As a writer, I’m no stranger to the gallery of word processing software available online. In most cases, I don’t really bother with them.
Microsoft Word, even with all its problems, bells, and whistles, works well enough for me most of the time. That said, since discovering Gingko, I find myself rather…intrigued. Used correctly, this free online app could very easily change the way I write, and be one of the biggest boons to productivity I’ve discovered in months.
On first signing up for Gingko, you’ll be presented with an example of something known as a “Gingko tree.” This is what makes Gingko truly unique as an application. Gingko trees are divided into three columns. Each one has a series of cards in it, known as ‘roots.’ Though you’re limited in the number of trees you can create as a free user, each tree can have as many roots as you desire. What’s more, each set of roots can be moved up or down in its column with the mouse-wheel.
It’s a bit difficult to get used to at first, but the ability to lay out and organize one’s ideas in such a fashion is actually extremely valuable. There’s also a collaboration feature, which allows more than one person to work on an article at a time.
If, for example, you’re planning out an article for a client, you can use the first column to jot down the article’s basic idea/concept. The second column can then be used for individual points you want to make in the piece, while the third column can be research related to each point. If more than one person happens to be collaborating on that article, they can each claim a particular ‘set’ of roots, adding cards as they brainstorm new ideas.
Now, Gingko isn’t quite perfect yet. Since it’s still a fairly new app, there are still a few kinks to be worked out in the system. Formatting, for example, is done entirely through markdown, as the application lacks a menu for the feature. Exporting and importing of documents is also something of a weakness, as the application is currently only compatible with basic text editors (and even then, only if that software makes use of markdown). The developer has stated that compatibility is a future goal of the platform; they are currently working on a feature that will allow users to save their trees into a wide range of formats.
As such, Gingko seems better suited as a tool for planning and collaboration than an actual, proper word processor. Personally, that’s the way I intend to use it: I’ll lay out my ideas in trees and roots, then write my articles elsewhere. For the time being, it’s still a great tool for conceptualizing and composing drafts, even if it does fall somewhat short as a proper word processor.
You can find Gingko here. The basic version is free, and limits you to three trees; subscribers can gain access to unlimited trees for nine dollars a month.