Content is honestly just unavoidable these days. Whether you’re running an online store, offering a service, or selling software, content is crucial.
Or maybe your content is your money-maker.
Perhaps your blog has a loyal following and people rely on your content for help, information, or solutions.
Driving traffic is important, but so is value.
You must get your content right and there are many things that go into this:
- Hitting relevant themes and ideas.
- Incorporating proper keywords.
- Good formatting and structure.
- Quality writing.
- Factual resources.
- Creating an accurate buyer persona.
- And more.
Sure, you can write from scratch, but why would you?
If you’re creating lots of content, you need to make a plan and get organized. Trust me, if you don’t do it now, you’ll just wish you did later on.
Start by learning how to create a content outline.
What’s a content outline?
Put simply, a content outline helps you plan your piece of content ahead of time. This makes you more efficient and gives your thoughts direction.
For some, creating a content outline may just look like jotting down titles, headings, and subheadings before writing.
Others take it much further and include notes, bullet points, research, and more.
There’s also a whole spectrum in between.
How do you create a content outline?
There are many ways to go about it, some more efficient than others. Starting with a template helps, but you still need to do the work.
Today, I’m showing you five cool little tools that can help.
They aren’t restrictive and still allow you to think and write freely, but they offer structure, guidance, and organization.
5 Programs to Help You Create a Bulletproof Content Outline
Each of these is a little different, so pay attention to the details and decide which one is best for you and your specific style.
Workflowy is for the obsessively organized.
There’s a slight learning curve involved as it has a lot of little features, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have everything nicely within reach.
The main selling point here is the zoom feature.
This is why it’s so great for a complex outline. You can quickly zoom in on a single section, or even subsection of your outline.
By simply clicking a bullet point, that list becomes its own document, allowing you to easily add, remove, and edit.
When you’re done, you can easily toggle back to a larger view of the entire outline with the edits in place.
Outside of helping you create complicated outlines and focus on the details, there are several useful features to keep you organized:
- Tags. By using the # symbol you can create tags throughout the document which then become searchable. By selecting a tag, it will immediately highlight everything with that tag. For example, you can tag a line or a section as #priority and easily go back to it when necessary.
- Infinite Nesting. You can create as many levels of bullet points as you want. This means you can literally get as complex as you want with the outline.
- Easy Collaboration. You can turn on sharing permissions and easily let others contribute to the project if you want.
These notable features make the platform useful for many industries including business owners, teachers, students, authors, and of course – bloggers.
An outline with Workflowy helps you kick writer’s block to the curb.
The best part is that the program is completely free!
You can create up to 250 bullets each month without paying a cent.
If you do want to upgrade because you’re churning out crazy amounts of content, $5/month gives you unlimited bullets.
2. MS OneNote
OneNote is a lesser-known, highly underrated product from Microsoft that’s great for creating and getting organized.
If you tend to be a bit of a messy, more visually charged note taker, then MS OneNote is for you.
The program is unique in that it gives you complete control over what goes where on the page.
You can move things around freely and without restriction.
For example, you can rearrange entire bullet lists or subsections if you’re changing the structure of your outline. Or, you can move a single line of text if you decide it’s out of place.
Stick an image in there wherever you want, or draw directly on the page. Create arrows, highlights, circle important information, draw a line between two connecting ideas – literally whatever you want.
MS OneNote doesn’t want to reign in your ideas and make them boring and linear. it encourages all forms of creativity.
It’s great for bloggers and content creators because it’s incredibly organized. Each document, or in your case, outline, can be sorted into categories.
For example, you can have a tab for each of your blogs and toggle between them. Within each tab, you can flip between outlines.
You can sort them by date, topic, level of completion – whatever works for you.
The best part is that it’s free and available across all devices!
On the surface, OmniOutliner looks like your typical word processor.
But it won’t be long before you see just how powerful its outlining capabilities are.
The deeply customizable features make this platform another great one for highly complex and detailed outlines.
To be clear – this doesn’t mean you can’t use it for your simpler outlines. It’s feature-rich and diverse, so use it however you want.
Once you’ve created your outline and its subsequent headings and sections, OmniOutliner gives you complete control.
Want to change the font size of every line? Go ahead.
Have you ever wished you could put a full image in a third-level bullet point? Now you can.
Open and close bulleted lists at will and organize your outlines in the convenient sidebar.
OmniOutliner has you covered during every step of the process, too. Also available is a brainstorming program where you can create limitless mind maps, graphics, and prototypes.
If you have a bigger project at play, they offer a project management app to help you organize people, assignments, and dates.
All of their products work together and integrate seamlessly to maximize efficiency.
Just like the control it gives you over your outline, OmniOutliner lets you buy the software the way you want.
You can subscribe for $4.99/month or $49.99/year.
Or, you can purchase the program outright for a one-time payment of $99.99. If you love the software, this is obviously the most economical option.
Don’t worry about taking a risk though – you can try the software free for 14 days.
4. Outline Edit
So far I’ve covered those of you that like to go in-depth and outline complex pieces while staying extremely organized.
I’ve also mentioned an app for the more visually inclined that needs a place to keep their hap-hazard ideas clear and manageable.
Outline Edit is for all you multi-taskers out there.
It’s simpler in design and function, but it makes outlining while you research easier than ever:
- Copy and paste. It’s a new form of copying and pasting with even fewer steps. The app offers an extension that when installed, all you have to do is highlight your desired text and click the button. It automatically brings you to your current outline and pastes your highlight. This feature alone makes the platform worth it for many multi-taskers.
- Highlight history. The app keeps a history of what you’ve highlighted, letting you group pieces together or move everything at once.
- Float mode. When you turn this on, the app keeps a window with your outline open in front of everything else you’re doing. This means you can go back and forth between a web page and your outline without even switching tabs.
These are the key multitasking features and it’s all available for just $4.99.
5. UV Outliner
Last but not least, UV Outliner is for when you need to stay focused. Its appearance is plain, and the interface is simple – and that’s the point.
It creates an environment with minimal distractions that lets you focus on the task at hand.
This is the platform for uni-taskers – the ones that prefer to focus on just one thing at a time.
It’s got all the basics covered with a dual-mode selling point that’s tailored to razor-sharp focus.
You can flip back and forth between two modes of work:
- Writing the outline. Here, you enter your text and input your ideas. Create lists, make columns, add notes.
- Moving the outline. Just because it’s a simple app doesn’t mean you have no control. In this mode, you can juggle things around within the outline, or move a piece of the outline into its own window.
Having these two modes operating separately allows you to focus on one thing at a time. Once the ideas are down, then you move on to arranging and organizing them. Then back to creating.
UV Outliner is available for Windows and is completely free.
With these powerful tools at your fingertips, there are no more excuses.
Your first outline doesn’t even have to be good!
Write a bad one, because you can edit something that’s bad, but you can’t edit nothing.
Whether you’re a multi-tasker, a visual creator, or need help to focus – there’s something here for you and it’ll make your outlines great.
Still not convinced that you need an outline?
Well, the benefits are undeniable:
- Boosts productivity
- Saves time
- Gives you structure
- Improves the flow of your posts
- Combats writer’s block
- Keeps ideas organized
- Helps you brainstorm
The list goes on. Try any of these platforms for free right now and see how much they help you. Report back next week with how much you’ve accomplished.