Your Life in Lists - Workflowy

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In my constant quest for great productivity apps, either mobile or for the web, I often come across some pretty mediocre ones. On the other hand, sometimes I come across some absolutely outstanding ones. every now and again, an app will really grab me and it becomes my new favourite toy; So it was with WorkFlowy.

The tag line is Organise Your Brain, and this is very apt. I have found it a great way to organise my thoughts and focus on what I'm doing, and what I want to get done. it’s one of those tabs that’s always open as a reference. The clean simple interface makes it seem like a single document, but with everything in one place.

Your Life in Lists

This app is all about lists, many, many nested lists. Where it succeeds and others have failed is that the lists on WorkFlowy are as complex or as simple as you choose. There are no imposed limits on the lists you create. A wonderful feature is that each list member can be a heading for the next level in the hierarchy, essentially a document in its own right. What this means is that the headings start to act like a folder system, with each successive heading getting more and more refined and more specific to your needs.

Navigation and Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the features that really sealed the deal for me was the inclusion of comprehensive keyboard shortcuts. I love this partly because it is faster than moving my hand off the keyboard to get the mouse and move the cursor a couple of inches and then click, and partly because it makes me feel cool as I zip about the document!

As I mentioned earlier one of the great features is that each heading can be seen as its own document and the best way to view it on its own is to zoom in to the heading. The smoothest way to navigate around the nodes is to use the keyboard shortcuts of alt and left or right, left to zoom in further, right to zoom out.

To enter a new item, simply press enter and a new item will appear at the same level. If you want to indent the item hit tab, and to outdent, hit shift tab.

you can expand the current node without zooming into it by pressing ctrl space. this is a great way to view parts of the document while referring to other expanded lists too. There are other shortcuts as well, but I’ll leave you to check those out.

Adding Notes

Each list item can also have a note attached to it. The note, again ,is a long as you need it to be. The notes are stored as plain text, which makes for a very simple interface, a nice change in current trend of having as many options as possible visible at any one time. When you stop editing a note it auto collapses, hiding all but the top line. This adds to the general feeling of simplicity that the user interface exudes.

Bag it & Tag it (Then Search it)

Most apps that are designed to hold data have a way to tag what you enter to make it easier to search for, and easier to link to other relevant pieces of data. WorkFlowy is no different; it supports tags, searching and clickable tags too. This allows you to tag an item that is related to another item that may be in a separate part of your WorkFlowy, creating a relationship between them. So if you search from the home screen you will be able to easily see the related items on the same screen, and edit them too. To add a tag simply add the ‘#’ symbol to the beginning of the word you want turned into a tag.

If you want to search for a something you can do so easily, either by clicking on a tag that you have or by starting to type in the search box (which you can jump to by hitting the escape key). When you type the ‘#’ symbol a drop down list of potential tags appears, allowing you to choose one. The search is also instantaneous, so the results will be filtered as you type, but only for the node that you are zoomed into.

Completed Items

WorkFlowy can be used as a to do list as well as an information repository. All you need is a #todo tag and you can aggregate all of your to dos from all parts of your WorkFlowy in one place. A future feature is to have due dates and reminders too, which will make WorkFlowy even more useful for getting things done.

When you complete an item you can strike it though by hitting ctrl enter. Having all of the completed items on show can get rather messy, so you can choose to hide or display all completed items right from the top bar for a quick check of what you have done. If you have hide completed items checked and strike through a task, it will disappear right before your eyes, which can be very satisfying indeed.

So, I suggest you try WorkFlowy.com out, it’s a really great app, I'm sure you'll find a use for it, and best of all, it is free! For now anyway it is still being developed, so I’m sure there will be a paid version some time soon.

Update
Since I wrote this blog post, WorkFlowy is no longer free! Well, there is a limited free version, and a paid version for $4.99 a month or $49 per year. This has extra features such as styles and fonts and also unlimited items. When the reminders and due dates are implemented, along with new features such as offline access, they will be pro user only features