TreePad Reviews

TreePad Lite

about TreePad and The Guide · ·

[NOTE: The freeware version of TreePad is now called TreePad Lite. This is a review of TreePad Lite.]

If all you need is straight-up plain text notes in an outline with the ability to search through the tree, then hands down nothing beats TreePad Lite. I've been relying on it for over a decade and it has never let me down. The one feature that is most important to me is that there is a global search function that lists the full path of all the nodes that contain the text string you are searching for. You can then double-click on the search result to go directly to that node, and also search within the node scope only.

The thing that really sets TreePad Lite apart is that it comes in a portable package that is just one tiny (588 KB) executable file, and that's all you need -- no installation required. It's super fast to load, consumes a fraction of the memory that other tree outliners use, and has enough features to make it useful. I've tried just about every free "light" tree outliner out there, but found them all lacking in one feature or another (one tiny app didn't even have a search feature!).

It's not a perfect piece of software -- for example, I have long been annoyed by the fact that you have to manually backspace to delete the previous search term when you perform a node-level search, and the author has never replied to my request to fix this -- but compared to what's out there right now, it's the best fit for me. Seriously, TreePad Lite is pound-for-pound the lightest, fastest freeware out there for organizing plain text in a tree structure.

The only free program that could knock TreePad Lite off its top position (at least in my world) is an open source gem called The Guide. It has a lot going for it, like a more modern and intuitive UI, but as of v2 it is missing that one feature that I can't live without in a tree outliner: the search results only show the node title, not the full node path. This may seem trivial at first, but when you actually start using this extra information having the ability to see the entire taxonomy matching your search string this becomes a very powerful and invaluable tool.