Multi-level outlining

In the process of writing a long document (hundreds of pages), I want to maintain deep outlines as a way of representing chapters, sections, sub-sections, titles and so on, with much more than one level of depth, more like ten or so, with the nodes of the tree having (a) the ability to contain their own text AND (b) the ability to have more children AND © the ability to easily break apart existing nodes into deeper levels AND (d) the ability to easily browse and peruse the structure (Imagine More 3, for those who have used it, without so many distracting bells-and-whistles).

How can I do that with Dt Pro?


  • Are groups and sub-groups intended to support such need?
  • If yes, are there ways to automatically create numbered-bulleted lists of sub-groups?
  • It doesn’t support (a) above
  • Since at some point I need to write a document, at that point © above is not supported either


  • As soon as I enter the document, all the structure from there on is (a) not “real” in the sense that I can not browse it, peruse it, collapse it, etc. and (b) excluded from view as soon as I have another document open
  • This mechanism seems to support only one real level of depth


  • The problem is, this requires FULL a-priori understanding of the structure of the final product: a document MUST be a leaf, and if any errors are committed, going back and forth becomes a problem.

So, here are my questions:

  • Am I missing gestures/Modus Operandi that could satisfy my requirements?
  • How do other users use Dt to write, for example, a research-based book and preserve their ability to switch between sequential (document-text), associative (search-concept) and hierarchical (structure-tree)?
  • Am I trying to fit the proverbial square peg? Is Dt ever going to be the right tool for that purpose? Is that a functional target for Product Management? If it’s not, it’d be a crime, because Dt already supports sequential mode adequately, and associative mode SUPERBLY… However, the creative process necesitates thge THREE modes, each of them at least minimally sufficient.
  • Do you plan to create better documentation, which addresses SPECIFICALLY (not vaguely, as currently) real use scenarios for Dt Pro?


A groups structure can be used in the way you suggest. Groups can contain both text documents and sub-groups (that’s not optimal for auto-classification, but you can certainly do that). Of course, groups can contain subgroups, which can contain subgroups as deeply as you wish. You can easily expand all/collapse all at any time. You can easily ‘hoist’ any document or group by double-clicking on its name and opening it in the same or a separate window. When finished with the project, you can merge everything into a single text or rtf document. Or you could use DT Pro to export the entire project as a Web site, as in the case of the DT Pro Tutorial.

There are no built-in features to create numbered or bulleted sub-groups. Either do that manually, or possibly use scripts. But don’t expect the group names will necessarily show up in a merged document.

No, DT Pro isn’t MORE. It can do a great many things that MORE can’t do; and MORE can do some things that DT Pro doesn’t do – at least not in the same way.

That was using groups.

Documents with hyperlinking could be used.

The DT Pro Tutorial database is an example. It can be sequential or non-sequential in organization. Of course, there’s no way to expand/collapse to see the structure. You can, however, set up a rigidly controlled structure by using TOC links to Section TOC pages (and so on, as deeply as you wish), and even organize the referenced documents sequentially in groups. Even with this approach, you can easily modify your organizational structures in progress. You really don’t have to have a priori a picture of the whole before you start.

DT Pro can allow you to combine the organizational capabilities of groups with document organization using hyperlinks. This could be a bit mind-boggling in opening possibilities. :slight_smile:

Additional documentation will be forthcoming. But it is unlikely to be able to cover all the approaches that users could or do use with DT Pro. The forum is a good place to watch how others are developing techniques for their purposes.

I expect that over time you will see other users responding to your post.

Thanks, Bill. I definitely understand that Dt is powerful and “full of potential”. However, for the specific (and I venture, quite common) tasks I brought up, and the specific workflow of somebody writing LONG, structured documents, the alternatives you mention sound slightly convoluted. E.g., the real issue of what to do when more structure (e.g., decomposition, linera list creation) is needed for what started as a single document is really SOL. So is the alternative “workaround” of links: hyperlinking is good when the final product is essentially a “mesh”, not a single document (see Tinderbox). It’s a pity, because Dt is SO close to being a close-to-ideal writing tool, and yet the limitations above seem (so far in my evaluation of a few weeks) unsurmountable…

To other users: I would love to hear from people who have attempted to use Dt as a book-writing tool. Since the findings indicate that I will need to go back to OmniOutliner (at least for the front-end writing part), I would also like to hear from anybody who may be using BOTH Dt and OO in a common workflow.

I’m using DTP to write several different books, each in its own database. DTP is for me the repository where I gather all of my research materials and arrange them in an outline structure, whether chapters or scenes. Within those units, I arrange the notes as needed, either by grouping them or writing numbered item titles: 01, 02, etc.

I may draft some material in DTP as RFT files, but ultimately I use Word (for fiction and nonfiction) or Final Draft (for screenplays). I’ve used OO for reading notes or writing talks/lectures. It’s quick and easy, but for me not versatile enough for a long, complex document (I used version 2)–and it does not directly export to DTP. I prefer Word as an outliner, mostly for its Styles control and its ability to collapse/expand quickly. Other members of this Forum swear by Mellel for its outlining powers; see the topic “DT as a writer’s tool” under “Usage Scenarios”

Good luck on your project. You have a very clear idea of your writing process, and that sometimes makes it difficult to adapt to new software.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. The proposed combination of Dt + Word Processor is definitely a starting point, and I have also used: before my last switch to Mac, while in Windows I have used for quite some time the combination of dtSearch, Copernic Agents, Onfolio and Word. I have also used Zoot plus Word. In all cases, by aggregation I get to the availability of the key creative paradigms (associative, linear and hierarchical) that my old brain needs to keep ticking productively. The combination is much more powerful than any of the pieces.

That said, however, I have come to believe that semantic content integration will radically change the way that we work by becoming the tightly integrated platform of choice for creative work, and I have been very intense about looking for the signs of that change starting. I have two reasons to do that: Personal belief that we will all communicate and express much better by tying the three paradygms together, and early professional exposure to semantic applications and what Gartner Group calls the “knowledge workplace”. My early impressions is that if the additions of the three creative environments totals ten times the power of each individual piece, their seamless integration will bring another order of magnitude of improvement. And I am not alone: you can read some of the very nice answers I got so far from Devon evangelists, and you immediately see that they are pregnant with possibility (about hypertext combined with basic outlining: “it opens some very awesome possibilities”, and so on).

I think that we can accept as a fact that the integration of the domains is where the treasure hides. It is from the ability to let our brains effortlessly switch between modes where we can leverage its power, and where we can apply technology to empower it. Dt already does a superb job in the associative domain: I am amazed at the level of intuitive synergy I reached by just pouring my draft into it, plus a deep search run from Da, plus some reports and research that I had already collected, and then exploring concordance, “See also” and such: I felt like my brain was on a new type of drug, where the computer looked for direction, waited for my order, and then pushed the whole thing miles forward.

But the process grinds to a halt when the other modes kick in… The linear mode is well supported for my particular taste (I don’t do any formatting while writing at the “leaf level” of my documents, and Dt exceeds what I need in that front). WHat is frustrating is that the hierarchical mode (outlining) is almost there to be good enough as well… but no cigar :slight_smile:

Sure, at that point the alternative of switching applications is a viable one. But it entails (a) a costly switch of context, at a time when ephimerous creative juices are running (I don’t know how old you are, but when you are my age you value those juices as pure gold :slight_smile:, (b) a costly set of maintenance routines you now need to take care of to keep the two monsters alive without killing each other and © the stress of knowing that now YOU are responsible for supporting the environment, and not the other way around.

I don’t want to make it too long… I have tried to entice DevonTech to consider the possibilities of creating the “head-of-the-pack” of creative platforms, but I understand my request is only one more in the lot. Coming from twenty years of Product Management experience, I know of compromise and balance… but I just want to make sure my vote stays well represented :slight_smile:

Thanks again for your time


Thanks both for the compliments and critiques. They are appreciated.

More robust outlining is in the development plans.

Like you, I often need all the help I can get. (I’m 73, BTW.) :slight_smile:

Bill, IMHO, nothing can be better for Dt Pro. I would encourage your team to remember your own words when you said: “DT Pro can allow you to combine the organizational capabilities of groups with document organization using hyperlinks. This could be a bit mind-boggling in opening possibilities.” Here is why: --> I would love to get some sort of simple gesture that allows me to hyperlink document with specially typed (hey, generalized typing would be nice too) hierarchical relationships, represented visually as an outline. It should be as easy as pressing Option-Enter, or such, to create another document (I don’t care if it defaults to a Preference-determined type: let other options be available via Option-Click). With something this simple, building an outline would be very simple, and at the same time produce a very rich structure.

So, in my dream I visualize working on the upper right pane in the three-pane view, with documents, and having the classical getsures to add a sibling or a child document, and then the corresponding movement flicks (tab, shift-tab, etc.), level manipulation (expand, axpand all, etc.). Since all the infrastructure is already available for linking and document creation, it’s mostly UI stuff, but what am I left with? A mechanism to represent containment and association on the left pane (groups, sub-groups, etc.), a simple but effective outliner on the top pane that creates invaluable hyperlinks, for all sort of fun hierarchical relationships, and the document-oriented lower right pane for creating the blurbs that juice the whole. Sweeeeet… :slight_smile:

Then, in the next release, a few plug-in points so that the whole enchilada can be processed via XSLT (that’s where generalized typing could be real fun), or some flavor thereof, to output to serialized documents, meshes (wikis, etc.) and since I am dreaming, personalized WEB mini-portals. Heck, we could even implement a synchronization mechanism so that editions in the WEB could be brought back seamlessly into the structure, for rich collaboration with centralized publishing.

Using the plethora of relationships that would emerge for RSS slicing and dicing can wait for the third release thereof, and a server architecture for the next… See how easy it could be to please me? :slight_smile: Get to the second release above, and I can give you a hint about a killer app just waiting to be developed on top :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for your patience, and for providing this dreaming room…

Hallo zorzal,
if i understand you well maybe you would like what im dooing…
I m using DTpro as my archive, because its the best tool for that. And I m storing all my informations from everywhere in it. But I m not writing my novel in it, because there is a better tool for writing: Hog Bay notebook. About 400 pages and some tousand notes, organised in that outliner notebook). iI dont know More so well, worked 13 years with Inspiration, but i think HBN is a lot better.

Some reasons: 3 panel structur (but 3 parallel panels, which you can organise as you like. Thats very important for creativ writing, because it is the easiest way to handle notes, ideas, textmodules. develop the plot, etc…
The Outliner goes as deep as you need and its very easy to promote with Tab key, dragging textmodules directly into the outliner levels.
Unlitmited undoo´s
open as much databases as you want
one of the easiest GUI I have everes seen
and a lot more pls have a look at it…

HBN is a lot less powerfull in storing different filetypes like DTp
But you can export from Dtp and import to HBN. You can also use the Services to store very fast text from HBN in DTp and vice versa.
OO - I like it - is imho not an alternative, its completly different idea(konzept) formats but allways open the text. Also CCircus ponies Notebook. I never anderstood that GUI. Textprocessors would be a torture compared to HBN´s Outliner.

Finally, DTp anf HBN for me are great companions for cretive working/writing…

A small description how it works and a screenshot of my 3 panel structure - german sorry, cant rewrite that beast in english;( … column.png

  1. (left panel) is the chapter structure (presumptiv titel). You can put this on the right site too, if you like to write the text in the middle panel.
    The colors are indicating the plot. On the bottom, I have usually bookmars to chapters in different parts, which are building a partial story ( I dont know well that termini in english, so pls tell if you dont understand what I mean).
    The main text area is in 3. panel (grey color “bittet Großmutter um Hilfe”. Thats the “working” Titel with a small description of the content

  2. the big working (text manipulating) area
    I do all the text manipulating I m writing in the 3. Panel (writing) drag and drop text from and to the 3. panel.
    Its seperated in free text clipes and (2) Main Folders: One for linguistical/poetical expression and one for content. One of the big points of HBN is you can drag text directly to any place (means into the deepth structure of a folders) So you get the best textmodule organisation besides your main writing area, I have ever seen anywhere. (HBN does name it automatically) Later on you can color them too.

Between 2. 3. ist the rating, which indicates in my structure the elaborating of the text (chapter)

The text chapter (3 panel) is for writing the text. (In this shot its not selected. A text module is selected. Inside the text I m highlighting parts which have to be reworked or changed.

hope that helps



I’d like to see your example, but that URL does not work for me. Is it correct?


Wolfgang, thanks a LOT for your message: you have brought up some issues that are crucial, and somehow have brought a great perspective to my quest!

ERGONOMICS: I have been “deprecating” the choice of two coordinated applications because of the implicit overhead in administration/synchronization, and also because of the huge potential of mixing what I call my “three brain halves” :slight_smile:. But your description made me realize that there are strong ergonomic reasons to consider: two applications, SPECIALLY Dt and HBHN, give me maximum inspection capabilities, specially because I have a very large visual desktop (30" + 24" monitors).

REDUCCION IN OVERHEAD: It sounds like the drag-and-drop capabilities you mention may eliminate the need for some of the admin overhead I was envisioning (have to try it, though… I own HBN as well, and it won’t take me long to check it out). You also say:

You can also use the Services to store very fast text from HBN in DTp and vice versa.

That sounds EVEN BETTER… I am not an expert in using services… but I would love to receive some hints on that aspect if you have a few minutes to throw away :slight_smile:
Thanks again, and don’t worry about the English part: I am as foreign to English as you are (just a different native language)[/list]

Yes, thank you Wolfgang! You make some very interesting points regarding HBN, which I also have. You have really evolved a sophisticated work structure! I’ve also been trying to parse out how best approach really involved projects (right now a dissertation and a novel) and how to connect different aspects of the project together as well as track themes, characters, subthemes, etc.

Again, many thanks for sharing. And I understood your English just fine!!!



I followed this discussion with lots of interest.

DT could serve as a writing and outlining tool, but there are some backdraws like too little control of the print out (always US paper size when opening in Text Edit, no page numbers or footers with other basic information) and all the difficulties in handling mentioned here.

It seems to me that DT has done great progress as a tool for data storage and data-mining, the next steps should include a polish of the user interface: consistent window behaviour, menus, outliner usability and writing tool – beside the great task of changing the file format.

I hope for a move in that direction! :smiling_imp:


Well put, I second that.

You lucky blighter! All I can arrange is two 17" monitors running at 1600x1200. :frowning:

Yes, workes fine here.
pls try it again, if it does not work, send me an emailadress. I´ll send it to you offline.

I think this is very well put. Thank you, Maria, for articulating my wish as well. I have decided to invest my time and energy in DTP as my primary storage and idea development tool, and the things you’ve mentioned, and other users in this thread have mentioned, would go very far in making DTP a powerful writing as well as database program. DTP, in my humble opinion, is a truly amazing program in what it already does. But there seems to be a lot of energy in having DTP function better in how it supports the writing process.

The potential is VERY exciting! I too hope for moves in this direction.

Thanks again,


PS The link also worked fine for me. Neat screenshot!


the Service you find under the Apple Menue, if I remember well, because since a lot of time I use the small tool from devontechnologies to make the Services an extra single Menuepoint.


  • define in DTp one of your db´s as the default database (properties) where you want to store all you notes from HBN.

  • open HBN select the first note, select all text in the note
    go to the services menue, down to DTP and select: “take plain note”
    (the selected text is sended immediatly in the default DTp database). (repeat it with any text (parts of text) you need in DTp
    Thats easy and fast. imho faster than export and import. (But works only with cocoa programms. You can send it to other programms too/from, like Mellel, Mail etc… All of them are under the services.
    You can also use the shortcut (faster o f course :wink:)

  • If you would like to have the same notes structure on DTp as in HBN repeat that with all the text notes you have

  • If you would like to have all HBN notes in “one” file in DTp than use under the services append rich (plain) text.
    Thats a great feature of DTp to bring a lot of different notes to only one file.

I m not a programmer, but maybe once we get a small script (both HBN and DTp are scriptable) for selecting the notes and open the service and send them. Than its a job of seconds not minutes. (if you have big text like mine)

glad you liked my way of working. I´ll post some other structure a bit later.

Thanks for this very informative discussion. I’ve just about decided to transfer my current book in progress to DevonNote from Hypercard and TextEdit; I’ve been happily using DN to write journalistic stories for a year, trying and abandoning demos of most of the competitors along the way. My current plan is to organize and write in Devon (which will require pasting in hundreds of Hypercards from HC’s text export), then format and edit in, unfortunately, Word, because it has a good reviewing function that’ll make it easier for me and my coauthor to exchange drafts, and because I might be using footnotes. (Normally I just use TextEdit for final formatting, if any more is needed than Devon already offers.)

However, I’m still contemplating using Mellel for writing because of its superb live outlining function. I was cheered to hear that outlining is coming to Devon; if DevonNote would adopt Mellel’s outlining ability, I think I could use it for almost all my writing, and could recommend it unhesitatingly to my many writer friends as both an organizational AND a writing tool. Please consider adding live outlining to the next version of DevonNote.

It’s been years since I’ve looked at a HyperCard stack, so I can’t remember what its text export is like, but if you can open that exported file with TextEdit, then you should not have to copy and paste the card texts, just select them and drag to DN, DT, or DTP. Each drag operation creates an entry in the database, and you may edit the name of the entry as needed. With a little practice, the routine goes swiftly enough.

I prefer Word because of its outlining, correcting, and reviewing functions, and annotation in foot or end notes is also easy. I tested Mellel today to see if it would open a Word file; it did, but I was disappointed to find that it did not replicate the file’s outline structure. I’ll have to work on that aspect a little more.

Anyway, my point is that the Devon programs are absolutely great in what they do so far, and while it might be nice to have more features, that’s why Microsoft products are called “bloatware” and are so expensive.

Alexandria, Maria,

Me not!

There was an idea of a MindMap UI (View) for DTp. I have discussed that idea it with Christian some time ago. But I m happy he hasnt done it.

If I like that Mindmaping paneel, others would like as a full featured word processor, a powerfull DTP (Desktop Publishing Tool), an Excel Competitiot, keynote/PP replacement, etc, etc.

Then DTp will loose his real strength, what is the flexible fileformat support and the power of file exchange and support of services… If a small company like DT will change that filemanagment-tool in a kind of M$WorksXpressiWorks, they wont have time for further developing where DTp real strenghts is.
Therefore I hope - honestly hope so - they wont “improve” it to a mediocre - what we call in german - a eierlegende wollmilchsau) egggiving woolmilkpork or so :wink:) - -

I think:
Novamind is the better Mindmap tool
Inspiration the better rapid thinking tool
OO the better stylish Outlining tool
HBN the better outlining/writing notes tool
Mellel (Word if you like it) is the better wordprocessing tool
Merlin/xProject the better projectmanagement tools
(all of them Outliner based or have Outliners)
Curio the better creativ development tool
OG the better Charting tool etc, etc…

my 2 cents