Does Scrivener Obviate OmniOutliner?

Historically I’ve been a Linux guy, but I’ve been leaning toward using OS X for writing since I bought a mini to play around with. I know from reading around this forum that some people who had OmniOutliner before they got Scrivener still use it as part of their workflow. What I’m wondering is whether someone who already has Scrivener would find OmniOutliner that useful.

I’m still learning Scrivener, and I’ve installed the 14-day trial of OmniOutliner Pro to look it over. I find OmniOutliner interesting, and I don’t doubt that it’s a good outliner, but can’t Scrivener also be used more generally to collect information, to create journals, notebooks, etc.? Even if strictly as an outliner OmniOutliner is more flexible and feature-rich, I don’t think my needs are complicated enough to warrant a separate app for this if I’m going to be using Scrivener anyway. Some examples from the experiences of others would help me decide, though.

I’m interested in the opinions of those who know these programs better than I do. I hate buying things that I don’t need and end up not using.

“Yes, probably” is my answer.

But first a caveat. I’ve used OmniOutliner Pro as a pure outliner, for which purpose it’s good (except for the fact it lacks cloning). I know some people use it for other purposes, such as storage and general note-taking, but as far as I’m concerned there are Mac applications better designed to do those jobs.

The “yes” part of my answer derives from the facts that good as OO is, the custom meta-data columns introduced in Scrivener 2 mean that Scrivener’s outliner has narrowed the gap, and the freeform index cards on Scrivener’s corkboard supply useful outlining functionality that OO doesn’t have. The “probably” reflects the fact that Scrivener 2 is still sufficiently new for me to have been unable yet to explore the outer limits of all its advantages.


I’d appreciate advice on those apps. Like I say, I’m kind of new to the Mac.

I’m still on the fence because I’d not hesitate to buy OmniOutliner if I"d regularly use it, it’s just that I’d like to avoid waste if I wouldn’t. As an example of what I’m used to, I’ve been using Zim on Linux for notes, calendar-based journaling, to do lists, idea files, project files, etc. Functionally it’s your basic two-pane outliner, but it has a lot of other useful features. I don’t think there’s anything quite like it on the Mac, but I’m willing to compromise and accept something close.

I do realize that I can install Zim through Mac Ports, etc., and in fact I started to do that but found it ridiculous to install all the gtk dependencies through Mac Ports, including X, which I thought I already had. Anyway, I’d rather stick to a native Mac app.

I also realize that I may have to rethink my idea of what I need. That’s so often how things work out in the end :slight_smile:

It’s possible that Scrivener will do everything I want – in fact, it’s likely, since what I need most of all is a convenient place to collect and organize data of various kinds.

You should find this recent thread worth reading.

For calendar-based journaling, MacJournal is well-regarded.


Thanks for helping me through this transition to the world of Mac, Hugh. My thoughts right now are that Scrivener is enough to accommodate my needs. I generate a lot of text day by day that I want to eventually organize and process, sift into categories, split off into projects, and the like. I like the simplicity of using one flexible app to do most of my text handling – both the casual generation and the more goal-directed sorting and evaluating. I think that Scrivener can do it.

Now I’m looking forward to the complete functionality of the Linux port of Scrivener so I can standardize on my methods across platforms, but my mini is always on, so I’m good for now :slight_smile:

I can’t tell you much about Omni. I had the version that came with my Mac but didn’t find any use for it (which does not say it is useless, it just didn’t fit with my workflow).

But you mentioned using Scrivener for journaling, as a notebook etc.: You can do that, of course, but keep in mind that the idea behind Scrivener is to produce THE TEXT:

You collect all the material you have in a project, your own notes, reference texts from other writers, pictures, videos, whatever. And the text itself of course, parts of it maybe re-written over and over again.

You work the way that comforts you most. You could outline first, say, with the index cards and then fill every card with content. Or you just write and write and then start to chop your text and rearange the order of the text bits. Maybe you mix both methods.

Whatever you use and however you work, the idea is that one beautiful day you hit the compile icon (keyboard shortcut also works, menu too) to finish your work in Scrivener and to give the text a finishing in a word processor or let an editor do his job …

But when you write a notebook in Scrivener you just mimic a paper notebook as Scrivener aims at a linear text. And in my opinion by doing so you would sacrifice a lot of the benefits a computer could give you.

This is not at all an anti-Scrivener statement, don’t get me wrong. Like you said—and to return to the subject of your thread—Scrivener is a great outlining tool, even to a point where it might make a dedicated outliner like OmniOutliner superfluous.

But a notebook or a journal does not need no outlining. There is only one real order of entries: by date. The interesting part begins where you leave that order, when you collect items to groups, tag them etc. When you sort them in non-linear ways, when items are in more than one place.

True, Scrivener has labels and stamps and the awesome new collections are actually groups that allow a look at certain elements in a non-linear way. But these features still are made to reach the one goal. Dedicated information managers/notebook apps are not made for this purpose and because of that they give you more freedom of sorting your notes in numerous ways.

These are two very different usages and so I’d recommend you to give some of these programs—as companions to Scrivener, of course—a look. Like DevonThink, EagleFiler, Together or if you like Wikis, VoodooPad. And lots more. You will find many threads about this kind of applications in the Software by Other Folk sub-forum here.

Scrivener actually replaced the combo of OmniOutliner (which came bundled with my last PowerBook, I think) and DevonNote for me. I’m not sure why I stopped using OO entirely, as it’s an excellent way to draft short articles or even things like to do lists, perhaps even quicker than Scrivener. I guess Scrivener is so powerful, and I’m so used to using it as my idea organizer, that it just seems more natural to fire it up whenever I’m drafting even short pieces.

Really, what I’m looking for in that situation is a way to just throw down a bunch of points as I think of them, and then start grouping them and setting up a hierarchy. You can do this (sort of) even in TextEdit or Bean using their List mode, but the inability to hide the subpoints (as OO allows) makes that too clunky for anything but a pretty short piece. Pages has an outliner built in now, so I suppose I could just use that. I’ve read that TaskPaper lets you do the same thing. But for some reason, I just always default to Scrivener, and not even its corkboard (which would seem to make a lot of sense) or outliner, but just the plain old Binder. Maybe I should start varying my routine a little!

Anyway, I guess the upshot is: OO is (or was, as the version I last used is probably four years old) an excellent application for quick jotting and thinking and writing, and was for a couple of years my favorite application, but Scrivener seems to work fine for that as well as being unsurpassed for larger projects. If OO provides a demo version, maybe try that and see whether it works better for your needs in certain situations than Scrivener. Let us know what you decide.

I’m a long-term OOPro user — actually I started using OO long before Pro existed — and currently keep it up to date. To me, it’s a great outliner, and I want it for creating outlines, though there are those who seem to be writing novels in it, using it as a basic spreadsheet, and heaven knows what else …

However, since I started using Scrivener, OO has been opened less often. The reasons are two:

  • Firstly, for some time I have not had to prepare completely new courses. To do that, I used OO as my base, putting together the content which I could then export to Keynote on the one hand, for substantial appearance tweaking for presentation — after Keynote 2 Apple has kept the file format private, but OO can still export to a basic Keynote format which can then be prettified in Keynote — and to RTF for Nisus Writer (Pro) for building up as a more complete text to make available to my students. I am now having to prepare some new courses again, so once more OOPro is at the base, but this time the export is OPML for import into Scrivener;
  • Secondly, much of my work is now editing translations, and for that Scrivener is a fabulous tool.

OO is fairly expensive, especially the Pro version. If I didn’t have it already, I would probably get the standard version, which does all that I actually need, I believe, to act as a hub between Scrivener/NWP and Keynote. If you’re not needing to work into Keynote, or are willing to do a lot of copying and pasting, you might not need OO. On the other hand, OOPro might have features that you would find useful. And OmniGroup are a “good thing”! OmniGraffle Pro, I’m also using all the time, and no other browser does it for me, only OmniWeb. I can’t find excuses to buy OmniFocus or OmniPlan and have no need for OmniGraphSketcher …



Thanks for all the feedback. I’ve been busy playing around, trying out various things, but it looks like Scrivener will almost certainly become my main app for collecting and handling all kinds of text – journals, fragments, book projects, to do lists, notes, etc. In the final analysis, the reasoning is unassailable: Scrivener is in the process of becoming cross-platform, and that alone blows away the competition for me.