Monday, January 23, 2012

Outline Ten

Ten Things to Help Outline Your Novel

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

The Lite version of Action Outline "consists of an Explorer-like interface where you can store and arrange all your information in a tree outline form. Arrange items using your keyboard or mouse, cut and paste branches, place checks or tags next to listed items, search information, print data, export to the external file, or link to web or local files" (OS: Windows 2000, 2003, 2008, XP, Vista and Windows 7.)

Essential PIM is a "personal information manager that allows you to keep all your information in electronic form. All your appointments, tasks, notes, contacts, password entries and email messages are stored in a graphical user interface and easily accessible form. Automatically import your data from pretty much any PIM software that just isn't working for you. Synchronize with popular online services such as Google Calendar and Contacts, Yahoo Contacts, SyncML and CalDAV servers and more, always keeping your data up-to-date and accessible anywhere, anytime" (OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7)

The Guide "evolved from the need to have an application that could organize information and ideas in a hierarchical, tree-like structure. Tree-based structures are frequently employed to manage information through a "divide-and-conquer" approach, wherein each level of the tree represents a further level of specialization of the parent-level topic — the best example of this being a book. The Guide is an application that allows you create documents ("guides") which inherently have a tree (which you can modify as you please) and text associated with each node of the tree. The text itself is of the rich-text variety, and the editor allows you to modify the style and formatting of the text (fonts, bold, italics etc). For the initiated, the Guide is a two-pane extrinsic outliner. This concept is similar to mindmapping in some ways" (OS: Designer notes: "The Guide is available as an installable package for Microsoft Windows 2000 and upwards (XP, 2003, 2008, Vista). The binaries are also available as a zip file that requires no installation and supports portable use. The Guide is a 32-bit native C++ Win32 application (that uses MFC). It will work on 64-bit platforms also.")

MemPad "is a plain text outliner and note taking program with a structured index. All pages are stored in a single file. User interface available in 15 languages. The program offers standard editing functions including cut, copy, paste, undo, date/time insert, drag&drop, and supports Web links as well as network and local file or folder links (full path not required) and internal page links. Environmental variables can be used in file links to run programs, for example" (OS: Win95 / Win98 / WinME / WinNT / Win2K / WinXP / Vista / Win7)

Mind Raider is a "personal notebook and outliner. It aims to connect the tradition of outline editors with emerging technologies. MindRaider mission is to help you in organization of your knowledge and associated web, local and realworld resources in a way that enables quick navigation, concise representation and inferencing" (OS: Windows, Linux and Mac)

The Note & Do free plugin for MS Office applications (Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and Word) allows you to: "Drag and drop text from the documents to instantly create notes or tasks; Drag task or note text directly into your document; Categorize notes and tasks with color; Auto arrange the notes; Remove all notes at once; Pin a note to all applications or just the ones you choose; Create application-specific tasks; Complete and re-enable tasks (OS:Windows 7 (x86, x64), Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista (x86, x64), Windows 2003, Windows XP. .NET Framework 2.0 must be installed.)

NotesLogExp "can store, retrieve, catalog, manage, search, sort and export notes, documents, links, etc. The program can save and automatically fill forms as well as usernames and passwords (with auto login). The program includes a search tool, the database is password protected, and includes export to HTML" (OS: Windows 98, Vista, 7)

Text Tree was built on Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake outlining method, and "is designed make structured, understandable documents easily and quickly. Text Tree has been found useful for story writing, FAQ creation, novel planning, manual writing, software support, biographies, and lesson planning. What really sets Text Tree apart from other outliners is its export abilities. In other outliners, you make a outline of everything, then you have to cut and paste or go node by node to get your information out. Text Tree allows you to quickly export all or part of the information in your outline" (OS: Windows XP with Java installed)

Tkoutline is "a single pane, cross-platform outline editor written in Tcl/Tk. With this editor, information can be structured hierarchically in an outline and outlines can be hyperlinked together to create a web of outlines" (OS: Win95 / Win98 / WinME / WinNT / Win2K / WinXP)

TreeLine is "a structured information storage program. Some would call TreeLine an Outliner, others would call it a PIM. Basically, it just stores almost any kind of information. A tree structure makes it easy to keep things organized. And each node in the tree can contain several fields, forming a mini-database. The output format for each node can be defined, and the output can be shown on the screen, printed, or exported to html (OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, Linux)


  1. Huh. I didn't know any of the software you mention here. Ever since I got Scrivener, I stick to the corkboard feature it offers and later switch to an outliner when I begin to write... It worked great for me, but maybe I should check some of those options too, to see if there isn't something that would fit me even better...

  2. In the Alaska to Texas move, I found that Holly Lisle's Notecarding: Plotting Under Pressure helped me tremendously! It was far easier on my back to use notecards (rather than maneuvering my laptop) during the flights. Also...I didn't have to worry about my battery life (although Continental has outlets beneath seats now).

  3. Hi PBW,

    Thanks for this list. Thought I'd share this one, too: the basic version of Scriptito is free, and very similar to Scrivener. One big difference between Scriptito and Scrivener, besides the price tag, is that you don't download software to work with Scriptito - it's in the cloud. Get your account and you can work with it on any computer with web access. Handy.


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