Overview of Free Online Outliners

As an enthusiastic outliner I have compiled the following list of cross-platform, browser-based, free web outliners. Online outliners present a number of advantages over desktop applications (such as Ecco on Microsoft Windows, or OmniOutliner on Mac OSX), and are increasingly offering comparable functionality. These include platform, device and location independent access, collaborative functionality, as well as integration with other third party applications. 

Hopefully this list will assist you in the eternal search for the best free outlining solution!


LooseStitch

LooseStitch is a light weight outliner that has a free plan (pro accounts start at $24.95/year). The free version has all the basic functionality you would expect from an outliner, including the ability to import OPML, manipulate nodes, and print outlines in plan text. You can share your outline with other users to allow them to edit your outline.

The slightly odd interface enables editing using a pannel to the right of the main outline. This also offers the ability to colour code the text of individual outlines, although this is limited to four different colours.

Lucid Outlining Application

The Lucid Outlining Application is a free outliner with a light weight interface that will appeal to those seeking to create simple nested lists. This outliner currently has limited functionality, but does offer a range of keyboard shortcuts to speed up the management of your outlines.

Lucid stores your outlines on your local machine, rather than in the 'cloud', but this does mean that you cannot access your outlines from other computers/browsers. 

The Outliner of Giants

Targeted at the creation of reports and large academic documents, The Outliner of Giants is a free outliner that is integrated with Google Accounts. This outliner has all the basic basic functionality associated with outliners, as well as the ability to export your outline directly into to Google Docs.

The interface is focused on editing larger outlines, so is not good for the fast creation of the simple task lists typical of other outlines.

thinklinkr

With refined collaborative capabilities, thinklinkr allows multiple users to synchronously edit an outline. It is a feature rich outliner, with the full range of functionalities including the ability to import and export outlines, track revisions, and switch between different outlines. The interface is well developed and is supported by an extensive range of keyboard shortcuts.

However, some may find the interface a little cluttered and the range of functionalities a little confusing for many outlining tasks.

Comparison of Functionality

All functionality referes to the free version. Some have additional functionality with a subscription.
Name Promote/ Demote Copy Styling Expose/ hide levels Hoist Search Import OPML Export OPML Export Text/ Word Collaboration Attachments
Action Manager  No  No  No  Yes  No  No  No  No  No  No  No
Checkvist  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  No  No  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  No
LooseStitch  Yes  No  Yes  Yes  No  No  No  Yes  Yes  Yes  No
Lucid  Yes  No No  No No  No   No  No  No  No  No
The Outliner of Giants  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  No  No  Yes  Yes  No  Yes
thinklinkr  Yes  Yes  No  Yes  No  No  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  No
Treedolist  No  No  Yes  Yes  No  Yes  No  No  No  Yes  No

Key to outliner functionality

  • The ability to promote/demote nodes up and down the hierarchy
  • The ability to copy nodes with or between outlines
  • The ability to style nodes
  • The ability to expose and hide the levels of the hierarchy
  • The ability to hoist a node so that it is the uppermost node in the window
  • The ability to search within or across outlines
  • The ability to import an OPML file to create a new outline
  • The ability to export an OPML file
  • The ability to export to third part applications such as a text editor or Word
  • The ability to invite collaborators to edit your outline
  • The ability to attach files to nodes

If you know of any other free, fully functional, web-based outliners please let me know.
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