How to migrate from Circus Ponies (CP) NoteBook to OmniOutliner?

Hi all.

I just found out that CP no longer lives.

I have several documents prepared with CP NoteBook. Two of those documents are fairly large (200 pages) and one of them is in use every day.

From the surface, I think OO would be a good tool for what I do.

But what would be the best way to migrate my NoteBook documents to OO?

I have downloaded a trial version of OO but couldn’t find an “Import” function. Nor could I find a mention of “import” in the documentation…

Any suggestions?


Does CPN export as OPML or RTF or some other format? It might not be a perfect transition with lots of massaging to do.

You should be able to get omnioutliner to “open” the exported document.

Hi wilsong. Thanks for the response.

NoteBook can export in the following formats: txt, rtfd, doc, opml, nbpb and nbml.

I was wondering which of these formats would preserve the most features I use in NoteBook: embedded external files (pdf, png, xls), linked external files, formatting (of course!), internal links (a link from one item to another item or another page in the same NoteBook document, tables, creation dates.

Any ideas?

I’ve wrestled with the same problem and there’s no good solution that I’ve found.

None of the export options work that well for this purpose. OPML doesn’t keep attachments, but it does retain the outline structure and creation/change dates. It doesn’t as far as I can see, retain internal links.
RTFD keeps the attachments and all the content, but doesn’t retain the outline structure. OO doesn’t open .doc, nor the 2 CPN-proprietary formats.

Export as Website gives you the internal links and attachments, with the outline structure, but loses creation dates etc. And can’t be imported into OO.

As fas as I can see, the least worst way to do this is to export to OPML, import that to OO and then add back in the attachments. But what you end up with still isn’t as good as CPN.

As wilsonng says, you use Open in OO to do the import.

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Arrrrgh! (Sigh…)

Hi Nick. Thanks for the response.

Looks like this is going to be worse than I anticipated. I was kind of hoping that with six different export formats, I would be able to migrate with a minimum of fuss and that the most painful part of the process would be learning a new interface…

I’ve been trying a few things (on just a couple of pages).


  1. yes, keeps the structure, but: loses the formatting (in addition to the attachments)!
  2. Also: when opened with OO, it remains an .opml document; OO doesn’t have a “Save as…” function (Yes, it does! Found it by accident: It’s hidden in the File menu: you have to hold the Option key!!!)
  3. It also totally destroys NB tables: these would have to be re-done externally (Excel).
  4. It loses the cute NB numbers in numbered lists.
  5. It keeps URLs that appear as such in the document; however it loses a URL that was entered as a link (by highlighting some text and using /Edit/Link/Tothe Web).

RTFD: appears to preserve the formatting. However, I’m having trouble changing the font for the whole document. Probably my lack of familiarity with OO. And, of course, it loses the structure…

So… Either way, it’s going to require a significant loss of time. What a waste!

(Weird: I dragged an external link (an alias, really) from NB to the desktop. What NB put on the desktop is actually a copy of the original document, not an alias…)

[Related point: How can we protect ourselves against apps being abandoned by their creators? Apple has done this repeatedly; and did it again, recently, when they dropped Aperture completely. They did not even offer to reimburse me!

How long is Omni Group going to support Omni Outliner? I believe they’ve dropped products in the past…

Mind you, as of today my copy of NoteBook is working; on this iMac, with OS X (10.10.5. I’m not updating OS X). As long as the hardware holds out, I could keep using NB.]

Maybe you can keep the Notebook by just exporting/printing as a PDF document. It won’t be editable but you get to keep everything.

I think OmniFocus and OmniOutliner looks the most popular programs that OmniGroup has. So it doesn’t look like it’s going to go away that easily.

When I have to transition over to a new app, I set aside 30-60 minutes every day to transferring stuff over.

The most important things (stuff I’m actively working on in the last 12-18 months will get properly transferred over to the new app. The rest is preserved as a PDF document. This is mostly archival data that is useful for historical purposes and not being actively worked on.

It’s a matter of prioritising what sections of your Notebook are important and recreate that in OmniOutliner. Everything else is for historical preservation.

I remembered having a journal app and just exporting it as PDF for preservation. Then I just started with my new journal app (currently Day One). I guess that’s what you’ll have to do in this case.

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Hi willsong.

Good suggestion, but PDF wouldn’t work in my case: the main document that I’m concerned with is pretty active. I use it every day and add material in several different areas of the document. It’s not like a book or a journal that I would be writing, for example.

However, I do have a couple of NB documents that are no longer active. One example is a NB document I used while managing a couple of rental properties for my old mother. Well… we sold those properties almost a year ago. After I figure out the final income and expenses for 2015, file her income tax return, then that’s it. That document will no longer change and it will be ready for “archiving”. Then your suggestion would be great.


Hi all.

Just a quick thought. I was thinking…

1- NB can export in html.
2- Would html be a good alternative (to migrate and thereafter maintain)? What would be required? A “html editor”?

Does anyone know about this?


I’m having a hard time getting OO Pro to always accept my CPN opml files. (I have a number of CPN to migrate.) Sometimes yes, and sometimes no, saying: “This does not seem to be a valid OmniOutliner document. If you need help opening it, please contact Omni Group support.” With Omni support (which has been supreme), I’m hoping to find a former version of the CPN, and see if that will help.

Other files, apparently too big, crash the program, making me have to force quit.

Has anyone found a work-around for this? One of the outliners I was testing (OutlineEdit) also couldn’t accept one of the problem opml files, claiming that “This OPML file contains an error - it can not be imported. Make sure the file is UTF-8 encoded.” Any clues to what that might mean?


CPN will export to an .rtfd file which takes the .pdf and .doc and .docx files with the export. So far so good if these are all your attachments. But importing into Scrivener leaves the .doc and .docx files behind. Does this work better with OmniOutliner?

I know this is quite old but… @Nick you said: “OPML doesn’t keep attachments, but it does retain the outline structure and creation/change dates.” I don’t see any creation/change dates in the OPML exported from CPN. Could you clarify? Even if it did, OmniOutliner doesn’t support creation/change dates as far as I know (see Any way to automatically timestamp a new item in OO?). I would love to be proven wrong on either or both accounts, as that’s one of the most important features for me…

I’m going to have to do some digging so please be patient!

@Nick - I must apologize, I was doing the OPML export via an Applescript that I wrote a long time ago, and I forgot that it strips out the creation dates for compatibility with the “Carbon Fin Outliner” app on my iPhone.

Doing a manual export, the OPML file does indeed have creation/modification dates. When imported to OO, they show up in columns called “created” and “changed”. Also, keywords show up in a “category” column, and checkboxes retain their state (though they are added to items that didn’t have them); checked-off items also get a date entry in a “completed” column.

Although I don’t see a practical way to automatically add and update the creation/modification/completed dates for ongoing use of the files, at least the information is preserved for “read-only” copies of old notebooks. As you mentioned though, attachments and links are lost, as is formatting like bold/italic.

I’m surprised that Omni Group hasn’t made more effort to attract and support the legions of dedicated CP Notebook users who are still desperately clinging to macOS Sierra in order to run the last version of Notebook 4, and to provide an easier way to import all text formatting, outline structure, attachments, etc…

I’m glad you got it sorted. I myself used Outline by Gorillized to get eh info out of CPN.

As to why Omni didn’t provide a migration path - I don’t know - pressure of other work, I suppose

Hi All,

I was a die hard CPN user right up to its demise. Embarrassingly I didn’t export my notebooks while I still could and made the mistake to upgrade to High Sierra and all of my access died. I wanted to share my approach several years later that I used to recover those old notebooks and export to a usable HTML format. I regularly use Parallels for Windows when required, but I also had a Mojave VM that I use for Aperture which was also a favourite before Apple killed it. Fortunately for me, I also had an old Time Machine backup of my laptop on Mojave that had been upgraded from Sierra and later High Sierra. It still had CPN installed which was originally purchased via the App Store. The drawback to my situation is that I didn’t have a licence key since it was an Apple purchase.

I created a OSX Sierra VM in Parallels, and then ensured to create my user with the identical user name details as my old laptop Time Machine backup. Then one needs to copy the following files to ensure the licence transfers to the VM machine:

  1. The from the Applications folder to the same in VM
  2. The Notebook folder from the ~Users/YourUser/Library/Application Support/ folder to the same in VM
  3. All files in ~/Users/YourUser/Library/Preferences folder that include the com.circusponies.Notebook prefix:

After this you should be able to run CPN again and I suggest exporting to a html website format on your local disk which retains all formatting and access to attachments like audio recordings etc.

I personally use MS OneNote now, which isn’t as robust as CPN was, but does offer the advantage of multi device sync. I’ve saved my html website folder exports to OneDrive now and have created hyperlinks the the local OneDrive folders of each Notebook index.html file in OneNote to access.

I hope this is helpful to someone else like me!

Given that Circus Ponies Notebook died recently, it was time to look for an alternative. I’m still sad that this amazing piece of software has folded. But that doesn’t change the fact that you cannot keep it alive if the programmer has — for whatever reason — moved on. No matter how much you loved it and recommended it. Still using a dead piece of software is simply digital necrophilia. The right thing is to move on as well, no matter how hard it is.

During the last couple of days I tried out OmniOutliner (here in short: OO) as an alternative.

I’m going to describe the software first, compare it to CircusPonies Notebook (regarding advantages and disadvantages and focusing on things you have to do different), give a few additional tips on using it, and then talk a bit about migrating the CPN notebooks to OO.

As usual this posting comes without any warranty. Follow this information at your own risk.

Note that I’m still in the early phases of using OO and I’m sure there is more to know. I also know that there are better (read: faster/more automatized) ways to migrate the content. If anyone can write a program that is able to read the CPN files (they are folders after all) and produces an OmniOutliner file (also a folder) … well, that would deal with migration in an instant. After all, you can access the structure and the attachments when you look into the files. The text content seems be simple .xml files (compressed for each page in CPNs case, one .xml file in OO) and the structure seems to be quite easy to reproduce. However, that is beyond my capabilities — at least in a reasonable amount of time. I focus here on migrating the content by exporting the CPN notebook to .opml, opening the file in OO, copy-and-pasting it into (a) new Outline(s) and moving the images (and other media) manually.

And yep, this is going to be a monster-posting. There is a lot to cover and I did not have the time to make it shorter.

But let’s start with OmniOutliner.

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I upgraded to Mojave on my MacBook Pro believing that CPN would run on that system. However, it does not. Is there something I should be doing to make it compatible?