Scripting News: Outliner plug-ins.

As you may know, we shipped Little Outliner one week ago today.

It’s done pretty well. I’ve been watching our stats page regularly and there always seem to be at least a couple dozen people using it. Sometimes as many as a thousand people are outlining with our simple browser-based notepad.

But all the users, and esp Kyle and myself, want the full-featured product. And we’ll have something for you to try out, pretty soon. We did most of the development on the full product before releasing Little Outliner. We wanted to be sure the basic outlining code works, and we wanted to start off with the simple, no-brainer product.

We will always have Little Outliner, because power-user products can get too complicated for beginners. Just like a ski mountain has a bunny slope, with a hot cup of cocoa close-by, we want to make sure there’s a super-easy outliner so people can get comfortable with the idea.

Okay, so we’ve built a rich product, it’s coming soon — but I want to also hook up tools to produce different ways of viewing text that was written and organized in the outliner. The prototypical example of this is a slide show. That’s what MORE did so well, why it won all the awards, and caught the attention of the press and investors, Guy Kawasaki and Apple, and a whole boatload of users. So that’s where we begin with the plug-in story today.

We’ve created a little slide-show renderer, using the beautiful JavaScript presentations of reveal.js. Then we added an icon to the left side-bar of Little Outliner that takes the content of the bar cursor outline and shoots it over to the presenter. It in turn sends back the HTML which we then display in a preview window. All this is done with interfaces that are every bit as simple as they sound.

All this is accomplished with OPML, which is an incredible way to package up a structure of text to ship between programs. It’s almost a whole language unto itself for specifying the arrangement of text. And as you know, we have an easy editor for producing OPML (the world-famous Little Outliner you’ve heard so much about). And with all the experimentation that’s been done in JavaScript tools for presenting stuff, the outliner is the missing element that makes this stuff truly user-friendly. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the docs for reveal.js. Or bespoke.js. Or impress.js. All of them produce wonderfully animated presentations, but you have to be a real glutton for tech detail to even begin to create your own. But with an outliner it’s dramatically easy.

So now we’re ready to show, dear developer, how plug-ins will work with our outliner. Right now you have to jump through a few hoops to enable the demo. This howto shows you what to do.

Hope you like! 🙂


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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