Organization, disorganization and analysis

I’m new at this. No doubt the answers are here somewhere, but I’m too busy to rummage around, which is the very reason I like DT. That said:

Can groups be “promoted” and “demoted” as easily as one would arrange “groups” in a standard outliner? Sliding and reordering information helps me analyze the structure of my work, writing history and biography.

Also, I’m technically able, but no coder.




And remember that a document or group can be replicated (‘filed’ in more than one place) as appropriate for your needs.

Thank you, Bill. I’ve been reading through the forums, and I’ve enjoyed your cogent comments. As to the problem, I have yet to find the command or the menu that would allow me to operate DT more as an outline (promoting, demoting, sliding). Perhaps, it’s because I’m a recent PC convert who expects a keyboard command-set to generate operations. How does one structure hierarchies in DT, by mousing around or by keying-up commands? And, if it is possible to use the keyboard, can you tell me how it’s done, or show me where to find an explanation, or direct me to a useful “help menu”? I’d be grateful.

Thank you,


Jeff, DT Pro allows one to do simple outline structures of groups hierarchically, as one means of emulating an outliner. The Horizontal Split view was originally called the ‘Outline’ view, because one can create a group that’s to contain a structure of subgroups, open that group in its own window, and select each of the subgroups to see its contents, which may be more subgroups, or documents.

I’m not at all into the niceties of outlining, but I do rough out the structure of a writing project and refine the structure in progress.

Typically, I’ll create a new group, e.g. for an article project. I will open the Info panel of that group and check the ‘Show State’ box. Why? So that while drafting I can keep track of the ‘completeness’ of the project. Every document or subgroup created inside that project group will also contain a state box. They remain blank unless I check them. As I finish drafting a section of the project I will check its state box. If some of the documents inside a subgroup contain a check, the state of that group will show as partially completed, with a ‘-’ check. When all documents inside a subgroup are complete, the subgroup will show a ‘completed’ check status. (I also check the ‘Exclude from classification’ option on that project group, as i don’t want new content to be classified there. Each of the subgroups I create within the project group will also be excluded from classification.)

Now I’ll open that project group in its own window, usually in the Vertical Split view.

I will create a TOC rich text document in the project group. Then I will create three subgroups: Draft, References and Footnotes-Citations.

The TOC document is used to ‘outline’ the structure of the article. I will use lists or ordinary text to create a brief outline of the principle sections of the project. While I’m roughing out the ‘outline’ I may move items around, or indent or outdent list components. Comment: I don’t want to make a really complex outline at this stage. I want all of the ‘outline’ elements in this document to be visible without scrolling when I look at this document. But underneath the ‘outline’ portion of the document I may write notes to myself.

Then, for each of the major elements of the ‘outline’ in the TOC I’ll create a new rich text document in the Draft subgroup, with an appropriate title.

Next, I’ll go back to the TOC document and create a ‘Link To’ link from each outline element to its corresponding document in the Draft group. That works well for a short project, such as an article.

For a more complex project I will create Chapter TOCs (each sub-TOC linked to from my master TOC) in the Draft group, with a subgroup containing linked-to documents for the sections of each TOC ‘outline’ element.

Remember that References group? I’ll duplicate into it some of the more important references from my database. Why duplicates instead of replicants? Because I may want to mark up, make notes, rephrase or otherwise change the content of a document, and I don’t want to mess up the original document.

Here’s how the Footnotes-Citations group comes in handy. While drafting along, I may want to enter a footnote, or perhaps an endnote to a reference citation. In my draft I will type and select ‘footnote’, create a new document containing the content of the footnote, and back in my draft do a 'Link to" from the selected term ‘footnote’ to its matching document in the Footnotes-Citations group. And similarly, whenever I want to cite an endnote.

Here’s a neat trick. While reviewing my work, which may be scattered among various groups, I can publish it as a Web site. I just select my master TOC document and select Export > as Website. Now I can open that TOC document in my Web browser, click on a link to a section and read it, as well as any associated ‘footnotes’ and ‘reference citations’. Then move back to the TOC to click on the next section, and so on. I’ve done a couple of projects where that was, indeed, the final product.

When I’ve finished the project I’ll move my draft material over to a competent word processor for polishing, footnoting and so forth. When I need to insert a footnote, for example, I just jump back to the DT Pro draft, click on the link to the appropriate footnote material and copy/paste it into the footnote entry in the word processor.

I like to do draft writing in my database, as the reference material is literally at my fingertips. I can select a couple of paragraphs I’ve just written, Command-click on it and select ‘See Selected Text’ to ask DT Pro to suggest other documents that may be contextually related. Or I can Option-click on a word and a slide-out drawer will appear with a list of other documents that also contain that word. That’s often useful to give me a new perspective about the material.

When I’m finished up I’ll either discard the project files and move the finished product into my database, or move the project files out to a separate ‘projects’ database.

So, Jeff; did I respond to your question? Perhaps the process I described seems idiosyncratic or even eccentric to someone who’s used to working with outliners. But it does allow me to structure a writing project while at the same time having access to the ‘research assistant’ features of DT Pro.

That’s a lot of work one could avoid if DT could nest notes under notes - the way Mori works (also not a “real” outliner).

But note that my setup lets me do things that Mori can’t do. My drafts are Cocoa RTF, often including images and tables. Nested notes can present some compatibility problems unless and until Apple may enhance Cocoa text. But above all, I’m in the rich writing environment provided by access to the information in my database.

I’ve grown to like my TOC ‘free-form’ outline approach, as it’s easy to create and to edit and modify on the fly. I keep the top-level TOC simple. If more detail is needed in a topical structure, I create second-level TOCs that are linked from the top-level document, and then link to the corresponding draft document per topic in the TOCs. I don’t do third-level TOCs.

If I wished, I could use Wiki-linking to automatically create the draft segment documents from the TOC topic elements. But I sometimes find ‘accidental’ Wiki links distracting, so I manually create each of the rich text documents called for (linked from) the TOC.

As noted, I’m not into the niceties of outlines. But at the beginning of a project I spend a little time identifying the topics that I need to cover and some thought as to the structural ‘flow’ of the topics within the project. Then it’s time to do some writing. In progress, I’ll probably add or modify topic elements and/or move their structural order around. No problem.

When finished drafting, the TOC(s) cue me as to the order in which to move the segments into a more competent word processor for final polishing. That’s a simple copy/paste operation.

Hi. Well, I guess it’s established that there appears to be a clear distinction between outliners and data mangers. Bill’s work arounds are interesting and powerful but leave me wondering whether there exists somewhere sufficient documentation for a newbie/wannabe (me) to be able to take full advantage of DT’s capabilities. Devon Academy is nice, but has that “under construction” feel – no “got to” features, just vague hit-or-miss searches.

To wit: anyone know of a source fully documenting DT? For example, language is an issue: Bill refers to the use of a “TOC,” which I assume is a Table of Contents, created by establishing a series of groups, yes? However, short of sucking up all of Bill’s time, there’s no place to go to find a common set of terms. Is there a DT glossary? That would be easy and useful (he said).

And, is there an outliner that might interface – not necessarily as neatly as import/export – but “sufficiently” with DT? Perhaps I hear the call for a new DT product, more value added, an additional revenue stream! Is DT a “hungry” company. Jim Fallows at The Atlantic has given DT a huge boost; now, will it jump?



Hi, Jeff. Yes, ‘TOC’ is merely my name for the rich text documents into which I create topic/subtopic list or text entries, each of which is hyperlinked to a corresponding document in which I ‘fill out’ in writing the topic assigned to that document. It’s not documented, but is simply one of a myriad of approaches a user could take to develop a comfortable and powerful working environment within DT Pro.

Did you realize that this approach is logically more powerful and flexible than any of the outliner applications? Think about it. DT Pro allows almost unlimited flexibility to adapt approaches to establishing and structuring topics and fitting them to a writing environment. The approach I described in a previous post is really quite simple logically, and does much the same for me as would Mori (but without the built-in logical limitations of Mori).

For example, the approach I described established a single correspondence between a topic description in the TOC and a document in which that topic is explicated. Outliners are hierarchical. I’m not bound to a hierarchical logical structure if I wish to develop a network rather than hierarchical logic in my TOC. I might wish to do something like that if I’m exploring alternative approaches to a topic. For example, I can have a topical description in the TOC have multiple referring links rather than only one. All outliner applications would force that into a hierarchical arrangement, which often isn’t logically applicable.

Just because DT Pro doesn’t have expandable/collapsible triangles, or notes within notes, doesn’t mean that DT Pro lacks features that allow the user to establish the conceptual and structural layout of a writing project, and in many possible ways.

I have never felt comfortable using any outliner application, because they feel constraining and too linear. True, in the final product one must usually end up with an essentially linear structure for an article or book. But in the process of exploration and drafting I don’t want to be too tightly bound by preconceptions.

Other than to point out that DT Pro is a deep and rich environment that can be adapted to the needs of many different users, one could never finish documenting all of the possible approaches to and uses of that environment. Are there features that are lacking in DT Pro, and others that could be improved to make it a more effective tool for management and analysis of information? Sure. Many enhancements will come along. In the meantime, I’ll often point out kludges or workarounds that allow one to do things that are not immediately obvious in the current environment. Many people would like collapsible/expandable triangles in rich text. There are technical reasons why that feature isn’t available today. But even when Apple makes it easy to do that without creating other problems, I’ll probably make limited use of them. :slight_smile:

Dear Bill,

The more I work with DT, the less of a problem I have with its “outlining” properties. In fact the more I learn about DT – the learning curve is fairly steep – the more I realize its usefulness as an organizer as opposed to an outliner. I’m going to keep my eye on the forums and the “academy.” Thanks for the help.

Jeff Shear