Trying to find a good Outliner

An outliner is a type of tool that makes it easy to organize information in a hierarchy (like an outline).   I have been coding, using and trying new programs that act as outlines for years.

Workspace Organizer

Long ago, I created a “workspace organizer” inside VisualAge Smalltalk.  It was a classic 2 pane outliner (left pane showed the hierarchy, right pane showed the text contents of the selected node).

Treepad Lite

When I started working on jobs and projects that didn’t use VisualAge Smalltalk, I found Treepad Lite.  It is a simple, free outliner that works very nice.  But somewhere along the way it began having problems pasting.  If I copy something and paste it and hold down the ctrl-v key it will paste and then ring an error bell a few times and then paste again.  Sometimes it seems I cannot paste at all.


My friend uses a program called Vault.  It is not free but it seems OK.  I tried it and found that I liked some features and didn’t like others.

NoteCase Free

I found NoteCase not long ago and started using it.  It does have a few problems .. some annoying and some scary (loss of work) but for the most part it is working for me.  I don’t love it and just found out that it is no longer under development – so the 2 bugs I just reported will NOT get fixed.


I looked at KeyNote but it too is no longer under development.

Action Outline

I just tried it for a few seconds.  It doesn’t let you embed links in articles and it saves the file as some RTF type format so your data is basically locked inside.  I did like treepad line for this feature.. it instead would save data in ascii text so you don’t lose anything.


Is not an outliner.. and I want something to keep notes in a hierarchy of lists because my brain seems to like that.


JreePad is a free java implemented version of treepad.  It is missing features.


Maple looks nice but doesn’t seem to have file attachments or links.  It is not free.


Mempad is like JreePad.. small and simple but without many features.


SEONote is free but it feels a bit slow and has too many features.  It also saves files as some RTF type format.


Feels a bit slow and has too many features again.  It does have a free version.

So, here I am.. still looking for the right outliner software.  I guess I’m going to stick with NoteCase until I find something better.  I’m willing to pay for it (<$30) but it has to:

  • save the file in a readable format – not RTF.  this way the file would be readable from a text editor and searchable with other tools.
  • support linking to file and urls
  • would be nice if you could embed images (and it would save them in the file as ascii .. like uuencoded or something)
  • paste MUST work every time
  • would be nice if it would produce backups on every save (keep most recent N)
  • formatting for fonts – size, color, bold, italic, etc
  • formatting for lists
  • formatting for indent/outdent
  • small footprint
  • can run from a thumb drive
  • optional spell check

Does anyone have any other outliner suggestions that I should try?

Maybe I’ll just write my own..


5 thoughts on “Trying to find a good Outliner

  1. Was going through the same process myself. Was a long time user of treepad on Windows, and then moved to Linux. Treepad was flaky and ugly on Linux, so I then found Notecase. Used that for a year, but now have massive CPU usage whenever I start it up, and as development has ceased I have to find an alternative.

    I had the idea that python might be the sort of tool to write this in, and sure enough once I did a google search for python outliner then I found a few which seem appropriate:

    Let me know how you get on …

  2. Thanks for this and leaving this old post around. I have the same issue. Tried Jreepad (no spell check), tried EverNote (super-bloat, Win32 version uses .NET 3.5…yuck and Mac version does not support any version before 10.5). After looking at the list that Jim provided, I have decided on KeepNote (it seems the only Py outliner being actively maintained).

  3. I actually went back to NoteCase after discovering how to fix the problem. Apparently the slowness to start up / extreme CPU usage was caused by some sort of character encoding bug. I can’t quite remember what I did to fix it, but I think it was to go into Preferences, Global, and check the box which said Use System Language Settings.

    All good now. So I didn’t need to export and re-import my notes.

    I may go back and look at KeepNote sometime then.

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