Shfit-tabbing can change the *order* of elements (bad)

I am a new user trying to switch to dynamlist for my writing process. Formerly I’ve used Google Docs and Google Sites, and I use heavy use of very basic outlines.

I’ve run into a bit of a deal-breaker odd behavior in dynamlist:

Steps to reproduce

Create an outline like:

  • Top
    • nest 1
    • nest 2
    • nest 3

Then go to “nest 2” item, and shift-tab…

Expected result

My expected result is…

  • Top
    • nest 1
  • nest 2
    • nest 3

Actual result

This is what I get in dynalist:

  • Top
    • nest 1
    • nest 3
  • nest 2

This is completely a deal breaker for me, because my outlines are very large, and i need to be able to move around the block structure of them however I want.

In dynalist, the only way I can see how to get the result I want is to select the entire next-3 subsection of the outline, cut it, and then paste it under the new “nest 2” top heading. This is not at all reasonable for how I work.

Can we get tabbing/shift-tabbing in dynalist to work the way it works in every other outline program, where it doesn’t move the item, only it’s indention?


Which operating system are you using? windows 10 64bit
Which browser are you using? chrome
If you’re using a desktop or mobile app, what’s the version number of Dynalist?
Are you using any third-party scripts for Dynalist, e.g. PowerPack? no

Additional information

Anything else you think would help our investigation, like a screenshot or a log file? You can drag and drop screenshots to this box. For large amount of text, try putting them into something like Pastebin.

Additional comments

1 Like

Yes, this is very annoying :rage: +1

Try this:

1 Like

Thanks very much for your reply. That fixes exactly the problem I was having.

I’d argue that this setting should be made much more obvious, and maybe be enabled by default… since it’s the behavior of basically every other outline. However, software is weird, so I’m happy to at least have a way to fix it. Thanks!

I have it off.

Is it really on for other outliners?

I for one find “on” to be extremely counterintuitive. When a child is kicked out, it should go below the family it came from. For it to rip the family apart, and steal all the children below it, is crazy to me. Why would anyone ever want that. behavior of splitting the children into two groups. So, my vote is strongly no, to not make “on” the default.

It is the standard behavior in very popular programs with outlines, such as “Google Docs” and “MS Word”, “Gmail Composer”, and even the in-browser editor field I’m typing into right now, for items that are unindented to remain in the place they are as they are unindented. I would argue these pieces of software alone are so much more popular than the entire field of outline-specific editors, that they define what is expected from users.

I think this is very much a mental modeling difference between whether the ordering of your items has meaning. I use outlines for authoring prose stores, so “reordering” anything is unreasonable, as the items are not independent, but ordered elements of a story. When I want to group things into a new bucket (such as a new chapter), I insert an item, and “unindent” to create a new parent for the things below it in the story. Having the new chapter heading kick to the bottom when I unindent it makes no sense.

I’m actually not aware of any other outliner editor, other than, that kicks items into a different place when changing indention. Can you name one?

Can you name one?


I think this is very much a mental modeling difference between whether the ordering of your items has meaning. I use outlines for authoring prose stores, so “reordering” anything is unreasonable, as the items are not independent, but ordered elements of a story. When I want to group things into a new bucket (such as a new chapter), I insert an item, and “unindent” to create a new parent for the things below it in the story. Having the new chapter heading kick to the bottom when I unindent it makes no sense.

I’m not understanding. Can you give an example? I am not understanding how randomly splitting your lists in half would help your storywriting. Each indent level is a parent with child nodes, and when you promote a child to parent, it kidnaps half the children as it’s own?

I am imagining you write a topic sentence for you paragraph or chapter, then indent to write the filler list. If you unindent, don’t you intend to bump down to start a new chapter or paragraph? Why split your chapter there? What do you intend to do by unindenting?

Microsoft isn’t an outliner in the usual sense of the term, it’s a text editor. It sees tabs, spaces, and new lines as just another character on the screen, no heirarchy or structure is saved. So that’s why deleting a tab leaves it in place. It’s raw text, essentially.

An outliner is a tree structure. A mind map. Each tab represents branches in a tree. Outliner - Wikipedia
Tree structure - Wikipedia

Thank you!!! :pray: You save my day! (Or even life :wink: ). It was very difficult without this ON. I totally agree with @Mr_Newmark :+1::ok_hand:

1 Like

Yeah, there were many people clamoring for text-editor behavior instead of outliner behavior. So they added the feature. Check out “article view” too, you might like that for prose as well. I still don’t understand why someone would nest things in an ordered list but oh well. Un-indenting an item changes its order

It’s not “randomly” splitting my list in half… It is subdividing them exactly where I want them subdividided.

In all my outline usage, both writing and other uses, I frequently take a set of ordered children A(1,2,3,4) and subdivide them into two lists A(1,2) B (3,4) while retaining the order.

When writing, I might have something like this:

  • Chapter 1
    • Event A
    • Event B
    • Event C
    • Event D

Each one of those has a mix of prose and concepts as I evolve the state of the story. At some point I might decide I want to break this up, because it’s become too long, so I want to insert a new parent chapter above event C.

  • Chapter 1
    • Event A
    • Event B
  • Chapter 2
    • Event C
    • Event D

I don’t really care how I achieve this… but the easiest way I’ve always done it is to add a new item in between B and C and then “unintent” to make it the parent of the items below it.

The items C and D can actually be dozens of items and be many many pages long (and many nested levels), so trying to select them to cut and paste them under a new parent is not convenient.

The easiest thing to do is the simple action that every text-editor outline supports. Make an item, unindent it. Thankfully has this feature, which is a must-have deal-breaker for me.

I can’t imagine ever wanting the other behavior. Unindenting things down to the bottom is effectively throwing away the information of where they were when I unintended them. If that’s what I want to happen, I would prefer to do this an an explicit reordering step.

1 Like

On a related note…

When I have a story… for example…


I would really like to be able to “zoom in” to that story and have the sidebar on the left switch from showing my folder structure, to showing the outline-headings shown above.

Another way to think about this… is that I want my left-sidebar to always show the outliner level “above” the one I’m focused on… There is no reason for me to see my document list on the left when I’m working within a given document.

This is similar to the way documentation generators make sidebars that change to show the subsection detail of the chapter you are in.

Is there any way to make dynalist do this, or some other structured outliner that has this capability?

1 Like

Ah that makes sense. So essentially you write everything as a single, ordered list as level 2, and are using level 1 as titles, and then split up the list with more level 1 titles. And you never go deeper than level 2 nesting. I get it now. There’s essentially no hierarchy at all, it’s a 1-dimensional linear list. Kind of ignores the whole paradigm of nesting and just uses indent for a marker, the same as bolding each chapter title item would achieve. That’s fine. I am not a very linear thinker, that’s probably why I couldnt imagine it properly.

Let me show a few examples to help illustrate the other paradigm. In computer science terms, you’re using a 1-dimensional array. Or just 1 dimension from the infinite available. Workflowy, dynalist, nested/hierarchical lists, outliners, etc are infinite-dimension arrays. Technically you can use just 1 dimension linearly, but that’s ignoring their power. Let me find some examples to help imagining why in-place un-indent doesn’t make sense when you go deeper:

  1. A game called nested - expand the [+] signs, drill in, explore, it’s fun.

  2. The snowflake method of novel writing. This might not be the best intro, I just grabbed a google result. But it’s a philosophy of moving past chronological 1-dimensional writing and doing it n-dimensionally, blocking out the rough story then drilling deeper and deeper into details.

always show the outliner level “above” the one I’m focused on

Generally you zoom into the level above, then [+] Expand the level you want to work on, if you want to see both at once.

But if you want a list of stuff in the sidebar of dynalist, you have to manually bookmark each one and switch the sidebar to bookmark view. Or manually tag each, and switch to tag view.

or some other structured outliner that has this capability?

Dynalist’s main competitor, Workflowy, has a sidebar of the top nodes, if you like that. But keep in mind dynalist is a lot better in a lot of ways, so try both but keep that in mind.

I use way more than two levels. A typical story outline for me is probably 7 levels deep. Though the level depth doesn’t have any meaning. They are just ordered and block-nested concepts. The nesting blocks just help me logically keep track of chunks, like blocks and functions in code.

I’m probably like this because I’m actually a 45 y/o computer engineer, semi-retired self-employed. I’ve probably personally written a million lines of code in my career, and when I’m not using outlines to organize software projects, I use them to organize my amateur hobbyist writing (which probably totals about 500k words if I count both prose and outlines). I generally organize software projects with regular text files or Google Docs, and stories with Google Sites.

I’m not big on tools that try to enforce things, because I find work-product morphs as it evolves, so the less the tool gets in the way the better. That’s why most of my documents are a mix of headings, outlines, paragraphs and < hr > style section breaks. dynalist is weak in this respect because it forces the whole document to be an outline, but I do like that I can collapse sections.

That snowflake method sounds like a top-down planning method, but I’m more of a bottom-up discovery writer. I use outlines for two reasons. First, to track notes about characters, worldbuilding details, major plot elements. Second, to block-structure the actual elements of the story, so I can understand, move around, and sometimes restructure the story elements more easily. Much like the way code is split into functions and blocks.

1 Like

This workflow doesn’t work for me, because the chapter I’m working on is probably 7 pages long, so there is no way to “see” anything else once I expand it. That’s why I want it to be in the sidebar. I’m currently trying a different approach where I just make each chapter a different dynalist document. When I use Google Sites, a story starts as a single document, and the bigger it gets, the more documents I split it up into, so I could do basically the same thing.

workflowy is interesting, but when I “zoom” into an outline level, it doesn’t zoom the sidebar into the level above… The sidebar is just a tree of everything… which isn’t at all what I want… I suppose it’s better, or close… Unfortunately it has the behavior I don’t like of popping unindent items to the bottom of the parent list.

The closest thing to what you’re asking for, that I can think of, is two browser windows of the same document, side by side. Then you zoom to a different level for each.

Google Docs has a View > Show Document Outline sidebar. Anything you Format > Paragraph Styles > Heading x will show up there.

Split View is on the feature request list for dynalist, but that might take years before we see it.