Outline 2.0 for Mac brings OneNote notebooks to enterprise Macs

Outline 2.0 for Mac is a third-party application for bringing OneNote notebooks to the Mac.


Outline for Mac

Out of all the applications in Microsoft Office for Windows, OneNote seems to get the most positive buzz. However, Microsoft has never ported OneNote over to OS X as part of Office for Mac 2011. Outline 2.0 for Mac ($39.99/Mac App Store) from Gorillized Corporation aims to fill in the OneNote gap for Mac users who still want to access their OneNote notebooks or just like the OneNote experience for capturing and tracking information.

Outline 2.0 for Mac offers a very Microsoft OneNote-like experience. However, I did find some minor rough edges in the application. The application follows the same hierarchy as OneNote, including notebooks, sections, and pages. You have the option to set a password over sections, and tabs that can add another level of security over tabs, or sections that you setup in Outline 2.0 for Mac. Figure A shows the application’s Quick Start page:

Figure A


Figure A

Outline for Mac Quick Start.

Note: I upgraded to Outline 2.0 for Mac, and the Quick Start and FAQ content from the previous version carried over.

Before I dive too deep, I want to point out that Outline 2.0 for Mac is fully compatible with OneNote 2010-2013 and OneNote 2007 (read-only access), but it isn’t compatible with OneNote 2003 notebooks. It supports the following file formats:

  • .one (section files)  
  • .onepkg (OneNote notebook packages)  
  • .onetoc2 (notebook table of contents)  

Getting your OneNote notebooks into Outline 2.0 for Mac

When I reviewed the iPad version of Outline+, I noted the lack of syncing and was happy to see that Outline 2.0 for Mac adds SkyDrive support. From the Outline menu, I was able to login to my SkyDrive account where my OneNote notebooks reside. The Open notebook from SkyDrive dialog box appears similar to Figure B:

Figure B


Figure B

Open notebook from SkyDrive dialog box.

Outline 2.0 for Mac also supports Dropbox and Box. However, the SkyDrive syncing is what counts, because that's what enables Mac users to pick up and use existing OneNote notebooks with the same basic process as OneNote users on Windows. 

This syncing option would come in handy for Mac users who work in an Office 365 environment where SkyDrive Pro is available. This is a much smoother experience when compared to the previous version, because you had to copy over your OneNote notebooks manually, and I applaud the developers for adding this feature. Now, migrating even large OneNote notebooks via SkyDrive shouldn’t be too tedious.

A minor nitpick here is that you have to login and log out of the dialog box in order to access additional notebooks from your SkyDrive account. Once I opened two test notebooks from my SkyDrive account, I found the syncing to be quick, clean, and efficient.

The syncing process also carries over any file attachments you may have previously attached to notes. This is a necessary feature in my book, since I often attach research and draft documents to my OneNote notes. Plus, you have the option to attach files and pictures to notes you create or edit. 

I also spent some time checking out the synchronization feature using Outline+ on my iPad, Outline 2.0 for Mac, and SkyDrive. After encountering some syncing issues on my iPad, I reset my SkyDrive account credentials and it went back to working again.

The developer promises Microsoft SharePoint support in a future release. Adding this support should open up some doors for the application with more enterprise users.

Working with notebooks in Outline 2.0 for Mac

The application’s editing features should be familiar to OneNote users. You can open and edit existing OneNote notebooks you sync from your SkyDrive account. The default Mac shortcuts and gestures are available in the application if you depend on them when writing documents. The formatting tools include font size and color, basic formatting styles, and bulleted/numbered lists. Figure C shows an Outline note with some sample formatting styles:

Figure C


Figure C

Formatting in Outline notes.

The to-do list isn’t going to replace a full-blown to-do list application, because it’s a bit on the barebones side. Additionally, Outline doesn’t have the multitude of icons that OneNote 2013 includes.

I read customer feedback in the App Store about Outline 2.0 for Mac being unstable, and I did experience three crashes while writing this post on my iMac running OS X Mavericks. When I restarted Outline 2.0 for Mac after the crash, the application hesitated when syncing, which was worrisome. On the bright note, I didn’t lose any data after the crashes.

Final thoughts

When Microsoft decides to roll out a OneNote for the Mac, Outline would probably cease to exist as an app. Microsoft has shown they can release a solid version of OneNote for iOS, so they can do the same for OS X. However, until Microsoft releases a Mac version of OneNote, then Outline 2.0 for Mac is the best possible option for OneNote users who want to continue using OneNote notebooks on the Mac.

Are you using Outline 2.0 for Mac? Describe your experience in the comments.



By Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...