A Deep Dive Into OmniOutliner Pro 5 (Review + Tutorial)

How useful is Omni Group’s powerful outlining software? Find out in this in-depth review and tutorial.

You’ve probably come here because you’re either interested in an OmniOutliner Pro review or you just bought it and need a tutorial on how to use the powerful outliner app.

I know how it is, because before I upgraded from OmniOutliner Essentials, there were very few reviews and tutorials for OmniOutliner Pro available online–so I decided to make my own.

In this post, I’ll show you how to download OmniOutliner Pro, how to set it up, and how to get the most out of the outlining tool.

What is OmniOutliner Pro?

omnioutliner pro logo

Omni Group tells us the following about OmniOutliner Pro:

“OmniOutliner is a powerful tool for organizing (and reorganizing) information, so you can see the full picture and structure your information effortlessly.”

On paper, that description sounds great. But a better way to answer the question would be to look at the practical applications for OmniOutliner Pro. Essentially, how this software can save you time during your writing process.

Because that’s what it’s all about—saving time and/or being more productive so you have more time for yourself and those you love.

With that said, let’s look at some of the real-world applications for OmniOutliner Pro.

Practical Applications

I mainly use OmniOutliner to help me organize books and blog posts and to create video scripts.

omnioutliner

However, you can use the software for almost any project you like.

Here are a few ideas.

Book Outlines

In general, there are two types of writers: pantsers and planners.

I consider myself a planner, and as a nonfiction writer, OmniOutliner lets me outline and then effortlessly move around my headings and subheadings to fit into my overall story.

Blog Post Outlines

I’ve used OmniOutliner to help me plan blog posts for this website and for those of my clients.

First, I do a Google search for the topic I’m writing about.

Then I read through the blog posts of the first 10 results and make notes on what subtopics they’ve included in their articles.

Once I have a dozen or so subtopics for my main topic, I begin to organize them into a logical outline in OmniOutliner.

Video Script Outlines

I used OmniOutliner to write the script for the video that accompanies this blog post.

Because of the columns feature that comes with the pro version, I was able to add columns for b-roll.

When it came time to shoot, I had all my notes and shot list in one place.

Book Reading Lists

If you’re like me, you probably buy a few books at a time and lose track of them easily.

With OmniOutliner, you can keep track of your reading list with a simple outline and checkbox column feature.

You can even add a column to keep track of your book notes.

Simply create a rich text column, and then import the file for the respective book notes on the same line as the book.

To-Do Lists

As writers, we have a lot to balance on our heads.

We have ongoing projects for clients, projects we’re working on for ourselves.

Then there’s the business side of things: marketing ourselves as writers, landing better-paying clients, and keeping track of income and expenses for tax season.

OmniOutliner also comes in handy for these uses as well.

Other Uses for OmniOutliner Pro

The uses I mentioned above are just a handful of applications.

You can also use the software for:

  • School essays
  • Shopping lists
  • Vacation packing lists
  • Syllabuses

How you use this software will only be limited by your own needs and creativity.

Cost

When you buy OmniOutliner, you can either subscribe to their services or buy the software outright.

I originally bought OmniOutliner Essentials a few years back, but since I love the software, I wanted to upgrade to pro.

Instead of buying it outright, though, I wanted to make sure it’s right for me first.

With that said, I opted for the monthly subscription plan. If I find that the pro version makes me more productive over the next few months, I’ll buy it.

Subscription

If you choose to subscribe to OmniOutliner, you can pay per month or pay by year.

omnioutliner subscription

The monthly cost is $4.99 while the yearly cost is $49.99. If you buy the yearly subscription, you’ll save $10.

Both options give you access to all the OmniOutliner Pro features.

Traditional

If you go the traditional route, you can buy OmniOutliner Pro for $99.

buy omnioutliner

Alternatively, you can get OmniOutliner Essentials for $19.99, but you’ll lose some of the features that makes the pro version a more powerful tool for writers.

14-Day Free Trial

Not sure which option is best for you? You can download the 14-day free trial of OmniOutliner Pro and test it out.

Now that you’ve decided which plan is right for you, let’s look at how to download and install OmniOutliner—if you haven’t done so already.

Download and Install OmniOutliner Pro for Mac

Because I only work from my laptop, I’m going to show you how to download and install the iOS version of OmniOutliner Pro.

install omnioutliner

If you want to download the app for your iPhone or iPad, go to the App Store and search for OmniOutliner.

Having said that, to download and install on a Mac, follow the steps below.

  1. Go to omnigroup.com/outliner and click the Download OmniOutliner for Mac button.
  2. When the dialogue box appears, click OK.
  3. Read the terms of service, and if you agree with them, click Agree.
  4. When the window appears, drag and drop the OmniOutliner icon into your Applications folder.
  5. Open the app and either a) log in using the credentials you used to buy the app or b) activate the 14-day free trial.

Now that you’ve installed the app, you’re ready to create your first outline, which we’ll cover in the next section.

OmniOutliner Pro Workspace

Before we create a mock outline in OmniOutliner Pro, familiarize yourself with the workspace.

OmniOutliner Pro Workspace

On the left side of the screen is the Sidebar pane. On the top of the screen is the Toolbar. And on the right side of the screen is the Inspector pane.

I’ll be referring to these throughout the rest of the article.

Creating a New Outline

Getting started with OmniOutliner is simple. It comes with 30 templates to choose from.

However, if you want to get the most out of the app, pick the blank template and start from scratch.

Here’s what to do.

  1. Open the app and click New from the File menu.
  2. Choose the Blank template.
  3. Set up your workspace by clicking the blue Sidebar icon in the top left corner of the screen to show the Sidebar.
  4. When the Sidebar appears, click the green checkered Style box, which you’ll need to open in order to format your headings and subheadings.

Now that that’s done, you can begin adding ideas to your outline.

Adding Headings and Subheadings to Your Outline

To begin populating your outline, follow the instructions below.

omnioutliner
  1. Add a heading. You can call it anything you like, but I’ll label mine as Sample Book Outline.
  2. Hit ENTER and add additional headings. You can add as many heading as you want.

When you hit ENTER, a same-level heading will be added to your outline.

If, instead, you want to create a subheading under a heading, hit ENTER and then TAB. The heading will be indented.

To go in reverse and turn a subheading into a heading, hit SHIFT + TAB.

Formatting Your Outline

Just because you add some ideas to your outline doesn’t mean it will be easy on the eyes to follow.

omnioutliner format headings

If you start with a blank template—like we’ve done in this crash course—you’ll have to format the headings yourself.

This will be useful if you plan on exporting your outline to use in another word processor like Scrivener.

To format your headings, you’re going to work from within the Sidebar’s Style section using the two steps below.

  1. Click on the left side of the heading that you want to format. The row will become highlighted.
  2. In the Sidebar, select the heading level you want to use for that heading. Alternatively, you can use the F1 through F9 keys as a shortcut.

When you select the heading level, the heading in the outline will change accordingly.

If, however, you mistakenly change a heading to a level three heading, but meant to make it a level two heading, you must click level three again to deselect it. Then you can select level two. This goes for all levels.

If you click multiple headings, you’ll wind up with a heading that is formatted somewhere between the two different styles.

Not only that, but when you export your outline, OmniOutliner may not know where to place that heading in the hierarchy of your document.

Adding Notes to Your Headings

When you create headings, you can add notes to each of them as well.

omnioutliner notes

This comes in handy when you want to expand on your heading, especially if the heading is vague.

To add a note to any of your headings or subheadings, hover over the heading and click the note icon on the left.

A cursor will appear under the heading, and you can begin typing your notes.

You can also use the record voice function and add audio notes instead.

To do that, click the microphone icon in your toolbar to start recording. Click the square to stop recording. The audio file is automatically added as a note.

Adding Columns to Your Outline

Another useful feature of OmniOutliner Pro is the ability to add multiple columns. As you’ll see, adding columns transforms your document from a plain outline into an actionable plan that you can follow and/or update.

omnioutliner add columns

OmniOutliner Pro gives you six column options:

  • Checkbox
  • Date
  • Duration
  • Number
  • Pop-up list
  • Rich text

To add a column to your outline, follow the steps below.

  1. Click the green Add Column icon on the top right of your toolbar.
  2. Name the column.
  3. To select the type of column you want to use, click the column header to highlight the column, right-click the header to bring up the menu, and then select your column type from the pop-out menu.

My two favorite columns to use are the checkbox and rich text types. I find that I can add the most useful information using just these two choices.

Although, I’m very interested in the pop-up list type of column. I think this feature would come in handy if you had to select from one of many choices.

For instance, let’s say you have a project with two or more people. You can choose which person is responsible for each part of the project.

With that said, I haven’t been able to figure out how to add custom text to the pop-up list. If you know how to do it, let me know in the comments section below.

Customizing Your Outline

Here is where all the fun begins, and it’s what separates OmniOutliner Pro from the less-expensive Essentials version.

To customize your outline, make sure you have the Sidebar and Inspector panes open.

Now that your workspace is prepared, you can move on to customizing your outline.

Customize the Whole Document

If you want to make changes to your entire outline, make sure you’re in the Styles section in the Sidebar pane and then click “Whole Document.”

omnioutliner sidebar

You’ll notice that your entire outline becomes highlighted.

From there, you can make any changes you like in the Inspector pane and the changes will reflect across your whole document.

If you want to change the font of your outline, for example, select the font you like and the font in the entire document will change.

I have to be honest, however. The first time I tried to change the font of my entire document, the changes wouldn’t take. It was only after I restarted the software that I got it working.

So, if this happens to you, try a simple restart.

Customize Headings and Subheadings

You can also make changes to certain heading and subheading levels.

In the Sidebar pane, click the level you want to customize and use the Inspector options in the same way you did to customize the whole document.

You can do this for all heading levels, notes, and other text.

Adding Grids

In the Inspector pane, click the document icon. From there, you can add alternating color rows and horizontal and vertical grids to separate your document’s rows and columns more neatly.

omnioutliner add grids

Searching Your Outline

All of the outlines I’ve used in this crash course have been fairly basic, but you may find yourself creating outlines filled with thousands of words.

search omnioutliner

If this is the case, you’re going to need a way to find certain sections efficiently—that’s where the search function comes into play.

Let’s see how it works.

Navigate to the search bar (also called the filter bar) on the top right of your workspace. For simplicity, type in “chapter,” click the magnifying glass and make sure you’re on Entire Document, and hit ENTER.

Your outline will show results containing only the word “chapter.”

Likewise, if you have a lengthy document, you can search your columns or notes as well.

What makes the search—or filter—feature so powerful is that you can save your search for future reference.

To save a filter, click the magnifying glass and click Save as Filter.

Your search will now be saved in the Sidebar pane in the Filter section for future use.

Exporting Options

When you’ve finished creating your outline and you want to use it in a word processor like Scrivener, you’ll have to export it as an Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) file format.

export omnioutliner opml file

To do this, click File and Export. You can also use the keyboard shortcut COMMAND + ALT + E.

You’ll have a few export options to choose from, so be sure the OPML file format is selected, and then click Save.

In a future post, I’ll show you how to easily import an OPML file into a Scrivener binder with a simple drag and drop.

Additional Help

That wraps up this OmniOutliner Pro review and tutorial.

If you need further help with OmniOutliner Pro, Omni Group has a few videos available on its website. The website also has a support page.

Just a head’s up. I’ve added a few affiliate links to this post. If you use any of the services or buy any of the products I recommend, I may get a small commission. This helps me cover the cost of running the website and comes at no extra charge to you.

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