Outliner mode (similar to Logseq, Roam, Dynalist)

I’m still struggling with switching between outline-based apps like Roam and Logseq and Obsidian. I’m hoping there could be an integrated solution in Obsidian so I can do everything in one place.

Keywords: Outliner, Outline, Outlining

Use case or problem

When curating thoughts, it’s often faster to use an ‘outliner’ mode that quickly allows you to build an outline of your thoughts and then effortlessly move sections of the outline around.

Proposed solution

Create a plug-in or feature similar to Logseq or Roam that enhances the way outlining and folding currently works.

  • P1: Easily move sections by clicking a bullet and dragging.
  • P1: Both tab and shift-tab control indenting from within the text itself
  • P2: Perhaps an Outliner mode that keeps in bullet mode (harder to break out by accident)
  • P3: Toggle triangle (folder) only shows up when there are sub-bullets and you hover over the bullet.
  • P3: Bullets have subtle vertical guides within the outline to see position (perhaps only when in ‘Outliner’ mode?)
  • P4: Bullets have a ‘halo’ around them when collapsed / folded and there are sub-bullets underneath.
  • P5: BONUS: Ability to zoom into a bullet (optional, but really nice)

Current workaround

Having to use Logseq or Roam outside of Obsidian for quick thought curation then transfer to Obsidian.

40 Likes

Isn’t every feature you asked for already there in Obsidian?

  • New lines become bullets automatically

There in settings, happens as long as your previous line was a bullet.

  • Bullets have subtle vertical guides within the outline to see position

If you search the forum, there are quick css modification guides for this. I’d love to see this as a first class option too.

  • Toggle triangle (folder) only shows up when there are sub-bullets and you hover over the bullet.

Already there in settings.

  • Bullets have a ‘halo’ around them when collapsed / folded and there are sub-bullets underneath.

Already there and works in preview mode.

  • Easily move sections by clicking a bullet and dragging.

I use editor tricks to make this easy. Agree, it could be more intuitive like the other tools you describe.

  • Can tab and shift-tab bullets in and out from within the text itself

Already there and works, in vim mode at least.

Would be interested to know what Obsidian can do to make outlining more of a first class citizen.

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I was about to write the same thing. The halo thing if needed to be prominent could be further enhanced through CSS, no biggie. Even the vertical guides can be done to the OP’s liking through CSS.

Tab and Shift Tab works normally too.

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Tab/shift tab does not work from within the text itself here. Only when placing the cursor right next to the bullet.

You are right. My bad.

In vim, Ctrl-T/D (de-)indent the bullet regardless of the cursor position.

Even though the features OP listed are mostly in Obsidian already, like the OP, I too “feel” like outlining involves less friction in Roam, and even Notion. I’m still not sure I understand why.

I’m going to pay more attention when I outline next time.

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I too would love an outliner mode in Obsidian.

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For me, while some of the features are there via the basic Markup text editor, they aren’t well integrated and useful for a true Outliner mode, like Logseq or Roam. It’s currently clunky in Obsidian to curate thoughts and move sections around.

It’s really the combination of these Outliner elements that originally made the super-clean Workflowy UI so popular (and inspired Roam).

For example, in Obsidian, while you can start with a bullet and can then automatically generate a bullet on the next line, you aren’t held in that mode and can easily break out via normal editing, like backspacing, etc. It’s “fragile.”

Of course, you can’t easily drag bullet sections around (by default).

Small touches matter as well. For example, the fold triangle is present all the time vs hover only which just adds extra visual complexity to the workspace that isn’t needed (vs. Workflowy or Roam where hovering the line reveals the fold triangle and is a nice visual touch to remind there is more tucked underneath).

That’s what I love about Obsidian, is their attention to detail around the UI and how clean it is. Would love to have a single tool for both outlining and writing and hoping they bring the same clean UI to an integrated Outliner mode.

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Forgot to mention, ability to “zoom” into a bullet (like Workflowy or Roam) would be a great bonus feature!

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Yes to all of this! I’ve found it hard to put into words just why apps like Roam are so much easier to outline in vs Obsidian which technically has the ability to outline but just doesn’t feel the same. I think you explained it well.

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Very well articulated, @NotesFTW! Agree with all of it. That explains what I’ve been missing in Obsidian so far.

Some seem like easy elements to incorporate, while others may be harder or impossible to reconcile with the premise of using a markdown file backend.

Even more interesting is perhaps whether a yet-to-be-imagined superior outlining system is possible with Obsidian, rather than simply copying outlining features from existing systems.

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Even a basic outliner mode would be so appreciated in Obsidian. If every new line could automatically be a bullet and allow shift/shift+tab, it would be amazing. But of course, everything is easier said than done.

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Here is a request for using a hotkey to indent from within line just like shift Tab (which already works like that): Hotkey to Indent Entire Line Regardless of Cursor Position

And here is a request for rearranging: Rearrange parts of note

Thanks.

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Been wanting this from the beginning… An outliner mode is more than possible- it’s jusy a matter of the right person developing a plugin to make it happen…

The devs have stated that they won’t implement an outliner in core, but that they believe it’s only a matter of time until a plugin is created.

I agree with all the points raised here- we need a friction-free outliner mode.

I’ve heard a lot of talk that an outliner won’t work well with .md files but logseq has falsified that assumption as it’s an amazing .md based outliner.

Can’t wait for an outliner plugin in obsidian… it will definitely convert a lot of people to obsidian who otherwise can’t do without the outlining workflow of roam/etc.

11 Likes

+1 here from an OmniOutliner user. The current TAB situation in my notes is a total mess, indenting/outdenting is not consistent, sometimes it seems to cover two tabs instead of one; I tried indenting in VIM mode and that introduced a third length of the tab space. It all looks ugly and distracting.

I envision outlining entirely from the keyboard, so that, no matter where the cursor is in a line:

  • [ ] Line can be indented, no effect elsewhere
  • [ ] Line can be indented, carrying with it its sub-levels (so that each one will get a further indentation)
  • [ ] Line can be outdented, no effect elsewhere
  • [ ] Line can be outdented, carrying with it its sub-levels (so that each one will get a further outdentation)
  • [ ] A new line can be added above, retaining current level (currently possible but it doesn’t retain checklist box)
  • [ ] A new line can be added below, retaining current level (currently possible but it doesn’t retain checklist box)
  • [x] Line can be deleted (currently possible)
  • [x] Line can be split at cursor, creating new line with same outlining style (bullet, number, list; currently possible)
  • [ ] Line can join up its parent or line above (i.e. cut the whole line, get rid of bullet, add a space to line above, append)
  • [ ] Header above gets folded
  • [x] Checklist status can be toggled (currently possible)
  • [x] Line can be moved up/down (currently possible)
  • [x] Line can be toggled between styles (currently possible)
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If I had to sum it up, I’d say that Obsidian outlining feels way too precious compared to other tools.

For me, I’ve found that bullet based outlining in Obsidian (Using minimal theme with vertical lines turned on in the the Minimal plug-in) works and displays better than Markdown header based outlining, but even that requires the cursor to be in just the right place and copying, moving things around often breaks things.

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Yes, it’s definitely fragile when it comes to outlining.

I sure hope they consider integrating solid Outliner features into core. Seems so integral to the thought process & writing.

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Thanks @NotesFTW remind outliner feature again. My thread was archived Hope enhance outliner mode experience in Obsidian

I would really like to see some enhanced tab behaviour along the features described in this thread.

Especially being able to hit tab to indent a bullet list line even when I am not right next to the bullet point but anywhere within the line would help… Also being able to move items around/reorder them …

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I’ll add block inline embeddings. Maybe not a feature inherent to an outliner, but certainly helpful since the outlining experience is all about ideas flowing. Obsidian already has block embeddings but the way they show breaks the flow of the outline.

1 Like