Outlines, One of The Best Ways to Organize Notes

Simple lists, as found in note taking apps with simplistic user interfaces, work reasonably well until you accumulate a lot of notes. At that point you need a tool with more structure. One option is the basic outline.

An outline is a list arranged to show hierarchical relationships. On paper, and in apps, that hierarchy is usually denoted by indentation. Here’s an example:


  • Teams
    1. Giants
    2. Tigers
    3. Cardinals
    4. Yankees
  • Rules
  • History

This simple spatial organization efficiently conveys relationship information that would be difficult or impossible to reproduce using a flat list.

Outlines are also great for managing the amount of information that’s visible at any time. That’s because you can expand and collapse individual items in the outline. For example, the History item above has been collapsed to hide all of its sub-items. All of its information is available with a click, but can be hidden from view when not needed. With a simple list, you have no choice but to see all of the information, all of the time.

A number of apps reviewed here at Mac Note Taking Apps include an outline feature. Outlines are not the only way to organize large amounts of information, but for showing relationships between notes, and for managing the amount of information visible at any one time, they are one of the best ways.

Aloha from Cupertino,

Mac Note Taking Apps