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Best Pro Outliners for Macs

written by: DeborahWoehr•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 6/1/2011

When I first started writing novels, I used the old-fashioned pen and paper to craft my outlines and plot ideas. That worked fine until I had to make changes. Rewriting my outlines turned out to be such a chore that I started looking for a professional outliner that would help me construct my plot.

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    Circus Ponies NoteBook

    Rating Average

    NoteBookOutline I have used NoteBook for at least five years to gather research for my novels, articles and recently a non-fiction book that I started. NoteBook’s interface is very user-friendly. As you can see from the screenshot, it is designed to look like a notebook, complete with college-ruled paper.

    You can customize the look of your notebooks, if you would rather not be reminded of school. Customize the paper and the cover to whatever theme you would like. You can also set the type of binder you would like (i.e., 3-ring or spiral).

    I like the way that I can arrange chapters, notes, and ideas with the drag of a mouse. Another option I like is the ability to add a web clipping or the full article that I find online. If you have been online for any length of time, then you know that some articles (especially those on sites like Yahoo!) can disappear after 24 hours.

    NoteBook creates a resource at the end of the file called a multidex. This multidex is the ultimate indexing system as it indexes everything that you input in your notebook. Do you need to find a specific URL? Look in the multidex. Do you need keyword ideas for articles to promote your book or website? Start with the multidex. The cost for NoteBook is $50.

    Source: NoteBook

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    Rating Average

    SuperNotecard SuperNotecard is a professional outliner that writers can use to create fiction and non-fiction books. Mindola, the software’s creator, has a screenwriter version of SuperNotecard. I used this software not only to outline my characters, but to create my plot. Unlike other paid professional outliners, this program has almost no learning curve.

    Project Section

    Outline your plot with the 3-Act structure, creating stacks for each Act in the Project section. You can also assign colors to your decks, add new stacks or individual cards, flag your decks for whatever reason you have, assign tags and assign tension levels to scenes.

    Factor Section

    The Factors window is my favorite because that is where I flesh out my characters. Assign them a central color so that you can track them in your outlines and plots. Describe their physique and personality traits. Write their Story Arc, Back Story, and Biography. You may also flesh out minor characters, places, things, events and other factors. Finally, you may manage your research and references in this section.

    Other Features

    Add, edit, sort or delete your categories and flags to keep your project organized. Import and export a variety of file formats into SuperNotecard, including RTF and Endnote XML. View and print out a lateral outline of your plot and character information.

    These are some of the features that this professional outliner has to offer. SuperNotecard was made specifically for writers who write fiction and non-fiction books. The cost is $30.

    Source: Mindola

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    NovaMind Pro

    Rating Average

    NovaMind NovaMind Pro is a visual professional outliner for the Mac and PC. As of this date, the makers of this software have yet to roll out version 5 for the Mac. You can get it for the PC. That said, Version 4 has a lot to offer people who are interested in creating visual outlines (mind maps) for their plots and characters.

    When you open NovaMind Pro for the first time, a dialog box will pop up and ask you if you are interested in the tutorials. Click Yes, because these tutorials will help you get around NovaMind a lot faster than if you decided to experiment on your own.

    NovaMind not only lets you outline your stories quickly, it lets you customize your mind maps for better visual appeal. Add as many photos, images, and links to help you remember the concept of your story or book.

    You can also edit your notes in traditional outline mode or a combination of the visual and lateral methods. That way, if you need to expand on an idea, you can. The cost is $150.

    Source: NovaMind Pro

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    OmniOutliner Pro

    Rating Average

    OmniOutlinerPro At first glance, OmniOutliner Pro doesn’t look like much of a professional outliner. Typing in entries is a snap. Just type and hit enter. Learning how to format them was easy, once I watched the Introduction videos on the Omnigroup website. If you have never used OmniOutliner before, I suggest you watch those videos after you install the program.

    They will teach you the basics of navigating OmniOutliner, how to organize and style your text, how to work with numbers, and more. The screenshot on the left shows you what your outlines can look like.

    The Omni Group offers two versions of OmniOutliner: the Standard version and the Pro version. The Pro version contains audio recording, saved templates, clipping service, named styles, sections, and folded editing. If you are a hardcore outliner, the Pro version will be the better option because you can do more. The cost for the Pro is $70. The Standard costs $40.

    Source: The Omni Group

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    NoteTaker My first impression when I opened NoteTaker for the first time was that it looked like a souped up version of Circus Ponies’s NoteBook. I was very impressed by how user-friendly this program was and how it took me a few minutes to learn the basics.

    Putting NoteBook and NoteTaker side-by-side, I saw the differences right away. You will find the major controls in the toolbar at the top of the screen. NoteTaker lets you customize how the pages turn, how the interface looks, what the fonts look like, what shortcuts you would like to use for which function, and more.

    The feature I am most impressed with is the Scripts section. Post your entries to your desktop blogging client, such as MarsEdit. Run a script to launch Google or Dogpile if you need to research a topic. Sync your ToDo tasks with iCal. The list goes on, but I think you will agree that these scripts are what makes NoteTaker shine, once you give it a test run. The cost for NoteTaker is $70.

    Source: AquaMinds Software

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    That’s it for the roundup of professional outliners, all of which offer free trials. Test them out and see which one fits your work style the best. Also check out my article about The Best Open Source Outliners for Mac OSX. These programs do not offer all of the bells and whistles that the professional outliners do, but you may appreciate that more.