Creating Outlines in elementary OS with Outliner

7 December, 2020

When I switched to elementary OS, I resolved to use as many applications written for that Linux distribution as I could. There are quite a few that help me do the work that I need to do.

One of those tasks is outlining, mostly of my writing. I usually use an outline when tackling longer works, but every so often an outliner comes in handy when I need to structure a shorter piece or if something’s working out the way it should.

I haven’t used a desktop or web-based outliner in a while. Most of my outlining of late has been done in plain text. While I wasn’t looking for it, I stumbled across an outliner specifically developed for elementary called (predictably) Outliner. Like many of the applications developed for elementary, Outliner is simple — both in the number of features and to use. But it is quite effective and efficient at what it does.

Let’s take a closer look at Outliner.

Getting the Software

The easiest way for a user of elementary OS to do that is via the App Centre. You can also compile Outliner if you want to.

Just so you know, Outliner is a pay-what-you-want app. You’re under no obligation to make a payment, but if you like and keep using the software you should consider sending some money the developer’s way. I did.

Getting Going

Fire up Outliner. You’re presented with a blank canvas

Creating a new outline in Outliner

Type in the field in the window to start your outline. That’s the top node of your outline. To add another node, press Enter.

You can indent a node by pressing the Tab key. You can also add a note to a node by clicking the Show note icon beside the node.

Adding a note to a node in an outline

Click the icon again to hide the note.

When you’ve added a few more nodes, your outline starts to look like this:

Part of an outline in Outliner

Exporting Your Outlines

You might want share your outlines with people who don’t use Outliner. Or you might want to share them on the web. Do that by clicking the Export button in the header and then choosing Export. A file picker displays.

Getting ready to export an outline from Outliner

Go to the folder into which you’re saving the outline. Type a name for the export file in the Name field, and then select a format into which to export your outline. You can choose:

Once you’re done, click Export. Here’s what an HTML export looks like:

An outliner exported to HTML from Outliner

Configuring Outliner

You can tweak Outliner a bit by clicking the gear icon in the header.

Configuring Outliner

You can:

And adjust a few other settings that I never touch.

Final Thoughts

There are other outliners, both on the desktop and on the web, that do more than Outliner. None of their extra features matter to me, though. Outliner is simple but it does its job with minimal overhead. Which is how I like my software.

Scott Nesbitt