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A real digital notebook should allow users to do more than collect and store notes, clippings and documents. Academic and project-based notebooks should include a way for users to highlight content, draw and and annotate notes and ideas, and also have control of the placement of text and images on a digital page. That’s what Outline for the iPad ($14.99) and Mac ($39.99) allows you to do.

Outline is especially useful for students, writers, and researchers who are trying to go paperless with their iPad. Outline’s tools and user interface are similar to an actual paper notebook, with multicolored dividers, sections, and pages.

Even better, the Mac version of Outline, though lacking the drawing tools, syncs with the iOS version and allows for more screen real-estate when needed.

Setting Up Notebooks

Unlike Evernote Evernote: A Must-Have App for the iPhone and iPad [iOS] Evernote: A Must-Have App for the iPhone and iPad [iOS] In the last several months, the iOS versions of Evernote have undergone a significant overhaul of their user interfaces, closely mirroring the design and features of the counterpart web and Mac applications. We have added... Read More , there’s no web platform for Outline. You need to sync using Dropbox The Unofficial Guide To Dropbox The Unofficial Guide To Dropbox There's more to Dropbox than you might think: you can use it for file sharing, backing up your data, syncing files between computers and even remotely control your computer. Read More , Box cloud storage Box Introduces Notes For Real-Time Collaborative Documents Box Introduces Notes For Real-Time Collaborative Documents Cloud storage service Box has stepped into the online collaborative note-taking game with the launch of Box Notes, a new free service that lets you create documents and collaborate on them in real time. Read More , or Microsoft’s own SkyDrive How SkyDrive And OneNote Web App Can Help Your Online Research How SkyDrive And OneNote Web App Can Help Your Online Research I was really excited to learn was that SkyDrive provides you with a free OneNote web app that you can use to do just about everything you do with your desktop OneNote application. When it... Read More . Outline is also compatible with Windows application, OneNote The Perfect Modern Notetaking App: OneNote For Windows 8 The Perfect Modern Notetaking App: OneNote For Windows 8 Microsoft finally did something right! OneNote turns your Windows 8 tablet into a handy notebook. Quickly scribble down notes and pick them up anywhere. Syncing via SkyDrive automatically makes them available on the desktop. Read More .

Outline sync

One of the advantages of using Outline is the ability to create separate notebooks, on both platforms, for different topics and projects. While notebooks can be created in applications like Evernote, Outline notebooks have a less cluttered feel, and the front cover of the notebook can be customized using one of over two dozen different colors or designs. Covers can’t, however, be customized with personal photos or images.

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Outline covers

After notebooks are created on one device and synced to a service like Dropbox, they can be imported and synced with other connected devices. This also means that notebooks can be shared with other Outline users, provided they are saved to a shared location in one of the cloud services. Outline does not include iCloud support.

Content Creation Features

Outline works in a similar way to how text boxes and images are added in Apple’s Pages. On the iPad version of Outline, long tap anywhere on a page and a text box will appear ready for typing. Pasted text automatically gets added to a text box. And as you might expect, both versions of Outline include formatting tools for stylizing text, though the app does not provide support for Markdown editing Learn Markdown Using Mac Text Editor Mou Learn Markdown Using Mac Text Editor Mou What is Markdown? Why is it useful and how do you learn it? If you're looking for a way to get to grips with Markdown on your Mac, Mou is the answer. Read More .

Outline guidelines

Outline includes a user guide that teaches you how to import and move content around, including photos. Unlike Evernote, content in Outline can be moved around and resized, which gives it that real notebook feel.

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PDFs and other documents, however, can’t be imported into Outline notebooks, though you can add them as attachments.

Handwriting Tools

The iPad version of Outline includes assorted pen styles and markers for manually writing notes and annotating content. The digital ink for the pens is very smooth and responsive, similar to the pens in the popular art app Paper Why The Drawing & Sketching App Paper Won Apple's iPad App For 2012 Why The Drawing & Sketching App Paper Won Apple's iPad App For 2012 The sketch and drawing app, Paper, recently won Apple's 2012 iPad App of the Year Award, and it is very easy to see why. Even if you're not an artist but are a true fan... Read More .

Outline pen tool

Pen tool content on both versions of the app can also be selected, copied and pasted to other pages, or moved around.

Pen tool

Outline includes a digital eraser, but dedicated undo and redo buttons would be useful as well for quickly correcting unwanted markings.

Other Features

Outline contains several other handy features including password protection for selected notes, full compatibility with OneNote’s 2010-2013, tags and checkboxes and a search feature that transcends notebooks and sections.

Outline onenote

Free Trial Version

Outline is a bit pricey compared to other iPad apps, but you can download a free version with a 30 page limit to see if it fits your needs.

Outline is not an online document storage app like Evernote or Springpad, but it fills some missing features not available in the latter two notebooks. It may be particularly useful for students, researchers, business executives, and project planners. Let us know what you think about Outline and how you might use it.

Download: Outline for Mac ($39.99) / Outline for iPad ($14.99) / iPad 30-Page Trial (Free)

  1. SteveB
    January 3, 2014 at 2:37 am

    Excellent tool and the ability to interface with OneNote makes it asupurb choice for the iPad. Not to mention that Outline+ is curently free in the App Store.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 3, 2014 at 3:39 am

      Thanks for the feedback, SteveB. I some several references to how well Outline works with OneNote, an application I'm not familiar with, so thanks for confirming that for our readers. And yes, it's ver accessible on the iPad.

  2. Mel
    January 2, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    It's free today

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 2, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Ahh, thanks for letting us know, Mel. Great to hear.

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