Working in a Tree-View in Gingko
Price: $15-$90 one time purchase, depending on your ability to pay.
Warning: This Is an Electron App
I am hesitant when it comes to electron apps. I don’t like them. I don’t live in a cross-platform world and the compromises you have to make to live in an electron app are not worth it to me. However, I am still writing about Gingko. Why?
Gingko is unique in the macOS space. It gives you the ability to write your content in a tree view. Reminds me of an outlining program called Tree, which has disappeared from the Mac App Store and the Internet but had a great implementation of a tree-view based outliner. Gingko is the nearest thing I have found to Tree. In fact, I find Gingko better than Tree because of it’s Markdown support.
What does Gingko do?
“Provides structure to your prose.”
Gingko gives you a tree-view structure to the prose that you write. You can break your content up into sections and concentrate on writing individual sections while working on a long-form document.
It is CommonMark complaint, letting you write in Markdown.
What does that mean?
You can write in levels. You can see the structure of your document. Work on any section or level that you feel like at the moment. You can move sections around and it is all available to you in an interesting tree view. Makes working in sections easy. Makes organizing the flow of your content convenient and easy to manage. This is useful when you are dealing with long-form content.
Gingko has an online implementation for what is considered Version 1.0. The documents you produce online and on the desktop version, Version 2.0, will be sync-able in a future version of the desktop app. The desktop version is a cross-platform application and you can sync your documents through a cloud-based storage solution like Dropbox or Google Drive. I am using Dropbox.
Gingko has an automatic backup service built in. It backs up all your documents, although there is no interface to this. I have no clue what the backup schedule is or how you go back to a previous iteration except by opening the backup file and checking out its contents. Not convenient but it is satisfying that there is a backup in case I need to go back to a previous iteration of the document.
Gingko is a writing app. I can break up the discussion of a writing app into two categories:
- The interface.
- The writing environment.
The Interface or What Do I Like in Gingko
I love the ability to see my document in a tree view. I can move the sections around to make sense of the internal logic of the piece. It is an interesting implementation of the idea and I am fond of it.
The keyboard commands are well implemented. You can move around your document using only the keyboard and that makes the process of writing and editing efficient and pleasurable.
I like the little popup in the left corner which shows me the relevant keyboard commands and they change depending on the context that I am in.
I like the ability to zoom in and zoom out. Makes the text stand out when I am writing and is helpful to direct attention to the section I am working on. The implementation increases/decreases the size of the font displayed. The other sections are grayed out in the program. This lets you concentrate on the content you are writing/editing.
The Writing Environment or What I Do Not Like in Gingko
Gingko is a Markdown based text editor. It handles the text editing part without any of the frills that are common to this category of application.
The Markdown implementation needs keyboard commands and could include the following:
- I should be able to highlight a series of paragraphs and turn it into a list(ordered/unordered) with a keyboard command. Same is true of block quotes.
- I would like to be able to highlight a word or phrase and paste an URL on to it, to turn it into a Markdown formatted link.
- Lists need to auto-complete.
The writing environment needs work. It is usable as is, if you don’t mind entering almost all of your Markdown code by hand. Bold(⌘B) and italic(⌘I) are supported, but that is about it. If you are looking for the niceties of a modern Markdown based editor, Gingko has a certain amount of growing up to do.
The lack of spell check is a glaring omission. There are macOS system enhancements which are not supported. Two spaces turn into a period, and the first letter of every new sentence is capitalized through the macOS keyboard preference pane. This is not supported in Gingko. This is not an Electron thing. Typora, an Electron program, supports these conventions, why not Gingko?
In no particular order, these are some suggestions to improve Gingko:
- Please include the system spellcheck.
- There should be a default setting for font choices. Having to change the font settings for every new document is painful.
- The undo function needs work. It is unreliable.
- The online help and description of this product is woefully short. A listing of all the keyboard commands would be helpful.
- The Markdown implementation needs keyboard commands.
- The editing component of the program needs work.
A Comment on Gingko Pricing
I love the pricing structure for Gingko. The idea that you can pay a variable price based on your ability to pay isn’t something that gets much encouragement in the world of software. I appreciate what the developer is doing here.
Gingko is unique in the marketplace. It supports a tree view depiction of your document. No other program, that I know of, provides this feature on macOS. Gingko provides a keyboard driven interface. You can ignore the mouse and live in Gingko with only the keyboard. Makes navigation within the document efficient. I like working in it.
It is a simple idea, well implemented. The editing environment needs work. Improvements to that would make this an absolutely killer application.
If the idea of a tree-view structure of your document strikes you as something that could be useful to you, Gingko is a great answer to that quest. You can try it out at Gingko 1.0. The desktop version 2.0 has a 30 day trial and you can kick the tires of that before you adopt the program.
I recommend Gingko heartily.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
Note: I was provided a review code by the developer when I asked for one.