WriteFlow shifting paradigms

December 9, 2008


Filed under: — admin @ 6:11 am

Writing long and complex texts always presents a challenge. You want to concentrate on your ideas and thoughts, without being bothered by any technical aspects of your gathering of information, your citations and bibliography. We were faced with the same problem and saw no satisfying solution out there. That’s why we started the work on WriteFlow. We see it as a totally new way of interacting with your text, your bibliography and your research material. Everything will be at your fingertips and interaction is fast, immediate and automated. Even though WriteFlow is an incredibly complex programme and nearly everything under the hood had to be designed from scratch, it will be, at least we hope so, feel just like the word processor you’re used to, making your switch easy and straightforward.
New way of organizing
Unlike most word processors out there, in order to store and organize text WriteFlow doesn’t rely on files and folders, but on a database. This enables you not only to keep all documents and research materials ready to use without much regard for their organization, but it lets you integrate quotes and bibliography in an intuitive and unmatched way. We take full advantage of the possibilities of a database to store metadata like keywords, notes, when and by whom one paragraph or even sentence was created and modified and many sorts of links to transform everything you wrote and collected in one big associative network, mirroring the complexity of your thoughts. At first this may seem very abstract to you, but there are a lot of very concrete advantages in our approach.
Manage your quotes
WriteFlow is an amazing program to manage your quotes. Once you’ve imported your media (books, articles, websites etc.) you can add as many quotes as you want. Those quotes will be included in the program-wide fulltext search, you can adress them individually and add page number, keywords and notes to each quote. It makes no difference if you add quotes directly from your document, by using the special editor, or by just extracting text from a pdf or website. You’ll always find the quotes right in your database. And every time you use them again, WriteFlow will automatically add the references and keep track of where they are used.
Change it and keep it
All the online writing tools such as WordPress or Google Docs already make use of a database, but we went a step further by not only storing the text of the document in a database, but by automatically or manually splitting up the text in many separate entries in the database, each individually addressable. This means that you can use a quote, a note or any sentence you’ve written in many different documents, but any changes you make to the reference will be mirrored in all relevant locations. Copy and Paste does not double the text, it refers to the same template text, which simply shows up in two different locations. This is great because whenever you change something in one place, it will also be modified in whichever other place it is quoted. You can add some thoughts to your note document and you can be sure the changes will show up when you look at the second chapter of your thesis, where you’ve copied your notes before.As this is not always what you want (i.e. you might just want to use a shorter version of a quote and still leave the long version in another document), we implemented a versions-system which allows you to decide where you want changes to be made and where you want to use a different version of the text. The cool thing is that the different versions will still be connected and you can easily switch from one to the other.

Forget the mouse
To find your way through this fairly new and different concept and to give you the possibility to easily apply complex commands, we decided to invent a new way of interacting with the database. The traditional way of mouse and shortcuts seemed either too slow and cumbersome or too difficult to learn for most users. So we got a lot of inspiration from programs like Quicksilver, Frontrow and Spotlight and developed our Command Tool, which is basically a way to combine the speed of shortcuts and a spotlight-powered search function with the accessibility of a classic menu.
Using all your sources
PDFs are the modern-day equivalents to loose sheets of paper: You get them all the time and you lose them in folders that seemed necessary at one point but are forgotten after some time. You might find them with spotlight, but how often do you really make a systemwide spotlight search when you just need a quote or some information about an author? And what about adding your own notes to your pdfs? WriteFlow integrates much of the functionality of those great PDF management programs out there, but it goes further by integrating PDF management tools into your writing program. Searching and organizing your PDFs becomes incredibly easy. WriteFlow will soon be able to handle photos, stacks of photos or scans and websites just like PDFs.
Connect, load, relax…
Obviously, we don’t expect you to spend your time copying references from books when you could more comfortably get online. WriteFlow includes an ISBN search and a more flexible dedicated media search to simultaneously search online databases. You don’t have to know in advance which one will give you the right results, WriteFlow looks up all of them at the same time. We start with a few databases like the Amazons, the Library of Congress and the European Library but we are going to add many more in the next weeks and months.
Tag it all!
With WriteFlow, you can use your keywords not only for pdfs, documents, authors, all your media, websites and photos, but you can use them as well for quotes and for each paragraph or sentence within your documents. A search for a keyword will bring up all those different well ordered results. And you can combine your search for a keyword with many other search parameters.
As WriteFlow does not use a dedicated file for every document, we don’t use established file formats, but we didn’t have to create a new format either. Even though we are not quite there yet, WriteFlow will give you the file format you need. At the moment, we can import and export RTF, but we are already working on TeX-Support to give you the perfect layout for your work. And there is a lot more to come.
Support Endnote and switch…
WriteFlow already supports the import from your Endnote-Database. You just have to chose the export function of Endnote and select the XML-format. WriteFlow will be able to read and process your database to give you the possibility to seamlessly switch from Endnote to WriteFlow, without losing your valuable database. You will be amazed at how much more you can do with your data by using WriteFlow.


Thanks to the city of Vienna’s Departure program, we are already looking forward to some more amazing improvements for the next version of WriteFlow.

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