When I write articles, I use a process I call “Outline Expand Expand Done” — I write an outline, expand it a bit, expand it some more (paying attention to how pieces fit together), and repeat until I’m done.

I’ll use a word processor — usually Buzzword — for shorter (<1500 words) pieces, but for longer, more complex pieces, I prefer to use an outliner. And not just any outliner -- in my estimation, nothing beats the all-but-defunct outliner KeyNote from Tranglos software.

Why “all-but-defunct”? The developer dropped the project some three years ago, now, declaring “hobby programmer bankruptcy”, a final admission after years of inactivity that he never was going to get back to work on the program.

Luckily, he doesn’t have to — KeyNote is as feature-rich as it ever needs to be. Unlike most outliners, KeyNote allows you to edit in Rich Text Format, (which means you can do things like bold or italicize text, insert bulleted lists, indent paragraphs, and so on). There is also a full “ecosystem” of templates, styles, and plugins to add functions — for instance, you can use it as a full-fledged Personal Information Manager.

But I just use it for writing. I create an outline in the “tree view” — a “trunk, branch, and leaf” where subtopics are added to main topics. Each entry in the tree view can have a page of text attached to it. So, once I’ve finished the outline in the tree view pane, I shift to the text editing pane and move through my outline, adding notes, blocks of text, quotes, and other material as I go. Then I go back and do it again, writing transition sentences and patching up the text. Usually after two passes, I’m done — in longer pieces, it might be three or four.

The finished piece can be saved as an rtf file (which can be opened in any word processor with formatting intact), as a webpage, or in the native format to re-open in KeyNote later.

KeyNote will run on any version of Windows, although the page hasn’t been updated since Vista was released. It might have a few quirks on different versions, but nothing that would render it unusable. KeyNote is open source software, so it’s conceivable that someone will pick it up and update it at some point — so far, though, nobody has. And really, it’s not necessary — KeyNote just keeps on doing its thing, better than anything newer that’s come along.

KeyNote (Free)

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