This is the long-awaited review of the outliner in ConnectedText. I’m not going to actually make this part of the OneNote Smackdown, because it has been too long since I was in that mind frame and I can’t reproduce it well enough to do an accurate comparison. But outlining in CT is interesting because there are some unique wrinkles, so here we go.
Really there are two ways to outline in CT. I’m going to start with and concentrate on the dedicated outlining window, but I’ll cover the second way within this context toward the end of this review.
Open the outlining window (via the View menu), you’re presented with this unassuming little window:
The window can be free floating or docked to the main window and opens in the position it was in when you last closed it.
Use the CTRL-Enter key combination to create your first item. Type your heading then press Enter to end editing. CTRL-Enter again creates a sibling entry; SHIFT-Enter creates a child entry.
Move entries around with the combination of the CTRL key and appropriate arrow key.
You can hoist an entry using CTRL-PageUp; likewise CTRL-PageDown de-hoists the selection. And you can individually apply check boxes to entries.
If this were the extent of the outliner in CT, it’d stand fairly well with some of the other outliners I’ve reviewed. However, the real value of the CT outliner is how it integrates with the rest of the application.
Let me back up a step here and note that outlines created in the outline window are separate, individual files. They are not a part of any of your CT projects (the CT term for a file or database). You can, though, link items in the outline with topics (the CT term for entries in the project) in the project with current focus. More than this, you can instruct CT to create a new topic linked to and with the same title as the selected outline item.
For example, I’ve get a CT project going where I’m writing this article, but also with parts of the Solar System example:
If I want to create a topic “Venus” linked to my “Venus” outline item, I just select the Venus item in the outline, bring up the context menu by right-clicking, select “Topic” and then “Create links.”
Now, when I double-click the “Venus” item in the outline, ConnectedText automatically creates a new topic in the currently open project, and a hyperlink is created between the outline and the project.
A note about the above screenshot: I added the text to the Venus topic, because unless you actually give a topic text, CT doesn’t end up creating it — although the link remains and you can always create it later. But you can see that there is now a Venus topic, and the Venus entry in the outline has a chain icon indicating that it is linked.
You can manually link the selected outline item to the currently open topic, and you can drag topics into the outline to create a new item.
Exporting Your Work
The export options are simutaneously interesting and limiting. The interesting aspect is that if you export to HTML you can choose optionally to include the text from linked topics.
The limiting part is that no such option exists for the plain text export, so you only get the barebones headings of the outline.
The other options for export are OPML and Freemind. This latter format, however, would not properly open in Freemind, instead giving me a main topic that reads:
javax.xml.transform.TransformerConfigurationException: Could not compile stylesheet
and nothing else. I didn’t have the time to try to resolve this issue. If you know the answer, please let me know in the comments.
Outlines of Outlines
I mentioned earlier that there are two ways of creating outlines in ConnectedText. The second way is by building a hierarchy of headings within individual topics.
Recall two things about ConnectedText. First, the Topic window has two modes: edit and view. Second, you use a specific markup language to format text (and a lot of other things), including creating headings, sub-headings, sub-sub-headings, etc…
Bracketing text in combinations of equal signs (“=”) as in the above screenshot creates a series of headings. This structure is reflected in the Table of Contents which can be viewed right in the Topic or in a docked Table of Contents window, both of which are reflected in the screenshot below:
While this is not technically an outline, it can serve as one quite readily, at least for reference purposes. (See the screenshot at the start of this review.)
It should be noted that you cannot currently drag the headings around in the TOC.
The bottom line
Its flexibility and integration, together with the ability to build outlines of outlines makes ConnectedText intriguing as an outlining solution. The limited export options and lack of labeling are drawbacks that give some of the other outliners an advantage, especially for writing. As a task manager, the outliner in CT could be quite effective, given its ability to link to topics and the check boxes which can be applied to individual outline items.
The developer of ConnectedText has continually been improving the application. In fact, this review was done using the latest beta edition of version 6.0. If he adds RTF export to the outline (with the ability to include linked topic contents), ConnectedText will be a killer writing application. As it is, it is still excellent.