Review: SmartOutline 2005

SmartOutline 2005 Standard
Innovative Drafting Concepts
Atlanta, Georgia
(770) 732-8987

Outlines seem to provide a natural way for many of us to store information. A hierarchical structure that expands and contracts and that attaches information to nodes just matches the way we mentally split up the world. I think that's why outline processors of various sorts have always been popular pieces of software, though none have ever dominated the market. The latest one that I've run across is SmartOutline, which brings a .NET spin and aggressive extensibility to the idea.

SmartOutline's user interface will make sense to anyone who has ever used Windows Explorer: an outline to the left, a workspace to the right. As you select nodes in the outline, the content of the workspace changes. Each node can be one of a variety of things, including:

  • A calendar event
  • A checklist
  • An HTML form
  • A library of hyperlinks
  • A tabbed freeform notes page

Those are just some of the things that ship as part of SmartOutline, and they're by no means the end of the story. That's because anyone with .NET skills can write a workspace add-in to extend the list. The product ships with explicit instructions and examples to help you do this. So if there's something you want to store or display that's not already covered, you can tweak your copy of SmartOutline to handle it. A second type of add-in handles exporting (an area where SmartOutline is already strong, with Access, e-mail, Excel, and XML among the standard choices).

The HTML forms mean that you can use SmartOutline as a sort of database - just create a form or choose one from the library provided, make as many instances as you want, and fill them in. Contacts, purchase orders, movies...whatever you like can be stored in this fashion. Underneath, SmartOutline stores everything in its own .OUT files, one for each outline.

SmartOutline comes in a variety of editions, from the standard desktop version on up through an enterprise edition that handles shared repositories so you can build a distributed knowledgebase. You can download a free demo/viewer edition from the Web site to see SmartOutline in action.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.