Software Reccomendations: Writing a Paper While Keeping An Outline
March 9, 2007 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Need toms help finding a good program or method for maintaining an outline structure within an essay. As you can tell, I'm having a hard time describing my problem.

Basically, I want to be able to write a paper in an outline format, and then expand that outline out into paragraphs. At any time, though, I'd like to be able to go back to the outline "view" of the paper and be able to do things like drag sections around, reorder them, etc.

It seems like Omnioutliner, Word, or Pages should include something like this, but they don't seem to (I'm on a mac, obviously). Basically, I'm just looking for some embedded structure to be preserved when I go from outline -> double-spaced MLA style paper.

I'm not writing dissertations here, either. This is mostly for simple, easy-peasy 5-10 page papers.

Any ideas? Obviously, free or cheap programs are appreciated. I'm seeing some of these types of features in "novel writer" programs like Ulysses and Scrivener, but those still seem like overkill for the small scale that I'm working at. Plus, they're a bit more than I'd like to spend (even Scrivener). But, if you can convince me that it's worth a second look, go for it.

[Also, should this go in "writing & language", or "computers and internet"?]
posted by rossination to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Word on the PC has had what it sounds like you want for years. I'd be suprised if the mac version doesn't have similar functionality. Do you have "outline" as one of your view options?
posted by Good Brain at 12:26 PM on March 9, 2007

Word for the Mac has had outline mode at least since 1988. In the current version, select menu item View: Outline.
posted by adamrice at 12:41 PM on March 9, 2007

Seconding Good Brain. This Microsoft KB article (on an un-related topic) appears to confirm that there is an outline view/mode in Word for Mac.

On preview, yeah.
posted by misterbrandt at 12:45 PM on March 9, 2007

Outline view won't work correctly if you don't use Word's built-in heading styles, though. (On the PC, anyway.) Are the sections of your document labeled with headers that are styled Heading1, Heading2, Heading3, etc.?

(There is a way to override this issue but it's probably easier just to make your headings match what Word wants.)
posted by slenderloris at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2007

I asked a guy at Omini,and he replied with the following:

Just let him know that if he opens up the Spacing pane of the Row inspector, he can set the "indent children" setting to 0 to get the paragraph style he's looking for.
To get back to an outline, set it to "16".

Two other helpful bits:
View menu, select "Hide status checkboxes"
Open the Advanced pane of the Row inspector - set "show handles" to never".

Paragraphs are still draggable and re-orderable, but visually the document now looks very much like a text outline.

either that, or tell him to email and we'll get him straightened out.

posted by Artw at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2007

I'm pretty sure Scrivener will do what you want.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:15 PM on March 9, 2007

Whoops. Let me rephrase that. The free Scrivener Gold will do what you want.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:18 PM on March 9, 2007

I worked on similar sorts of writing while in law school.

I'd recommend MS Word or OpenOffice Writer. After using OpenOffice, I like Writer's outline functionality better than Word's, because Word sometimes messes up the outline format if you move too many things around.

There's no need for fancy outlining software for what you're doing.
posted by reenum at 3:24 PM on March 9, 2007

I can heartily recommend Scrivener - it's pretty dashed amazing, and has an outline view and a 'corkboard' view. It's also got a nice full screen mode and is very easy to use and intuitive - I recommend the paid version, but Gold is pretty good too apparently.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:57 AM on March 12, 2007

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