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Columned Outliner, like ListPro & Omni Outliner, that crosses the iPad/Windows barrier?

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Posted by MadaboutDana
May 12, 2012 at 11:40 AM


Hi there, other Bill! Yes, as a matter of fact, I can be of some help here. I also am a long-term afficionado of ListPro, and have long bewailed the fact that Ilium Software don’t have any plans to transfer it to iPad. I too work in Windows all the time.

There is an answer. It’s not seamless, but it does work, depending on what you do on your iPad. It’s called List Master, and it’s the closest thing to ListPro on iOS (and Android, as a matter of fact - I’ve just dumped my iPhone for a Galaxy Note, which has caused some trauma, but much less than I thought it might).

Transferring stuff seamlessly between the different platforms is challenging. I use a range of tools, but my favourite include a variety of text editors (the most flexible on the iPad are - to my mind - Nebulous Notes and Daedalus, because they allow you to access any Dropbox folder), a couple of storage management apps of which the most magical is ReaddleDocs (gives you full access to a vast array of different storage types, including Dropbox, Google, SugarSync and loads of others, and has its own built-in text editor), plus the recently launched Microsoft OneNote app - very basic compared to the desktop version, but it quickly grows on you, not least because you can transfer huge amounts of info, including pictures etc..

I’ve had a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with MobileNoter, another OneNote app (that does a better job of showing OneNote pages as they should be); it’s quite unstable, unfortunately, but does support tables. Microsoft’s own app supports tables, provided they’re created in the desktop version.

Columnar outliners in Windows is definitely an issue - the only one that’s reasonably flexible for writers is UV-Outliner. I’ve played with MyInfo (which I like), but much prefer Smereka TreeProjects (which allows you to tile your windows all over the place - very useful). I’m also experimenting with Liquid Story Binder - very powerful, but also mildly annoying. None of them interacts well with the iPad. Reluctantly I’ve decided that the only way forward is to continue to use various text apps to transfer data between the platforms, then cobble the data together in various info management apps depending on how I’m using it.

But List Master is your friend if you yearn for ListPro. No, it’s not elegant, no, it doesn’t preserve rich text. But it does pretty much everything else that ListPro does, and can import/export CSV files that are ListPro-compatible.

Other useful tips include TiddlyNotes, a lovely interpretation of TiddlyWiki that will synchronise with a desktop-based TiddlyWiki if you can work out how to get the synchronisation utility to do its thing - Sabine, the German programmer, is extremely helpful. I’m also looking forward to the appearance of Scrivener on the iPad - it’s in development, but not imminent. The developer recently posted a long blog entry on his efforts.

Oh, one final recommendation is Notebooks, another German iPad app that already has a Mac desktop client and will shortly have a Windows one, too. Because it’s HTML-compatible it’s a lot more flexible than many notebooks on the iPad. Try it out on the iPad - you’ll probably enjoy it (although the Dropbox sync doesn’t work too well - I use iCloud instead).

But there are still huge opportunities for programmers to build desktop-quality cross-platform apps for iOS: people have only just started to realise what can be done on iOS, and Apple’s own apps show that iOS does actually offer a genuine desktop alternative if you can find the right tools.

Oh, and if you’re frustrated by OmniOutliner (which I do like, but also find somewhat limited), you ought to experiment with the two HTML export options, which do preserve columns quite well; I’ve just produced a lengthy set of minutes using OmniOutliner, with minimal tidying required on the desktop. Of course a web page isn’t quite the same thing as an outline!

You might think about using Numbers as an outliner tool - it works much better than you might think, and can be exported to Excel (although the results are, well, variable!). I love Numbers (and its lovely search function)! And if you hate Excel (which, as a writer, I do), I can thoroughly recommend LibreOffice, the spreadsheet component of which supports rich-text writing in cells much better than Excel does.

One of the Other Bills