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SuperTree - A Tree Of Knowledge? Print E-mail
Written by Richard Bloor   
Thursday, 03 March 2005
A day on the road leave you all confused? Need to sort out your thoughts, write a paper or prepare a presentation? Corisoft's SuperTree, for the Nokia Communicator range, could be just what you need. We review the latest application from this prodigious French developer.

Whether structured lists are the best way to organize your thoughts is a matter of opinion (see MindMaps). However the limited space and lack of a touchscreen on a Nokia Communicator makes structured lists the ideal tool for collecting and organizing ideas or information.

SuperTree is one of the first structured list organizer for the new Series 80 devices. It provides unlimited structuring, user definable data, coloring and checking along with import and export capabilities.

A basic tree of items showing the checkbox and extended note icon.

The basic SuperTree list provides a text description, check box and extended note. Items are added from the menu or Add command button. There is no quick key provided. When adding an item SuperTree asked whether the new item should be added at same level or as a child (sub level) to the current item. That done the item's details are added through an edit screen. This screen displays all the items fields, except the extended note which is accessible from the tree by pressing the space bar. When an extended note is added its presence is flagged with a paper and pencil icon.

SuperTree's extended note is added through a full screen editor.

Each item can also be assigned its own icon. This hides the item's checkbox, so the only way to identify it has been checked is to reply on any change in font color.

Individual icons overwrite the check box.

An item's check box is activated from the menu or Command Bar. Preferences options allow the format and behavior of checked items to be controlled. Their text can be colored and text style set to normal, bold, italic or bold italic. Checked items can also be set to hide, but they are not hidden dynamically, the tree has to be updated, by collapsing and expanding a branch for example, before items are actually hidden. Finally there is an auto complete option. This option cascades completion up the tree when all the leaves in a branch are completed.

Other settings allow the display font and size to be selected along with the default colors and text style of new items.

The color and style of each individual line can be controlled. The control is the same as that provided on the font in the settings, the foreground and background color of a line and its font style, normal, bold, italics or bold italics.

A SuperTree is not limited to the default one column list. It is possible for the to add additional columns. These column can contain dates, integers, floating point numbers (decimals) or yes or no. Each field can be named.

SuperTree accommodates a wide range of user data.

A new option becomes available once a tree contains numeric columns. Calculate provides a display of the sum of the trees visible numeric columns. If more than one item is selected in the tree Calculate sum just those selected items rather than the entire tree.

Calculate provides a quick summary for numeric data.

Once custom columns have been created they may not fit well on the screen. SuperTree provides keyboard shortcuts to select and alter the width of the columns. Shift-left and -right select the active column, which is shown in bright green. Shift-control-left and -right then reduces and increases the column width.

The view is easily customized with keyboard shortcuts

As a tree is built it is likely that various branches and items will be in the wrong place. A SuperTree can be easily restructured, again using keyboard shortcuts. Control-left and -right promote and demote items, within the limits of the tree structure. Control-up and -down move an item's position up or down within its current branch.

The tree can also be restructured using a sort function. This is another function which is only available from shortcut keys, shift-control-up for ascending sorts shift-control-down for descending sorts. Sort however needs to be treated with care. A sort changes the tree into a staircase, sorting all level 0 items, then all level 1 making them children of the final level 0 item, and so on for each level in the tree.

The ultimate restructuring tool is Reset, which deletes the entire content of the tree, but retains the column settings and import and export templates.

Having created a tree it might be useful to take the content into another application. SuperTree provides import and export functions for this and to bring data into SuperTree. The key to SuperTree's import and export is a template. Each SuperTree file can have several of these. The template defines the files delimiter (tab, comma or semicolon), the fields and their order. Templates are shared between import and export which (combined with Reset) makes round tripping SuperTrees quite straight forward.

In addition to the data content of a tree an import or export can include information such as the foreground and background colors, font and icon used for each item.

Imports and Exports can include any tree data plus format information.

Once the a template has been defined the procedures for imports or exports are similar. For both a template is selected and then the import or export file found or defined.

SuperTree does its job well. It provides flexibility in the information it can store, and presents it well on screen. The absence of a pane to display the extended note attached to an item is disappointing but does not detract unduly from the applications usability, particularly given the limited text that could be displayed. If there is anything which lets SuperTree down it is usability. Many of the functions, like column resizing and sort, only have shortcut keys. Given most users do not read manuals, probably will not event read the one page application help that explains all the shortcuts, many users may never fully understand what this application can do. Data entry could be faster, separate options for "same level" and "sublevel" would be great (one could replace the rarely used Open on the Command Bar.) SuperTree also has a habit of jumping back the first item when editing a note and performing some other actions. This becomes irritating on large lists. However most of these are relatively minor issues and (hopefully) will be fixed in future releases.

None the less SuperTree is a powerful tool. The range of "ideas management" that can be achieved is limitless. For example, this review was initially mapped out using it, then exported as a text file, worked on some more in Documents before making the inevitable step to a PC for final edit and layout.

Despite its shortcomings SuperTree is destined to become one of our indispensable Nokia Communicator applications.

SuperTree is available directly from Corisoft. A 30 day trial is available, after which registration costs $20 US. SuperTree is available for the Nokia 9200, 9300 and 9500 communicators. This review was undertaken on a Nokia 9500 using v1.1.



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