Organization is one of the most necessary traits to have as a writer. Many writers struggle with this important skill, including myself. I've talked in the past about my endeavor to put things in order when I write, and I've reviewed several softwares that help me organize. Outline 4D software for Windows is a powerful outlining tool that is suited to dozens of styles of writing including novels, screenplays, playwriting, video and more. I had the opportunity to poke around with Outline 4D and see “what's under the hood” so that I may share with you. This is what I learned.
At first glance Outline 4D seems overwhelming, but withing 5 minutes of analyzing the included example files, I was able to wrap my head around the software and all it can do.
In simplest of terms Outline 4D is a giant pack of electronic index cards that can be as big or small as you need. They can be organized in any order you would like. What makes Outline 4D unique is it's workspace and all the cool things you can do within it.
Before I discuss the workspace lets talk about each “index card.” Each card is able to hold one word or hundreds of pages. Cards can be color coded, fonts can be formatted and each card can be moved around as needed. It's as easy as using a word processor because that is what it is. The workspace is totally customizable for your project. Use a pre-made template or create your own. Here is a step-by-step view of the Pulp Fiction example file to help you understand how easy Outline 4D is to use.
This is the blank workspace. It is set up with a row for acts, sequences, scenes and beats because it is a screenplay. These rows are customizable. They could just as easily be labeled Chapters, dialogue, picture or whatever your mind comes up with to help you organize your writing project. You read from top to bottom but you can work in a non-linear fashion. In this example acts are broken into sequences, sequences are broken into scenes, and scenes into beats.
Here is an overall view of the complete project. This is called panoramic view in Outline 4D. Notice how each part breaks down into it's smaller parts as you travel down the timeline. Now let's zoom in closer.
Looks clearer now right? You can really start seeing how detailed things are getting at this level.
This is at the lowest level of zoom. An individual card can be formatted as you wish. You'll also note that the length of each card is relative to the amount of time the act, sequence, scene (or whatever you choose to call it) takes in the story. This too is customizable.
Here is an example of a video script for a commercial, with two tiers, picture and dialog/narration. This view is called “Timeline view,” by the way.
With the click of a button it can be changed to “outline view” so you can get a different feel for the outline of your story.
An extremely useful feature in Outline 4D is called “tracking.” You can track people, things, events, or anything else you choose using this mighty feature. Now you can visually see how things are relating to each other or perhaps how a person or object is traveling through the story. Do you want to impress your friends? Print out a diagram of your story on one page or make it wall size for a bigger impact. A very unique feature indeed. Outline 4D can be instantly downloaded from The Writers Store or a boxed edition can be had, if you are willing to wait for the postman. Not a bad price for such a full feature program, but as always, watch for sales by checking in to the website or subscribing to The Writers Store e-mail list.
Pros: Outline 4D is powerful, intuitive and easy to use once you spend a few minutes to understand how it works. Index cards are limitless in amount of information you can put on them. Exports into Word, Write Brothers Movie Magic screenwriting software, import from Dramatica and other Write Brothers softwares.
Cons: Windows only. I would love to see this available for Mac users too. Not compatible with a lot of popular software programs.
Bottom-Line: A strong and powerful outlining program, customizable for endless styles of writing, at a fair price.
Special Offer: Order Outline 4D before June 1, 2013 and receive Word Menu for FREE ($29.95 value)!
- More Screenwriting Product Reviews by Forris Day Jr.
- Meet the Reader: How to Write a Screenplay in Nine (Not So) Easy Steps
- Story Talk: To Outline or Not to Outline—That Is the Question!
Tools to Help: