Import Microsoft Word Outline into OmniOutliner


After much searching, I’ve found a way to import outlines made in MS Word into Omnioutliner. This is for outlines using the Outline View in Word, not for outlines made using a list style, i.e. for outlines using nested Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.

Go to which is the Universal Text Document Converter. Select your file. Select OPML as the Convert To format. Click Convert.

It will then output a bunch of text into your browser window. Select all of that text and hit Copy.

(It will ask if you want to copy that to the clipboard, which would be convenient, but that didn’t work for me, hence the manual copy).

Open a blank Text Edit or similar plain text file, and copy the text into it. Save the file.

Now change the extension of that file to .opml

Open the document in Omnioutliner, and it should be what you want. Now choose Save As and save the document as an Omnioutliner document, and you are done.

Revision: After you have the OO document, you may need to universal search and replace to get rid of some formatting tags. For example the things that were italicised in my Word outline were not italicised, but were preceded by < em > and followed by < /em > (without the spaces).

If you are doing more than one document, you should reload the page between them to clear the deck, otherwise they will all end up on the same web page and you might end up selecting more than one at a time, which will give you an error in the final file.

WARNING: I just tried this method with a very long outline, and it ended up being garbled, and I couldn’t get it to work on a second and third try. So check carefully that your results are right!


Thanks for posting this! Wanted to let you know I made a minor edit to your post; I applied the ‘preformatted text’ style to the em tags - they weren’t visible without them.


Hmmmm. There’re not visible now. I’ve added spaces to make them visible.


Dear Brian – Since you responded to this post, I will ask you this question. See above my Warning that I just added. This method is not consistent.

So…Omnioutliner has transformed my work life in the two years since I discovered it and have been using it. I now find it indispensable.

HOWEVER, I am an academic and I have 20 YEARS of lectures and book notes in MS Word Outline format, which I would very much like to import into Omnioutliner. Why is this so hard to do? In fact, given that this method which I found has proved unreliable, I would say it’s pretty much impossible.

This means copying and pasting my previous outlines, many of which are very long, into Omnioutliner and hitting TAB over and over and over again to reproduce the original outline. This is very time consuming.

This effort would be completely unnecessary if Omnioutliner had robust import functions. Why Omni has not included this is completely beyond me. I would have thought that making it easier to SWITCH to Omnioutliner would be a selling point, and would have been something your company would want to include.

As it stands, the rewards for switching to Omnioutliner are great, but they come at a VERY high price, in time and effort.

So, can you please explain the rationale behind making a product that is very easy to use, very useful, but all but impossible to get one’s previous work into?


Sorry, I was out of the office when you posted, but I’m back now! I’m not in a position to speak to the specifics of any particular product decision because my role at Omni is different. However, one thing I can say is that in general we try very hard to make sure that our releases contain the changes that the largest groups of customers express an interest in or benefit from.

When we’re choosing which things we can spend our finite development resources on, we try to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from it. In other words, things that lots of people want usually happen sooner.

We do have a feature request for importing Word documents in our development database, and I’ll include a link to this forum thread so the rest of the team knows you’re one of the folks that would like to see it added. Hope that helps!