Omnioutliner Flakey Styles?

New document, past in formatted text. Fonts and sizes vary so I want to set some whole document styles. I select “Whole Document” under Styles in the side palette. I change the font and font size, however, not all items change to the selected font or font size.

Is this meant to happen. I tried selecting all the items in the outline (CMD+A) and trying to change the font and font size. Same again, not everything is changed.

What’s going on?

Try selecting everything and then going to the Format Menu and choosing Clear Style. That should get everything the same by removing some styles that override the document styles. And then you can select everything and apply your specific fonts.

Thanks, I did this in the end and it helped. Still seems that styles do not stick consistently. It seems OO has a problem over-writing previous styles applied. Even on iOS styles are not consistent. I applied a style created on my mac and it change the font style but not the font size. On my mac if I click a bullet and a style is applied it comes up in the “Included Styles”. However, once you edit the outline item this disappears and returns to “None” in the “Included Styles”.

I also don’t understand why you can select multiple style for one item. How is that useful?

All in all it seems to me that the styles look like they need a bit of work.

1 Like

This behavior often results from styles applied directly to pasted content - applying a document level or row style does not “override” these styles. More information about working with styles is available in our manuals and this short tutorial video:

If you have specific questions about how styles are behaving in a document you’re working in, we’d be happy to look into it with you! Email is usually the best way to do this - we can be reached at

Going forward, you may want to use “Paste and Match Style” instead of the generic paste command when adding new pasted content to OmniOutliner documents. This should help you avoid the style tug-of-war you’re currently dealing with!

Hope this helps!

Having battled on with styles and it really is a battle, I’ve come to the conclusion that styles are the weakest part of OO. They are completely unintuitive. I also don’t understand why a style I set does not override a style pasted in, this seems ludicrous! I’m applying a style because I want to override what exists, OO should let me do this, but it doesn’t.

I’m not sure if this is a bug, but if I select an outline and apply a style, that applied style disappears (the style checkbox unchecks) when I click in the outline to edit or write text. Is this expected behaviour?

All in all, I believe there is some work that needs to be done with styles. It should be easy and more importantly work. At the moment styles are hit and miss. It might apply, then again it might not. This adds real friction to getting work done with OO.

I paste formatted text into OO because I want to retain the emphases of the text. However, as I work through the text I want to be able to edit the style, and this appears next to impossible. Even when duplicating an OO document and trying to edit the styles that are not pasted but exist in a duplicated document.

1 Like

I’ve given up! Styles in OO are just a disaster.

I paste rich text from an email into OO.

Problem 1. If I select the line via clicking the bullet so the whole line is highlighted, the inspector tells me that the text is Helvetica Neue, 14pt. If I click the text and move into edit mode the inspector now tells me that the text is Calibri, 16pt. OO which is it, Helvetica Neue 14pt or Calibri, 16pt? Why does OO not know what the style is?

Problem 2. The only way to change the style is to totally remove the formatting and then apply a new style. This is utterly useless. If I apply a style to the text I expect OO to change it to that style. Allowing the existing style to ignore the application of a newly selected style unless you first manually clear the style is the most unintuitive and time consuming process to style any text.

I am now styling my text elsewhere as this is wasting so much of my time. Even Markdown styling would prove more effective that this.

Omnigroup. I seriously suggest you address this most frustrating bottleneck to productivity in OO.

The irony is that styling text in this web browser is proving easier than styling text in OO.

1 Like

@svsmailus : My experience is as yours. Styles are a messy disaster in OmniOutliner 4. If I let myself I can continue to waste hours trying to do basic styling to text and levels.

After all these years, with a nearly equal number of years having these style problems, I’d have hoped things would be usable. I upgraded to OO4 Pro and even though styles were a gloppy mess out of the gate, I gave it time. Now it’s v4.4.1 and not a single thing with styles has improved. Probably the worst money I’ve spent on software in two decades.

Styles disappear, won’t take certain typefaces, regress one or two modifications.

I agree with svsmalius. Omni needs to up its game here. At the price point it charges for a standard outliner, one expects reliability and consistency, and excellence. This isn’t it. Not by far.

1 Like

I’ve stopped using OO for that very reason. I used to teach/preach form my iPad using OO. After battling with each document trying to get the styles to work, I’ve dumped OO. There are plenty of outliners out there, not with the same slickness of OO, but styles for me are essential and they just don’t work in OO and Omni haven’t made any attempt to rectify this.

Time to move on I think.

Sorry there hasn’t been further replies here. As for @svsmailus specific issues from Aug 28th, I will try to explain what’s going on there.

Problem 1. If I select the line via clicking the bullet so the whole line is highlighted, the inspector tells me that the text is Helvetica Neue, 14pt. If I click the text and move into edit mode the inspector now tells me that the text is Calibri, 16pt. OO which is it, Helvetica Neue 14pt or Calibri, 16pt? Why does OO not know what the style is?

Styles can be applied to specific text, in this case, Calibri 16pt, or the row itself - Helvetica Neue 14pt. Were you to directly select all the text in that row and did Format > Clear Style, it would then appear as Helvetica Neue 14pt. This can be thought of in the same way that word processors use styles, the row style is the paragraph style and the text style is the character style. Inspecting the paragraph style does not tell you if there’s a character style in the paragraph that differs.

So why do we have all these style options? Obviously individual text needs to be able to have styles you so can say, make a single word italic. Rows have their own style because there could be more than one column in the document. The row style allows you to apply styles to every column in that row. When you select the row, we show you the row style, that is, the default styling of text entered into that row. If we showed the row style and styles within the row, should the text inside it have a different style, in many cases it would just have to show some sort of mixed value indicator. Also, as you are aware, changing the row style does not change individual text style if it conflicts, so showing them on the row style wouldn’t help.

We’ve thought about ways to help with this, including promoting styles that are on all text in a row to the row style, but there are cases this can also cause equal confusion or frustration. Such a case is if you are working on a single column document, select all the text in a row and make the text red, then at some point add a second column and start typing in it, that second column for that row would now be red as well which may not be what was intended. We had this self-prompting style feature in early versions of OmniOutliner 3, and found it caused way more issue than it solved, however it was much more aggressive and would promote as far up the style chain as it could. But, due to this we are hesitant about introducing automatic features that could change what a user has set.

To find out why specific text appears like it does, you want to directly select that text and look at the Style Attributes inspector. You are only inspecting as specific as your selection. As for whole document styles, column styles, and row level styles, we have a written tutorial that walks you through everything.

Problem 2. The only way to change the style is to totally remove the formatting and then apply a new style. This is utterly useless. If I apply a style to the text I expect OO to change it to that style. Allowing the existing style to ignore the application of a newly selected style unless you first manually clear the style is the most unintuitive and time consuming process to style any text.

I think I’ve mostly covered why this is above. Often the cases where this is frustrating is when text has been pasted in with its own styles. We are very much aware this is an issue and are working on coming up with solutions specifically about pasting in styled text that don’t just cause a different set of issues. If you run into such situations and it isn’t due to pasting in text, we would very much like to know the specific circumstances so we can understand the cause of the issue. It’s easy for use to theorize causes but solving those may not actually help if we theorized wrong.

@dixon: I can only guess as to what causing the issues you are running into. If all styles disappear, you’re probably saving to the OPML format. If they’re disappearing with the oo3 format, then you’re probably encountering a bug that we need to know about. Any specific issues with steps or sample document would be appreciated.

We did simplify styles in version 4 and for the most part appears to have been changes for the better but there’s still work to do. We however are trying to do so without taking away powerful features that make sense for styling an outline versus just paragraphs of text. It seems the main issue to address is when you do not see any reflection of style changes when a row is selected. When you understand a system, it’s easy to see the solution just being better educating about it instead of changing the system. So, the more specific issues we have info on so we can understand where the confusion or frustration comes from, the more we can try to make changes for.

Many thanks for bringing some clarity. You’ll appreciate I couldn’t wait this long for a response and am using alternate workflows.

From what you have have said, row styles do not supersede individual text styles. I fail to see the value of a row style? This means that when text is already styled, row styles will not alter that style. You have to highlight every word and then apply a style. This just won’t work for me, way too much effort. This is not just for pasted text, but for OO docs that have been saved as as new OO document.

Perhaps you need to take a leaf out of Microsofts book and look at Word styles, which work well and quickly.

This certainly means I won’t be rushing back to using OO.

That’s perfectly understandable, you should use what works for you. The more specific a selection, the higher precedence it has. If a row style superseded the text style, why doesn’t the whole document style supersede everything? Every attribute has a value, it just might be the default. If you set the value on a broad level, you still want to specific something different locally. For example, making a single word bold, the rest of the text is set to be regular weight as the default, you don’t want to overriding the single bold word. This should be how any style system work that allows any sort of inheritance, including Word. In Word, a paragraph style is overridden by the character style for such applicable attributes. The key difference is in selecting and setting the paragraph style versus row style. In Word you can directly modify the paragraph style without having to select the paragraph. Is this where your situations stem from for non-pasted text? Are you doing a select all on text and applying styles when we expect you to select the row first?

I’m also having problems with styles on cut/pasted content. There are two problems. One is the lack of ability to group-edit styles as described above, the other is the large variety of cut and pasted styling that is not editable within OO.

As a use case, I’m cutting and pasting an example that contains syntax-highlighted code and an image that is generated by that code.

I understand that automatically promoting styles might be confusing in general, but in the specific case where I have selected one or more whole rows and change something manually in an inspector, I can’t see why text-level styles are NOT over-ridden. Not over-ridding is clearly counter-intuitive. I expect that when I change a style element, it will be applied across all text I have highlighted. Hidden rows and folded children should be untouched. If there are multiple font styles set at the text level, and I change the font style selecting across multiple rows, I want the fonts in everything I highlight to change, without changing the color or italics or underlining or any other (possibly mixed) style element.

Applying a complete style could be confusing, but using the marked “different from the default” inspector fields would let me highlight rows, set a style, and then manually click to clear the ‘custom’ elements, promoting just these elements up to the applied style’s level. If I then change the style, these will change with it. Likewise, I would like to have the ability to “pin” a style element at a lower level in selected text. This seem simply implemented by forcing the element in the inspector to be considered ‘custom’ in selected text, even if it is actually the same as the inherited style. This combination would provide simple but fine-grained control over what changes and what doesn’t when changing inherited styles.

The second issue, with un-accessible style elements, is less problematic but possibly related to aggregating and changing styles across all selected text. I understand that providing a nice interface to control everything simply is hard, but is there a way to provide a manual interface that would allow editing whatever it is that is stored in the document that makes cut and pasted stuff display in different ways? Something is there that controls what is shown. Hyperlinks are especially problematic. When I remove all styles, I loose all hyperlinks. They may be a special case. But more generally I get weird tab settings and images that work like hyperlinks and all kinds of other things when I cut and paste. I can remove them from the inspector at a text level from the “Style attribute” pane of the inspector, but I have no way to add them, and no way to remove them from multiple lines, as the text inspector does not always seem to aggregate.

In summary, I really don’t want to manually edit each line of a cut and pasted syntax-highlighted code examples to edit the style, either to add, change, or remove attributes.

I’m just using OO for the first time, as a replacement for Circus Ponies Notebook. I am immediately frustrated by the handling of Styles. Intuitively I expected them to work like Quark Xpress Styles or Adobe InDesign, as follows:

  • when I have text selected or a cursor placed in some text, the applied style should be indicated somehow, such as highlighting it in the list of styles

  • when I have text selected or a cursor placed in a row, clicking on a style name should change the text to that style

  • Editing a Style should bring up a distinct panel, not use the same inspector that local character styles uses. Then, when you change the definition of a style, all places where that style is applied should be immediately changed to the updated style. (e.g. there should be a difference between “Paragraph Styles” and "character Styles, is in Quark and InDesign.)

These are the most fundamental, obvious thing that needs to change. Then there is all the other weird nonsense, such as when I change a style name it keeps mysteriously changing back. I am so frustrated I am considering asking for a refund and just using Quark or InDesign to make outlines. Arghh!

1 Like

This is the single reason I dumped OO. Very often my text came from another application, or I’d make a copy of another OO document and find myself fighting with OO to get the styles I wanted.

It still puzzles me that when you highlight an item and apply a style it just isn’t applied.

I actually find MS Word works well in creating outlines and the styles are way way better to apply and edit than OO.

Omni could definitely learn by using Quark or Indesign’s style structure of character styles and paragraph styles.

I also wouldn’t hold your breath for Omni to change this. They certainly haven’t in the last year. Omni aren’t known for listening to their customers as can be seen with OF and now OO.

I too find styles a mess in OO, and I don’t have the time or patience to figure it out. My work-around is to use files that I have set up to my satisfaction, and then simply edit duplicate versions of them. This is because I don’t have confidence I can replicate the desired layout if I start from scratch. I really don’t understand why it should be such a messy feature, nor why it hasn’t been sorted out by now. After all, while I generally really like Omni products, they are pretty expensive, especially considering the ones I use (OO and OF) still have major flaws.

I found this discussion thread, after reaching a point of utter confusion about the way OO handles styles. I figured, “Wow, there must be some really advanced logic to how OO handles styles… I better go and read up on it”. To put this into context… this is coming from someone with 28 years of professional IT experience; I am also a book publisher who works extensively in InDesign (dealing with advanced styling for entire books); a graphic designer who works extensively with Photoshop (I’ve been working with InD and PS since their first public releases); I’ve been doing web design for 18 years; and I’ve worked with MS Word (making extensive use of its styles system) since version Word for Windows 1.0; etc. Let’s simply say I am one of those freaks who can sit down in front of almost any unfamiliar software application, and get my head around it so fast, most onlookers would think I’ve been using it for years, not minutes or hours.

… and yet OmniOutliner has me more-or-less stumped, as far as styling goes. To me this is a strong indication the way OO handles styles is highly UN-intuitive, and poorly designed. I encourage OmniGroup to give some serious time to rethinking the whole styles system in OO.

Having said that… I will add that taking the time to read through the manual info on OO styles, and watching the quick overview provided by the above-mentioned video, has helped greatly. Although I found the styling system to be unintuitive (to put it simply), leaning about the styling system on OO has made a word of difference. To some extent, my original thought was accurate… “There must be some advanced logic to how OO handles styles”… and there is. Is it worth getting familiar with? So far, I’d say Yes.

Thanks for your feedback, we’re glad to hear the manual and video we’re helpful. Are there any aspects in particular that were not intuitive that were key once you understood how it worked?

I pasted in data from another app as most beginners will do.

How do you get that data to meet the template style?

If I select all and clear style - lines at the same indent still have different fonts etc.

This is worse than MS Word - where you can edit font etc without changing style bit at least you can select and force the style back - and as luminosity I have used Word since before windows and I know it is broken but I can remove all formatting if needed

I’m still amazed that for all the placating from Omni staff, omni seems to have no intention of changing this.

Styles are a major headache. It is the one single reason I no longer use OO. I keep hoping that Omni will do something about it, but no.

I’ve come to realise that omni’s comment:

is not the way I want styles to work. This gives the user no option of highlighting the whole document and changing the style. Or highlighting an outline, etc, and changing the style. It means that every single little piece of text needs to be selected and altered. If I select something and change the style I expect it to change, that is why I selected it. In the end it means that imported text or duplicated OO documents first need to have all the text selected and all style removed. Funnily enough the, “clear style” command doesn’t follow the above mentioned rule, it works globally. Why should clear style be global and all all style options be subject a higher precedence rule? Removing style is not different than restyling it.

I really wish you would fix this. Or at least give users the option to over-ride the higher precedence rule.

In the meantime it’s back to Ulysses.

I’m not sure how that would happen aside from hitting a bug. If you select some of the text that has the wrong style and look at the Style Attributes inspector, it will show you where those styles are applied.
If you select a row(s) and use Clear Style, it should be removing everything except the structure styles (those applied to the whole document or a row level)

If this isn’t working, if you can email us a sample document to look at, that would be great.