Getting Started with OmniOutliner Essentials

OmniOutliner Essentials is the starting point for those new to outlining. (Or OmniOutliner!) If you collect information, create lists, explore Big Ideas, or write just about anything, you need Essentials. If you also need an introduction, let’s get to work.

What It’s For

At its core, OmniOutliner Essentials is an app for writing with structure. You can write a novel, take notes, collect ideas, create nested lists, sort tasks, and on and on. What OmniOutliner Essentials brings to the table is a unique set of tools for organizing, visualizing, and styling your writing.


For example, say you’re writing a long blog post or going all the way for a novel. In OmniOutliner, major sections or chapters can be collapsed out of the way as you work on others. You can add notes to headings and each paragraph, then collapse and reveal those when you need them. Instead of just words on a page, your writing becomes components you can manage, and it gets even more powerful from there.


If taking notes or creating lists is more your thing, OmniOutliner Essentials has a strong suite of tools to style and organize your documents. You can indent and outdent as much as you want, apply heading and highlight styles to each line for distinction, and there are ample keyboard shortcuts to let you work as quickly as possible.

When it comes time to organize your list, OmniOutliner Essentials has a wealth of tools for sorting, creating tasks, moving a line throughout the document, adding notes to each individual item, then hiding and revealing everything on command.

How to get started

Well, the short and sweet version is:

Ok, fine, there’s a little more to it than that.

Get acquainted with outlining

Tinker with a few of these key aspects of OmniOutliner to get an idea of what’s possible:

  • Use File > New to create a new OmniOutliner document, then pick from one of the templates available in the Resource Browser
  • Start typing
  • Press Return to create a new row - everything you do in OmniOutliner will be added to a row
  • Use Tab to indent your new row under the previous row
  • Use Shift-Tab to outdent a row one level
  • Use arrow keys to move up and down through your rows
  • When editing a row with child rows (rows that have been indented under it), click View > Collapse Row (or use Command-0) to collapse everything under that row. Now you’re outlining with gas
  • Use the Format menu to style your rows and help them stand out. OmniOutliner Essentials has a good selection of built-in Header and Highlight styles from which to choose

These tips should get you started with the writing and organizational power OmniOutliner Essentials can bring to nearly any project. If you want to learn more, check our extensive Support section with more documents and videos that delve deeper into OmniOutliner’s extensive tools, the differences between OmniOutliner Pro, and our complete, downloadable manual.