Outline Everything with UV Outliner

Making lists and outlines is a convenient way to organize information. Computers are another way of organizing information. Combining these things is irresistible.

UV Outliner is a Windows desktop application that has a unique way of doing this.

Getting UV Outliner

Icon for UV Outliner

UV Outliner is currently in version 2.4.4 and is available at its own website. Open the installer from your default download directory and it will install UV Outliner like any other standard piece of Windows software. UV Outliner installed on my computer without a hitch.

Setup Screen

UV Outliner installs easily.

Starting UV Outliner & Getting Help

Opening UV Outliner brings up a window with two panes and a menubar. The pane on the right has styling options, such as fonts, and a search function. Click on the arrows to the right in order to expand them. The pane to the left is for text, while the menubar is self-explanatory. One nice touch that I insist on poiting out whenever I see it is that items in the menubar have their equivalent keyboard shortcuts listed to their right. Hey, application-writers, don’t forget that many of your users prefer the keyboard over the mouse.

In case you get lost, click on the “Tour and screenshots” item in the Help menu to start the tutorial. Annoyingly, it brings up the UV Outliner help page in a web browser instead of a built-in help system or a local CHM file viewable with Microsoft’s help viewer. If I had wanted to look at a web page to use an outliner, then I would have used a web app like Workflowy. Even worse than that is the fact that this help page is so sparse. I had to resort to guesswork and trial & error as well as looking at the project weblog in order to learn its features.

The Help Menu

The help system leaves something to be desired.


Using UV Outliner

Start typing in the left pane in order to get started. Press the Return key when you’re finished with a line. Notice that UV Outliner is centered on the concept of rows. Below, you can see that, after I pressed the Return key at the end of “Recipe for Catastrophe Nuggets,” the editor started a new bullet point into which I typed “Uses for Catastrophe Nuggets.”

Some Initial Text Entry

UV Outliner focuses on rows of text.

In order to add hierarchy to these bullet points, UV Outliner has the “Hoist” command. Select a row and choose Hoist from the View menu (or press Alt+H). This makes the editor focus on that particular row with any further items you enter placed beneath that row. You can also hoist those items, as well, to get a deeper hierachy. To return to the previous view, select UnHoist from the View menu or press Alt+G. Any row that has had items placed under it using the hoist command is collapsable.

One can also insert a note beneath a row by selecting Note from the Insert menu or by pressing Control-Shift-I. A note is attached to the row which was selected at the moment the command was invoked and can be more than one line long. In the picture, below, you can see that I entered a note, “Only for the faint of heart.” beneath the “Uses for Catastrophe Nuggets” row along with the rest of the recipe from my planet.

It's my favorite.

Don’t knock it ’til ya tried it.

One can also see that I have taken advantage of the styling options. I have italicized some of the words and changed the colors of a few others. These are available in the Font Settings tab in the right pane.

To re-order the rows, select either of the top two items in the Navigation menu, or press Ctrl-Up Arrow or Ctrl-Down Arrow to move the selected row up or down, relpectively. Note that this differs from the way those keyboard shortcuts are used in most other text editing programs. Usually, they mean “Move the cursor up or down a paragraph.”

Making Columns

Name the column and it gets made.

A formatting option that isn’t discussed in the help web page is columns. Choose New Column from the Columns menu to make and name a new column. The rows in the column have the same height as the rows in the column to the left. Pressing the Return key creates a new row in the original column, so watch out; use the down arrow key to stay in the new column.

Have Fun With Columns

Columns are a formatting option.

UV Outliner can export documents in HTML format, as a text file, or as a Rich Text file. Choose Export from the File menu to do this.

Export your work.

UV Outliner does not lock users into a proprietary format.


UV Outliner has a unique approach to making hierachical lists. In this respect, it resembles the Workflowy webapp except that it is a desktop application; you don’t need to trust someone else with your data.

However, UV Outliner would be better served with a good built-in help system. Bug the developer until he builds a better help system and then this program will be a true contender.


Aside from a few idiosyncracies, this is a good outline program. A better help system is all that's needed to make this a great program.