Content Formatting / Text nesting / Dynamic text generation / Infinite Section Nesting

As a result of this topic:

And many others, it has become clear that a key feature that we need is a way to take data from in our tables, display them in sections, then output them to documents.

To some, it may seem like this is already functionality that Coda has, for example, we can already do this:

However, there are a number of difficulties that come with trying to pull this off.

Most of the difficulties that are encountered when building dynamic documents are recorded here:

The problems documented in that post include:

  • Problems with newline formatting
  • The unintuitive nature of nested FormulaMaps
  • The inconsistency of Concatenate and Format in terms of the formatting of the output text
  • The difficulty of editing a long text generation formula
  • The lack of ‘destination formatting’ which would allow text of any format to be passed in and then changed to what the user wants at that destination
  • The difficulty of getting images to show up and format correctly when Concatenate or Format are involed (which is a major disaster ime)
  • The inability to create an output document from a section when formulas are involved (at least, I think that’s what caused the problem)
  • The ugly grey box around the formula text

A potentially elegant solution:

This would allow a new format type that looks like text, but is actually a view of a table. Ostensibly, that view would also enable a view of nested text, much in the same way that a Detail format can have a nested table inside itself (although it’s not currently possible to nest a Detail formatted table inside a Detail formatted table).

Speaking idealistically (perhaps unrealistically), it would be really wonderful to edit the underlying contents of a formula directly in the canvas. For example:

Given a formula like:

It would be wonderful to be able to (perhaps by single clicking) directly access the underlying content of the table. I’m not talking about accessing the formula, but rather to be able to access and change the name of the row.

In this case, perhaps I want to change the name of row ‘A’, I could do so just by clicking my cursor on ‘A’ in the Section and it lets me update the name of ‘A’ in the underlying table as though I was just editing a regular text document. Now that would be magic! :tophat::sparkles: (and astonishingly interesting/difficult to design well, since formulas are quite useful to mix with text).

A defense of the feature request:

We all know that it’s as important (more?) for product developers to say “no” to certain feature requests as it is for them to say “yes”. Otherwise you end up with a product as menu-heavy and feature-dense as the bloated black holes we today refer to as Microsoft Excel and Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop. The products of the future don’t look like those. Features should be discoverable and intuitive (if you’ve created a “build your own interface” interface for your product you know you’re doing it wrong). Coda has repeatedly demonstrated their understanding of this principle.

So, with that said, we’re willing to hear “no” on this, or “that’s not how we’re going to do it”. However, it does seem that Coda is intending to build a text oriented product (as the recent update and update indicate), and text nesting offers an entire new domain of functionality to this product (as is currently demonstrated by notion.so).

For me, and for several others, this is a blocking issue. I chose to use (and pay for) Coda to build tools critical for my work, but right now it can’t do the final, critical step: format the content into a sharable document.

Would love to hear from the community about:
1. Whether this also describes the issue you’re encountering (it has gone by many names in many places)
2. How important this is to what you’re building

Also would love to hear from Coda about whether this is a “we’re working on it” feature, or a “we’ll work on it someday” or “it’s not on the roadmap” so that I can act accordingly.

8 Likes

I don’t have much to add but I think this is a necessary reflexion.

This to me would solve a whole host of issues and I stand firmly behind the feature request.

From my perspective, we tend to prefer to use a single table for as a Glossary which then has either has competing definitions in the table and in the section - or an uneditable part in the section with no easy way to click through to the underlying row. (if the definition is displayed through a formula)

Vote for it as a feature request here as well: https://coda.io/d/Year-of-the-Maker-Webinar_d_-VZP3rojo/Year-of-the-Maker-Webinar_suIxU#What-would-you-like-to-see-in-2020_tut8a/_rui-8LgLd3oY8R&modal=true

@ABp @Bill_French @BenLee @Juan_Luis_Chulilla @Christian_Conte @Pch @Dalmo_Mendonca

Hey @GJ_Roelofs thanks for looping me in. I concur, really hoping that Coda can start to add much more to behave like a true work management app, and not just a “doc.” As I’ve stated before, the fundamental interface looks like just about all other tools out there:

  • left pane for basic navigation
  • bespoke views on the main canvas
  • “card” details view of our action/work item, the row

But as you work through Coda currently, the limitations are large in trying to configure these building blocks to function like an Asana, Wrike, Jira, Monday, etc. As I continue to believe, Coda actually has better functionality than all these. But I even think Notion does a better job behaving as a true app from the get-go to allow more of a team functionality.

Being able to nest more than one level of sections is absolutely key, and I agree with all these other comments, too.

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Not quite nesting, but still about organizing text:
Is there an index function?

Can I add an index to the top of a text doc that organizes per heading size?
I tend to generate large texts, and if I have, say 50 pages, then this is needed.
I simply cannot generate one section per paragraph.

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Couldn’t have phrased it better, this is why I can’t seem to find a way to get my company on board.

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