State of Outliners in 2023

I am curious to know what programs people are using for outlining and have incredibly positive feelings about. I am a long-time user of OmniOutliner, an app that for a long time felt like another muscle in my arm. That noted, it doesn’t feel like an app that is getting much developmental love, and when it does, the love it gets takes it in directions less interesting/useful to me. (That’s okay: markets be markets and peoples got to eat, pay the rent.)

For me, the beauty of OmniOutliner was, first, the interface, and the ability to style headings relatively quickly. The hoist functionality, which allowed me not only to focus on a subsection of a document but to print it separately, was brilliant. Not so pretty was the downgrading of “notes” attached to headings: there has been less and less chances to style those notes.

The way my mind works, there are headings and there are body paragraphs — and I kinda would like to have a variety of body paragraphs available to me. Word has this functionality, of course, but working in Word, for me, is like trying to sprint while wearing a bench apron whose pockets are filled with tools that you never use. Scrivener offers a kind of outlining experience, and lets you focus on just a subsection or the entirety of the document. But my experience of alternatives ends there.

And, yes, a number of plain text writing apps, like Typora, now offer folding, and some of them come close, but none of them offer you the ability only to print the section you have, in effect, hoisted (or left unfolded). (But, strangely, they offer you more styling options than OmniOutliner!)

An iOS companion, or companionable, app would be lovely, if anyone has suggestions.

Can we assume that you have tried TaskPaper and Bike?

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And MindNode also has an Outliner feature. Not a strong feature set by any means.

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I’ve used TaskPaper, and FoldingText before it. I haven’t looked at Bike since it first came out, so I’ll take another look. It appears to have hoist, but I’m not sure why Jesse is calling it “rich text”? (And it looks like it’s one-off formatting and not by style sheet?) Those are just my first impressions.

But Bike’s native format is HTML. So would that be true?

EDIT TO ADD link to earlier post: - New App: Bike by Hog Bay - MPU Talk with links into Hog Bay’s Discourse and Jesse’s explainers.

I think I read that style sheets are coming to Bike.

Mindnode has become ny go-to outliner. I’ll write as an outline first then organize/plan through mind mapping.

You can share/export the outline view to Ulysses or other apps too.


This may be the most apt description of Word that I’ve ever read.


It’s funny that you just posted this. I had not used OmniOutliner for a while but I used it this entire weekend to lay out a narrative evaluation I am writing for an employee. I had forgotten what a great tool it can be for rearranging pieces, hiding things you are not working on, and just generally organizing a ton of information. I also was able to use links from DT and embed them right into the outline to highlight evidence. I still love OmniOutliner and will start using it more!


If you can snag an alpha-testing invite, I think you would find Tana an excellent “outliner”. Although that is not Tana’s claim to fame, because of its architecture where everything is a node, folding and indentation are supported, it supports a wide variety of outliner-like use cases.



Keynote has an outline mode that is pretty responsive. I’ve never really been a Keynote user, but I’ve done a few outlines in it in recent months and I’m impressed. Though I am a long-time MindNode user, I think the Keynote outline mode is more responsive and less error-prone than MindNode’s.

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I consider myself as a Keynote poweruser but never knew this exist. Thank you!

Outliners have been around almost as long as word processors. So they are really a mature product category and I wouldn’t expect much in the way of improvements from year to year. I feel the peak of the outliner market was in the 1980’s and then most of them vanished when the feature was incorporated into the major word processors.

Sadly I can’t remember the name of the product, but there was a developer that after selling a conventional outliner (for MS/DOS) had the bright idea to make one that used graph rather than tree structure. In today’s GUI world it would probably be marketed as a mind mapping program. Fast responding and easy to use. Sadly he wasn’t able to move beyond MS/DOS.

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Zavala is a really nice, free outliner.


The dev has interesting websites, too. Thanks for linking.

I love outliners. Outside "work’ apps, (Powerpoint/ Word) they are probably the application I use the most.

I have used Omnioutliner from the time it came free with a G4 12inch powerbook. It is very flexible, but is also becoming too feature rich (and expensive) for my needs. I also use Zavala (as @liminal has linked to) and Cloud outliner Xwavesoft - Cloud Outliner 2. Simple and effective.

Always on the lookout for more :smile:

I don’t tend to use mindmap software for outlining , but I will output an OPML file into a mindmap.

There are some good threads here

Current state of Outliners - Software - MPU Talk

Zavala, shiny new outliner app to track. Available on macOS iPadOS iOS - Software - MPU Talk

New App: Bike by Hog Bay - MPU Talk

Apologies to @karlnyhus I see he had already linked to the last thread

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Hi, I am the developer of OutlineEdit 3, which might be an interesting option for outlining on Mac:
It is a single pane outliner with super simple usage and all the Mac integrations you would expect from a great Mac app (Quicklook, dark mode, tabs, TouchBar, comprehensive menu actions, shortcuts and settings, …). And then it also has powerful organisation features like category tags and inline images. Of course, it exports and imports all common file formats, too. OutlineEdit has been in the works for almost 10 yeas, so I think most of the important lessons about outlining have been learned :slight_smile:

Looking forward to any feedback, ideas and suggestions for the app!



I feel like I should re-phrase the original question to something like "What is the state of outliners for long-form writing / documents?

Three things remain central to me:

  1. Headings are headings and body paragraphs are body paragraphs. Sometimes a section of writing is two headings deep, and sometimes it is three. A writer shouldn’t have to create fake headings in order to have the body paragraphs be styled correctly.
  2. Styling is easy and automatically applied such that a user can “see” the structure of their document not only from indentations or handles like triangles and bullets but also from the text itself.

Less central but still important, one can hoist or focus on a section of work and also be able to print just that section of work.

OmniOutliner was brilliant at all three things, but notes, or body paragraphs, have been gradually downgraded in status (and usability) over the years.


Have you tried Bike or OutlineEdit 3? Seems both meet your criteria. The look and feel of each one is different, but you can try out a demo of each.

See above for

More on Bike here: Bike Outliner: Outline writing, lists, and notes app for Mac!