Sunday, April 1, 2001

Choosing the right outlining application


By Marie Braden

In the early days of computing, before the advent of the modern PIM (Personal Information Manager), outline programs were popular for gathering together scraps of information and imposing some sort of order upon them. While no longer a prevalent force in the desktop world, outliners have received a second wind on the Palm platform. In an operating environment where space is at a premium, the collapsible nature of an outline is perfect for "drilling down" to precise pieces of data without wasting valuable screen space.

Several outliners exist for the Palm OS, ranging in price from free to rather expensive. Each one has a slightly different focus, so it's difficult, if not impossible, to choose an overall favorite. More importantly, each has its own interface quirks, so read this article to narrow your choices and then take advantage of the trial period that each of these programs offers.


BrainForest (at is the 300-pound gorilla of Palm outliners. BrainForest Mobile Edition is a stand-alone Palm application (priced at $30), while BrainForest Professional includes a desktop interface to your data (priced at $39.95). Unfortunately, BrainForest has no ability to link to other Palm OS applications, making it less than adequate for project management. Such integration is critical to avoid duplication of effort, and it's surprising that this particular feature has not been implemented. BrainForest Professional adds a PC/Mac interface, along with Gantt charts on the Palm device side, a feature that other outliners have not yet implemented. The program is pictured in Figure A.


Like most Palm outliners, BrainForest has put its introductory materials in outline format.


Arranger (at was the first Palm outliner to support drag-and-drop and To Do List linking. In fact, Arranger probably has the best linking capability of any program reviewed here, supporting not only the Palm device's built-in applications, but also DateBk3 and DateBk4 at, Action Names Datebook (at, Super Names (at, TealPhone (at, ToDo PLUS (at, Memo PLUS (at, and the various versions of pedit (at