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Suggestions of program for OUTLINING?


I have had it.  I'm so sick of trying to make outlines in MS Word (tried up to 2002 version ) and then, after getting bogged down with it's poor usability, trying to use wordpad.  Then I want to use numbered and nested lists, but it doesn't do that.


Anyone have a suggestion of a good Windows program for creating outlines?


* Easy to use
    "Don't make me think"
  The whole point of this is to capture my thoughts before they evaporate.  If I have to THINK about the program, then pen and paper is better.  (I don't have a small mind, just BIG thoughts <g>)

*  Ability to export in some universal format (PDF, RTF, HTML, whatever).

* Numbered lists, with sub lists

* Easy control over the formatting.

* Collapsable sublists.

* Ability to link to other files.

* Free would be great, but I'm willing to pay if it works well.

Basically, all the MS WORD features, but in a form that is U S E A B L E.

(Perhaps, I'm wrong.  Maybe I, and the programmer I work with, are the ONLY people who have trouble with the outlining).  I'm sure we'll hear from people who agree with that <g>.

Clay N.
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Milenix MyInfo.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Haven't tried this one yet, but it looks interesting:

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Isn't Dave Winer for creating a really good outlining product?

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

He started off by building an outliner. For the Mac. A LONG time ago. Who knows if the code even runs on modern machines.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Sorry about my sentence there.

I meant to say "Isn't Dave Winer originally 'famous'..."

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Single-pane, cross-platform outliner at

Currently falls short on one out of your criteria: no numbered lists.

Installation-free, so it is painless to try.

Disclaimer: I'm the author.

Links to other outliners:

Brian Theado
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Not an outline as such, but I find mind mapping software useful. Once such product is found at and there are plenty of others.

Ron Porter
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

I use this:

And I quite like it.

Beka Pantone
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

I think Treepad is an outliner at heart:

You can check out some info, partly historical, at this site:

Herbert Sitz
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Microsoft OneNote 2003? I have the beta and as useless as it seems to me, it might actually be exactly what you want.

You can just click and type a thought, or even draw your thought in whatever arrangement you want.

Chris Ormerod
Wednesday, June 4, 2003

I happen to like two pane outliners, and their exporting to any format other than plaintext is unimportant to me.

I. Treepad.

I use it religiously.

Treepad Free will seriously fit on a floppy, is increadibly stable, and just all around rocks. It's got few bells and whistles, but just plain works.

Treepad Plus / Treepad Secure - I use Secure encrypted to store all sorts of sensitive data. It's nice to know that I can find anything I need to know in one file. At least certain kind of information.

Treepad Plus exports to some funky two paned HTML format.

Neither of the above require installation, all it does is register it's file type, location, and recent files list when you run it, but they both come with installers if you're that kind of person.

It's the notepad of outliners for me, and the format is fairly open so people can write palm ports for it or perl scripts that will parse it (and have), linux versions, CSV, XML, Windows CE...

II. Action Outline

I also use Action Outline 1.6 (shareware - 2.0 is out but I never bothered to upgrade) when I need it's features. Each node can have a colored flag, export to a flat text with node numbering, and you can specify //* tags to surround your headline swith *//

Though it crashed when I tried typing some C++ code into it. Every once in a while it freaks out and goes into some weird Windows 3.1/DOS mode where it won't recognize "C:\Program Files" becuase of the space, so I don't use it unless I really need the flags or export to numbered outline.

I use Word and Excel for everything else.


He has very particular requirements for his outliners IMHO, and they didn't jibe with mine. I sent him an e-mail a while ago suggesting he look at Treepad a 2nd time. He answered me, but I don't think he ever updated his site.
Thursday, June 5, 2003

Microsoft Word 97 ?

Much more usable than later versions, and it writes HTML.

Michael Moser
Thursday, June 5, 2003

I'll second the suggestion for OneNote. It does exactly what you are asking for.

And you thought that chip MS implanted in your head way just a dream eh? ;-)

Thursday, June 5, 2003

I haven't played with Radio Userland, and it's not intended for that anymore, but it *is* built on an outlining engine, so maybe you can still access that under-the-hood.

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, June 5, 2003

Isn't Frontier 5 still available for free?

I know it's deeply hidden on their website, but I remember downloading it as recently as last year.
Thursday, June 5, 2003

Found it.
Thursday, June 5, 2003

Used for creating graphical mindmaps - excellent for nailing down transitory ideas.

btw, you can do nested lists in word.

In Word 2000 go to Format - Bullets and numbering.

Choose the Outline Numbered tab.

Select one of the predefinced lists and click on Customerize...

Hit the More button.  Voila.

The key to controlling it so it works thoughtlessly in the outline view is to link to levels to the Heading styles.  It all works very nicely.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, June 5, 2003

fool for python
Thursday, June 5, 2003

I think the link for frontier above is out of date.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, June 5, 2003

No, wait.  I see, frontier 5 rather than 9.  Still can't get 5 to download, though.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, June 5, 2003

I still use Ecco Pro.  Its export facilities aren't great, but you can access its DB format via DDE.  But I *love* its UI.  It's so easy to enter items and move them around; it flows smoothly from the keyboard.  Alt and an arrow drags the current item up/down/left/right, enter starts a new item, tab and shift-tab also indent outdent.

Phillip J. Eby
Thursday, June 5, 2003

I use TexNotes from  It's cheap and works great.

David Burch
Thursday, July 10, 2003

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