Bull Market for the TAO
After a long beta period (and a name change), TAO 1.0 has finally been released. In the immortal words of Calvin (from "Calvin and Hobbes"): "This is so exciting I have to go to the bathroom!"
TAO is an outliner – a writing space for working with items of styled text arranged hierarchically. Even more important, it’s an outliner that understands what an outliner is supposed to be. It’s the closest any Mac OS X-native program has come to replacing MORE, the dean of outliners and my favorite (even though it was creaky when I reviewed it in TidBITS-198 and is even creakier under Classic).
TAO has a complete repertory of commands for rearranging items. You can create a new item as a sibling (before or below), child, or aunt of the current item. You can select single or multiple items. Items can be joined or split. Items can be moved by dragging or by keyboard shortcut. An item can be hoisted for isolated viewing. An item’s children can be promoted; its siblings can be demoted. An item can be cloned (changing one clone changes them all). An item can be collapsed or expanded, locked, and even made invisible. A multi-line item can be reduced to only its first line.
Items can have many attached features. An item can have a label (color), a checkbox, a bookmark, an automatic number, and links to other items. Text can be linked to a URL. An item can include a note (essentially an embedded TextEdit document), a picture, or a link to a file on disk.
Formatting and other features can be applied through stylesheets (collections of rules). You can edit in a split window. You can find by text, label, date created or modified, visibility, bookmark, locked state, or checked state, in one or multiple files. Documents can be exported as plain text, styled text, HTML, and XML (OPML).
TAO is brilliant; it’s an amazing achievement. The only thing missing – and unfortunately, it’s a big thing – is a proper set of shortcuts for navigating between items. There needs to be a way to navigate directly from an item to its siblings, even if visible children intervene, or to its parent. Once such shortcuts are in place, TAO will be a useful outliner in the true spirit of MORE.
TAO requires Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, and is $30 shareware. It’s a 4 MB download. An unregistered version quits after half an hour, but the download currently includes a trial license valid until 01-Nov-04.