Subtle working of the Auto Expand feature

There is an Auto Expand feature for the list of Topics that is ON by default. You will find it on the Settings–General–Topic list page. Recently, while answering a support question, I had a chance to ponder over its subtle working. Hence, I decided to write this article. Note that this feature is designed by the developer of the list control that is used in WhizFolders and not by me.

I will try to explain how it works and then you can decide whether you want it ON or OFF.

Auto expand featureFirst, let’s see how it works.

  • Open the Getting Started tutorial in WhizFolders.
  • Click on the “Settings, font, etc” as shown in the picture.
  • You will see that the topic is expanded to show its child notes as soon as you click on it.
  • Now click on another topic, “Reopening files.” As soon as you do that, the earlier topic is automatically collapsed and hides its children. So it now smartly assumes that you don’t want to see its child notes any more.
  • Now click on another topic further down, “Use as an outliner for writers.” If that topic is already expanded, it will stay. Otherwise, it will expand to show its children.
  • Now click back on “Settings, font, etc.” The previous topic will collapse and the new one will expand.

So what’s the idea of this smart feature?

  • Always show children of the clicked note irrespective of its expanded or collapsed state.
  • Automatically collapse the children when you move away to another note in the list.
  • This helps you browse the list much faster to get a better overview.
  • To summarize, it assumes that when you click on a note, you want to work on it and on its children, adding, reordering or removing children as necessary. And when you click away from a note, it assumes that you no longer want to even view the child notes of the previous note that you had expanded.
  • It does not disturb the expanded or collapsed state of any other notes in the list except the one clicked on and the one clicked away from.

Of course, if you don’t like the auto expands and collapses occurring this way, you can switch off this feature on Setting–General–Topic list. It is switched off for all your WhizFolder files.

Outline numbering features, their limitations and workarounds

Outlining in the topic list is the “recommended” approach in WhizFolders because it gives you the power to rearrange your outline by the easy “Move” buttons or by simple drag & drop of multiple topics, including their children.

Is it possible to automatically number the topic titles?

The topic titles serve as headings for an outline. Consider the following test outline prepared in the topic list.

A sample outline for testing in WhizFolders
A sample outline for testing in WhizFolders

To auto-number the outline, I click on the “List Settings” button marked in the above picture. I get this screen.

How to number an outline automatically
How to number an outline automatically

I switch on the marked option “Show Numbered List” above. Here is the result.

An auto-numbered outline
An auto-numbered outline

Once you switch on the Numbered List option, the list stays numbered, no matter what you do. If you add more topics or move the topics up or down, all the topics are renumbered automatically.

Is it possible to print the outline from the topic list while preserving the indentation?

Yes, here is a screenshot of the Microsoft XPS printout of the list.

A printed outline in WhizFolders
A printed outline in WhizFolders

If you don’t get the same results, check the printing options for multiple topics. You can see them by clicking on Settings–General Options.

Changing General Settings in WhizFolders
Changing General Settings in WhizFolders

You need to look at the page “Printing multiple topics” and switch on the option “Print indented” shown below. Make sure that the other marked option “Do not print topic titles” is off.

Outline printing options in WhizFolders
Outline printing options in WhizFolders

The space before and after the headings is controlled by the “Spacing in lines” settings at the bottom of the above screen. Currently, the minimum values allowed are 1 line before and after. But on an afterthought, I’m going to allow “zero” as the value for a more compact printing in the next version.

How do I print a compact outline without the headings?

This is the best part of WhizFolders when used in outlining. It’s so flexible! You can break up a large block of writing, even a complete novel into pieces that you outline, develop and write separately. Now you want to combine those pieces into a complete text draft. You don’t want the headings or topic titles in that case. All the export and printing features of WhizFolders give the option of switching off headings. So you can select all the parts and then perform operations “copy to clipboard” or “export to RTF” with the option not to include topic titles. Once you do that, you get a complete merged block of text without headings.

A similar option is available in printing too. In the options described above, you switch on the option “Do not print topic titles.” Here is the result.

How to print a compact outline without headings

Can I switch off the numbering of headings in the printed outline?

Yes, that is controlled by another option on the “Printing” page of the general options screen. The option that you want to switch on is marked in the following picture, “Do not number topic names in the printout.” Note that printing of numbers in the headings is controlled entirely by this option and not by the auto numbering option that was described above for “viewing” the topic list as numbered.

How to switch off numbering of outline when printing
How to switch off numbering of outline when printing

Logically, this option should have been with the same set of options described earlier but I never had a chance to redesign printing options and I can see that they are over crowded. I have plans to redesign the whole options area using a nice ribbon bar menu.

Do you see now why you should be using the topic list for all outlining?

You can break up your whole writing project into pieces, develop the outline and later merge it while printing or exporting the way you want.

Current limitations of the topic list are, “No control on the numbering format and style of the individual headings.”

Currently, you can not control the number format for the auto numbering or for printing. This is not too difficult to implement, and I’m going to do that in the next version itself. Another thing, it’s not possible to change the style of individual headings or topic titles. That’s more difficult to handle but will definitely be there in the next “major” release of WhizFolders.

But you should know that you can control the font of all the titles by the same “List Settings” screen that we saw earlier. Also, the printing options allow you to select the bold or italic type formats of all the headings. See the screenshot of the options for “printing multiple topics” above.

Workaround solutions for the above limitations

1. Export to Word Outline format: If you export the outline to Word outline format by the Tools–Export to RTF menu, you can then open it in Microsoft Word and change the styles as well as numbering by its advanced formatting features for headings. I had implemented this solution on the request of a customer who was happy with the results. But I, myself, have not used or researched it extensively. If you want to go this route, please share your experience with me.

2. Put headings in the topic text itself: If you put the headings to be printed or exported within the topic text itself at the top, you can still control them fully. But then you will have to switch off the export or printing of actual topic titles by using the options described above in “How do I print a compact outline without the headings?”

You can even avoid putting the headings in certain topics if they don’t need it in a merged output. You get complete flexibility. The only problem is, if you move the topics around, you may need to renumber the headings that you put in the topic text. They won’t renumber automatically because they are not in the topic list. But this is a solution that is workable indeed as long as you don’t resequence the outline often or do not need numbering at all for the headings but just headings with different styles.

Exit topic list and Enter topic editor for outlining

How else can we work around the above limitations of the topic list? For smaller outlines, you can use the nested numbered lists in the topic editor.

Then you can use custom numbering as well as style because it is within the topic editor. You will lose the power to move the headings around though which is available in the topic list. Perhaps, drag and drop will work in the editor too but it will be difficult to select whole items before dragging.

Making nested numbered lists for outlining in the topic Editor

For this to work properly in WhizFolders, the editing caret (blinking cursor) must already be on a list item. See the following picture where I started a “numbered” list in the editor and the caret is on the second item.

Starting a numbered list
Starting a numbered list

By the way, I’m using the Advanced Editor that gives me a wider window for editing. You can do this in the quick editor too.

Whenever you click on the increase indent button, it starts a nested list

In the following picture, the increase indent button is shown marked. When I click that, I get a nested numbered list in a different format than the enclosing list.

Start a nested list with different number format
Start a nested list with different number format

The inner list is in roman numbers. But I can change the number format by the “List Type” pull down on the Tool bar.

Changing number format of the nested list
Changing number format of the nested list

I change the nested list format to A., B., … Then I click on the same increase indent button and add another nested list, changing its type to 1., 2. by using the same technique as described above. Here is how it looks now.

Resuming an enclosing list in nested lists
Resuming an enclosing list in nested lists

Now, how do I resume adding items to the “enclosing list?”

When the editing caret is as shown above, I click on the decrease indent button circled above. This will resume the enclosing list. Please see the picture below.

Enclosing list resumed at correct next item, C
Enclosing list resumed at correct next item, C

Did you notice that it resumed at the correct next item, C. If I were to click the same Decrease Indent button again, it will resume the main list.

Resuming the correct number in the enclosing list can sometimes break

You will see that as you increase and decrease indent, making nested lists, or even insert blank lines in between, WhizFolders is able to continue the numbering.

For example, see the following picture. I hit the Enter key several times to insert some blank lines. This stops the list numbering. But if I click on the Numbered List button, it resumes the list again at C. This “correct” resuming has lot of effort behind it.

Inserting several blank lines and clicking on the Numbered List button resumes the numbering at the correct sequence.
Inserting several blank lines and clicking on the Numbered List button resumes the numbering at the correct sequence.

What if the numbering breaks? There is a solution.

Resuming the numbering might break at times due to some internal rtf formatting. If that happens, you can take help of a special button. See the button marked in the above picture, next to List Type pull down. That is a “Change starting number” button. If I click that button, I can change the next sequence number.

Change next sequence number
Change next sequence number

I can enter the number 3 if the sequence was other than C and I wanted to correct it to C. The only trick is that you need to enter a number that you want the numeric list item to use. If the numeric list is of the type A., B., C., you still need to enter a number, 1 for A, 2 for B and so on.

You can use “Change Starting Number” button to start a new numbered list in the same topic.

If later in the same topic, I want to start a new numbered list starting from 1, I will have to use the same button and start at 1. In fact, that’s the main purpose of the button as originally designed. But it can be used for fixing a number too.

If you get any more questions or ideas on the same topic, please write to me and I will try to answer them in a new post.

Make an application and document launcher with WhizFolders

In a previous article, I showed you how you can make your own bookmark or favorites application where you can attach detailed notes to the bookmarks to help you remember why you created them.

Here I will show you how you can make an Application or Document launcher utility with WhizFolders with the added advantage that you can keep detailed notes on these applications or documents. Moreover, it is easier to arrange your launching links in a hierarchy with WhizFolders by simple drag and drop.

Links in the topic text

If you have already used Links in the text of your topics, you are half way there.  There are many types of links possible in WhizFolders. You can read all about them in the tutorial file given with WhizFolders or in the user guide. A topic link when clicked goes to another topic. A file or folder link opens any kind of document or folder on your system. If the file happens to be an application, it is launched.

Links in the topic list

To make a launcher utility, I suggest that instead of inserting links in the text of a topic, you directly insert them in the Topic List.  The main advantage of keeping your links in the topic list is that it gives you the power of outlining them in a hierarchy. You can still write notes in them as described below.

The easiest way to insert launcher links is to Alt-drag them from Windows Explorer

Make a WhizFolder file that you want to serve as your application or document launcher. Open a Windows Explorer window on the side and inside it, locate and select the file, application or the folder that you want to launch. Then press the Alt key and drag the selected file to the topic list. This will insert a launcher link. Double-click the topic name in the list to test that the target file opens.

A few tips:

  • You can even drop multiple files this way to insert multiple links in the topic list.
  • Each link gets the icon of the target file.
  • If you drag and drop a text file without pressing the Alt key, you don’t get a link but the whole file contents are inserted as a topic.
  • After making these link topics, you can rearrange them like any other topics by Move buttons on the toolbar or by drag and drop.

How do you attach notes to these links?

  • Each such topic in the list contains its target link at the top of its topic text. You can write your own notes below that line. Don’t disturb that first line.
  • If you don’t want to disturb the link topic’s contents, you can add a child topic that contains notes on that link. You can color your notes and link topics differently so that you can identify them easily.

You can have different WhizFolder files keeping different set of links. All the above features allow you to make very powerful launcher documents where your detailed notes will help you find and remember your documents and files in a better way.

More advanced users can even take help of OLE

WhizFolders also allows you to insert ole objects in the text of your topics. For example, you can keep a spreadsheet directly in the text of a topic. For more details, please see the OLE OBJECTS category on the right.

Hoisting much improved

In case you haven’t noticed, the hoisting feature has been completely revamped a while back. Now you can hoist any level. Hoisting means, you want to concentrate on a particular tree of notes and don’t want other topics to be visible to distract you. Here is an example, the following list of topics shows a list before hoisting.

List before hoisting

Suppose, I want to concentrate on the topics underneath “The power of hyperlinks” to develop that outline further. So I select that topic and click on the menu “View–Hoist all child topics.” As soon as I do that, all other topics go away and I only see the topics that I want to work with. Here is a picture after hoisting.

List after hoisting

This list exactly works like the full list. I can add more topics, move them around, print them, and so on. Even if I close this document, it remembers its hoisted status. When I finish working on this hoisted list, I can go back to the full list by the menu “View–Unhide All (unhoist).”

If you use WhizFolders for outlining and haven’t used hoisting, try it out. It makes the outlining process much more powerful.

Splitting and merging the topics in WhizFolders document

Are there commands to split a topic and to merge 2 or more topics into one topic?

Merging is easy to do by copy and paste. There is no direct command to split but we have different ways to achieve it. More details follow.

Merging by Copy/Paste:

You need to select two or more topics in the list that you want to merge. Then copy them to the clipboard. Now create a new topic, start the editor on it and do a paste. This will paste the merged contents. There is an option to include the topic names of the selected topics too in the merged contents. You can see this option on the Edit menu,  “Include topic names too in above operation(s).”

Let me give you an example:

  1. I select 3 topics to merge in the list of Topics, named, “Branch,” “Integration,” and “Release,” I copy them to the clipboard by the Keys “Ctrl + C” or by using the copy button on the toolbar.
  2. I create a new topic “Merge,” open this topic in the advanced editor, and paste.The text from the 3 topics gets copied in a single topic as shown in the picture:


You can even do the paste in a word processor document to get the merged content.

Merging by Export:

Instead of copy/paste, you can also export the merged content to an RTF file or to an RTF file in the Word outline format. Just select the topics that you want to merge in the same way. Then use one of the operations on the menu ”
“Tools–Export” to create the desired RTF file.

Splitting a big topic or a word processor document in multiple topics:

This is described in another Blog article, Breaking up a large Word document into topics.

Importing and splitting an external big text file into multiple topics:

Suppose you have a large text file outside WhizFolders and you want to split it into multiple topics. You need to first understand how you are going to indicate to WhizFolders at what positions the text needs to be split. If the text file already has a repeating fixed word or phrase before each text block that you want to make into a topic then your job is easy. But first let’s take a case where no such repeating fixed word or phrase exists as in the following example.

  • To tell WhizFolders where the splitting should occur, I open the big text file in a text editor like Notepad/Wordpad and insert a fixed word “Split” in many places in the file as shown below.
  • Split
    A] Committing the Code changes into the Branch
    Activity ID:  Desc:
    B] Committing the Branch into the Torch
    Task ID:  [Branch Name: , Revision No: ] Desc:
    D] Doing the release of the application through 'Release' folder
    Release Name: : [Revision No: ]
    Tasks Integrated:
    Task ID:  [Branch Name: , Revision No: ] Desc:
  • Now I go to the WhizFolder document in which I want to insert the topics from this text file and click on the menu “Insert–Topics from a text file…”
  • A file selection dialog comes up where I select this text file that I prepared.
  • Now WhizFolders asks me for a topic prefix that means the fixed word or phrase that appears before each topic in the text file. In the above case, the prefix is “split” and I type it in and click on OK.
  • WhizFolders then imports the text file, splitting it at the fixed word shown to make many topics. Please see the following picture.
  • merge1.bmp

Note that the topic names were made up from the next line after the “Split” that I inserted. I could have given my own names to these topics by entering “Split: a topic name” instead. Then the topic prefix that I would specify to WhizFolders would be “Split: “.

Let’s take another example. Let’s say you want to export a number of email messages in your email software to a single text file and then want to import them in WhizFolders, each as a separate topic. If you select a number of email messages in your email software and save them together in a text file, you might get a fixed word automatically depending on the email software and its features. For example, each email message would begin with “FROM: “. In this case, you don’t need to edit the text file to insert your own topic prefix. You can simply tell WhizFolders to use the topic prefix “FROM: ” when importing that text file and it will make a topic out of each email message. But the topic names would be made from whatever text follows the FROM: on that line.

If you know any kind of programming, you can make quite interesting WhizFolder documents this way. For example, one WhizFolders user wrote a script to generate a text file containing a calendar event notebook for the whole year. In the script, he could generate a proper topic prefix and the name he wanted to give to these topics. The resulting event files are very useful and can be found at the bottom of the Calendar page on this web site. You can download a file from there and use it in WhizFolders.

Is there any way to include date and time in the topic name when I create a new topic?

When editing a topic name you can always press F4 or F5 to insert date or date/time (the same keys as in topic editor).

It is also possible to automatically include date and time in a new topic name for a document by setting that up in the Settings–List File. Here is a concrete example:

  • You must have noticed that by default, when you create a new topic, the topic name generated is “New Topic.”
  • Now click on the menu “Settings–List File.”
  • Click on the “New Names” Tab and look at the pull-down list “Start a New topic name with” that gives you various options.
  • Choose the option “Date” to automatically prefix new topic names with date.
  • Click OK.
  • Now add a new topic to this document. You will notice that the date is automatically prefixed and the selection allows you to type a name beyond it. How convenient!

This feature allows you to set up a document as a journal or a time log. You can also look at other options available on the above pull down. For instance, you can also have custom characters put before or after the topic name.

Selecting multiple topics

Question: How do I select multiple topics for a move or printing operation?

Use the same keyboard combination that you use in Windows Explorer for selecting multiple files. For example, press Ctrl when you click on other topics to include or exclude them.

Similarly, to select a range of topics, select the topic at one end, then press Shift and click on the topic at the other end of the range.

Copying topics between documents

Question: How do I copy a topic from one WhizFolder document to another?

Just copy and paste the topics. Note that the subtopics are copied automatically when you do that.

You can also used Drag & Drop to copy from one list of topics to another but for that you need to switch off the Tabbed pages feature on the List of Files page so that you can open two WhizFolder files in separate windows.

Recover recently deleted topics

Question: I just accidentally deleted a topic, but haven’t closed the program. Any way to restore it?

Use “Recover recently deleted topics” on the Edit menu of the document window. However, this will work only in the same session. It will not work if you closed and reopened the document.

There is a similar feature in editor window too. If you changed the text of a topic and then changed your mind, DON’T close the window or save the document. Instead, use the operation “Undo all changes since last save” on the edit menu.

In general, it is a good idea to regularly back up your documents. We have made this very easy in the new version by giving a backup button. There are many backup features to keep multiple copies of your documents, for each day.

How can I duplicate a topic?

You can do it in two ways:

1) Select a topic and drag it to a target place in the list and
press CTRL so that the cursor changes to ‘+’. Drop it and it will
create a duplicate along with its children.


2) Copy the topic to the clipboard and paste.

The nice thing is that these methods allow you to copy topics to another document too. Also, the child topics are automatically copied with the parent.