Tinderbox Forum

Flat outline (not an outline) or mapping from aliases what's the best approach?

I am starting to collect a number of notes and I am having difficulty in finding a balance between using outlines to keep concepts together and maps to bundle concepts graphically together…

I am not sure what are the pros and cons of each approach to blend a bit of both, go flat and bundle things with agents instead of outlines? or make aliases and map with aliases? or… are there any other ways of doing it?

I look forward to your experience, and links to any thread I should have read before posting this.

Of course the answer has to be “it depends”.

  1. If you want to work mainly in graphical mode in Map view to visualize links, then I’m in favor of using a “flat” approach.
  2. If understanding relationships via hierarchy rules over links, or is equally important, then a nested outlook is the approach.
  3. These can of course be mixed – for example, you can do maps for any container (parent level) in your document.
  4. You don’t need to work with every figure on a map – for example an agent container that’s used for other purposes can be put on the side of a map and not play into whatever you are portraying there.
  5. Don’t forget the other views and how you want to use them – Attribute Browser, Timeline, etc. The toolbelt is pretty full.

(Started writing this earlier, and I see now that @PaulWalters has done an informative post, with which I agree. But to continue what I started writing earlier:) I think this is mainly a matter of individual taste, but what I find is:

  • I use outlines sparingly as organizing tools, mainly when there is a presentation I am preparing, or when there is some other obvious hierarchical categorization for the material I’m working with.
  • I, personally, mainly use maps for scheduling purposes and/or whiteboard purposes – when moving things around, in a visible way, helps me understand them better.
  • When I trying to organize research notes, data, writing information, and so on, I find myself relying very heavily on the Attribute Browser. That allows me to use tags and attributes of every sort to categorize notes, and then display them in whatever way I would like. Details and examples here.

I’ve gone through this plenty myself.

I instinctively organize things in outline view. I find it very difficult to do things in map view after I’ve done that though. So, if I’m arranging things in outline, I’m pretty much stuck there. That’s a personal cognitive limitation, not a Tinderbox technical limitation.

I’ve had good success with starting with map view, and using that to construct an outline. I’ll use map view to arrange notes, and find that certain clusters become too big / complex to be useful in the map. So I create a new note where those ones are, and drag them into it. In this case, a cluster becomes a “chunk”. Then I’ll sort in outline view.

It looks something like:

(map) gather -> (map) cluster ->(map, optional) chunk -> (outline) sort

Hopefully that makes sense.

More importantly, I’ve come up with this just by playing around and experimenting and finding that it works for me. So if it’s interesting to you, use it as a starting place for your own experimentation.

My default view is usually an outline and I don’t want to lose hierarchy when I have a container I want to work with in map view. The trick I use to make this workable is to have container prototypes the function as “headers”.

For example, using the inspector’s text tab, I set the outline font for the prototype of the topmost container to something like 18pt and make the text bold. For the next header, I keep the default size but make the text bold. Then using shift+tab, I flatten out the hierarchy of that section of my outline. What I end up with is a section of my outline in which all the notes are at the same level of hierarchy inside a single container that I can view and use as a map. BUT the outline hierarchy is still preserved though the use of the larger/bolded headers.

This trick has limits, but it does give me the flexibility I need to swap back and forth between outline and map view in important segments of my document.

I find I often use Named Separators in Outline View in flat Containers of the Outline (instead of SubContainers), and convert them to SubContainers when ready, if desired.