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30 Days With: OmniOutliner Professional

30 Days With: OmniOutliner Professional

    Editor’s note:

     This is a featured post in our ongoing series “30 Days With” which outlines the use of a productivity tool, service, or product that we have used for the past 30 days. We want to provide our readers with an in depth view of tools and products that they are interested in and provide them our thoughts as well as ways to use these products faster and better. Enjoy.

    I love outlines and I think in them. I love to be able to quickly make a list, add children to certain topics or ideas and then easily sort that list. For many years I have used the Outline mode in Microsoft Word and then in Microsoft OneNote to make my outlines, take notes, create plans, and plan projects. This was several years ago before I switched to Mac and ever since then my use of the Microsoft Office suite (at least for personal use) has slowly been diminishing with the availability of excellent replacement apps on Mac as well as Google Docs.

    The outlining tool for the Mac is OmniOutliner Professional, plain and simple. In doing a quick search of the Mac App Store there are a few other outlining applications, but OmniOutliner is the one that wins with its feature set, ease of use, excellent interface, and design decisions.

    I have been using OmniOutliner 3 a little over 30 days now. Below is my accounting of that experience.

    What OmniOutliner got right

    Let’s first take a look at what OmniOutliner does the best.

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    Ease of use

    The first Omni Group product that I had the pleasure to use was OmniFocus. OmniFocus is awesome because of how easy it is to use and organize things, that is once you get over the small learning curve. What OmniOutliner gets right is that it uses the same type of list creation interface that OF uses that makes creating a parented list of items dead simple and super fast to do. You can easily drag and drop items, reorder them, indent and outdent them, sort them, etc. This is probably the main reason that OmniOutliner is so good.

    Oh, the export options

      Something else of note is that OmniOutliner accepts the growing in popularity outline format OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) making it pretty darn versatile. I have taken mindmaps from iPad or Mac, exported them to OMPL, and then opened them in OmniOutliner. I could then easily organize my outline once in OmniOutliner. This is much easier than organizing in a traditional mindmapping application because organizing tends to be a more linear process than actual brainstorming. Also, with OMPL I can open up my outline in Scrivener and then sync different sections of text with Dropbox and have access to it with any text editing app I use.

      Exporting options in OmniOutliner are superb. You can even share with your Microsoft Word using friends or create a quick HTML page that you can open and view with any web browser.

      Two dimensions

      OmniOutliner gives you the option of adding multiple columns. This opens up a whole new dimension to your outlines allowing for almost any type of data to be stored like a check register, task list, budget, contact list, time log, or any other type of small “database” data.

      Two dimensional outlines coupled with the next point make OmniOutliner very powerful.

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      Datatypes

        I love that OmniOutliner supports several different datatypes. You can set a column to any data type that you want including dates and duration, amounts, checkboxes, pop up lists, etc. Another nicety is that you can then sort your rows by the columns’ data types allowing for ease of sorting your outline data.

        Something else great is that OmniOutliner has a nice short hand for durations. So, you can type something like, “12w148h” and OmniOutliner will convert it to “15w 3d 4h”.

        What OmniOutliner got wrong (for me)

        There isn’t too much that is “wrong” per se with OmniOutliner, but there is one glaring issue that I encountered for the first couple of weeks of use of the app: it’s complexity and my own tendency to want to fiddle and tweak it.

        Complexity

        There is a good quote on the Omni Group’s site for OmniOutliner,

        “If you can think it, it is possible with OmniOutliner 3 Pro.”

        – IT-Enquirer

        This is both a blessing and a curse. OmniOutliner is one of the best apps I know for creating a simple, nested list, but also templates for creating budgets, keeping an inventory of things, planning projects, etc. But there are almost endless options for font styles, line heights, tab spaces, etc. Its versatility and complicated nature make it an app that has to be learned with an overcoming of a steep learning curve, that is, if you want to use the more advanced features of the applications.

        If you are simply wanting to create simple lists and outlines, change their appearance a bit, and use them for keeping track of things, that is pretty straight forward. But, the notion of “if you can think it, it is possible,” leads to the potential for thinking that you need to tweak the application and your document to be perfect in some way.

        What can you do with this thing?

          Like I said above there really is not too much of a limit to what you can do with OmniOutliner as you are only limited by your imagination and time. I have used OmniOutliner as an intermediary step to project planning by following the process that I mentioned above by first planning a project with a mindmapping application an then importing the OPML. This is even more powerful when you find that you can easily drag-and-drop your outline into OmniFocus where it will ask you what columns in your outline match up with the inherent columns in your OmniFocus setup (name, project, context, due date, etc.)

          I found that creating quick budgets and some basic things that I would use spreadsheets for can easily be done in OmniOutliner because of its sorting and summation capabilities.

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            Another thing OmniOutliner is good for, and something that I am working on now, is using it as a way to store information, like research that I may be doing for an article, keeping track of product warranty information, a list of hardware for the company I work for, and other things that would “traditionally” be stored in a database of some kind. OmniOutliner is a great way to create a personal database of sorts, but only if you and possibly a small team are going to access and manage it. Anything larger than this, especially with need of custom reports and views, there are much better options.

            Does it replace anything?

            I can’t say that OmniOutliner has replaced anything completely in my workflow as of today, but has definitely added value to it. I could see OmniOutliner replacing Evernote for the way that I keep data (mostly research and links) while using my MacBook or Mac, but can’t do anything like Evernote can do while I’m mobile with my iPhone.

            If you just do basic calculations and sorting in Excel or Numbers, then OmniOutliner may be able to replace that. But really, OmniOutliner feels like a product of its own and if you are in need of a good outlining application, this is the app to get for Mac.

            Conclusion

            My 30 days with OmniOutliner has gone a little longer because of my growing love for the app. I love taking notes with it, organizing ideas, keeping track of small datasets, and summing up values. But, the thing that makes OmniOutliner so darn compelling is Omni’s excellent outlining engine that is also included in OmniFocus. It make organizing and moving things so easy and once you use it and try something else for outlining, you will see just how awesome it really is.

            The long and the short of it; OmniOutliner is the best way to create outlines on the Mac or any platform for that matter and if you want that, the $39.99 for OmniOutliner 3 or $69.99 for OmniOutliner Professional is totally worth it.

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            More by this author

            CM Smith

            A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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            Last Updated on June 17, 2019

            40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2019 Updated)

            40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2019 Updated)

            Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

            There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

            Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

            It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 40 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

            For Getting Things Done

            1. OmniFocus

            This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

            Download it here.

              2. Forest

              Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

              Download it here.

                3. Things

                Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

                Download it here.

                  4. 30/30

                  Recently covered here at Lifehack

                  , 30/30 is a newcomer to the game that incorporates lists and timing of tasks into an elegant and easy-to-use interface.

                  Download it here.

                    5. Any.Do

                    A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

                    Download it here.

                      6. PocketLife Calendar

                      This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

                      Download it here.

                        7. Asana

                        We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                        , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                        Download it here.

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                          8. ToDoist

                          This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                          Download it here.

                            9. FlowTasks

                            From the folks at MetaLab, Flow is a gorgeous collaborative task management app that is easy-to-use and incredibly functional.

                            Download it here.

                              10. Calendars 5

                              This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track and complete your to-dos.

                              Download it here.

                                11. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                                A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                                Download it here.

                                  12. Due

                                  A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                                  Download it here.

                                    13. Checkmark 2

                                    I use this app

                                    for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and a valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                                    Download it here.

                                      14. TeuxDeux

                                      Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — Teux Deux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then Teux Deux will be right up your alley.

                                      Download it here.

                                        15. Wunderlist 

                                        Another incredibly popular choice is Wunderlist. Part of 6Wunderkinder’s software family, it sports a gorgeous design and is incredibly functional. We’ve talked about the app a couple of times here at Lifehack, so check those posts out here.

                                        Download it here.

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                                          16. Nirvana

                                          For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                                          Download it here.

                                            17. Priorities

                                            An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                            Download it here.

                                              For Building Habits

                                              18. Productive

                                              With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                              Download it here.

                                                19. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                                You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  20. Streaks

                                                  This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    21. Remember The Milk

                                                    Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                                    Download it here.

                                                      22. Day One Journal

                                                      When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        For Files Organization

                                                        23. Evernote

                                                        Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          24. Pocket

                                                          You can save an article, video or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                                          Download it here.

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                                                            25. Sync.Me

                                                            This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

                                                            Download it here.

                                                              26. Droplr

                                                              One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                27. Dropbox

                                                                Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive in your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  28. iDolly 

                                                                  In conjunction with Dolly Drive and DollySync, iDolly allows you to edit and share your documents from your iPhone.

                                                                  Since all your changes sync automatically to all your devices, the current version of a document will always be accessible because Dolly Sync keeps everything in sync. Very handy.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    29. Soulver

                                                                    It may seem odd that a calculator app shows up on this list, but this is no ordinary calendar app. Ben Brooks over at The Brooks review describes Soulver as follows: “It is what calculators would have been if they were invented at the same time computers were, instead of what we have with most calculator apps.” [3]

                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      For Working Smarter

                                                                      30. Captio

                                                                      A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        31. Drafts

                                                                        A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things and more.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          32. NoteShelf 2

                                                                          This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                                          Download it here.

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                                                                            33. Doodle

                                                                            This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

                                                                            Download it here.

                                                                              34. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                                              I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                                              Download it here.

                                                                                35. Launch Center Pro

                                                                                A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                                Download it here.

                                                                                  36. GoodReader

                                                                                  This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                                    37. LogMeIn

                                                                                    Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                                      For Improving Security

                                                                                      38. 1Password

                                                                                      There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                                        39. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                                        You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                                        All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass autofills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                                          40. Truecallers

                                                                                          Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                                            There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                                            More Great Apps Recommendations

                                                                                            Reference

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