Core feature-set of a writing tool - RFC

There’s a lot of talk scattered around these fora about using DT as a writing tool, but I wonder what everyone thinks the crucial elements of such a tool actually are.

Here’s my personal list of can’t-live-withouts. (Nothing has them all – surprisingly – so we all have to shuffle between apps.)

  1. Save as RTF/RTFD/XML.
  2. Numbered or bulleted lists.
  3. Outlining ability PLUS the ability to see ALL the text from a multiple item selection, with word count.
  4. Sectioning (though (3) would take care of that.
  5. Footnotes and endnotes.
  6. Integration with Bookends or Sente (EndNote is ghastly, and its lovers will also probably be Word users)
  7. Proper Boolean searching including nesting, proximity etc.
  8. Intelligent DT-style searching and See Also
  9. Linking between words and wiki-style links
  10. Sound HTML export.

That’s the lot, for me. Wonder what others can’t live without. . . [/list]

Since writing always means publishing, I’d add some publishing features for the most important blogging systems. They more configurable they are implementend, the better!

Best regards,

I agree completely and would add split views for writing, an oft-requested “notes” feature as well as some sort of visualization function.

A more robust outliner would be great.

I would add marginalia as a pie-in-the-sky feature as well (as you recently noted in the Mellel forum).

I think DT currently supports bulleted and numbered lists (new rich text -> open document -> from the format menu-> show ruler -> lists -> choose bullets or number (or one of the other styles).

I am beginnig to believe that DT is NOT the place to do my writing, rather it is a tool to help me research, analyze and organize my writing before, during and after.

Mellel, Tinderbox, OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, TextEdit and sometimes Ulysses, Word and NeoOfficeJ make up my current toolbox for writing.

I hope to pare that list of writing tools down to one central app and use the others only as necessary.

More likely, I’ll use multiple tools for the various stages of writing.

For me, the current process consists of Researching, Collecting, Sorting, Analyzing, Filtering and Organizing stages.

I’ll “write”, in one form or another, differently depending on where I am in the process.

Formal (“terminal”) writing will likely take place in a traditional WP app but I’ll likely continue to access my toolbox frequently.

DTpro can serve as an aid in any of the previously mentioned stages of writing. In that way it’s more of an assistant than a writer’s tool per se.

It would be nice to see trouble-free integration in the form of highly compatible export / import formats but that depends not only on DT, but on companion apps as well.



I, too, have been searching for the ultimate writing tool and have sadly concluded, as most of you have, it doesn’t exist. And if you think about it, and apply some basic principles of software development, the ultimate writing tool for the professional writer will probably never exist. “But why?” you may ask. (and if not, read on anyway.)

Like you, I have a list of “can’t-live-withouts,” but guess what – only half of my list corresponds with yours. That’s because we each probably write for a different market/genre and have different workflows. If this forum was to receive such a list from every writer using DT, we could entertain ourselves for the next several weeks analyzing 127 proposed new features for DT.

And considering the excellent reputation the DT folks have for responding to requested new features, most of them would probably show up in DT over the next few versions – and that would be tragic. Why? Because then an excellent piece of software (the best, IMHO) will bloat itself up into another “Word.”

But I agree, having to use several different tools in our workflow (mine is DA/DT to OmniOutliner to CopyWrite) is awkward and tends to thwart our creative process with a left brain full of diverse commands and procedures. So, relative to a thriving consumer market of writers, a need (demand) certainly seems to exist, but how may it be best served (supplied).

I have been very impressed with DevonAgent and DevonThink. Each does an excellent stand-alone job for what they were designed to do, and when it comes to fitting into my workflow, they both integrate very well – as if they are the same program. “Ahah!” you may be shouting (and if not, pay attention).

Why not design a streamlined, stand-alone, writer-oriented word processor (DevonWrite?) that integrates tightly with DT? Then there would be a suite of apps for us – DA, DT and (DevonWrite?). This way DT wouldn’t have to be bogged down with writing features when most of the day you just want to post to your databases or do searches. But when it comes time for you to finally write (remember, the reason you are collecting data?), then an excellent feature rich word processor with a robust outliner would be just a click away – with the same user interface and similar icons and command logic as DA/DT. What do you think?

I would buy it in a heart beat. Would you? If we could show the DevonTech folks there is market demand for such a product… well? These talented folks seem to know how to make a good idea happen – and happen well.

Disclaimer: If this idea has already been proposed on this forum, I appologize – I’m a “newbie” and don’t know any better.


I like that idea, although I still think most of the basic writing tools most of us use could be incorporated into DT and DN. You’re right that it’d prevent bloat in the main application. If the developers would consider the idea, I’m sure many of us could offer suggestions. the main question is: what functionality would a DevonWrite have that other writing apps don’t? Being easily searchable from within Devon seems like one. I’d love to hear more discussion about this on the forum – thanks for suggesting it.

Not a bad idea, DEVONwrite, but I tend to agree with Brett, I think most of the features people are wanting are easily incoprorated into DT. In fact, many are already there, in an infant stage – such as outlining. Somewhere on this forum Maria put it well in saying something like, What DT needs is not a lot of new features, but the polishing up and further functionality of the features it has already decided to incorporate. For instance, an improvement on the outlining functionality would be much appreciated by most users I think.

I, for one, would like them to stay focused on DT and get DT Pro v2 out as soon as possible – as it seems that the new file structure and other promised features will make DT a much more mature application and put it into a much better position to expand its user base. As it is now, there are just enough quirks to keep some users away, and make myself less likely to recommend it to users who I know will stumble on them. For instance, one major issue that keeps me from recommending DT to some people is the confusing import prefs which can be dangerous because some people end up losing or altering data unexpectedly: the endless confusion shown by users on this forum, both new and experienced, regarding the numerous options of how to bring data into DT --import,index,link,copy into database, copy into Files folder, keep outside… All this is promised to be changed and simplified and made more logical with v2. So, my vote is, stick with the single DT app, and bring it past it’s adolescent stage, it’s already grown beyond it’s years, but not quite fully mature yet.

The problem with building a really good writing app is that you can either use OS X’s text engine and be tethered to it (text edit, TE plus, Nisus, etc) or develop your own (Mellel). Developing your own is a full time task and would ideally require a separate development team.

For example, if DT incorporated many of the features from TE Plus, adding some of the reasonable features requested here, with tight integration to DTP, I think that might satisfy many of us.

It’s not specifically a writing app thought I’d love to see better writing tools.
For me, a better outliner would be much more desirable than putting a lot of effort into a writing app.

I think many like the idea of a “DevonWrite” because, like myself, we see the possibilities from the good folks at DT.

I look forward to DTPro 2.0 more than anything else.

Thank you for all the feedback. But actually Father Moses is right - we’ll focus our efforts on v2 to simplify all those import/index/link/copy commands & options, to improve reliability & performance by using a new file structure (and make databases Spotlight compatible) and to make searching more powerful (imagine a combination of DEVONagent’s operators, including nesting and proximity, and EasyFind’s wildcards - I guess it can’t be more powerful :wink:). Afterwards we’ll have to wait and see what’s next…

Good news Christian. Now, if only we could replicate you a few times to get this all done faster :wink:

The writing tool of my dreams would include:

  1. LaTex support!!
  2. Save as RTF/RTFD/XML
  3. HTML export. Also, I’m no big fan of OPML but it never hurts
  4. Blogging capabilities
  5. XML data extraction
  6. Spotlight-powered search
  7. Sectioning
  8. AI features à la DT
  9. Linking between words (think of VoodooPad)
  10. Macros for powerful search & replace

Needless to say, this piece of software has not been written yet :wink:
I tried Ulysses and Mellel but I wasn’t convinced. I stil have to find a tool that suits me best…

You’ll find a Mellel-Microsoft Word-OpenOffice\Neo Office-Nisus Writer Express comparison here.

  1. Cocoa
  2. Outlining
  3. Easy, Flexible Tagging of notes
  4. Wikilinks
  5. Margin Notes
  6. Versioning
  7. Spotlight Powered Filtering
  8. Full Screen editing
  9. A powerful notes database with user definable fields.
  10. Well implemented Style formatting

VoodooPad has for some time now had the ability to assign pages to multiple categories, which is tagging in a different guise, in addition to the wikilinks which were from the outset its central principle. You can navigate between pages in browser mode (the contents of a window change from one page to another) or by opening new windows, thus allowing a kind of PostItNotes or stickies functionality. It’s possible to add sketches to a VoodooPad document. Finally, VP’s export and import functions are pretty good.

People who haven’t tried this program yet may be pleasantly surprised.

If you replicate Christian, all the instances of him will do the same thing. You have to Duplicate him. 8)

Making databases searchable by Spotlight… Great! A very welcome feature.

He’s unique. We all are.
Well, on second thought… I started learning Objective-C so maybe a clone of Christian could give me lessons :laughing:

There’s a new word processor currently in beta: Scrivener. Actually, it’s more than a word processor. Visit their website to know more:

Looks interesting, I’ll keep an eye on it :wink:

Hey, thanks for the SCrivener tip. I checked it out, and finally, this could be The One. Looks like it’ll give me the best features of Mellel, NovelWriter, CopyWrite , OmniOUtliner, etc etc. In conjuction with Devon, it could be ideal journalist/writer’s application. The current version is free, and the developer’s working on a big overhaul that’ll cost around $40.

Have you tested Jer’s Novel Writer?

Yet another writing tool: SuperNotecard.

Yep, I’ve been watching Jer’s NovelWriter (which I just called NovelWriter in my original post) for a year or so, and it’s extremely promising, although Jer himself would acknowledge that it’s definitely a work in progress. At this point, Scrivener looks more ambitious and developed, though Jer’s is definitely worth monitoring; I love its simplicity, notes function and live outlining.

I also like SuperNotecard; years ago, a friend devised a Hypercard stack that worked pretty much the same way, and if I didn’t already have DevonNote, I’d probably use SuperNotecard as my info management app. Do you think it does anything that Devon could benefit from?