OmniOutliner adds great power to lists


OmniOutliner adds great power to lists
Mac Tip #570, 13 February 2013

One app I use every day on my Mac is OmniOutliner (Standard: US$39.99 Professional: US$69.99, 2 week free trial). I’ve been using it for years for lists, checklists, as a pseudo mini-spreadsheet, for taking notes, keeping handy references and many more purposes. It’s very powerful software, but easy to use. Here are a few of the handy ways it’s useful to me.

Note: when I wrote this Tip I was using OmniOutliner Pro, v3.10.6.

OmniOutliner makes simple lists easy

I discovered an author I really enjoy: Dana Stabenow, and have been reading my way through all her books. She’s written 3 main series of books, and to help me keep track of what I’ve already read and which books I have yet to read I kept a simple checklist.

I used 3 main sections: one for each series, and in each section had 2 sub-lists: Finished and Yet to Read. OmniOutliner helpfully provides checkboxes too.

A list of books by Dana Stabenow.

An OmniOutliner list of books by Dana Stabenow. The Utilities drawer open on the left shows that I have searched for the book titled Breakup.

I wanted to read the books in sequence, but Amazon didn’t make that terribly easy. Luckily the author had a list on her website, so I copied that to my OmniOutliner document and used its automatic numbering to itemise each book.

When I finished a book I’d drag it from the Yet to Read list into the Finished list. Dragging items around is a simple way to move them in an OmniOutliner document.

Search is powerful in an OmniOutliner document

Click the Utilities button in the Toolbar to open a drawer that provides a Search field (or use Find under the Edit menu). Type a search term and OmniOutliner instantly reveals a list of every time that term appears. Click on a result in the drawer to immediately jump to that item in the main body of the document.

Note: drag the side of the drawer to make it wider or narrower.

Make extra columns

My simple list of books needs only 1 column, but some documents I have use several columns. Click the Add Column button in the Toolbar or choose Add Column from the Reorganise menu. An additional column appears on the right. Add as many columns as you need.

OmniOutliner totals the money column in this document.

OmniOutliner totals the money column in this document.

Do some basic sums

One feature I like and use in OmniOutliner is its ability to display the total of a column of numbers, as in my Year of Fun document in the screenshot.

To total a column click on the column header and click the Inspect button in the Toolbar or choose Column Type from the Inspectors menu.

The Column Type Inspector in OmniOutliner.

The Column Type Inspector in OmniOutliner.

Set the Column Type to Number and the Summary to Total.

Notice that to display the total you need to have some rows indented. In my screenshot the Available row lines up with the left margin. Indented below that I have two main sections: Budget allocation and Investment.

In turn, the Investment row has two indented rows below it: Sailing and Races.

The Investment row displays the Total of the Sailing and Races items, while the Available row shows the Total of the Budget allocation and Investment rows.

To indent a row select it and choose Indent from the Reorganize menu.

I use this basic spreadsheet function for simple tallies of items, such as reports on items I sell through the affiliate ads on the MacTips website: one column hold the name of the item, the next the quantity sold and another the amount I receive. Who needs a giant spreadsheet for such a simple task?

There are many more features I frequently use, such as the ability to display just one section of a document. That’s specially handy for focusing on a single chapter of a book outline, for example.

Of course, OmniOutliner can do a great many more things than I’ve mentioned here, including styled text, notes, attached files and more.

Give OmniOutliner a try

There’s a free demo of OmniOutliner available, so why not give it a try? I’ve been using this app for years now for anything that resembles a list and love it. You may too. There’s a very cool iPad version too, in case you need to work on your documents on both Mac and iPad.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this and don’t receive any affiliate fees or the like for any purchases you make.

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