Tool for rearranging a list of 400 or so items.
February 12, 2016 9:14 AM   Subscribe

We have a list of about 400 single line items in a Word Document, which are in 7 seven different sections/categories. We need to drastically rearrange that list, sometimes moving items from one section/category to other and other times just keeping them in a the same section. Then we need to be able to export the finished list back into Word (or some text app). What's the best Application for doing this on a PC? Free or cheap is preferred, but willing to kick out a little money.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I might do it in an Excel and embed it into the Word Doc, or put it in Access and export the list as a word doc whenever it's updated.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:19 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can you give a bit more detail on what the list is and/or what the list is trying to do ?

It sounds like tracking things. Will the number of things (the 400 items) change (grow/shorten), will the 7 sections (states) change ?

Would something like a library book status be an equivalent ? There's books ("400 items"), and they can be "checked out", "on hold", "overdue", "pending reshelved/on the cart" (7 sections) and books move between the states ?

Do you need to query ? (where is item Foo?) or just the report (Items foo, bar, baz are in state 1, blat and boo in state 2)

Either way (query, or just reports), a very simple DB with a very simple front end could do this for you.
posted by k5.user at 9:20 AM on February 12, 2016


In a worksheet, the first column can be the "single line item", and the second column can be the category.

Change the categories on the ones that need to move, then sort by the second column and copy-paste into word.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:20 AM on February 12, 2016

Response by poster: Can you give a bit more detail on what the list is and/or what the list is trying to do ?

You know those Best Of contests done by alt-weeklies? It's one of those, with the various ballot items in sections. We're re-organizing it, shuffling a lot of things around and this would be so much easier to do visually via dragging items rather than copying and pasting. I guess something like a digital whiteboard?

The reason it would be easier to visually drag and drop is that this being done at meeting of several people, with a lot of going back and forth. It's too easy to lose items via copy and paste, as people stop and start to discuss certain moves. I want there to be zero possibility of duplicating any item, just the ability to move items around.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:38 AM on February 12, 2016

Move it all into Excel. Then drag and drop cell contents. On a mac, when you select a cell and go to the edge, cursor turns into a hand and you can drag/drop. I imagine it's the same or similar on a PC. Or just use cut/paste, it's the same thing (and easier if the destination is someplace you have to scroll to).

The only problem is that if you want to keep them in a single column, you'll need to open up an empty row first. But if this is a group exercise, you could drop into the second column, which lets you keep track of what has been moved into a section and what was there to begin with.
posted by beagle at 9:53 AM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: You could use Trello for dragging/dropping and then export to a .csv, open in Excel, and go to Word from there?
posted by freezer cake at 10:36 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

With no math to do, Excel seems overkill to me. Isn't this just a sorting issue? I'd just do it all in Word. Convert text to table, then insert a column for the category before the items. Copy/paste to fill the category fields. Edit categories and items to your heart's content, then re-sort the table (by column 1, then 2).

Table grid can be set to invisible, or you can re-convert table to text as you prefer.
posted by peakcomm at 10:48 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I second peakcomm's answer. It sounds like most of your work is going to be grouping like things, and then subgrouping like things, which (depending on the awful spelling of your submitters) is basically just something you can do with autosorting and copypasta.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 12:07 PM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: If you put it into Workflowy, it'd be relatively easy to drag and drop (since all it's for is making lists that you can rearrange). If you want an invite for more space, lemme know.

The other suggestions that I'd have:

1) We used to do our list in Filemaker, and you could drag and drop — do you guys have a database for counting the votes? Filemaker was kinda a pain in the ass to set up and maintain, but it worked OK.

2) Mind mapping software is supposed to be for tasks like this, but I don't have experience with any given one (here's a lifehacker list of five though).

3) The other way that I've done this in editorial meetings is to literally print out stuff on essentially 3x5 cards and rearrange them on a corkboard, but it sounds like you have too many items to do that efficiently.
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 PM on February 12, 2016

Response by poster: This is NOT for counting the votes at all. It's simply for re-organizing the current list to set up the ballot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:13 PM on February 12, 2016

The advantage to using something like Filemaker for arranging the categories is that the same software you're using for doing the initial groupings can then be used to tally the votes later, that's what I was getting at. But while our designer liked it and felt it was easy to deal with, I always hated Filemaker and felt it a total pain in the ass, which is why it's only worth recommending if you're going to use it for both parts of the process.
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on February 12, 2016

Response by poster: Downloaded Workflowly, and it's ability drag things around is exactly what I'm looking for, thanks! It's a start.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:24 PM on February 12, 2016

Response by poster: Oh, we use Foundation, so we're fine on that Best Of voting front. This is mostly just for hashing out the categories in internal meetings before launching.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:55 PM on February 13, 2016

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