Outline

Notes, Lists, Ideas

Outline is a free iPhone and iPad app that allows you to write your thoughts freeform and organize them later by grouping and reordering.

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Outline App home screen

Features

Built with simplicity in mind.

Group

Create groups or headings and reorder them.

Drag and Drop

Drag and drop items within and across groups.

Share

Share your notes to get feedback.

Outline App swipe actions
Swipe Actions

Mark as done, delete, and convert to group.

Templates

Re-use Notes without creating them from scratch.

Dark Mode

Create Notes in bed without disruptive blue light.

Why Outline

Writing and brainstorming without anxiety

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Draft Presentations

Organize and reorder topics and slides.

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Prioritize Lists

Write everything you need to do and prioritize.

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Create Scenes

Create and share scenes and their notes.

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Compare

Group and compare ideas, names, benefits, etc.

Outline's Story

Write without thinking

The Problem

It is more difficult to think of something, organize it, and work out the wording and grammar in your head before writing it down. I find that a lot of times writer's block is from trying to do too many things at once.

To solve this problem, I started writing as more of a stream of consciousness allowing my mind to wander. I didn't focus on the specific words or sentence structure but instead on getting ideas on paper.

Afterwards, I would start grouping thoughts and ideas, and reordering them within the groups but also reordering the groups themselves. Sometimes thoughts worked better in different groups.

This solved the writer's block problem but it was tedious to do on paper, and the end result was hard to decipher.

The Idea

Notes apps are great because they're a blank canvas. Notes apps aren't great because they lack tools to easily restructure what you write:

  • You need to use special characters, uppercase, or spacing to create hierarchy.
  • You need to carefully select things to copy and then carefully place the cursor to paste in the right spot
  • You need to create your own way of tracking things as done if you're creating a task list

What if there was an app that was a blank canvas but provided just enough structure to allow you to do the above? Hmm..this kind of exists but the current apps tend to be bulky or complicated or try to do everything.

What if I keep it simple and just do 5 or 6 things really well?

The Process

I come from an open source and web background working with Drupal for nearly a decade. Since the iPhone SDK was released, I wanted to learn to create native apps but didn't have the time, energy, or an idea.

I left a position in late 2017 where I was still developing and I closed the one and only freelance project I retained. 2018 was a fresh start at a new organization where I would not be developing. This solved my time and energy problem.

I have done stand up comedy twice and wrote my sets as described in The Problem. The method really does work but it is tedious to do on paper. I finally found the problem that I could solve!

With time, energy, and a problem, I started to teach myself Swift using YouTube, Stackexchange, Reddit /r/iosprogramming, and a lot of trial and error. This will be a continual process with no end state. If you want to see under the hood, I've open sourced Outline bungo.

Activity

06/09/2018 - Dark mode! Double tap the navigation bar. Templates! Tap the share button and create a template.

03/28/2018 - iPad support added

03/26/2018 - Group delete confirmation added, mark as done added, bug fixes.

03/24/2018 - Backspace deletes an empty item, bug fixes

03/17/2018 - New item added after current item, lots of bug fixes

03/03/2018 - Release

What's next?

Enhanced iPad support

Cloud sync across devices

Nested groups

Collapsible groups

Text formatting options

Outline

© 2018 Outline - Notes, Lists, Ideas