Getting started with note-taking iPad app Outline+

If you have found Microsoft's OneNote app for the iPad underwhelming, you'll find that the note-taking experience with Outline+ is much more pleasant.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
3 min read

Outline+ is the OneNote app for the iPad that OneNote should have been in the first place. Released last month but escaping my gaze until now, Outline+ is a $14.99 note-taking app for the iPad that mimics OneNote while thoroughly outclassing it. (Given OneNote's severe limitations, outclassing it is an admittedly easy feat.)

Microsoft's OneNote is a perfectly functional note-taking app for the PC, but for reasons that escape me, its iPad add is woefully limited. The biggest fault of OneNote for iPad is the app does not let you create new notebooks or sections. Formatting options for font, font size, and font color also go missing.

Outline+ follows OneNote's organizational scheme, in which a notebook is filled with sections, and sections are filled with notes. The layout of the two apps is similar as well, with a large workspace on the right, a narrow navigation pane on the left, and a breadcrumb trail at the top that lets you know which notebook and section you are using. Unlike OneNote for iPad, however, Outline+ a grants you the basic and much-needed capability to create new notebooks and sections. It also offers formatting options, and it lets you write anywhere on the page. Each line in most writing apps starts on the left edge, but not Outline+. You can long tap to place your cursor anywhere on the page.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

When you launch the app, you are greeted with a Getting Started notebook. Below it are three buttons to open a OneNote notebook from Dropbox or iTunes, create a new notebook, and access settings for the app. Tap to open a notebook, or long tap to access tabs to adjust its appearance, share it via Dropbox, export it to iTunes, or delete it. Outline+ supports OneNote; you can sync your notebooks via OneNote on your PC and those created in Outline+ via Dropbox, or you can transfer notebooks via iTunes when you sync your iPad with your PC.

When you open a notebook to view or write a note, the sections of that notebook are represented by tabs along the top. Simply tap the + to create a new section. The various notes in a section run down the left side of the page. Tap the + button at the bottom of the notes column to add a new note. At the top of this column are buttons to view your favorite notes, view recent pages, and search.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Tap in the title section in the top-left corner of a note (above the date and time information) to enter a title for your note, which then replaces the default "Untitled page" title for the note's tab on the left. Four buttons along a note's right edge let you view the note in full-screen, mark it as a favorite, insert an image, or snap a picture to insert.

When writing, Outline+ uses the standard iPad keyboard, but a row of formatting options appears at the top of your page. You can hide this row or use it to create headings, format text, and create bulleted or numbered lists.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

To return to Outline+'s home screen to view your notebooks, tap the home icon at the top of the screen.

Do you use a note-taking app on the iPad? If so, may I inquire as to which one? Please add your comments below.