Two column for reading notes and thought development

I’m trying to figure out how best to use Omni Outliner for the following scenario, keeping in mind that as some point I would likely want to export the document.

I’ve created a two column OmniOutline document for the purpose of jotting quotes from a book and documenting my thoughts. In one column is largely the quotes from the book and the second column is where I put down my thoughts and remarks.

I discovered that I could use the “Notes” feature to keep my remarks for each section of the outline, but I don’t like the way the “Notes” section is displayed. You can either display it “inline” (which means below the section of the outline) or in a separate pane. I like my own notes/remarks to appear parallel to the quotes.

The only way I know how to achieve this is the use a second column and take parallel notes. I like this approach but there are two main deficiencies:

  1. I cannot create outlines in the second column. The best I can do is use the “Option + Return” combo keys to create new paragraphs, but I can’t create collapsing outlines in this second column. Ideally, I’d like to have each section of column one be its own quote, then in column two, I can have also it’s own outline structure which is paired with the corresponding section of the outline in column one.

So in this instance, "p. 95 … " in column one is one quote. The next column over are my remarks and ideally I would like to have indented outlines if my remarks were highly structured. But, this can’t be done.

  1. The second column does not export. I haven’t tried all the export formats, but the second column doesn’t export to Microsoft Word.

At some point, I might want to export this document into Word if I wanted to create an article.

Given the limitations of OmniOutline, how best is it to achieve what I would like?

By all means take notes in your preferred way. However, I think OmniOutliner’s notes feature was built for exactly your use case. By working with two columns you are basically note taking in a spreadsheet.

My suggestion would be to take notes as you normally do and then duplicate the file. In the duplicate, cut and paste all the Book Remarks cells into an indented row under the Body page quote. That should export as expected.

Perhaps you can even cook up an AppleScript to do the heavy lifting.

Ok, but how do you get the two columns to then align with each other after the export? Will they align?

They probably won’t. It’s hard enough to get columns in Word to behave when they are created in-document, so I think it will be hard to get OO’s export to show up as you want.

Do you really need two columns in Word? That doesn’t sound like a standard format for manuscript, so you might find less resistance to your desired workflow with another editor.

I just tried creating two columns and trying to replicate your issue. I’m probably completely wrong, but I just had some interesting results:

  • Exporting to Word (.docx) failed completely: none of the text in the second column made it to the converted file.
  • Rich Text didn’t fare much better, though the text from the second column made it across.
  • Exporting as plain text and then importing into Word as unicode seemed to come very close to what I think you’re describing. I’m not sure if pasting it here will work, but let’s see:

Topic Column 2

  • test quote 1 This is my favorite quote from the whole book.
    • What I like best about his quote is how perfectly it syncs with my personal experience.
    • Furthermore, the prose in this paragraph is exquisite.
  • test quote 2 While not my favorite quote, this one most perfectly encapsulates the author’s message.

Well, it looks much better in Word than here. Something to try? And that was just a quick import. The Text Wizard might have more options. If not, perhaps after bringing in the text, you can covert to a table cleanly with little effort. As TheWard observes, you seem to want to use a tabular format.

I’m tempted to suggest you try to use the Notes feature as is for a longer period of time to see if you can get used to it, but, if you’re anything like me, you want what you want! :-)

I hesitate to post this here, but another option you may want to investigate is Tree.