OmniOutliner: An Excellent All-Rounder For Writing, Research & More [50 Mac Essentials #44]



Some people can write prose with no apparent effort, seamlessly gliding from one paragraph to the next with nary a skip of a beat.

For the rest of us, an outliner can be an extremely useful tool for gathering, sorting and refining our thoughts: and OmniOutliner is one of the best outliners you can find.

The Omni guys have been making software for OS X since before it was fashionable. They were making browsers before Apple. They know their stuff, and they know how to make excellent applications.

OmniOutliner is one of them. It’s easy to use, the outline documents look great thanks to the built-in styles tools, and it has so much more to offer than plain old simple outlining.

OO for wedding planning

Take the various column types on offer. OmniOutliner documents can include columns that turn your outline into much more than a simple series of paragraphs. These columns are smart, they can do stuff. From simple checkboxes (so you can use OO for making todo lists and checklists) to date fields and automatic calculations, OO is much more flexible than it first appears.

The calculations, simple though they are, mean you can use OO as a basic spreadsheet. I’ve been keeping my personal accounts records in OO for years now, and it works just fine for me.

There are many, many outliners for Mac. Some of you might remember Ted Goranson’s superb About this particular Outliner series for ATPM – it’s all old stuff now, but still worth reading for his detailed thinking-aloud about the nature of outlining as a task and outliners as software.

Many of the apps Ted covered in that column have disappeared, or been upgraded or replaced. OmniOutliner is still around, and it’s true that at $40 it’s one of the more expensive options. But if your brain is the kind of brain that works better with an outline in front of it, OO’s price offers excellent value for money.

We think OO has wide appeal (not just for writers and students, although they should take a serious look at it), and that’s why it has won a place in our list of 50 Mac Essentials.

(You’re reading the 44th post in our series, 50 Essential Mac Applications: a list of the great Mac apps the team at Cult of Mac value most. Read more, or grab the RSS feed.)


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