Longtime readers here know of my interest in the subject of outliners and in particular my dedication to an old program called Ecco Pro. I used it as my main organizer for my first book, and now, as I begin work on a new one, I find myself turning to it once again. (If you want to understand why, Andrew Brown’s recent piece in the Guardian offers a thorough explanation.)
Ecco devotees long hoped the program might be open-sourced, but the hopes never materialized. Nonetheless, in one of those twists and turns that keep the software world interesting, there has been much movement in the Ecco world in recent months — and, even without the code being open-sourced, there’s the first significant new work on the program in years.
Here, as far as I can tell, is what happened: A programmer who goes by the handle “slangmgh” posted a message to the Yahoo Group “ecco_pro” on April 16th: “I write little utility, have upload to the files directory! It’s only work for EccoPro v4.01.”
The file was called “EccoPro extension.” It included a half-dozen significant fixes and upgrades to the program. A day later, he’d uploaded a 1.1 version of his “little utility.” Today, he is on 3.6 or so. His furious pace of development has involved, if I understand correctly, the incorporation of the Lua scripting language into the extension. It’s all made possible by the essential solidity of the original program and the API hooks its creators provided — so that, even though the original Ecco code can’t be changed, it can still be built upon.
The only downside to the whole thing is that “slangmgh” is plainly not a native English speaker and so his explanations of the changes and features are sometimes difficult to follow. In recent weeks, other members of the Ecco support group have stepped forward to provide better documentation.
There you have it: an orphaned program that hasn’t been touched in a decade but that still has a devoted community of users suddenly starts evolving again in the hands of an energetic programmer. I don’t know where the Ecco story will ultimately lead but I’m delighted to see it still unfolding.
[tags]ecco pro, pims, outliners[/tags]
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