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OmniOutliner 2.3 for iOS review: The best outlining app goes universal

Jeff Carlson | March 20, 2015
A good outline is an evolving idea. It's a workshop for hammering out the greater shape of something--a paper, presentation, business plan, book, screenplay--by adding, discarding, and rearranging information.

A good outline is an evolving idea. It's a workshop for hammering out the greater shape of something — a paper, presentation, business plan, book, screenplay — by adding, discarding, and rearranging information.

And like most ideas, an outline isn't confined to one location, such as your Mac. In 2011, The Omni Group extended the flexible outlining capabilities of its OmniOutliner Mac app to the iPad by releasing OmniOutliner for iPad ([four stars]). Now, with the release of the universal app OmniOutliner 2.3 for iOS (App Store link), you can work with your outlines as inspiration (or perspiration) strikes on the iPhone as well, no matter where you are.

Appearance is important

OmniOutliner got a major rehaul in version 2.0 to reflect the modern iOS 8/OS X Yosemite visual style, including cleaner lines and no more faux rounded buttons and toolbars. I hesitate bringing that up right away, since the appearance of an interface is usually one of those things you're supposed to notice and forget in favor of how the app's features actually work.

But as version 2.3 goes universal, the appearance is important because even the larger screens of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus don't offer an expansive view of a sprawling outline. The minimal interface gets out of the way so you can focus on the outline, even on a relatively puny iPod touch (Figure 1). The text zoom defaults to 120 percent (you can adjust it manually if you like), which works well, especially if you're viewing the same file on multiple iOS devices.

It's also easier to see which items are selected when working in a complicated outline. This is a tiny detail, but when you select a parent row, a faint line appears to indicate which child items belong to it (Figure 2). The interface for selecting and acting on multiple rows is also cleaned up. In the original version, you'd tap the Edit button, which introduced a new set of round selection buttons at the right edge of a column. Now, when you tap that button, you use the existing row handles at left to make selections. From there you can cut, copy, delete, group, or move the rows as a group.

Version 2 also enables you to apply new template themes within a document if you want to change the overall appearance, as well as save any custom theme changes to new templates. (That's particularly helpful if you've tweaked the styles to suit your own projects and want to create new documents based on that appearance.)

How well it works as an outliner

OmniOutliner for iPad already included the bulk of the malleable features found in the desktop counterpart, and OmniOutliner 2.3 continues those with an extra dose of performance.


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