Growing up, I found the writing process tedious and boring. I would write what I wanted to say once, and turn it in. Needless to say, it was never a strong subject for me. However, over the last few years, I have come to respect and even enjoy the process. And in that time, outlining has become an indispensable tool in my work.
I always found outlining tedious because it meant writing things in a strange format, and then writing them again. However, now outlining provides me with an easy and visual way to plan where I’m going, to store ideas, and make notes.
While almost any word processor has an outlining feature, OmniGroup’s OmniOutliner has become my tool of choice for beginning many writing projects.
I’ve been wanting to share about OmniOutliner on the blog for a long time. Today, OmniGroup has released a huge update to its iOS version. The app is now Universal (on both iPhone and iPad) for the first time, so I thought now is the perfect opportunity to share about this app.
While some people may prefer jack-of-all-trade apps, I would rather work in a tool that was wholly designed for that purpose. When this happens, developers have generally thought out every detail of an app to make it as useful as possible. This is the case with OmniOutliner. Every inch of the app is thought out for each device it runs on so that you get the best outlining experience possible.
One of the most important things of any app is that it can sync to all of my devices. OmniOutliner does this beautifully using Omni’s proprietary OmniPresence sync server. Every time I open the app, regardless of the device, changes and new documents are always right where I left them on a previous device.
One of the things that makes OmniOutliner so powerful is how customizable it is. On every platform, it ships with several beautiful templates for you to start with, but you can also tweak those or design your own from scratch.
So whether you are taking class notes, writing a paper or lesson plan, or just need an attractive list, OmniOutliner is a great place to start.
While OmniOutliner for Mac is fantastic, I actually prefer to use the app on iOS. There's something really intuitive about manipulating an outline with touch.
On iPad, the controls for new lines, indentation, and notes are all directly above the keyboard so they can be easily reached. You can also hold and drag lines to new locations as the structure of your piece begins to come together. This is all fantastic to me because I am not great a memorizing quick keyboard commands which help do these things as fast on the Mac. On iOS, they are just there. The same is true of iPhone (shown above on my iPhone 6).
You may have noticed in the above screenshots that there is a small button that looks like a speech bubble. This activates an audio recorder. Though I don't record lectures in grad school, I have used this several times for assignments in my ELL certification where I have had to transcribe conversations. I record the conversation, then do the transcription in the app as well.
OmniOutliner also features a great search tool so you can easily search class notes or anything else for particular information as you study or work later. This to me is one of the great benefits of taking notes digitally over pen and paper. Finding things in a mess of notes is actually easy.
While listing features is nice and all, I think sharing how I actually use OmniOutliner might be even more helpful.
Grad School - Class Notes
For every course I am in, I create on outline document using the Class Notes template. I quickly turn off the check boxes from the template as I don't use them for studying. Each class session will start with a new top level line with the date and the topic. I then can take my notes as I see fit.
I am able to search notes as I need to review them, and they are always organized in a way that is easy to read.
Grad School - Outlining Papers
One of the main reasons I used to struggle with writing papers was because I didn't plan things out before I wrote. Now I will make an outline of the basic points I need to make, and even include some quotes from my research so as I go to write the paper, I know the research which will back up the point I'm trying to make.
OmniOutliner's fluid interface allows me to reorganize the structure of my paper quickly and easily as I go along, which is always nice.
Work - Lesson Plans
I have recently started using OmniOutliner to write my lesson plans. It handles all of the details I need from Common Core standards to materials, to differentiation strategies and presents them in an attractive and easy to read way.
Having OmniOutliner on my iPhone now makes it really easy to have these plans on me to reference any time I need them.
OmniOutliner is an amazing app, and one that I would be lost without. It is not without a few issues though. I do wish that the iOS version didn't export every outline as a .zip file so that no other applications on iOS could open it. PDF export would be really nice. Other than that though, it is an excellent resource for teachers and students a like.