Text editor with built-in directory tree

Hey guys,
I am dying for a retro version of OneNote.
I figured if i could have something which displayed a directory tree within a text editor and allowed you to create and edit txt files and folders, it would pretty much be the same thing.

Can anyone think of a program that already exists with these features?
See attached example i drew up.

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Welcome @Christopher_Moore! The following is not helpful but it might be interesting (or amusing)…

If you want to do something, you can almost always do it in Emacs! But there’s almost always a learning curve. You might learn some Lisp as a side-effect - is that a bonus?

A lot of people use org-mode inside Emacs, and that dates from 2003, so not terribly retro. (Emacs itself is much older.) Previously there was outline mode, which dates from 1986 or maybe earlier. I used to use a folding mode in micro emacs (ue) to manage my work, but I don’t know if that folding mode was ever published.

As for “real retro”, mind that directory tree structures weren’t available on most (of the affordable) machines before the early to mid 1980s (CP/M had none, even MS DOS started without them). So, you’d probably would have to have a look at the more “serious” machines, which may pose a few problems regarding porting as they will probably rely on a rather complex environment.
I guess, Emacs isn’t a bad idea. However, implementing a new editor from scratch may be a rewarding feat, as well.

Even more “serious” machines had minimal to no directory structure in many cases! On the DEC side of things, for the PDP-11, RT-11, RSX-11M, and RSTS-E were all flat filesystems or had a single level directory structure with no support for nested directories. I believe many of the PDP-10 operating systems had similar restrictions. I don’t think that it was until the advent of Unix that directory nesting to arbitrary depths became “normal” even on minicomputer disk operating systems.

As you say, though, by the mid-1980s (and certainly by the late 1980s) even micros had nested directory structures on a wide variety of platforms (including GUI environments on the Macintosh and Amiga by the 1985-ish time frame).

The original Mac file system did not have subdirectories. But it did have folders visually which made it seem like it had a tree structure. It was soon replaced with the Hierarchical File System (HFS) which made the illusion a reality.

I don’t remember what happened if you used the same name for files in different folders. I think the MFS actually allowed the same name for two files even in the same folder.

The MFS inherited some interesting features from the Alto file system that allowed it to recover from errors.

The original Mac filesystem did not, no, but HFS was introduced in 1985. That is why I didn’t say 1984. :slight_smile:

Gosh, that’s news to me. (I think I didn’t see or use a Mac until they’d gone hierarchical.)

Lo and behold the Micro Finder :slight_smile:

(Did I hear anyone say, “skeuomorphism”? There may be a point to this. Especially if you’re using one of the Twiggy Mac prototypes, which had this type of floppy disk. Also, an example of the user insulting “Dolt” button.)

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In an actual Twiggy floppy you wouldn’t be able to have the “TEMP:” label since there would be a second hole there.

Smalltalks such a Squeak still have a “Do It” menu item (Larry Tesler did some testing at Xerox, but a whole lot more at Apple).

Quoting @EdS, “Gosh, that’s new to me.” :slight_smile:
(However, I’m quite sure that the Micro Finder originated on the Twiggy Macs.)

You are right about the Micro Finder.

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Mind that this isn’t so much an issue here, as the buttons are utilising a serif font. It’s really an issue in sans-serif only, where just a couple of pixels separates the call to action from the insult.
As Smalltalk has quite a range of fonts, what are the buttons there like?

Regarding the Twiggy disc: The amount of arrows on the label may be indicative of a possible usability issue with this format.

As you can see, I use Smalltalk (the Celeste program in Squeak) to read my email. With the lower case letters in the menu there is less room for confusion, though you are also right about the font issues.


I rather suspect that, for the uninitiated, they were better. Standard 5 1/4 disks will insert backward without issue, but absolutely will not work that way. I believe the notch in the upper right hand corner of the twiggy disk prevented it from inserting fully if placed the wrong orientation (much like the beveled corner on many modern media formats prevents them from even starting to insert in the wrong orientation.)

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Regarding the notch, I can imagine desperate users trying to insert the media with force, damaging the disc in the process. At least, I guess, there’s some history to those arrows. – Even if so, I don’t think it’s particularly faulty. Coming up with an unambiguous physical media design, which also has to fit some apparatus, is a rather tricky business, which is often overlooked.

I think you should win some award for this! Very true retrocomputing.

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The name Celeste has a general retro-culture value as well as being an in-joke in the Smalltalk retro-culture.

Of course, the fact that my email Squeak image has some objects in it that first came to life in 1976 makes it very retro. Since I don’t have time to patch it to make fancy formatted emails look better it also has a very retro appearance.


About that program?

Using the Mac Finder style graphical tools to navigate deep projects in Linux was very slow, so I looked for something like the old MS DOS program Norton Commander. The open source tool Midnight Commander seems like a very reasonable approximation.

In several ways it is the opposite of what you want. It includes editors invoked from inside a file tree navigator and the focus is more on moving files around easily than changing the files. But it has saved me a lot of time.

One tool that I never tried myself but was supposed to be good for this kind of thing was Lotus Magellan.

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Thank you so much for your time and effort.
I figured out how to open and edit documents.

Is there a way for me to have the directory tree on one side and the editor on another side? Id like the directory tree visible at all times while i work.

Thank you, again.
I really appreciate your help.