Replicate a circusponies feature now that they have shutdown

Circusponies closed its doors a few weeks ago and I’m struggling to find a replacement for its Notebook software (CPN)

I’ve used OO for years for talks, reports etc., but now I’m trying to figure out if I can use it to replace CPN to keep running project notebooks. OO is great, but there’s a key ability that it’s missing compared to CPN: The ability to tag a portion of a page and then gather all those tagged bits together across many different pages.

Here’s what I mean: CPN is (was) beautiful as a project notebook, because, like OO it was an outliner, but also because you could simply tag just one outline item on your page with, for example, “problem” or “todo” or “urgent” or “idea” and then just continue writing. Then later you search for the tag “problem” or “todo” and see all the tagged items along with some context and a link back to the correct spot in the original.

This partial-page tagging worked well in CPN because it was fundamentally an outliner. Tagging portions of a page is trickier in paragraph-based note takers because it’s unclear how to delimit the range of the tag (sentence? paragraph?). But since CPN and OO are both outliners it seems like it ought to be doable in OO. Am I just overlooking how one does this in OO.

Any thoughts anyone has on this would be greatly appreciated.


P.S. I know that onenote can do this, but I prefer indy developers to MS, and onenote has some serious problems on the mac.


Have you looked at Curio? I find it far more flexible than CPN was in terms of generating projects and collecting resources for them. Curio can be considered to be OneNote but with style, robustness, and flair. It helps also that Curio’s developer is passionately active in the forums. Once I discovered Curio a few years ago, I dropped CPN rather quickly. Curio is missing the index search abilities compared to CPN. The tagging that you want is certainly possible.


Thank you very much for your suggestion; I appreciate the help looking for a replacement. I have tried curio a couple of times over the years, and tried again more seriously after CPN was shut down. Although great for brainstorming and gathering information, the inability to smoothly search for those tags is a showstopper for me.

Let me try to explain the workflow that makes this is so important: I’m a physicist and used CPN as a scientific notebook. To be a useful scientific notebook, and also to be lightweight enough to want to use regularly, a notebook should just be a running log of what’s happening (trying to organize thoughts/notes while you’re actually working is a big time-waster done by PhD students trying to avoid working on their thesis). Instead one just writes in a logbook, and tags the things that you might want to see them again later as you’re going along (“idea,” “problem,” “solution,” “email,” “caution,” “bad result,” “important result,” etc. etc.). CPN could do that well, but neither curio nor OO can.

The frustrating thing is that OO is so close to CPN already. To me, OO has everything CPN had except the ability to tag/recall and some skeumorphic stuff that was irrelevant anyway.

I’m hoping that the omni folks might consider this feature now that there are CPN users groping around for a replacement.

Pardon me if you’ve already tried this. Have you used the search in the sidebar? If you consistently tag #idea and then search for that string, the search results will show all occurrences with some context. The search sidebar can be very wide to show a lot of context.

I think I see what you mean. I would suggest however, the ability to collect tagged content is a great strength of Curio. When you have it still, look to the Status pane section and filter on Projects by tags.

As I go through the rest of your statement, I think you want something different though. I think you want the COMBINATION of fast input/outlining + fast tagging. I can fully appreciate the power of this. Curio is not tuned for fast input of outlines as OO, and tagging in Curio is a bit more “hard coded” than “fluid”.

Interestingly, the app Write for Mac would seem promising to fulfill quick input + tagging needs, but it has suggestions of no developer support.

I’ll add a +1 to the request for tags in OO.


@carl123. I know switching from a familiar workflow (like CPN) to Curio does cause from friction. But you might want to try sticking with it for a while. You might find a new workflow that may actually work better for you in the long term. That muscle memory from using CPN will take time to unlearn.

I encountered this just yesterday. I had been working on a Squarespace 5 site and was asked to work on a Squarespace 7 site. I had to relearn where all the tools were relocated. It was difficult at first. But I think it will take me a couple of weeks to figure where everything is. Just small friction that can be easily overcome.

@wilsonng, thanks for the suggestion. I actually have used curio quite a bit, but not as a scientific notebook. For that application, it has just never worked well for me. I’ve tried to force it into being a good logbook a couple of times, but it’s just not meant for that. OO is lightweight and fast for writing/maintaining outlines; Curio is less so.

Someone proficient with applescript could probably make a workaround in OO. Following @teronel’s excellent suggestion, one could probably just make a script that searches a document, grabs every outline entry that contains a given #tagname, and then dumps them to a new file along with a link back to the original.

I’m only an advanced beginner in applescript, so if someone knows of a script I could grab pieces from to possibly do this, I’d greatly appreciate it.

On the forums there is an existing script that may do enough of what you want. See this thread Search OO with Applescript

This is true. Curio is an app for brainstorming, idea layout and development, and presentation. As proficient as I am in using it, I appreciate the distinction you have made. I too might cherish a light-weight “front end” to Curio, where I could collect my thoughts rapidly in an outline format and tag them actively as I went along. Of course, being able to dump that input in to Curio to process (layout, develop, and present) would be the next logical step for me.

FWIW, I did ask about tagging in the Curio forums. It is possible to tag objects rapidly. I also started a thread about Curio as a replacement for CPN. Finally, the upcoming Curiota 2 promises to have improvements to get things in to Curio in a faster and more organized manner.

This all may likely still not address your key need … fast (outlining) input with efficient tagging. I would wish that Markdown editors would support rapid tagging, e.g. via #tag:… codes, and subsequent search + filter options on them. That would probably be my direction to go for a fast and light-weight log book.


It’s text-only and probably too basic for you, @carl123, but Taskpaper does have tags and filtering capabilities that lets you see all tagged text and copy it for use elsewhere. While having the basic outlining features, it’s amazingly simple to use. Impressing for its kind, I must say. Be aware that a new version Taskpaper 3 is under development (and may be tested for free).

1 Like

How about DEVONthink?

1 Like

How about NoteTaker by Aquaminds - came out of the same project as CPN, back in the Next days

I think this would be a great feature that has been requested before for Omnioutliner - filters.

It seems pretty clear that Omni’s not gonna give us filters, which is one reason I stopped using OO – I kept needing that aspect, and it kept shoving me back into spreadsheets.

In terms of a home for Circusponies fans, I know it’s almost anathema to suggest, but OneNote on the Mac is really pretty solid. I resisted for a long time, but for my personal usage at work, it’s great.

My use case involves distinct notebooks for client projects, and I use the sections to denote the various areas of work in the project, and then flesh out each section with notes and references that pertain to each area. Obviously you can do this more abstractly with tags and search in other tools, but the visual presentation in OneNote really works for me.

(I really, really can’t believe I’m recommending a Microsoft product, but there it is. The post-Ballmer Microsoft is way less interested in locking you into their platform, as the existence of ON for the Mac and iOS illustrates.)

Does OneNote offer filters?

Sort of. It’s not strictly an outliner, and doesn’t have columns like OO; it’s much more free form. But you can filter for tags and whatnot (i.e. to find things you mark as “to do” or whatever).

OneNote also takes close to 1GB of drive space.

I’m using OneNote at the moment - my client is a Windows shop, but I can sync OneNote to my Macs/iPad via OneDrive. Means I have an easy way of capturing notes, documents etc and syncing across devices.

I find OneNote clunky - I don’t like section tabs along the top, I don’t like the pastel colouring and I find the options for layout on a page limited (no list view of attached docs, so long titles get badly truncated, for example). It seems to me like a good example of an interface that is styled to look nice rather than work well. Also - Mac OneNote doesn’t have some of the features of Windows OneNote - example, no way to send a mail from Mac Outlook into OneNote

But - it’s better than nothing. If I were Mac-only, I’d find something else.

I’m considering OO as a replacement for CP Notebook as well.

As far as tagging goes, could you just add a new column and put your tags there? Columns are the one big feature you get with OO that CP Notebook did not have.

Create a new column of column-type “pop up list”. If you highlight the column header, you can then manage this list of tags, and each row can have its own tag, or none. You can add other kinds of columns too. I don’t think you can filter/hide rows based on tags or column content – That would be a great feature – but you can set the added column to “keep sorted” which puts all the tags in one place. Switching back to no sorting restores the original row order. Can’t really add new rows conveniently until un-order, and I don’t know how it remembers the original ordering. Hopefully you can’t loose that accidentally!

FYI: We’re planning to add filtering support to OmniOutliner later this year.

1 Like