What Is It?

Outlining refers to the ability of the Mac note taking app to organize notes using an outline-style, linear hierarchy. In an outline, one or more top-level notes (“parents”) can have one or more “child” notes. Each child note can have child notes, and so on, and each child appears indented beneath its parent. Any parent note can be collapsed so that all of its “children” and other descendants are hidden from view, which allows you to control the amount of information that’s visible at any time. For note taking, outlining started off as a paper-based technique but is better suited to computers because of the ease with which you can rearrange notes in an electronic outline (essentially impossible when using paper). Items in an outline may appear preceded by “bullets,” or by letters and numbers corresponding to the note’s location within the hierarchy, but this is not a requirement.

Mac Notes Apps with This Feature

What Else Should I Know?

Outlines are a great way to organize notes because they are so flexible, supporting everything from simple lists to very complex hierarchies. Outlines are the starting points for many tasks, like writing papers and structuring legal arguments. Class lectures are often based on outlines, so it’s perfectly natural to use an outline to capture that information. Outlines are also great for brainstorming and capturing ideas.

If you’re not a linear thinker or learner and prefer to use a drawing or visual sketch to create an outline instead of a hierarchical outline, you can do that with diagramming or sketching tools within the note taking app. Or, if you are an auditory learner, the ability to synchronize a recording of the lecture with your notes is likely the best way to go.

While outlining is a great feature for note taking, not all Mac outliners are great note taking apps.