’t know about before, and that made me wanted to learn more about it, so I started to read the online help manual of that technical writing software, one of my findings that interests me is that the concept of ‘writing projects in Writing Outliner Word addin’ is exactly the same as the ‘book files’ concept in FrameMaker.
A writing project in Writing Outliner is similar to a book file in Framemaker
In FrameMaker, a book file contains multiple documents that make up books, so you can have a file for the cover, for the front matter, for each chapter, for the appendices, for the index and for the glossary, a book can be organized into a hierarchical structure using folders, and finally you can merge the documents into one for publishing. The ‘book files’ concept in FrameMaker making managing a long, complex document much more manageable, and this is exactly the idea behind the Writing Outliner Word addin! See this screenshot of Writing Outliner Word addin below, on the left it’s the project manager and it’s similar to the book window in FrameMaker:
I did not use FrameMaker before, and am now reading their online help, but I assume in FrameMaker you can find and replace strings through all files in a book file, and this is what you can do with Writing Outliner Word addin.
Make Microsoft Word more stable!
I thin it’ll make Microsoft Word more stable by introducing the ‘writing project’ into it, because Microsoft Word is known for it’s unstability when handling long documents, but with Writing Outliner for Word each chapter, sections and sections of your large documents are written in much smaller and separated files.