Question

How do you use the outlining tools in modern notes apps?

In Roam Research, everything's an outline. Press enter to make a new line, and it's a new bullet. Notion and Coda hide it a bit—new lines still look like new lines—but they act like outlines, where you can drag any paragraph to reorder them, or press tab to indent and make sub-points.

Somehow as wikis took over note taking and software quit treating digital documents like paper, outlines took over too.

But has that changed how you write notes? Do you now outline things more than before, or did you always outline things with bullet points in earlier notes apps anyhow? Do you find the outline style better than writing in paragraphs?

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thatbberg's avatar
12 months ago

Outlining and bullet lists have always been how any piece of my writing starts, so this trend has mainly made my setup easier. Previously this always meant multiple documents: like a different piece of physical paper for each stage of the outline or list or separate versions of the document. When I started using Notion for writing, that morphed into just jumping to the right part of the outline and adding more information.

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thatbberg )
12 months ago

Nice, that's awesome Notion filled that gap in your workflow! Did you ever try dedicated outlining apps in the past, and if so, any reason you think those didn't stick for you? And do you find yourself moving paragraphs around using Notion's drag-and-drop? I feel like my default is still to cut and paste as I would have in a normal document.

1 point
thatbberg's avatar
@thatbberg (replying to @maguay )
12 months ago

I had tried Workflowy, but just couldn't get that to stick with my workflow. I didn't enjoy writing enough, and then moving it from the outlining tool to the tool for my rough draft was never seamless.

The smoothest I got before Notion was using Evernote for YouTube video scripts. I would outline in one note, duplicate it, and use the dupe to develop a draft. But with longer form I would use Google Docs and never liked that.

I do find myself moving things around easily with drag-and-drop, for me it wasn't hard to mentally switch to that from cut and paste!

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thatbberg )
12 months ago

Ahh that's clever, duplicating the outline for the draft, as it lets you keep the original outline around for later reference if you want.

Agreed on Workflowy. It was an app I wanted to love but never got to stick for me, for some reason.

1 point
MikeRaia's avatar
12 months ago

Most of what I write starts in Notion as an outline where I'm moving around bullet points until I like the flow. Then I'll start writing the actual piece in paragraphs below the outline. That draft is then copied and pasted into Grammarly for clean-up.

Now if I could just get Grammarly to work inside Notion...

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @MikeRaia )
12 months ago

Ohh that's a great point. Notion's built-in spellcheck is definitely lacking. My general workflow for blogging is to write in whatever app I want (often for me, research and tasks are in Notion, but I do my actual longform writing in iA Writer or Ulysses, and copy the finished text into wherever I want to store/publish it), copy the final draft, edit it in Grammerly, then publish. Deeper integration—or better built-in revision tools—would be amazing.

While they're at it, the other single thing I'm still missing from Notion vs. Google Docs is suggested edits. That'd make it much easier to build a full editing workflow in Notion.

1 point
abouelatta_ali's avatar
12 months ago

They did actually. I started using Notion as a secondary tool for my side projects. I kept all my documentation previously on good notes. But now I use notion for literally everything (its the only software i pay yearly for because I know i wont stop paying for it for a long long long time). I think once u get the hang of it, it becomes a lot faster to type & structure ur thoughts on notion rather than a pen and paper. I think i type faster than i write and previously the problem with notes apps..etc was that after i am done typing i had to revisit the note to actually make sense of it. it just does these weird formatting things and i cant be bothered to fix while i am taking notes(specially in meetings or lectures).

I also use roam, but only for research. My use case for roam is when i dk exactly what i am looking to get out of my writing. An example for this would be doing background research for my newsletter, roam becomes very powerful cuz it connects the dots between my prev research and the one am doing now. I almost ALWAYS find interesting connection and my writing becomes more insightful as a result. Roam feels a bit slower though than notion, if i am transcribing smth live, the {{}} and double links become a bit distracting ( i cant always remember the exact way i described a tag/page and end up doing a quick search to make sure i am not duplicating the same ideas under different names) it also doesnt have a native app. I HATE BROWSER APPS.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @abouelatta_ali )
12 months ago

That's super interesting‚ thanks for sharing your experiences! I often write in other apps and paste into Notion, but you end up with just enough formatting oddities that it'd likely be better to just do it all in one place.

I feel similarly about Roam; more of a place to take notes and do research than to actually write longform content. Do you think you'll end up migrating to Notion for research now that Notion has wiki-style backlinks too?

1 point
abouelatta_ali's avatar
@abouelatta_ali (replying to @maguay )
12 months ago

Noooo. I dont think so, I get why they are moving in that direction but I wish i could turn it off actually. its annoying that everytime i press"@" its linking to a page. Also i take pride in my wiki structure...I dont want to end up with 1000 different pages cuz I am using backlinks. Like notion wasnt set up for that(backlinks) and it kinda destroys the whole structure thing which is really useful for me.

I tried coda as well, it seemed it was trying to do too much, churned in 10 min

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @abouelatta_ali )
12 months ago

There really is a fine line between not having enough features to build a critical following, and having so many features your product becomes unmanageable for most people.

1 point
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