OmniOutliner: Be More Productive

The Omni Group is known for making some of the best productivity and organizational apps for the iPad, iPhone and Mac, including one of my favorites, OmniFocus for the iPad. Their latest release for the iPad is OmniOutliner, an organizational tool designed for creating outlines and organizational documents on the go.

So now the big question is, can The Omni Group pull off another success? Let’s take a look after the break and find out.

What “It” Is

OmniOutliner is a tricky program to describe without making it seem like a redundant app. For example, I could say that OmniOutliner is designed for taking and organizing your notes, and you’d respond by pointing out the Apple Notes app does just fine. So I counter by saying that it’s also a way to make custom lists, brainstorm ideas and work on your bills, to which you’d ask me how one program could do so many things and do it well. See, it gets a bit tricky.

Create a basic outline quickly and easily.

Create a basic outline quickly and easily.

So instead, let’s break down what OmniOutliner does into little chunks, and show a few examples, like the one pictured above. That image shows the basic outline format that you’ve probably seen and used a million times before in school.

Each section can be expanded or closed by touching the triangles located on the left side of the screen. This way, you can expand or collapse the chain depending on your needs at the time. Create a study guide, take notes at a lecture or just work on that big novel you’ve been planning, whatever you please.

Expanding the Outline

If all you could do with OmniOutliner was a basic outline, then it wouldn’t be worth the $19.99 purchase price. Fortunately, there’s more to it. Another option here is creating a spending report that’s broken down by month, week, expense or year, depending on what you want to do.

Create mini spreadsheets without using Numbers.

Create mini spreadsheets without using Numbers.

OmniOutliner provides a ton of different options as well, and you can do everything from making a very spreadsheet-esque money guide as shown above, a personal inventory for your personal collections or just go back to planning that book.  That’s the real beauty of OmniOutliner; there are no rules, just a basic format to follow.

Putting It Into Practice

Because this app has so many options, I figured that I’d put it to the test. I had a workflow that I needed to map out, so I placed my iPad onto my lap and started to work on my project.

Customize your layout on the go.

Customize your layout on the go.

After getting in the basics, I started getting into the formatting part of the process. Each section can be resized and setup to whatever specifications you want. For example, I made some of the headings larger and bolder using the presets provided with the app. I also changed styles for the entire thing on the fly, making sweeping changes to the entire look of the app with just a few touches. It made organizing and viewing the doc later substantially easier, and after some trial and error, my workflow was good to go.

The documents interface is similar to Pages or Numbers.

The documents interface is similar to Pages or Numbers.

Final Thoughts

The $50 million dollar question is, should you buy OmniOutliner?

I’m an OCD kinda guy, and even I don’t find myself using outlines all the time to get my work done. Sometimes, I find it to be a valuable tool to organize my thoughts, and frankly, I’ve thought before that I should use outlines more often. I just haven’t gotten into the swing of it, and I’m not sure if that’s because of laziness or a lack of a specialized application to get it done.

So after playing around with OmniOutliner a bit, I realized that making outlines does make me more productive, because instead of wasting time thinking as I go, my plan is all mapped out before I put the pen to the proverbial paper. Whenever I sit down to work on a project now, I start by making an outline of what I need to do using OmniOutliner for iPad.

The real issue here is that there’s a bit of a learning curve with the program. It took me a few different outlines to get the hang of the process, because of fiddling with adding columns, deciding how I want my outline to work and so on. That took a bit, and it could be frustrating at times when I found myself choosing between some of the many different options instead of actually getting something done. But once I did get the hang of it, I was flying through the process, making it faster and faster to accomplish the end goal.

Ultimately, OmniOutliner isn’t for everyone. But if you are an organized person who wants to be more efficient at their job, then take a look at the app. It may take a bit to use it efficiently, but once you do, you’ll be knocking things off your to-do list at a rapid pace.


Organize your thoughts, map out ideas and get it all onto your iPad.

  • Matthew Guay

    I was hesitant to get OmniOutliner at first, but finally decided to try it out. I’m glad I did. It’s now easily one of my most-used iPad apps. I write up notes from college and for lessons I teach in it, keep track of lists of apps to review for Web.AppStorm, keep a budget that’s simple to update, and more in it. I even keep a todo list in it, using it like a simple OmniFocus, and it fits my needs perfect. It’s incredibly easy to use, and for once, I actually like making outlines. Plus, there’s so much more you can do with it than just outlines!

    For anyone using it, here’s two quick tips from how I’ve been using it. First, OmniOutliner doesn’t support printing right now. And, of course, there’s no OmniOutliner for iPhone or iPod Touch, so it’s hard to take your notes/lists/whatever with you, or to share them with others. Instead, just email the outline to yourself as Dynamic HTML. You can then view it in Mail on your other devices, or print it directly from Mail in your iPad. Second, there’s no option to add pictures in the app, but you can paste in images from other apps. That’s a great way to make your outline a bit more than just any old outline!

  • Hammy Havoc

    I absolutely love OmniOutliner! Now we just need a new Mac version of it and iCloud sync for all of The Omni Group applications.

    • Loryn

      Alakazaam-information found, poblrem solved, thanks!

  • Hunter

    Seems like a great app to help me get ideas and lists down, but I haven’t heard any mention of if a list can be resorted after created. Getting the ideas down is of course the first step, but I would need to be able to re-prioritize or re-categorize items easily. Does it offer a “touch/drag/drop” option to resort (like Netflix queue)? For me that would be the closer on this to get me to drop the $20.

    Any more specifics on export options for sharing?

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  • Saikat

    Not supporting Dropbox is a deal breaker.

  • IGReen

    Just take a look on your daily notes – if they are mostly a bulleted lists – this one is for you. You wouldn’t find anything better.
    If this app would have iphone version and web interface, it will be just perfect. Also, folders for notes would be fine.

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