Bonsai Outliner


I really like using JOE - the open source Java outliner. It's fast, flexible, Java and open source. However, I found myself wanting to be able to add and edit my outline while I was away from my desk on the bus. This is a relatively new thing for me. The bus to work at night is a chartered bus that goes directly from here to a stop right near my apartment, but can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes last night. (There's also a bus in the morning, but at 8:30... I never am able to catch that one.) I want to be able to use that lost time in transit to review my day, plan for my evening and work on my thoughts with my outline!

So even though I love JOE, I needed to find a solution for my Palm. First I downloaded and tried out Aportis' Braintree because there's a Windows and Mac client for it... but it was aweful. The PC client is horrible and it doesn't actually sync with the Palm, just exports. That's useless.

Then I tried out Bonsai from Natara Software and it's AWESOME. Exactly what I was looking for. It's a full featured, easy to use outliner that perfectly syncs with the Palm. It took 2 seconds to export the outline as text from JOE and import it into Bonsai. The PC client is really nice, and one of the things that it has that JOE doesn't is the ability to mark nodes as "To Do" or "Tasks". A task is like a to-do, but with a percentage complete. This is great - it'll allow me to choose outline items as Getting Things Done style "actions" while I'm brainstorming, then I can "View Tasks Only" later to get a list of items to do. The only major downside is that the client is Windows only, but that's not a huge deal for now... I'm trying to limit my dependency on MS code for an eventual migration, so I try not to do this.

I do a lot of thinking... I don't have many people here to brainstorm with about technology. Much of what I write here is an attempt to clarify my thoughts, etc. Being able to brainstorm into an outliner, then carry it with me is very nice. Maybe the Palm isn't so useless after all. Once again, despite feeling like an early adopter, I'm many years behind the curve on some things.

Anyways, I got this installed last night and a program called FatFinger, which is a blown up screen keyboard for the Palm you can use by tappping at the screen with your finger... I used the trial and was sold - especially because of my flaky digitizer which isn't very accurate. Then I installed the Afterburner hack, which made a noticeable difference while perusing the PDF for Steven Hawkings's novel using Adobe's Palm PDF reader. It was ridiculously slow switching pages before, but now it's reasonable. Very nice... my Palm is now quite useful again.

Of course, after all this, I left it at home. Ugh. I remembered my mobile phone though... think about it.


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