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Creating and Syncing Outlines

Although your iPhone is the ideal place to listen to your outlines, it’s not a great place to create them. Outlines can be long—and long documents are not the sort of thing you want to be typing on an iPhone keypad. Creating them on your laptop or desktop computer makes the most sense, and you can do so using any application that exports in OPML format.

What is OPML? OPML (Outlining Processor Markup Language) is a file format like .txt or .doc, but a special one that preserves the row-oriented, hierarchical nature of outlines. The file extension of an OPML file is “.opml”. OutlinesOutloud uses the special information included in an OPML format file to give you the flexibility to jump forward and backward by rows as you are listening, as well as compress, expand, skip, or loop over outline rows.

Here’s a partial list of outlining programs for Mac and PC that save in OPML format:

Mac

OmniOutliner (most recommended; look for the student discount in Omni’s store)
OPML Editor (cross-platform, and FREE) (Video tutorials here… Installing | Using)
Cloud Outliner Lite (FREE)
Tree 2
MindNodePro

Windows

OPML Editor (cross-platform, and FREE)

Browser-Based (cross-platform)

Checkvist (FREE)

Microsoft Word Workaround

(Video Tutorial)

Surprisingly, Microsoft Word doesn’t export to OPML. Fortunately, there is a way to convert your Word outlines to OPML:

  • Use the ‘Save-As’ option in Word to save your outline as a text file (with a .txt file extension) and then import into the (free) OPML Editor application or your favorite browser-based opml editor, then run through the outline, re-indenting the rows, and save the file out as an OPML file.  Even for long documents, this only takes a couple of minutes.

Here are exact steps, using OPML Editor….

1

Create your outline in MS Word…

W1 - WordOutline

2

SAVE-AS a text file

W2 - WordSaveAsPlainText

3

Select ‘OPEN’ from the File menu in OPML Editor and navigate to the text file you outputted…

O1 - OPMLEditor_OpenFile

4

Click on the triangle at the beginning of the first row that should be indented…

O3b - OPMLEditor_SelectRow_withArrow

5

Hit TAB to indent (or SHIFT-TAB to outdent)…

O4 - OPMLEditor_OneRowIndented

6

Hit LEFT-ARROW to go to the next row and indent. Repeat for all rows…

O5 - OPMLEditor_AllRowsIndented

7

Select ‘Save-As’…

O6 - OPMLEditor_SaveAsInMenu

7

Save into your OutlinesOutloud folder…

O7 - OPMLEditor_SaveOPMLInOOLFolder

 

Syncing Outlines Using Dropbox

(Video Tutorial)

Once you’ve created an outline on your computer and saved it in OPML format, there are two ways to get it onto your phone. The best is using Dropbox. Dropbox is free and makes the transfer process totally painless. (The other method, using iTunes Sync, requires your iPhone to be in its cradle attached to your computer, and is described here.)

To move outlines to your iPhone using Dropbox, you simply drop them into a special folder on your computer and they appear on your phone within seconds, without your having to do anything else.

If you already have a Dropbox account and have Dropbox installed on your laptop or desktop computer, skip down to Tell OutlinesOutloud to Get Your Outline Files From Dropbox. Otherwise, do these steps first:

1

Set up a Dropbox Account. Go to www.dropbox.com and follow the instructions. It takes about one minute, and it’s free.

2

Install Dropbox on Your Laptop or Desktop Computer. The Dropbox site will walk you through installation once you’ve set up an account. (NOTE: You do not need to install the Dropbox iPhone app on your iPhone, but you can if you want to.)

Tell OutlinesOutloud to Get Your Outline Files From Dropbox

1

Launch the OutlinesOutloud app on your iPhone.

2

When you see the How To Sync screen, select Dropbox and tap DONE

Sync  - Select Dropbox

3

When prompted, enter your Dropbox login info (your email address and password)…

Sync - EnterDropboxCredentials

Dropbox will automatically create an Apps/OutlinesOutloud folder in the Dropbox folder on your computer. That’s where you will put outline files you want on your iPhone.

D3 - DropboxAppsOutlinesOutloudFolder

You’ll only have to set this up once. From then on, any files placed into the /Dropbox/Apps/OutlinesOutloud folder on your computer will instantly be available on your iPhone when you launch OutlinesOutloud.

To Transfer Outlines Using Dropbox

When you’ve finished creating an outline, remember to save it in OPML format (if using Microsoft Word, follow the steps under Microsoft Word Workaround) into the /Dropbox/Apps/OutlinesOutloud folder on your computer. The file will then be available for playback on your iPhone and will appear in the Outline List View when you launch OutlinesOutloud.

 

Syncing Outlines Using iTunes Sync

(Video Tutorial)

Assuming you have iTunes on your computer, set up to use iTunes Sync to transfer outline files by following these steps:

1

Launch the OutlinesOutloud app on your iPhone.

2

When you see the How To Sync screen, select iTunes Sync and tap DONE

Sync - Select iTunesSync

You’ll only have set this up once. From then on, any files dragged into the iTunes iPhone Documents window on your computer will be available on your iPhone whenever you sync your phone with your computer.

To Transfer Outlines Using iTunes Sync

When you’ve finished creating an outline on your computer, save it in OPML format (if using Microsoft Word, follow the steps under Microsoft Word Workaround). Then do this:

1

Place your iPhone in its cradle. (iTunes will launch.)

2

Select your iPhone in the iTunes sidebar.

3

Select Apps.

i2 - iTunesSynce_SelectApps

4

Select OutlinesOutloud.

i3 - iTunesSync_SelectOutlinesOutloud

5

Now you can drag OPML files into the iTunes iPhone Documents window.

i4 - iTunesSync_DragNDropInProgress
i5 - iTunesSync_DragNDropCompleted

iTunes will copy to your iPhone any files you drag. They will be appear in the Outline List View when you launch OutlinesOutloud.