Skip to main content

tkoutline, JOE, and Notecase Pro

tkoutline "is a single pane, cross-platform outline editor written in Tcl/Tk." This free program was written by Brian Theado.

I used to use it a lot. It was very close to what I wanted - but lacked movement by word, and word count. Finally, I emailed Theado, and he promptly sent me back a few lines to add to the preferences and startup files. I could now move the cursor by word and get a word count.

I eventually drifted away from it, mainly because the combination of the tclkit and the program file I was using gave me a dotty-font look, sort of like Windows. It was ugly, and the rest of my Linux desktop was so pretty. Call it an aesthetic issue.

Well, it turns out that I should have broken down and asked Theado how to fix that, too. I did, today, and it's not hard.

For Linux machines, follow these instructions to get a surprisingly handy, quick, stable (and now good looking!) program that works for a lot of things.

1. Grab these files:

* wget


(Note, that second file works better on Ubuntu than the download link on the tkoutline wiki.)

2. Then make both of them executable:

chmod +x filename

3. Then put them both in a directory together, for example, tkoutline. (Just use your file manager to drag them over.)

4. Create a text file called tko, with the following content, for instance:

cd /home/yourname/tkoutline
./Linux_kbsvq8.5-gui tkoutline-devel.kit

5. Make IT executable

chmod +x tko

6. Copy it to /usr/bin like so (or with your file manager again, but you do need root privileges):

sudo cp /home/yourname/tkoutline/tko /usr/bin/

7. Add it to one of your panels or desktop so that clicking on it launches the command tko (instructions vary with your preference).

That really makes it the ideal writing tool when I have something short that still has structure. It's easy, then, to copy the text and dump it into an email or word processor for sharing or further polishing.

The two other outliners I mention in my title deserve a little mention too:

One of them is the Java Outline Editor. It's a single pane outliner, too, and even has spell check (which tkoutline does not). I was kind of starting to like it, too, but then discovered that it corrupted some key files - not worth it! It also did some weird display things from time to time. Finally, it also couldn't move by word, which is just annoying. I've purged it from my computers.

Finally, I use Notecase Pro. It's a two pane outliner, and absolutely topnotch. It does it all - except let you easily use it as a one pane outliner.

So for thinking, I now have the pair of Notecase Pro for long documents, tkoutline for shorter ones, and xmind or Freemind for mindmapping.

And my last thought on this long, nerdy post: many thanks to Brian Theado, whose work continues to delight, and whose astonishingly quick helpfulness exemplifies everything that's good about the open source programming world. Thanks!

P.S. I always forget, when I install this on a 64 bit system, that I also have to install 32 bit libraries to get tkoutline to work. The command for that on a Debian/Ubuntu-based system is sudo apt-get install ia32-libs


James LaRue said…
Update as of 4/13/15: to get tkoutline to run on LXLE 64-bit (based on 14.04 LTS): sudo apt-get install libxft2:i386. This is the response to
"error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory"