Importing outlines from Dynalist

Dear all,
I have been trying to effectively import a series of documents I hace in Dyanlist (basically an outline app), and much as I have tried, every combination (importing opml files, copy-pazstying in various formats, etc)) renders only an incomplete version of my multi-level outlines.

The text is there, all right, but the bullet points and/or the indentations are lost, modified, or not recognised.
In short: the basics are there, but the true spirit of a multi-layer outline is lost.

Has anybody been able to move seamlessly from Dynalist to Scrivener?

Thanks a lot!

I get the best results by downloading my Dynalist outline as an OPML file and then drag/dropping it into the Binder.

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Yes, I just gave it a quick test and got full hierarchy as well as notes exported to text content, when using its OPML export. I’d check your Scrivener settings in the Sharing: Import tab, under “OPML and Mindmap” toward the bottom. There is nothing that would inhibit hierarchy from indenting though, so I’m not sure what is happening there—just do make sure to import it as drag and drop or using the File ▸ Import ▸ Files... command. Either of those should process the .opml structure correctly.

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Thanks, I had tried that, and I have just tried again, but I get a warning that all imported files will be converted to RTF (which would be ok, I guess) and then a series of folders and documents for each line in my outline. Which is quite inconvenient given that some outlines have hundreds of lines… :frowning:

Is something wrong in my settings, perhaps?
I can have a look around the setting, maybe.

Thanks a lot again!

Have you tried closing the top folder in the binder, highlighting it, and using the Outline view in the Editor?

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Well, that works for visualization, but I still have tons of files…
It may be the intended behaviour, I dunno.

I guess I ll just stick to a somewhat reasonable format (going from Dynalist to Word, and then Scrivener gives me something usable).

You live and learn :stuck_out_tongue:

That’s a bit of a confusing point of terminology in Scrivener, and why lines in the binder are more often referred to as “items” in the documentation. It’s really an outliner just like Dynalist is, not a document organiser like File Explorer or Finder would be.

So when you import an outline it’s going to create an outline out of it. If you want something else, like bullets in a single “document”, then exporting with one of the other options is probably better for you.

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I think the problem is that every line in the binder offers a «document» in the editor, which onw tends (I do, at least) to treat as a good old file. Let’s at least say something longer than the ton of one-liners I do in Dynalist.

I understand though that these are different tools, each with its differente approaches, I was just trying to bring them to a happy marriage (?).
I will think twice from now on whether I want to do my outlining in Dynalist or I rather start directly in Scrivener.

Thanks a lot to you both for your time and insight :heart:

Yes, that is the big difference between Scrivener and most outliners: its “notes” field is way more robust than you’ll find anywhere else. Outliners that either don’t have a note editing pane, or otherwise treat it as a kind of auxiliary text (maybe more like how Scrivener treats synopses), do encourage a different kind of thinking.

Myself I treat Scrivener’s binder more like a traditional outliner, with text content that is very short, sometimes only a paragraph or two, and describe all conceptual structure with the outline. So bit like how I would use a tool like Dynalist, but with the ability to write a book into its “note” fields.

I think I understand.
it’s a slightly different approach, I guess. We writers have these quirks, I guess, and the tiniest difference looks huge to us. Well, maybe the plural is unnecessary, and it is just me.

When writing a novel-like piece I have a somwhow similar approach as you describe, but in this particular case I was working on outlines I have for my classes, wht then to have many levels of indentation, mostly with references or quotes, sometimes simple reminders, sometiimes compelte paragraphs, and I profit from the organization, and the capacity to move quickly from one topic or level to another.
Something like
Term 1 /
Shakespeare /
Hamlet /
Act 1 /
Scene 1 /
Claudius /


I am thinking now of a book with a lot of one-liners, and I feel, thanks to your explanation, that I should have each line in a separate item/document, if I want to take advantage of Scrivener’s approach.
(imagine a book with a twit per page, to give you an idea)

it’s a slightly different approach, I guess. We writers have these quirks, I guess, and the tiniest difference looks huge to us.

Something that I do like about Scrivener, that I didn’t really say well above, is that I think it works well for a broader range of writing tasks than traditional outliners do. I phrased it that some tools encourage lots of “bullet points” in their design, whereas Scrivener does not. It’s perfectly valid and possible to have whole chapters in a single “bullet point” in Scrivener, whereas that would be a bit of a mess in Dynalist, OmniOutliner and similar.

I’ve written a fair bit on how I see Scrivener as on par with dedicated outliner tools.

I am thinking now of a book with a lot of one-liners, and I feel, thanks to your explanation, that I should have each line in a separate item/document, if I want to take advantage of Scrivener’s approach.

It’s something to consider, as a way of working that it makes possible. A good example I like to give is glossaries. In a traditional text editor you would type in each glossary entry with some formatting in a continuous text. But in Scrivener it makes a lot of sense to have each term a separate outline element in a “Glossary” folder. You can keep them alphabetised easily, link to them individually from other areas of the text, and so forth. What might seem daunting, working in so many small pieces, is done away with by the Scrivenings editing view.

Anyway, if you want to see how this approach can be taken to scale, in practice, download a copy of the user manual project. The Draft folder has around 2,500 items in it, and while some sections are a bit on the long side, you’ll find many are quite short—and when you get to the appendices like menu and preferences documentation, this “glossary” principle I described above is used almost exclusively, where each checkbox, dropdown and menu command in the software is in its own outline item.

So I think that’s a good demonstration of how you can break things down into great detail where it makes sense to, or have a 2,000 word section over here if that makes more sense, too. If one chapter is fairly straightforward, it can stand on its own, but another might need a dozen “cards” to really break down everything that goes on in it.


I have been using Scrivener for many years now, and I have to admit that every time I try to tackle the —what seems to me— immensity of its options and possibilities, I just feel overwhlemed (or out of time) and drop it.
I have never been too serious about it, clearly.

I can safely say that I have try 97.45% of the available apps and webs for writing (and even those that are not even specific), and Scrivener is the one I have chosen and love, the only one I have been consistent with. And seriously, I think I have tried them all.
And (I know this is wrong, I know) Scrivener is one of the three apps or software I have ever paid for (the other two being MoonReader+ and Smart Audiobook).

So, I guess I’m trying to say that I acknowledge that when things get daunting, it’s me, not Scrivener.

I will certainly have a look at the article and the manual, thanks a ton!

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@Subjuntivo At some point I built a hybrid system for bringing outlines into Scrivener to address what I think is the same issue.

In my case I was bringing elaborate outline structures from a mindmap program into Scriv. My ideal was to have only the superstructure turn into hierarchical docs in the Scriv binder, but that at some level of detail, the further branches of the tree ought to become hierarchical text within a document.

My solution to this dream was to write a script to pre-prep my outline before import. The script readied the outline for Sciv’s Markdown import function. It replaced tab indents with appropriate markdown indicators, but it also looked for a trigger (I used §) and when it hit one of those it treated everything deeper it that part of the outline as part of the content of the doc which would be made from the tagged entry. That content would go in with (suitably reduced) indentations intact. Worked a treat.

I made a long-ago wishlist item that Scriv’s import function recognize some such trigger to enable hybrid outline import, but it wasn’t taken up.


I checked your amazing post on Reddit.
I was already blown away, convinced you are such an advanced user and all, and also feeling justified in dropping my learning every time, when you get to «I’m scratching the surface here: »

Gee, just with half of the things you mentioned there I could spend a whole summer! :sob:

I love nerds like we all are, I think, who will go lengths to get what we want (and deem so indispensable!).
I did some touching on notepad++ and so, but eventually decided to make do with what I had, I guess.

I see, also, listening to you all heare, I am but far simpler and a lot more basic. I can even be bothered by the —what I call— noise in MD. I just want, as much as possible, plane text.

Listening to you I am truly motivated to try to make the most of Scrivener.

Probably not. I doubt a lot of people are even trying to, since I’ve never heard of Dynalist until now.

As noted above, the OPML export and import works as designed on both ends, so if what you’re looking for is an accurate transfer of the outline from one system into another, it works fine.

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You think not many people are trying because of your not knowing of the app?
That’s interesting.

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I think a lot of silly things. Feel free to disregard.

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On second thought …

I am the moderator on a Scrivener group with 14,400 members and admin on another Scrivener (Mac) group with 1,700 members. I don’t think anyone has mentioned Dynalist in the 10 years I’ve been active there. I haven’t been active as long here in the forums, but a quick search shows nothing on the subject between August 2020 and now.