There is no shortage of handy outliners for Mac. One which came on the scene more recently is called OutlineEdit. I have been intrigued by the app since first seeing it, but I tried to demonstrate a little restraint by not purchasing it. Then I learned it was on sale this week at 50% off, and that was all the rationalization I need to go ahead and buy a license.
OutlineEdit’s main screen with a few feature callouts.
While OE operates like most outliners, it does have two less than usual features which I believe I will find useful.
OutlineEdit Marker is a Safari add-in that allows you to mark selected text on the web and bring it instantly into your open OE document. Basically, it saves you a couple of cut and paste steps. Handy, but not going to change your outlining life, unless you do a lot of cut and paste from the web.
Nice Window Management
The OE feature that most interests me is its ability to dock or float a document window so you can reference another document (whether an OE outline or any other type of file), while working in your outline.
The docking feature in OutlineEdit will keep the current document open on screen while you switch between other apps or documents. Here it is on the right, with an Outlinely outline open on the left. As you can see, Outlinely is generally more elegant, while OutlineEdit is — in my view — more utilitarian.
Standard Outlining Features
Of course, OutlineEdit has many of the typical features you’d want from an outliner:
- Folding. Using the disclosure arrows on the left side of the window, you can choose to show or hide sub-topics for any topic. Pretty typical.
- Checkboxes. You can include checkboxes in your outline, but you turn them on or off for the whole outline. You can’t selectively use them for sub-topics. This matters to me because a checkbox is an indicator that there is something that needs doing. My outlines are rarely composed entirely of tasks. I would like to be able to give a quick scan of my outline to see which items need attention. If all of the items have checkboxes beside them, then I have to read each individually to see whether or not the item is indeed requiring action. Checking the box, grays out the topic.
- Notes. You can add notes to any topic. (A note in an outliner content text which is attached to the topic and moves around in the outline when you move the topic. This makes it different than sub-topics, which are associated hierarchically with the parent topic, but can be promoted or moved to other topics.)
- And building, restructuring and navigating your outline is pretty standard and easy to learn and adopt.
This screen zoom shows how checkboxes work in OutlineEdit.
A Few Other Features of Note
OutlineEdit does a few other things, which are not so important to me, but may be to others:
OE provides some handy metrics for measuring your work in the program. These are:
- The number of topics
- The number of levels (which the developer refers to as layers)
- Character and word counts
- And, it has a stop watch type feature for tracking the amount of time you work on a document.
With OE, you can create up to five categories for classifying the topics in your outline. What’s potentially powerful about this feature is that you can filter your outline to see only those topics that have a certain category. This works from the point of the selected topic, so you can filter individual sections.
Once you’ve filtered your outline, you have an option to export just that material, or create a new outline with just the filter-selected topics.
OE only exports to as PDF and OMPL file formats, but you can also copy an outline as tabbed text to the clipboard. This should cover the needs of most users, I would think.
OutlineEdit is missing some higher-end outlining features. For example it does not provide a hoist operation. Nor does it having cloning of topics. You can’t adjust the font, though you can bold, italicize or underline text. And you can’t adjust the label style.
The Bottom Line
If you’re happy with your current outliner, there probably isn’t a need to add OutlineEdit to the lineup. However, since it is on sale for $8, it can’t really hurt. I got it mostly for the floating/docking window feature, which I expect to prove useful to me.