Utility software

OmniOutliner 3 Professional

Mac OS X users have a variety of excellent outliners and idea organizers to choose from, but The Omni Group takes the lead in this highly competitive field with the release of OmniOutliner Professional, a turbo-charged edition of version 3 of OmniOutliner. The Professional edition adds some very useful features, such as folded editing, the ability to view outline sections in the drawer, and Microsoft Word export.

Going pro

OmniOutliner 3 Professional improves on OmniOutliner 2’s support for AppleScript and multicolumn outlining and adds a lot, including the ability to display multimedia files directly in the document; batch find; better printing; support for inline notes (previous versions only displayed notes in a separate pane); and support for named styles similar to a word processor’s styles. OmniOutliner Pro offers a couple different but overlapping approaches to formatting with styles, which may be a bit confusing at first, but once you figure it out, formatting with styles gives you granular control over the display of your outline. Best of all, with “folded” editing—where you see only one line of all your multiline topics, except for the topic you are editing—and the display of all your outline’s section titles in the utilities drawer, the Pro version lets you see both the forest and a bit of each tree at the same time, which is precisely the perspective that an outlining program is supposed to provide.

Outlining and beyond

If the word “outline” makes you think of high school English class, you’ll be surprised at OmniOutliner Pro’s versatility. I used it to create a consulting project specification in which the first (main) column summarized the parts of the project, notes spelled out the details, and images appeared inline to add some graphic pizazz. A second, narrow column on the right displayed a cost estimate for each part of the project and the column summary function automatically generated a live total of these costs. I was able to format the document beautifully and print it directly from OmniOutliner Pro. Another neat OmniOutliner Pro feature is the ability ot export an outline to Dynamic HTML. This creates an interactive Web page with topics that expand and collapse, suitable for an online course syllabus or help system. You also can organize a presentation in OmniOutliner Pro and export it to Keynote. And if you are outlining an article or book, you can do as much actual writing in OmniOutliner Pro as you like, because OmniOutliner Pro’s Word export option will preserve your named styles.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

If you want a traditional outlining program with a great user interface that’s versatile, powerful and plays well with other applications, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better tool anywhere than OmniOutliner 3 Pro. For users whose needs are a little simpler, Omni Group’s Omni Outliner 3 ($40) may be suitable.

[ William Porter is an independent database applications developer and writer who lives in Dallas. He is writing a book about FileMaker Pro. ]

Not only can OmniOutliner Pro help you figure out what to do on your vacation, it can add up what it will cost. In the budget section of this outline, the item values in the column on the right are automatically totaled in the “parent” row.

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