Learn what an outline is and organize your ideas in a creative way

Once you learn what an outline is and what it can be used for, you will never again have problems presenting your ideas or summarizing texts. Knowing how to organize information is key in both professional and personal environments. this will allow you to optimize your time management and, therefore, maximize your productivity.

“In a project or task management it is essential that you improve your organizational skills because they cannot be carried out without discipline and constancy. A project is a kind of journey that is divided into several parts, in which you must always be constant in communicating or delivering results,” explains Martin Arenas, teacher of our online course project and task management.

did you know that by using different types of diagrams you can organize information and thus effectively manage your time? Surely you have been using them, but without knowing exactly what each one is for, how they are made and how you can optimize them. pay attention to the examples of schemes that we will show you in this article and you will surely confirm our theory!

In addition, we will show you how to organize them to create beautiful and useful diagrams. Finally, we’ll share with you some free resources to create amazing diagrams. So, clear your mind and focus only on your main ideas for a moment.

Definition of outline

You probably have an idea of what an outline is, but what is its formal definition? According to the RAE, a schema is a “graphic or symbolic representation of material or immaterial things”.

You may also have heard another very common definition of schema. It is a summary of a piece of writing, speech or theory, in relation to its most significant lines or ideas. Outlining a text is very common in education. In this summary, the main ideas, secondary ideas and the most important details are usually placed in a logical order.

what is a cognitive schema?

do you have any idea what “breaking the schema” means? This popular phrase that is often used to encourage people or social groups, has more to do with the concept of cognitive schema.

According to the Psychology and Mind portal, cognitive schemas are “systems of relationships between concepts that make it more likely to move from certain ideas to others”.

Some examples of mental or cognitive schemas have to do with societal prejudices, such as thinking that a person with a calm attitude is weak. When a person breaks out of those pre-established ideas, they are breaking the schemas (it’s kind of cool when that happens, isn’t it?).

But let’s not go that far and go back to the main schema definition. In a nutshell, what is an outline? It is a representation of ideas or concepts that are related to each other, which is done through different graphic resources. And with this another question arises…

what is a graphic scheme?

You already have a general definition of what an outline is. Now, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and find out what a graphical scheme is, which allows you to organize your ideas and information.

A graphical schema is one of the most complete schema models that exist in the world of organizational tools. The graphic schemes, as its name says, are characterized by structuring the information through a graphic expression.

The graphic schemes, or graphic organizers, will give you the possibility of understanding the deep learning about a specific topic thanks to the differentiation of the main and secondary ideas, as well as boosting logical and creative thinking. But better know in detail what an outline is for in the following point.

hombre haciendo un esquema en la pizarraSource: Pixabay

Functions of a schematic

In an outline there is a main idea that is associated with others of lesser importance. Its main function is to organize the information, highlighting the most relevant or significant aspects.

In addition, the schemes serve to explain complex concepts and, in turn, are a method of study or analysis, as they help you understand a topic in a synthesized way.

For the business field, it is essential to know what an outline is and how to make it, since its use is very common. These are some examples that you can find in a work environment:

Creative outlines to present to investors before a meeting.

Graphic scheme that summarizes and organizes the information of a project.

Diagrams with indications on the operation of some equipment or hardware .

Nice diagrams to attract talent or in internal communication channels with institutional news.

Hierarchical scheme to represent the organization chart of a company.

Short diagrams in sprint planning or sprint reviews.

Now that you know what an outline is and how to organize them, it is time to know what their characteristics are. find out!

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Characteristics of a schema

An outline has certain characteristics so that it can convey what you really want. That’s why, before knowing how to make an outline, you should know its characteristics, which we’ll tell you about below!

The function of an outline is to summarize, therefore, you should not add details that do not contribute to understand the main topic .

An outline has one or very few main ideas. If there are too many main ideas, it means that an adequate summary has not been made.

Before understanding what an outline is and how it is structured, it is necessary to be clear about its meaning and purpose. This will allow you to define the type of diagram you should use.

An outline must be concrete, so it should have few words or brief concepts about the main information.

You can make creative outlines easily and online. we’ll tell you how later!

Making graphical schemes on certain topics will help to draw attention to concepts of your choice. Do not limit yourself to the basic outlines with pencil and paper, and use your creative thinking.

excellent! You already know what an outline is and its main characteristics, but are there different types of outlines? of course there are! In the next point you will learn what types of outline exist and which one might be the most suitable for organizing your tasks or projects.

Características de un esquemaSource: Pixabay

Types of outlines

Previously we explained what a schema is and we told you in a general way some examples of schemas that you can find in the field of business. Now, let’s see in detail what are the most used types of outlines that exist, both in the professional world and in the educational field.

1. Key schema

When understanding what an outline is, you should keep in mind that this is one of the main types of diagrams that you cannot lose sight of. The schema or key diagram is mainly used to group ideas through the use of braces or brackets.

and how to make a brace diagram? It is relatively simple: in this diagram, the main idea is followed by a bracket in which the secondary ideas are grouped and, from each of these, new brackets start to explain complementary concepts. The key diagram is also often linked to the synoptic table.
Source: TecproDigital on Pinterest

2. Arrow schema

The purpose of the arrow diagram is the same as the key diagram, with the difference that the concepts are ordered with arrows. This diagram is very effective for establishing processes and steps, since the arrows give a sense of continuity.

To understand how to make an arrow diagram to outline processes, you must apply the following steps:

Identify the tasks of a project or activities.

Write the first activity.

Continue in order with the steps that follow.

Connect the tasks in the arrow scheme and assign deadlines and/or responsible persons.

Place the project objective or final step at the end of the diagram.Source: Pinterest

3. Development scheme

A development scheme, an example of order by hierarchy, has the particularity that it starts from a central idea that is generally developed downwards.

Also called alphanumeric outlines, they are used to organize the content of a text in a graphic and simple way, and help to create relationships between its components. These types of content outlines contain the main and secondary ideas of the text in a logical and hierarchical order.
Source: Pinterest

4. Radial scheme

This type of scheme is so called because of how its ideas are related. In this case, the main topic is in the center and, in a first circle, on the outside, are the secondary topics. You can continue to add circles on the outside as needed.

The advantages of the radial outline are as follows:

It allows you to organize ideas in a simple way.

People can understand and retain ideas quickly.

Demonstrate the relationship between ideas.

If you ever wondered what a spider diagram is or what a mental diagram is, well, it is just a type of radial diagram.

esquema radial

Source: Pinterest

5. Diagram or conceptual map

According to Lucidchart, the default online tool for making concept maps and creative diagrams, the meaning for this type of diagram is as follows:

“Concept map is a diagram that helps to understand a specific topic by visualizing the relationships between ideas and concepts.”

In the concept map, the main idea is located at the top center, and, from this, the secondary and then the tertiary ideas start. The concepts become more and more concrete as you move away from the main idea.Source: Freepik

6. Flowchart

You have probably heard of the flowchart, as it is one of the most used types of diagrams nowadays. Mainly, this diagram is a graphical representation of a process. It includes symbols to refer to specific actions and is used in technological and project management fields .

diagrama de flujo

Source: Lucidchart

Steps to make an outline

You have already passed the first part of this guide in which we explained what a schematic is and what are the most common types that exist. Now let’s look at the step-by-step to discover how to make an outline. To do this, keep the following aspects in mind:

Read and thoroughly understand the topic on which you are going to make the outline.

Identify the theme or main idea of the text, project or process you are going to outline.

Divide the topic into sections.

Highlight the main ideas of each section, as well as the secondary ideas that complement them (and so on with the complementary ideas).

Start with the hierarchy of topics.

Once you have the outline ready, try to explain it to another person. If he/she was able to understand the topic, then the hierarchy of ideas was adequate. If not, you will have to rethink the outline.

The definition of what an outline is is quite clear in saying that it is a graphical representation. Therefore, you should create an attractive outline using eye-catching resources. These resources can be found in some programs that are available to everyone. what are they? We will tell you about them below.

how to make an outline in Word?

the old reliable one! It is possible to make outlines in Word by following a few simple steps. These may vary slightly depending on the version you have, but, basically, making an outline in Word is quite intuitive.

Open Microsoft Word.

In the top menu, click on “View”.

Then click on “Schematic”.

The schematic will be created automatically.

Note that, to make outlines in Word, you will have to create levels that will appear by default. You can choose how you want to view them in the “Outline Tools” section.

These levels will help you to separate the main idea from the secondary ones, so it is best to create your outline on paper and then create it in Word.

Customizing the outline in Word

Now that you have the information categorized, it is time to make your Word outline with shapes; that is, placing arrows and boxes. Follow these steps:

In the top menu, click on “Insert”.

Choose the “Shapes” option and a menu will open. Choose the one you like best, such as rectangles or ovals.

To create the shape, hold left click and choose the size you want.

You can customize the background color or the outline.

Once created, right click on the shape and choose “Add text”.

You will be able to modify the formatting of the text, such as font or size.

When you have filled in all the boxes, you must insert the connectors you want, which could be braces, arrows or lines. To do this, you must also go to “Insert” < “Shapes” and choose the connector you like best. You can also adjust the size and that’s it! You now have your outline in Word.

That’s great. You now know how to make an outline in Word. But there are other tools you could use to make an outline.

how to make an outline in PowerPoint?

If you need to create an outline for a presentation, the easiest way is to use PowerPoint. Moreover, this tool has the advantage of being able to save your outlines in image formats, so that you can use them in other programs, such as Word, for example.

If you are wondering how to make an outline in PowerPoint, you should also follow the simple steps below.

Open PowerPoint.

In the “Design” tab create a blank presentation.

In the top menu, click on “Insert”.

Choose the “Shapes” option. Under “Basic shapes” you will find opening and content keys. You can change their size as you go along.

To add text, choose the “Text box” option and enter all the information you have.

If you need to insert boxes, you can also do it from the “Shapes” menu. As in Word, to make an outline in PowerPoint it is recommended that you have all the information and that you distribute it, first, in a draft, which you can do on paper with a pencil.

Once you have created your PowerPoint outline, you can save it as a presentation (.ppt) or in other formats. To choose the format, go to “File” > “Save As”. When you name your file, the type of format you want to save it in will appear below.


how to make an outline in Google Drive?

Many people come directly working their presentations or documents in the cloud and Google is one of the tools par excellence. Through Google Drive, you can find alternatives to create presentations, documents and, of course, also outlines. The good thing about working in the cloud is that every change you make, no matter how small, will be automatically saved.

So, how to make an outline in Google Drive? the first thing to keep in mind is that Google Drive offers you Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides; these three tools would be the equivalent of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Power Point, respectively.

To make an outline in Google Drive we will focus on Google Docs and Google Slides. Note that to use these tools, you will need to create an email in Gmail. Now you know how to make an outline in Google Docs.

how to make an outline in Google Docs?

Log in to Google Drive and, on the top right, click on “New”.

Find “Google Documents” and from the drop-down menu click on “Blank Document”.

In the toolbar, click “Insert” > “Drawing” > “New”.

Once the drawing window opens, click on the “Shape” icon located on the top bar.

A drop-down menu will open in which you must select “Equation” and choose your opening keys.

To insert the key, click on the drawing area and stretch it to the size you want.

To insert text, you must create a box from the top bar of your work area.

You can move the keys or the text box until you find the correct location.

Once you have finished your schematic, just click “Save and Close”.

To modify the outline, just select it in the blank document and at the bottom you will see an option to modify the content. Remember that you will not only be able to create key schemas, but also conceptual ones. To do this, follow the same steps, but also add a shape, either a rectangle or an oval, as well as connectors.

To make the boxes or connectors straight, you must create them by clicking + Shift. Once you are done, also just click “Save and Close”. that’s it! You now know how to make an outline in Google Docs.

how to make an outline in Google Presentations (Google Slides)?

There are two ways to make an outline in Google Presentations. The first one is by using some preset outlines that the tool itself offers you. here are the steps!

Open Google Drive.

Click “New” > “Google Presentations” > “Blank Presentation”.

Once the presentation is created, click on “Insert” < “Diagram”.

Then, on the right side of your screen, some preset diagrams will appear.

You should click on “Hierarchy” and select, in principle, the levels that suit the information you have. You can also change the color.

After selecting the scheme you like the most, just click on it and it will automatically appear on the selected slide.

The text will be fake, so to modify it, just double-click on it.

To modify the borders or the color, you must select the whole frame and alter the figures from the toolbar.

That is the simplest way to make outlines in Google Presentations; however, you could also create them yourself from the “Shape” menu, where you can add the boxes.

To add connectors, you will have to do it by selecting “Line”. The steps are similar to those you perform when creating outlines in Google Docs. If you create your outlines in this way, remember to make your boxes and lines by pressing Shift so that they come out straight.

In case these beautiful and creative outlines are part of a business presentation, you can make it attractive with this minimalist Google Slides template. you can’t miss it!

did you see that it wasn’t complicated at all? While you already know how to make an outline with the help of different tools, we have much more for you. find out in the next point!

Source: Google Slides

how to make an outline in Adobe Illustrator?

Another way to make a quick outline is by using Adobe Illustrator. best of all, you don’t need to be an expert graphic designer to be able to do it!

Now that you know what an outline is and what its benefits are, get to work and follow these steps to make an outline in Illustrator:

Select a tool from the toolbar: you can use the line tool to create a straight line, the Pen, Pencil or Brush tools to create curved lines, or you can also use one of the shape tools to create an element with a line around it.
Create a line or shape: after selecting the tool, click and drag to create the desired line or shape.
Select a color from the swatch menu: choose the fill and border of the shapes in the visual scheme.
Add text: to create a text box and add it to your first outline, use the text tool. Customize the font, color and size.
Create lines: these will be used to join the different shapes and create the outline.
Convert your outline to curves: once the text is verified, convert all your elements to curves to create a custom outline.

Tools to make online diagrams

As we told you, it is also possible to make an outline online. The good thing is that, if the graphic part is not your forte, you will find some platforms to make an outline online easily and quickly.

In fact, these tools will make it easy for you to make a schematic online without the need for you to be an expert in design. thanks to the Internet! Below, we share with you the main tools to learn how to make an outline online.

1. Draw.io

It is a web application with which you can make concept maps, charts, diagrams, circuits and other diagrams. You will find all the necessary elements in the sidebars.

Advantages of Draw.io

When understanding what a diagram is and how to do it online, you must keep in mind the visualization quality of this resource. And, precisely, this platform allows you to import diagrams or schemes in JPEG, PNG, SVG, Gliffy format. in addition, they are saved as HTML files, but you can also export them in JPEG, PDF, PNG, SVG and XML formats without losing the quality of your diagrams.

Youdon’t need to register to use Draw.io to capture all your schematic ideas. Simply go to the site and select where you want to save your schematic. You can even share it directly on Trello or Github.

This online tool has a desktop and mobile version, so you can create your schematics on the go.

design creative diagrams on Draw.io

esquema en Draw oi

Source: Draw.io

2. GitMind

This is a tool for designing diagrams, creative diagrams and various concept maps that offers free templates. It is a free tool, so you do not need to register to start designing.

Advantages of GitMind

If you are one of those who work simultaneously on several devices, you can synchronize the schemas on all your mobile devices and laptops .

In short, knowing what an outline is and how to make it on this platform will help you to order ideas and refine each thought while brainstorming. This is possible with the help of GitMind’s “Cooperation” feature.

The fact that it has a simple drag-and-drop function to organize outlines more conveniently makes it one of the best platforms for creating beautiful and effective outlines.

design creative schematics in GitMind

3. LucidChart

It is an online application to design diagrams, flowcharts, plans and other types of diagrams. It has a free trial version, with basic elements, and a more complete paid version.

Advantages of LucidChart

Lucidchart lets you create different types of diagrams without installing any additional software, whether they are flowcharts, network diagrams, basic flowcharts, process maps and alphanumeric diagrams. In fact, you can create them from scratch or use one of its default templates.

Usability is key in Lucidchart. for example, when you draw lines between shapes, they are automatically connected to the edges of the shapes. And when you move shapes, the lines stay connected and follow the shapes around.

If you only need to make basic charts and diagrams, the free level is probably good enough for you. It also offers paid plans if you need specialized features.

Lucidchart is also available as a Chrome web app so you can create diagrams directly in the browser.

design creative diagrams in LucidChart

4. Creately

It is a perfect website for collaborative work, with which you can create many examples of diagrams. It has a free option and paid plans.

Creately Advantages

Creately is an online diagramming tool designed to make it easy to turn your thoughts into beautiful visual graphics and diagrams .

This platform can automatically select the right type of arrowheads and connector styles suitable for the shapes you are using in your diagram.

Aligning, sizing and grouping shapes is easy with the contextual toolbar. In fact, it has a smart organization feature. If you’re not sure which shape to use, enter the text in the outline and Creately will create a shape that makes sense.

Real-time collaboration, online comments and review history of all changes are another advantage available in Creately.

design creative layouts in Creately

Creately mapa mental

Source: Creately

5. Canva

This website is ideal for any kind of graphic design. It also has a specific section for creating diagrams and mind maps. Its free version is quite complete and if you are already working with this tool, then it won’t be difficult to learn how to create diagrams with Canva.

Advantages of Canva

Believe it or not, Canva is an ideal platform for you to understand how to make a graphic scheme and put your stamp on your presentations through unique and customizable diagrams.

Canva has a library of different backgrounds, templates, images, fonts and stickers to ensure you get the best diagrams. You don’t have to be a techie to use these features. With just a few clicks, you can create an attractive design with these tools.

Real-time collaboration is another star feature of this platform. You can create your team in Canva so that your colleagues can access the layouts and make edits.

design creative layouts in Canva

6. Cacoo

Cacoo is an easy-to-use online diagramming tool that comes with over 100 preset templates. you can create flowcharts, wireframes, Venn diagrams and many other diagram styles.

Advantages of Cacoo

If you are creating a flowchart, Cacoo offers a wide range of shapes to choose from. Simply drag and drop shapes, arrows and other elements into your diagram.

If you’re looking for real-time collaboration when creating schematics, Cacoo is your salvation. In fact, there’s a built-in chat function so you can communicate with your team members as you work.

You can get a free account that allows you to have six sheets, limited sharing and PNG exports. If you want to create some outlines and don’t care about collaboration features or other formats, the free account should be enough.

design creative layouts in Cacoo

Cacoo mapa mental

Source: Cacoo

7. Gliffy

Gliffy is an easy-to-use online tool that allows you to create different types of schematics, such as professional-quality flowcharts, floor plans, technical drawings and more. With its basic templates available and intuitive interface, you can learn what a schematic is and how to make one.

Advantages of Gliffy

Unlike other diagramming tools, Gliffy is an HTML5 cloud application that works offline for free.

You can collaborate with your team remotely and edit the diagrams in real time.

Allows you to share your creative schematics on other collaboration platforms, such as Jira and Confluence.

design creative schemes in Gliffy

8. Sketchboard

More than a platform for sketching ideas, it’s an online whiteboard that lets you create beautiful sketches using over 400 sketch shapes and freehand drawing.

Advantages of Sketchboard

Instead of toolbars or sidebars, in Sketchboard, you double-click on the background to bring up a palette of shapes to insert any element. To do this, use the “Freehand” button at the bottom to draw freely on your sketch.

You can use Sketchboard for free for public projects in which up to five users can participate.

design creative sketches in Sketchboarddemo

Creative synoptic chart templates

If you are looking for creative synoptic chart templates to synthesize and summarize information, this pack of free templates will be of great help for your presentations.

Free resources to create beautiful outlines

Finally, we don’t want to leave you without giving you some of our downloadable resources to help you design the best beautiful and creative diagrams.

1. Mind map templates

As we explained before, a mind map is one of the types of diagrams that aims to represent an idea or concept through a graphic resource. These mind map templates will help you organize and present your thoughts, and in this way, understand them (a little) better. download them for free!

download free mind map templates

Plantillas de mapa mental

2. Flowchart Template in Word

Nowadays, it is very common for companies to use flowcharts to visually represent the steps to follow for certain administrative procedures. Therefore, if you have a business venture or you are in charge of a department in a company, this type of scheme will be very useful.

This Word flowchart template will help you represent the steps of a specific process in a very clear and attractive way.

download the free Word flowchart template for free

Plantilla para hacer diagrama de flujo en Word

3. PowerPoint workflow template

do you have a business presentation coming up? Or perhaps a meeting to present a new project? Whatever the reason, you need to know how to arrange each phase of your executive PPT so that it catches the attention of your audience.

Beyond knowing what a graphic outline is, you also need to know how to structure your information using a flowchart, also known as a workflow. That’s why we’ve designed this template especially for you. download it and start that winning project!

download the free PowerPoint workflow template

Plantilla de workflow en PowerPoint

4. WBS Template: Work Breakdown Structure for your projects

If you have a project in mind, having a WBS template will be key during your strategic planning and consolidation process .

A WBS structure is understood as “Work Breakdown Structure” and is a visual tool widely used in project management.

By downloading our WBS template, you will find 3 work breakdown structures:

WBS Template #1: the first work breakdown template is quite comprehensive and practical. It consists of several columns reflecting the phases of your project.
WBS Template #2: this other WBS template has a composition very similar to that of an outline or concept map.
WBS Template #3: finally, this third WBS template is a matrix with different levels. As always, you can adapt it to the characteristics of your project.

We hope this WBS template will be an essential tool for your project management.

download the free WBS template

Plantilla de EDT

5. Excel Gantt Chart Template

If you are looking to organize, track and plan your projects, then you need to use a Gantt chart as a workflow tool.

A Gantt chart is a visual diagram that represents the management, administration and progress of a project over a specific time. This type of chart helps you easily determine the following:

The tasks or activities that make up the project.
Start and end dates of the project.
Duration of each task.
Calculate the progress of the project.
Grouping tasks by stages or phases.

Download this Excel Gantt chart template and start organizing your future work or personal projects.

download the free Gantt Chart Template

esquema de Gantt

6. Concept map template

Making a concept map is very beneficial when you have to study about a specific topic or prepare to give a presentation, and it is a very dynamic learning tool that adapts to any context.

By downloading this resource, you will be able to access 5 Powerpoint concept map templates, which you can edit and modify according to your needs.

download the free concept map template

you’re done! We hope you are clear about what an outline is and how to put your ideas in order. Remember that learning how to make a creative scheme will help you to capture any concept in an organized and disruptive way and, thus, captivate everyone with your creativity.

If you want to go deeper into this topic and expand your box of tools for organizing ideas for personal or work use, take a look at our online courses on entrepreneurship and business.

see you in the next article!

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