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.