Computable writing

I’ve been trying to figure out ways to use Coda to work with writing as well as the data side. I guess I have to ask everyone what to ask for.

  1. One thing seems clear. I want a way to report the location of a marker (or I suppose a tag) back to a table. I’m not sure what the simplest way to provide some of the functions of an index, glossary, notes/references, and table of contents is, but all the ways that I can think of involve combining a marker in text and a table to collect, display, and replace text at that marker. I can use an inline formula to display information in text, but there’s no way to collect that information back to a table. (Unless I’m missing something). I would want a two-way connection: a link to the table from the marker (partly do-able already) and a link from a table to a marker.

  2. One way to do this would be to implement – or more likely expose – tags in the text. Each tag would have to have its own ID to link it to a table. A table of contents, then, would simply list all the tags and contents up to a certain heading level. That is, H1 tag #2 would report the tag’s location (e.g. its section) to the table of contents, and the text between the H1 start and end tags would appear in a column in the table. Coda could refactor the function of an index, glossary, or of notes/references by letting users create arbitrary classes or labels for types of tags. For instance, maybe a user would want to have a “term” or “model number” or “project” tag. Unlike in say, Madcap Flare, Coda could leave the methodology up to the user. That way it would be very flexible. One great benefit would be to insert the marked text – heading, paragraph, etc. – into a table column to be filtered or used in some other kind of formula.

  3. Another idea would be to gather all sorts of data from between the tags. Obviously, the text between tags would be a string that could be manipulated by formulas. Presumably, there would be a way to list any links in the marked text. For instance, if I had linked text in a paragraph, I might build a table of paragraph data including a word count, a list of links in the text, its section, and so forth. A fiction writer could use something like this to build a timeline for characters.

In general, I just hope Coda does for Word what it is doing for Excel.

Thoughts? Am I missing something?