Outline editor

Tana's basic mode is an outline editor. Think of it as an endlessly flexible bullet point list. Expand and collapse, zoom in and out, and reorganize your thoughts effortlessly.


Using an outline editor is the simplest way to organize ones thoughts. Instead of distracting you with styling, formatting and fonts, the outline editor nudges you to focus on the structure and flow of your thoughts, notes, arguments or stories. This will help clarify your thinking more than anything.

Each bullet point in the outline is a discreet piece of information, called a node. Nodes in Tana are the Lego pieces of your knowledge. Their atomic nature allow them to be rearranged, reused, and remixed in many ways. It’s a replacement for files and folders, and gives you the ultimate flexibility and speed. For more on nodes, see Nodes and references

Miss documents? Any node can become the "document" you are focusing on - just zoom into it. And when the same information needs to exist in different contexts, don't duplicate it - make a reference to it instead. In this way, the "node-as-document" adapts to your shifting needs and focus without the disadvantages of creating documents with stale information.


  • Indent your information. Indenting your information makes it easy to expand or collapse details as needed, and infuses your information with structure and relationships.
  • See how your ideas relate to one another. Information isn't equal - it exists in relation to other information. The outliner makes relationships as easy to read as a table of contents, or a family tree.
  • Nodes are expandable and collapsible. This gives you full control over how much context you want to see, making complex information more digestible by breaking it down into manageable, collapsible parts.
  • Use references to refer to the same thing in different places. If you update this information or change your mind about it, it'll update everywhere it has been referenced.


The outline = List view

By default, everything in Tana is viewed as a List. Changing the view settings of a node will affect how its child nodes are viewed. See Views for more on the types of views.

The hierarchy of the outline

A node or reference has relationships with adjacent nodes in the hierarchy, which can be described as follows:

  • A sibling exists on the same level relative to a node
  • A parent exists one level outdented from a node, making the node a direct ancestor of it. A grandparent exists two levels outdented.
  • A child exists one level indented from a node and is a direct descendant of it.
  • If the child of a node is not a reference, the node is then considered the owner of the child node. It is also a parent to the node.

Fields and field values are treated as part of the hierarchy too.

  • In Tana, fields are considered a type of node that also exists within the outline hierarchy.
  • Relative to a node, a field that is applied to it is considered a child, and the field value is considered a grandchild of the node.

Move nodes within the outline

To indent/outdent nodes

  • Use Tab to indent a node to make it a child of the node directly above it.
  • Use Shift+Tab to outdent a node to turn it into a sibling relative to its old parent

To move one or more nodes up/down

  • With mouse, click and drag the node bullet up and down
  • With keyboard, press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Up arrow/Down arrow

The Move to menu

There's a new way to move nodes that uses a menu to quickly find the location you want to move something to.

To open the menu

  • With the node toolbar: Right-click or hit Esc on a node and select Move on the toolbar
  • With the node bullet context menu: Right-click on the node bullet → Move
  • With the keyboard shortcut: Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+M
  • With command line: Use the Move with finder command to bring up the menu.

Once the menu is open, to find a location in the menu

  • By search: start typing to find the location
  • By navigating: use arrow keys to traverse up/down/left/right through the tree

Once you have found the location, to move to that location

  • Use Enter if it's a node with no children
  • Use Cmd/Ctrl+Enter on a node with children
  • Hit Enter, twice

To move and leave a reference:

  • Use Option/Alt+Enter

Other ways to move nodes

With Cut/Paste

  • Cut a node (Cmd/Ctrl+X) and paste it elsewhere.

With command line

  • Use the Move command to move a node to a specific move target. You can define move targets by using the command Set move target on any node to add it to the target list.

To zoom in on a node

  • With mouse, click on the node bullet
  • With keyboard, press Cmd/Ctrl+. (period) to zoom into the node that has the caret

To zoom out or go back

  • With mouse, press the top-left arrow to go back
  • With keyboard, press Cmd/Ctrl+, (comma) to go back

To expand all children of a node

  • With mouse, right-click on the node bullet > Expand all. You can also expand nodes by clicking on the indentation line (a thin, grey vertical line) to the left of the nodes you want to expand.
  • With keyboard, press Cmd+Ctrl+Down (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+Down (Windows)

Related FAQs

  • What is the difference between the Owner and a Parent of a node?

    The Owner is the node's home (where it was created). A node has only one owner, but can have many parents.

    PARENT / GRANDPARENT search operators are used to refer to one and two levels up in the outline, respectively

    Source of FAQ: Tana Community Resource Hub

    Related docs:

  • Why are line breaks not supported in Tana?

    Tana's speed is reliant on each node being a small packet of information. Larger nodes are slower to edit, slower to index, slower to update, and so on. Line breaks would encourage longer entries of information, and would break many other situations where the contents of a node needs to be rendered as one line, such as inline references, option values, title expressions just to name a few.

    We do recognize that some want to store small pieces of information under one node, like a poem or quote. We are continuing to do research to explore ways to solve this, and also to solve for other issues related to long-form writing. If you would like to contribute your thoughts on this, please visit ideas.tana.inc and submit your thoughts under an existing or new post there.

    Related docs: