Notational Velocity ALT expatiation (and roadmap)

[Tweet : ADN : nvALT]

I’d just like to put it out there, as someone will eventually: Notational Velocity ALT (henceforth referred to as nvALT) is turning into something antithetical to the original premise of Notational Velocity. I understand that, and I accept it.

Notational Velocity is an amazing note-taking tool, elegant in its simplicity and without much need for expansion. I love it. nvALT is the result of my desire to get back into Objective-C and begin by reverse-engineering an application I adored. That’s how I learn, working backward from the desired result. Notational Velocity happened to be Open Source, so that’s where I dug in. I didn’t believe that I was going to make NV better, I thought I could build something from it. What follows is my vision as it stands today, some elements more concrete than others.

I’m hoping that as I develop nvALT, it will become its own application, viewed not as an evolution of Notational Velocity, but as a grandchild. Something with roots in the original application, but serving a different purpose (and yes, I’m pondering new names).

What do I see it developing into? A writing app. A Markdown-specific, minimalist application for gathering and developing ideas, indexing them, making them portable and cross-platform and then sharing and publishing them. The basic elements are already there: widescreen view, collapsible notes panel, MultiMarkdown integration, preview and source output, and Dropbox and SimpleNote sync. I see incorporating the full-screen mode that other forks have already accomplished, but I also see creating a nearly-invisible text editing system which stays out of the way but which makes editing Markdown as easy and efficient as possible. It will always work in plain text, so editing in SimpleNote, or in any of the numerous iPad apps with Dropbox or SimpleNote support will be a given.

I’ve already built this system for WordPress (soon to be a Safari extension), but need to rebuild it for Cocoa. It involves no buttons, just features that manifest as you type, and in an intuitive way that you don’t have to think twice about. It’s basically the TextMate MultiMarkdown bundle for text views. The essential elements:

  • Auto-pairing of brackets, parenthesis and quotes
  • Auto-completion of reference link titles
  • Automatic list creation, continuation and conversion
  • Wrapping selections in any auto-paired characters
  • Shortcut keys for bold and italics insert Markdown syntax
  • Pasting links on their own line creates references automatically, title determined by elements of the url
  • Typewriter mode (current editing line vertically centered)

I’d like a “Publish” menu, in addition to (or in combination with) the aforementioned sharing feature. Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr (if it’s up), etc., and sending of HTML messages through your default email client.

I’m also thinking about making the HTML preview inline, so that you click a button and the main editing area becomes the preview, and clicking the source button opens the HUD. That seems more fluid to me, especially for full-screen editing. The ultimate goal is to retain the absolute minimal interface it began with, but make it as powerful as possible.

It should also be able to create beautiful documents. Fletcher Penney has already built excellent XSL files for converting MMD files to PDF and Word documents, and the next version of nvALT already has Table of Contents rendering built into it, so the tools are already there.

So, that’s the roadmap right now. I don’t claim any of these ideas to be terribly original, I just want to build what seems like the ideal combination for me. I’m always open to feedback and suggestions, so leave a comment or contact me directly. The timeline is long, as I have painfully little time for development, but I’ll keep it moving. Let’s have some fun creating a useful tool that fulfills a need that Notational Velocity doesn’t already have well-covered.