Taking structured and academic notes/outline on an iPad?

Discussion in 'iPad Apps' started by DarumaBlue, Dec 30, 2013.

  1. DarumaBlue macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2009
    Basically, I'm looking for an iPad app that is capable and fully featured for structured note taking. The purpose is twofold.

    1) Take developed, hierarchical notes in lectures, job talks, etc.

    2) Outline books that I read but do not own. This lets me have a record of the substantive points of the book that I can then deposit into my Devonthink Library, in order to have something searchable.

    On OSX, I've been using Circus Ponies' Notebook. It lets me export to various formats, including PDF, I can navigate the levels of the outlining very, very easily, and I can move lines of notes around in case I get something out of order. I know Circus Ponies has an iPad app, but I've heard mixed things.

    Other apps like Evernote and Pages do have outlining like this available, usually as a bulleted list, but they're really hard to move between indented levels, and to insert or delete or move various lines.

    Thoughts from fellow iPad users?
  2. Alonso Quijano macrumors 6502

    Alonso Quijano

    Jul 17, 2013
    I use Omnioutliner for iPad, but there's not a lot in terms of export

    It supports OPML, html, plain text, CSV as well as DOCX, but no pdf :(
  3. DarumaBlue thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2009
    The CSV and spreadsheet outputs keep throwing me off, like OmniOutliner doesn't want to acknowledge that it can produce rich text, but more like stuff formatted in columns.

    Do any of those formats make sense for chucking out a searchable page of text I can then shove into Devonthink? Maybe the simple text...
  4. jojoba macrumors 68000

    Dec 9, 2011
    I personally find my macbook air much superior for outlining than the iPad, although now that Omnipresence is finally working, it makes working between mac and iPad much easier.

    On the iPad I use Omnioutliner and occasionally CPN, but I always export and transfer to Devonthink on my mac, rather than from the iPad.

    I've written more about outlining tools for academic work here, but it's primarily mac focussed (for the reason above).

  5. DarumaBlue thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2009
    Jojoba -

    Your work on Macdemise has been invaluable, and contributed in no small way to a lot of the tools I used to get through my comprehensive exams.

    It was the same preparation that made me realize I wanted to create fuller outlines for whole books, instead of simple summaries, like Title, Author, Year, Place in literature, Hypothesis, Results, Etc.

    I agree that the iPad is less powerful or useful for outlining than working on a proper Mac. But I like Federico Vitucci's emphasis on using the iPad as a functional workstation 90% of the time. Outlining is one of the things I haven't really been satisfied with, hence my search for advice.

    When do you use Notebook instead of OmniOutliner on the iPad?
  6. jojoba macrumors 68000

    Dec 9, 2011
    Thanks for that, DarumaBlue, glad to hear it's of use for others.

    I think the iPad has a lot of potential for content production and not just consumption. However, as my writing workflow have slowly changed, I've found myself using the iPad less and my macbook air more. I think four key issues have contributed to that. One is the issue you state, that outlining isn't something I'm fully satisfied with on the iPad, and I outline a great deal. The same goes for mind mapping, which I'm increasingly using. For both outlining and mind mapping, keyboard navigation and exporting is just much smoother on the mac. The third issue is my reliance on Scrivener as a writing tool. Once I've added some tables and data to my draft papers, syncing with plain text to the iPad isn't satisfactory for me. The final thing is multi tasking. I find myself switching a lot back and forth between articles, draft papers, notes and data, and that's just much swifter on the mac. But I know people who use the iPad 90% of the time, so I think it's all down to personal preferences and workflow.

    I use Notebooks for what I call 'aggregate reviews', meaning all literature reviews that are organised according to theme, particular questions, theoretical perspectives, and so on, rather than author/publication. The main reason why I've taken to using Notebooks rather than OmniOutliner is that it's much easier to switch between different outlines in CPN. I generally prefer note taking apps where I can move back and forth between different notes (or outlines) with just a couple of clicks, rather than having to open and close/ navigate between different files. Up until recently, OmniPresence was also in beta and the dropbox sync of Notebooks was just much more reliable. However, at the moment I'm primarily using the iPad for reading my outlines, rather than creating them. It functions as my notebook which is always with me.
  7. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Boy, tough call.

    But structured? I'd maybe go with CPN on iPad, even though I passed on it (I used the desktop version a lot in my legal work, and although I thought the iPad would be better for notetaking I found that for STRUCTURED stuff the structure/keyboard of a MBP preferable to the iPad, which I preferred for unstructured stuff, like Note Taker HD.

    The nice thing about CPN is that it does structured and unstructured well. Say you're reading and see a section of text you want; boom, take a photo of it and leave it in CPN. Or DevonThink for that matter. Then back to the hierarchical outline, with a connection to the photo (I use Evernote to OCR pages from books; saves tons of time).

    But for the most basic structured notes I use TaskPaper (was free recently, BTW). Super basic, but it's text so can be integrated into all sorts of stuff easily. The problem I had with iPad stuff is that the syncing and transferring was always such a pain, even with DevonThink. And I had to get it back to the desktop. It's getting better, but still text is dynamite since it just works with everything. Not full-featured, but some people's full-featured is another person's bloat.


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