What are your favorite uses for OmniOutliner?

I’ve been on the trial versions of the OmniGroup’s software and am likely to buy them all. I came looking for a Visio replacement and a MS Project replacement. I stayed for the OmniFocus approach to task management. OmniOutliner I will probably buy but have not given it much consideration. Seems like something I would typically do in MS Word or Pages.

What are your favorite uses for OmniOutliner? What makes it invaluable to you?


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I think the standout feature for me is that it basically can be anything. It’s my equivalent of Drafts for the Mac, in a way- so the answer is: a digital hub for ideas, plans, books? There clearly is no limit as to what you can let this app be…

  • I can instantly sketch, outline, it pays to have learned the Omni shortcuts for rearranging, indenting and expanding/collapsing here, since You can very VERY quickly get a very concise structure in.

  • You can export to all things necessary, rtf, opml (for mindmapping) and pdfs. With these three, all connections to other processing tools is formed.

  • Since I am also using OmniPresence and the iPad app, I can continue working on my ideas wherever I like, record meetings, transcribe when I arrive at home on the Mac- it is all very seamless and syncing is working fine for me, luckily…


I’m a tech writer in the software industry and just started a new gig about a month ago. I’ve been handed the project of documenting a NoSQL database for its next release. There are many, many different facets of the product that need to be documented and a good deal of existing documentation to be revised. The development manager asked me for a doc plan and I had no idea how I could pull one together for a project this vast until I hit upon OmniOutliner. I drafted a very large outline of pages for the documentation and use the notes to include points that I want or need to include in each HTML page. Moreover, feeling a bit panicked at the sheer size of the project and needing to estimate the length of time it would require, I got hold of OmniPlan, which imported my outline without any problems and allowed me to make estimates of the effort for each page. After the sizing and schedule are done in OmniPlan, I can export the plan back to OmniOutliner and continue working on the content.
So, what I like best: the ease of getting going on a writing project, ease of making constant changes, ease of adding notes (including links), ease of going back and forth between OmniPlan. Also, it’s easy to make changes on the fly during reviews. Just a great, great tool.


I am a schoolteacher and use OO all the time for ad hoc lists, objectives, and class notes. I even have a student’s individualized calendar of objectives set up as a spreadsheet. As he moves through a self-paced course, I can tick off objectives and enter grades for record-keeping.

I’m using new curriculum this year, and the ability to grab huge chunks of text from my teacher resources and paste them into OO for graphical additions, personal notes, etc. is wonderful. Here’s an example file that was created in just a couple of minutes by copying text from one of David Allen’s free PDFs (incomplete project triggers) and turning it into a simple checklist for my review.

My favorite feature of the software by far is the fluid way I can fly through a document, moving individual elements around or indenting at any point in the line. The keyboard shortcuts are easy to learn.


Hey that is a very interesting use that I was not aware of. Is there a short video of importing and exporting from OmniPlan? If not did it work like this: you opened the OO file in OP and it created the tasks, etc in OP. When you were done planning you exported it OO document. Is that correct?

Also, did you have the dates in the original OO document? I mean did you add / update any columns from the original OO document?

Basically, hierarchical writing, less free-form than a mind-map and easier to turn into a document, but still very much hierarchical. Less-hierarchical stuff, I’d put in a writing tool.

In particular, I’ve been using it a lot for taking a project and breaking down the work, doing estimates, storing questions. It handles more text and metadata and a strict hierarchy better than a mindmap, and I can shape it into a document that I want to share, if I so choose, but it still lets me nest things inside things, and do roll-up math on estimates, and so forth.

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I’m fairly new to OO as well.

I’m a minister/pastor, and my main weekly use is to use it for outlining sermons. Although I could write an outline in a word-processor, I’m finding that having a distinct tool for the outline/planning stage of sermon writing helps me to slow down and think about how the whole sermon will fit together before I get lost in the detail of writing a manuscript.

I’m also using it for other writing projects - drafting bible studies (which involves writing questions and summaries), listing questions for interviews. I’m sure it’ll be the tool I turn to for other writing projects too.


I’m looking at using OO for my sermon production workflow as well…what are the advantages of OO over mindmapping software ? Also, I have yet to figure out how to include the intro and conclusion sections along with the main body of the outline (Cambridge style of course). Are you able to include Intro and Conclusion details outside of the main outline body?

@ccozier - hmm, I’ve not heard of ‘cambridge style’ before, so I’m not sure what your question is.

I don’t find mind mapping to be all that useful for writing sermons - maybe at a very early stage, but I don’t find that they easily lead to a structure for the final sermon.

The way that I’m using OO is that for each sermon I’ve got a template. It has few headings to help me think (title, big idea, application, key verse, etc.) and then a heading called outline. Under the outline it has intro, point 1, point 2conclusion. Under each of these I write ideas for illustrations, application, what the hinge will be between the points. Not sure if that helps for the way you think about writing.

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I use it for:

  • Brain storming
  • Any sort of extensive writing
  • Planning
  • For the few times Task management doesn’t fit into omnifocus.
  • Check lists that don’t belong in Omnifocus
  • General brain dumps
  • Take notes when I don’t need to write equations. I use a custom LaTeX template when I have a lot of equations. I even have configured sublime text to move my LaTeX outline around the same way omnioutliner works. Indents, outdents, moving the outline around. So far I am not happy with the various solutions I have come across with LaTeX and OO.



I use in preparing order of services with a bunch of ready made templates ready to go for family services, evening services, midweek etc…also studies, taking notes in meetings and so on.
I like structure though less so for sermons where I use Ulysses.

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@revstu Yep, I’ve been using OO for service planning this year, and find it really helpful.

Any hints on how you use Ulysses for sermon prep? I preach from a full manuscript, so I’ve stuck with Pages because the layout of the text on the page matters to me—but I’m always looking for new toys to play with!

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I preach from a full manuscript too! I started out in Pages, but preferred the clearer workspace of Writer and more recently Ulysses. Like your idea for structuring your sermon in OO, but with the sidebar section Ulysses I can garner notes, images & other stuff unobtrusively whilst maintaining clarity in the main workspace. I too, am also on the lookout for better ideas and since reading your workflow I am reconsidering my use of OO in this regard.
I love using OO in daily life, for planning and other uses. For service planning it is a godsend. Meetings etc it is invaluable.
I use OF2 the rest of the time. No more needs to be said about that. OF2 (& OF1 before it) are to task management what Bentley is to car luxury!
Recently purchased Omniplan 3. Started using in a number of ways for planning the church years to avoid clashes/date conflicts and organising courses, studies & pastoral work. It has helped me to visualise what is coming and also to make sure there is time to do things within certain constraints.
I’d be interested to hear what workflows you have honed for your ministry?

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Thanks @revstu…maybe it’s time to look at Ulysses again.

But I don’t know if I can add any more hints, you seem to be using some great tools. I’ve been using Airtable (an web-based simple database) for planning teaching programs. It something I had been using a google spreadsheet for, but the power of being able to create views and relate data together between tables is great.

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I use it for academic writing (which is why I desperately need a word count!), especially for writing lectures. I have a column on the left for slide numbers, and then write the text in the main column.


This sounds great - I am a teacher as well. Can you share more about how you do your lecture/lesson prep? I am looking for ways to manage my lessons AND content.


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Well, there’s not so much more to add, really. I use it as a way of structuring a lecture in the first place and then going back and filling in the detail. I try to keep the format as simple as possible, with two columns, one on the left for inserting the slide numbers at the relevant points. I’m basically using it for dealing with content, rather than for making a lesson plan as such (I do this also for conference papers).

I use it for:

Brain storming
times Task management
thanks for the effort

I use OO for sermon and teaching and have done for a number of years. I also have an iPad and use Omnipresence (poor name, I know!). I prepare my sermons on my iMac and open them on my iPad. The advantage of this is that on the iPad you can fold sections and unfold the as you get too them. You can also increase the font size for the whole document very easily. I’ve not found anything as good for preaching a sermon. Ulysses needs more tweaking to work well on the iPad for preaching. On the whole OO is good as you can add images and audio. Outlines can go as deep as you like, I’ve never hit a limit.

The only warning I’d give is OO styling system. It is the most backward, unintuitive and awkward system I have ever come across, in short it is atrocious as I’ve posted elsewhere on the forum. If you are creating new material it’s fine. If you copy and paste a lot and expect to be able to easily style the imported text, look elsewhere. You’ll spend more time than it’s worth to get this right.

Finally, OO on the iPad is excellent providing that your iPad is fairly new. I’ve just ordered a new iPad as my iPad 3 takes to long in opening OO and scrolling the document takes too long as it takes too much time to load the rest of the document. OO seems to load sections of the document in your display. I had a number of situations with my iPad where OO took a minute to load. This may not sound much, but is when you’re in midflow preaching or teaching.


I’m a law student and OO is invaluable. Outlining is the bread and butter of law school, and OO works great. The flexibility to create your own styles has save me massive amounts of time (case names, statutes, terms, multi-factor tests, etc. all have their own style). Some are basic that I use across all classes and some change depending on what my professor focuses on. The ability to collapse and expand rows is also really helpful when studying - I can quiz myself on a certain topic and then expand to see if I’m correct. Huge fan!!!