After college, I went on a rebellion against outlines for a
number of years. The outlines the professors made us create never seemed to fit
with my thought process. However, the first version of OmniOutliner changed my
mind about creating outlines. Using it on my iPad brought outlining back to my
writing workflow. Now, OmniOutliner 2, which is the iOS 7 update from The Omni Group, is available for $29.99 (USD) and sets a new
a standard for outlining apps on the iPad.

Creating outlines

Creating an outline on an iPad using OmniOutliner 2 can be done from scratch or through a template. When you tap the plus sign [+] from the main
screen, the Choose a Template screen will appear (Figure A).

Figure A

Choose a Template screen.

I highly recommend using one of these templates (at least
initially) to start out your first outlines and learn about the features,
styles, and themes that you can use to compose your own outline. Figure B shows
the Level Styles template, which is an ideal starter template for creating your
first outline.

Figure B

Level Styles template.

Starting an outline from scratch uses the default template.
When you tap on the outline title, you can then rename the outline to something
more meaningful. It’s easy to build out a detailed outline using just the touch
screen to type in text and the virtual keyboard to add new rows. The app is quick and responsive and makes use
of the iOS 7 user interface and performance improvements. There’s a wide range of
styles available that you can use to format selected text in your outlines.

OmniOutliner 2 creates hypertext links
automatically from any URL you place in an outline. Another nice feature is the ability to copy and paste images into your outline. Figure C shows a screen
capture that I copied and pasted into an outline.

Figure C

Using an image as part of an outline.

One feature that I expect to use a lot more in the future is Notes, which enables you to attach a note to an outline row. You can
hide or reveal all notes in your document with a tap or two. You can use the
Notes feature to backup points in an outline and then export your outline into
*.docx format for importing into a new document or for starting a new document.

The Contents option that controls some of the higher-end
formatting features is where the app gets a bit too complex in my opinion.
However, it’s nothing you can’t figure out with some trial and error. Contents
tabs include:

  • Columns where you can setup headers with
  • Styles include template themes, structural
    styles, and named styles (Figure D shows the Text Style option)
  • Document where you can specify background color
    and alternative row colors

Figure D

Text Style option.

OmniOutliner 2 includes external keyboard support
if you use a Bluetooth keyboard with your iPad. If you’re already an
OmniOutliner for Mac user, you can use the same keyboard shortcuts. 

Audio notes

One element of OmniOutliner that I’ve never gotten is
audio notes. I tried testing them again in OmniOutliner 2. All you have to do is click the
bubble at the bottom of the outline to record an audio note, but the iPad microphone doesn’t pick up much sound. I’ve tried to use this feature to record interview calls, but I just can’t find the use case for this
feature in my own workflow.

Export options

Your outline won’t be very helpful if you can’t get
it off your iPad. As such, OmniOutliner 2 supports export to DOCX and CSV
format, depending on your needs.

Cloud option

OmniOutliner 2 also enables you to add a cloud account.
This is useful if you want to share outlines with other OmniOutliner 2 users or back to OmniOutliner for Mac. My one bit of advice is to enter your
OmniSync Server credentials, because copying my OmniSync Server password from
1Password led to WebDav server errors.

Final thoughts

OmniOutliner 2 might be a bit pricey as iPad apps
go, but it can be worth it if you currently use (or want to use) your iPad for
composing ideas for personal and professional projects. I found some elements of the app
complex, both as a user and reviewer, but those features are all higher-end formatting
options that anyone can learn if they want to create more format-rich

Are you currently using OmniOutliner 2 for iPad? Share your
experience in the discussion thread below.