My favorite tools: Organize ideas with OmniOutliner

Photo by denn.
Photo by denn.

Ugh, the blank page. Nothing sends me spiraling into procrastination faster. OmniOutliner can’t eliminate my fear, but it does help. It’s a little hard to describe this software, because you can use it in a lot of different ways. Its authors describe it as a tool for “idea organization,” and that’s about right. OmniOutliner makes it really easy to make bulleted lists with as many subsections as you want. You can also drag and drop images, files, and webpages right into the document.

I use it in a few different ways.

  • Organizing essay outlines. OmniOutliner takes some of the intimidation out of beginning a writing project, because what you’re creating is so clearly a list, not a piece of writing. Once you’ve got your main points down, it’s really easy to move things around and pull in supporting evidence.
  • Taking notes. When my eyes can handle it, I like to take reading notes directly in OmniOutliner. The structure of OmniOutliner forces me to decide whether each point I’m copying is a main idea or a subset of another idea.
  • Making teaching outlines. Again, OmniOutliner encourages me to divide my ideas into main points and subsections, which is helpful when I’m trying to convey them to students. Short, bulleted points make it easy for me to take quick peeks at my notes to remind myself where I’m trying to go with a class, and to pick up my line of thought after a detour for discussion.

OmniOutliner is only for Macs. It’s not free, which is kind of a bummer, but it’s only $39.95 ($24.95 if you’re a student). I use it almost every day. Totally worth the price.

OmniOutliner screenshot
OmniOutliner screenshot

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