OmniOutliner for iPhone

Full featured: yes. Perfect: no.

The OmniGroup has been making a big push of late to make all of their apps universal iOS apps, and that means some apps that were never on the iPhone before, are now making their way to the device. This week it is one of my favorite apps: OmniOutliner.

I’ve been a long time OmniOutliner user, so when OmniOutliner came to the iPad it became my go to way to outline. The biggest missing piece for me was always the iPhone app. Once you find a good tool on one platform, you can’t help but yearn for it on all the platforms you use. ((Yes, that a Ulysses reference.))

The iPhone version of OmniOutliner is exactly the same as the iPad version. I really mean that, it feels just like a smaller version of the iPad app. Which should be good, but I don’t think it works in every instance on the iPhone (although it’s still great app), as it’s not as great as it feels like it should be.

Overall, this is a solid and welcome addition to my iPhone, but it’s not without its quirks.

File Picker

The main file picker view looks just like the iPad version: small square thumbnails and file names for each file. This is the part that translates the worst to me because the grid view from the iPad just looks cartoonish on the iPhone. It’s just much too small.

To edit the file name, you tap the name on the file picker view, and this brings up the smallest iOS cursor I have seen. Not to mention a small x button. It’s just odd. The tap zone is small so that you don’t accidentally invoke editing the file name when you want to launch, which just makes this even more of an odd choice.

It’s just not a good UI, and would benefit from a list view instead. It’s too small and doesn’t work well on the iPhone.

Speed of Use

One thing that I feel any good outliner should do is be fast to start making lists/notes/outlines in. I should be able to tap new and get going. I want to act on a thought quickly. I’m torn with OmniOutliner on this. On the Mac, my custom template is ready to go just as fast as any other app, however on iOS, I have to select a template, and the only fast template is the default template. Which also happens to be the ugliest of the lot.

If you select any other template you have a bunch of placeholder text. You’ll have to delete that text get going, which just seems ridiculous to me. The problem here is that I have to choose between having to annoyingly delete placeholder text with a pretty theme, or I have to choose a very boring basic theme.

I shouldn’t have to choose between those. I should be able to choose Solarized and just go.


Despite those oddities, I am very happy to see OmniOutliner on the iPhone and it is quickly becoming one of my more used apps. However, I think OmniOutliner would have benefited greatly from being simplified for the iPhone instead of trying to get all the features.

This though is a personal preference, as I am sure there will be a great many people that love the full-featured approach Omni took with this app. A good app, but it takes a lot of getting used to. I can’t wait to see the progression of OmniOutliner on the iPhone. This feels like OmniFocus on the iPhone before the last major redesign: good, but still not quite there.

This is a good addition for me, but I suspect that is mostly just because I’m already an OmniOutliner users. For people new to the software, I’d have to guess there are better options — though not nearly as robust.

You can read more here, or go get it.

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