• I’m looking for an outliner!
    • Why I’m looking
      • I’ve been creating outlines since high school. I started with pen and paper, then moved to text editors—first Word, then Google Docs, and finally, plaintext files. I’ve been creating plaintext outlines for about 5 years. I typically save my outlines as Markdown and export them using Pandoc if they need to be shared with other folks. I use outlines to take notes, plan projects, create documentation, and as todo lists. I’m a plaintext junky. Whenever and wherever I can, I use plaintext. I edit plaintext with either Neovim, VimR, or nvALT depending on whether I’m in the command line or not. The major hiccup in my plaintext-outline-life is when it comes to editing and creating plaintext outlines on the go. Typically, I use Coda on iOS…which is very much like bringing a siege weapon and a concrete mixer to a Pokémon card tournament. Coda is a spectacular piece of software, but very much not meant for maintaining plaintext outlines, notes and todos. I need a new tool. I want to supercharge my outlining workflow. I’m on the hunt! I’m looking for more than an iOS plaintext editor, I’m looking for a full(ish) featured outliner.
    • What I’m looking for
      • Cross platform, both macOS and iOS (or web-based)
      • Document syncing (Dropbox or SFTP preferable)
      • Ability to reorder items in a list
      • Preferably scriptable (e.g. I’d like to be able to setup reminders triggered off of certain markup so that I can use outlines as task lists…but this may be asking a lot)
    • Contenders
      • OmniOutliner
        • Platform
          • iOS
          • macOS
        • Pros
          • Seems to be the tried and true tool for this kind of thing
          • OmniGroup seems to be leaning into the whole scriptability thing lately
        • Cons
          • A wee bit expensive since I’d need to buy both the desktop and basic iOS clients
          • Not 100% certain how interoperable their file formate is
      • Workflowy
        • Platform
          • Web
          • “Desktop,” e.g. electron app
          • iOS
        • Pros
          • I already have an account
          • 250 free notes a month
        • Cons
          • Weird to say, but it is just really ugly, aesthetically
      • TaskPaper
        • Platform
          • macOS
        • Pros
          • Plaintext 😁
          • I love how minimal this app is. It brings almost all of the functionality I’m looking for to what is ostensibly just plaintext!
        • Cons
          • Plaintext 😐
          • The biggest downside I’m seeing here is that there is no native first-party iOS client. Because the taskpaper file format is simply a set of rules around how to mark up a plaintext file, though, I could use something like Drafts or iA Writer for my mobile needs
    • Other Thoughts
      • @jthingelstad recommend that I also check out mind mapping applications. I’ve been doing a big of research there, too, but don’t think they fill the role with what I’m looking to do, mostly because they don’t mesh wicked well with my way of thinking. I like to think things together, nested parentheticals
      • In writing this post, I’ve come to wonder if the real solution would be to separate concerns a bit?
        • Find an app other than Coda for editing and creating plaintext on iOS (Drafts, perhaps?)
        • Start to use a more feature-rich todo manager other than SwiftoDo
      • At this moment I’m leaning towards OmniOutliner or Taskpaper…but I’m incredibly indecisive when it comes to this sort of thing, so who knows.
      • Input always welcome!

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CrispinB

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@eli Two more for you to consider. (1) Checkvist: web-only, somewhat task-oriented (todo & scheduling options etc) but extremely capable. Slightly weak on mobile (but is offline-capable). Has an api (not sure how extensive) (2) Emacs org mode.

macgenie

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@eli Huge fan of Omni Outliner. Rock solid team and company is important to me if I buy something that is not plain text.

eli

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@CrispinB I've used Emacs org mode, but haven't found a good iOS solution — any ideas or recomendations? Checkvist looks neat, I'm chekcing it out now!

CrispinB

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@eli Sorry, no idea on org-mode for iOS - I have a very specific desktop-only use for it. Checkvist is my all-purpose task & project thingy of choice. Indy dev couple are very accessible on their G+ site @ plus.google.com/communiti... should you want to know more (or ping me here)

cm

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@eli I’m in the taskpaper and editorial camp. Check out editorial, it’s pretty great, imho

Michael Bishop

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I’d take a look at Editorial for an iOS app that supports TaskPaper tasks as well as text editor. I have also used Taskmator for iOS. I’m looking at a new workflow now that will use TaskPaper again.

brentsimmons

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@eli OmniOutliner (which I work on) supports OPML, which is a standard format for outliners.

mdhughes

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@eli I used to get into heavy tools, mainly OmniOutliner, but now I just do everything in plain text, with Markdown lists, let Dropbox sync them. Editorial or Textastic can indent/dedent nicely on iOS.

Guy

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@eli i dont think this meets all the requirements, but ive been using dynalist.io for the last month

jack

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@eli A good place to post your requirements or questions might be the Outliner Software forum. I'll wager there'll be no shortage of recommendations! :) www.outlinersoftware.com

Greg

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I use vim-orgmode with Orgzly on Android. There are orgmode apps for iOS too, but I don't know how good they are.

eli

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@brentsimmons good to know! I remembered it used a variant of xml, but wasn’t certain how easily interoperable the format is. OPML is gold!

eli

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@cm think you may have hit the nail on the head!

eli

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@Guy it is certainly pretty!

eli

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@mdhughes after looking at a bunch of recommendations this is the direction I’m leaning in.

eli

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I received a heap of feedback. All of it was great. Thank you all so much! After exploring a bunch of options, I've decided to stick with plaintext. I'm going to continue to use nvALT synced through Dropbox on macOS, but purchased a TaskPaper license to use for todo lists, and when I need to re-arrange items in an outline. It is set up as nvALT's default external editor now. On iOS I've settled on using Editorial, and app I've had in my wish list for...probably years, but never purchased. So far I'm pleased with my new system. I had a day filled with meetings today, and was able to move smoothly between macOS at my desk, and iOS in the meeting while taking and reviewing notes.

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