ActionOutline: An Alternative to OneNote

ActionOutlineI’m back to ActionOutline. I tried to use Microsoft OneNote. It didn’t work. That’s the last time I’m moving 1,000+ notes.

ActionOutline is clean, simple and clear. With the recent addition of drag&drop or copy&paste for photos it’s closer in functionality to my beloved EverNote 2. I wrote previously about ActionOutline as an alternative to EverNote but before I was forced to make a switch. It doesn’t have a clipper button. But it does have the advantage of being able to create separate outlines easily.

OneNote is messy. And cluttered. And I couldn’t find anything. Too many Pages inside of too many Sections and Sub-Sections and Groups inside of too many Notebooks which led to a lot of scrolling and not knowing where I put things. It makes sense, theoretically, but it’s like a black hole for notes in practice.

An outline in ActionOutline would be comparable to a “Notebook” within which is a simple outline structure on the left and space for writing on the right. Or you can have a horizontal split if you prefer.


In ActionOutline, I’ve done the obvious. I’ve created 12 outlines to match the main folder structure of everything else on my computer.

If an outline gets too long, I export a sub-section into its own outline and add a link to it from the main outline which is done like this:

ActionOutline link

To search across multiple outlines, put in your search query (Ctrl+F) and then click from tab to tab using F3 (Find Next) on each one to move through the content.

I can see this working quite well for genealogy notes of any kind. Outlines can be set up for different surnames. Or for planning events, talks, blog posts, etc. It’s very intuitive and easy to use, with a long list of shortcut keys.

If you have a Dropbox account, you can keep your outlines in a folder there and sync them to your other computer(s).

The free version called ActionOutline Lite limits the size of your outlines. The Pro version is $39.95 with a 30-day free trial.

If you send an ActionOutline file to someone else or receive one that you just need to read and don’t have the software, there’s ActionOutline Viewer (1.5MB) that can be downloaded and installed for free.

2 thoughts on “ActionOutline: An Alternative to OneNote

  1. Rebeccah

    I have ActionOutline 3.4 and I like it a LOT. I use it for outlining my thoughts as I analyze the requirements for a software project to automate one of our labs.

    One thing I just discovered, though, about its support for images – it’s easy enough to paste an image in, but it inflates the size of the ActionOutline file something terrible. I started with a 60KB AO file, added three JPEG files (<1MB each), and ended up with a 23MB file!!!

    Until I find a way to rein this in, I'm going to have to avoid embedding images in my AO files.


    (p.s. I'm googling looking for ways to prevent this from happening, and different articles on your site keep coming up in my search)

    1. JL Post author

      How funny! Google loves me, I guess.

      I wonder if the file-size increase for embedding photos is any different for OneNote or EverNote. A 1MB photo is very large. If I put in anything wider than 800 pixels, I can’t see it, (having only a 19″ wide screen, 1280×1024). Why 3 of them would add over 20MB to a file is interesting. I tried one of about 120K and the file came out 1,847K larger. How odd.

      Having said that, though, is there some reason why a large file size is not OK?


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