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Reviews of OneNote vs. other outliners

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Posted by Dr Andus
Jul 21, 2012 at 11:33 PM


Another review criterion I’d suggest is the ability to view the outline and the developing text (i.e. any more detailed notes, inline or otherwise) at different levels of detail (e.g. top level outline, sentence outline, detailed outline with notes, which in its fullest form could be the complete text where outline items become headers).

This criterion gives rise to another: the ability to transition smoothly from outline to full text. Many outliners lack such finesse and this transition takes place after the export in a word processor. However, I’d expect a good outliner to handle this prior to the export as well.


Posted by jellul
Jul 22, 2012 at 03:02 AM


Stephen Zeoli wrote:

>When I finish this iteration of reviews, I may, should I
>still have steam in the boilers, try a comparison with the antique outliners. That
>could be interesting.

Hey, as a bit of an antique myself, I would appreciate your continuing with the exercise. Thank you so much for doing this series of reviews.  It is interesting to see how well Inspiration holds up after all these years.  I contributed a few posts about it eleven(!) years ago on outliners.com but couldn’t keep up with the CRIMP arms race so have been mostly an interested lurker since then.  I’m looking forward with great anticipation to see how you appraise Scrivener in this context

If you do still have enough steam to revisit the antiques, I would love to see your appraisal for Ecco Pro as updated today with the Ecco Pro extension.  While it probably fails the modernity test in its exporting abilities, I have been amazed at how much this dedicated programmer “slangmgh” has souped up the capabilities of this supposedly extinct program. 


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jul 24, 2012 at 03:07 PM


I have just posted the latest addition to the series of reviews attempting to uncover the “best” outlining application for Windows:


You’ll notice that it is Natara Bonsai, which I decided to add based upon Dr Andus’s strong recommendation. I have scratched Scrivener for Windows from the competition, which I explain at the start of the Bonsai review.

Anyway, just a reminder, these reviews are not of the whole application, but just of how well the facilitate straight outlining, as I sort of defined it in the first post in the series.

Steve Z.


Posted by Derrick
Jul 24, 2012 at 08:46 PM


Hey Stephen, excellent reviews sir.  I’m new to this ‘outliner’ context of productivity software - so these reviews have been enlightening.


Posted by Jack Crawford
Jul 25, 2012 at 12:51 AM


Like others here I’m really enjoying Steve Z’s series of reviews.  Thanks Steve for taking the time.  It is much appreciated.

Some random observations follow:

I wonder whether the high rating of OneNote in other forums is because they are using a broader definition of “outliner” than we would use here.  I suspect many people would call any software with a tree pane or note tabs outlining software.  As it happens, I have been a satisfied user of OneNote since its launch.  It is particularly effective for organising data, but I wouldn’t use it if I wanted to outline ideas in a detailed structure.

I have had a licence for Inspiration for longer than I care to remember, but find it a very frustrating program.  The UI and I have never got along and I am constantly feeling that I am fighting againt it.  It is not as intuitive as it should be for an educational app.  The other problem is its looks.  Fonts are not presented in the outline at the correct size (at least 2 points below what it says at the bottom of the screen).  When I asked Inspiration about this some time back, they acknowledged that it was an issue and was a hangover from porting the software from the Mac version.  I would not be as generous as Steve was in his scoring of Ease of Use.

Conversely, I would rate the bonus feature in Inspiration of diagrammatic representations more highly.  Unless you go into the likes of MindManager, Inspiration is the only software that I can recall that allows you to toggle on the fly between a text based and graphical outline.  That’s close to a killer feature in my book.

I’m particularly interested in the assessment of Noteliner which is coming up next.



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