Tip: Make the WorkFlowy Chrome App Feel Like a Normal App (Mac)

This WorkFlowy Tip comes from Shawn Bealey. If you have a tip you’d like to share, just email blog@workflowy.com

How I use WorkFlowy

I loved WorkFlowy from the beginning. I have a lot of ideas in my head, and they distract me. So, what to do? Workflowy solved this problem. Open a browser window/tab, jot my idea thought down, get on with life. Ideas are take form with 0 % effort and in real time. I am surprised at how fast and effortless the ideas are to jot down, put in to order, re-order and share – even with non members. This is a real drop in replacement for a personal, or even corporate wiki.

My Problem

I want a desktop app.  I am not a chrome user, but there’s a Chrome App that’s kinda like a desktop app. I want to have the app, but not feel like I am working in chrome, or even have to start chrome to get to the app (saves clicks)

My Solution

1) Start Launch Pad
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2) Filter for and Select WorkFlowy.
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3) Right Click on the Dock to choose your poison:

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For Extra Awesome, Open at Login 

You can start the app in a bunch of ways. Heavy Users should go ahead and choose to open at login. Moderate Users should keep this in their Dock at all times for quick access. Light users can start it from the browser app starter.

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Expert users can start it using the finder quick find (CMD + Space; type: workflowy; select Applications: WorkFlowy or by second use Top Hit: WorkFlowy

How to Use * and ** and ******* for Prioritization Awesomeness


This is a guest blog post by Brent KimberIf you’d like to contribute a guest blog post of your own, just email your idea to blog@workflowy.com

WorkFlowy’s tagging feature is great for categorizing things, but the search engine is really powerful too.  Here’s how you can use it for some super flexible prioritization.

I’ve started marking my To Do items with a simple * (star).   A search by * brings up all of my To Do items wherever they are in my outlines.  This  good tip is made better when   I started using *, **, ***, and ******** (any amoutn of *s really)  for denoting priority.

Try it, Seeing is believing. It is amazing to watch your To Do list quickly focus onto your top priorities simply by typing * then * then * again in the search box. Each successive * whittles the list down to the most important tasks.    Sometimes I will add enough *s to the remaining items until only my top 3 tasks show.   It’s magical.  It sounds simplistic just reading but it is awesome to see the less important tasks “disappear” off of the page with each additional * typed.  It’s a fantastic short cut.

Commentary from Steve, WorkFlowy’s Semi-Official Blogger: You can prepend another character for the KIND of
to-do – business, personal, house maint, etc. So, maybe H*** stands for “House, super important” and H* is “House, not important”.

The Long and Winding Road to WorkFlowy


This is a guest blog post by Maciej Lasyk, who used to run operations at the game development company Ganymede. It explains how he and his team went through a long series of software tools to help manage their projects, and eventually found WorkFlowy to help manage it all. 

If you’d like to contribute a guest blog post of your own, just email your idea to blog@workflowy.com

How we work with WorkFlowy

We used a lot of software tools on my team at Ganymede. WorkFlowy sat above them all, as a meta-management system. We used it both for little things that didn’t fit in other systems, and to structure our use of these other tools. In the rest of this post, I’ll describe all the tools we used, and how WorkFlowy fit in.

Waterfall is a beast

When I took over Operations team in Ganymede few years ago I faced the problem of managing our resources, documentation, IT infrastructure, roadmap and ideas. It was a really hard and interesting challenge. Back then we used classical waterfall approach for our daily tasks & projects. It was really killing us – we had so many interrupts and context switching, that it was really hard to stay calm and find a couple of minutes to focus on some particular issue or project.

Getting agile

Back then I took part in a few agile meetups here in Krakow / Poland (#omgkrk ftw!) and found that we should switch immediately to Scrum or Kanban. Later on, we decided to follow an evolution (not revolution) approach – so we decided Kanban is the only way (Scrum would be the revolution for us). It was a really great move – we had our Kanban board hanging on the wall, we met daily & weekly during standups and things started going smoothly. After a few weeks we switched to Jira / Greenhopper (nowJira Agile) instead of classical wall board. Why? We just needed some automation (Jira tasks triggered by monitoring system, integration with some other apps via Jira API). Jira & Kanban rocked :)

Our Operations interrupt driven workflows were not annoying us anymore as we used goalkeeper (a guy that for a whole week takes care of all interruptions, quick tasks etc so others are able to work on projects and much more specialized issues).  Kanban is about Continuous Improvement (after every iteration during standup we thought about possible improvements to our issues resolving processes),WIP (Work in Progress limiting and metering bottlenecks), time estimations and so on. But time was passing and our workflows were getting more and more complicated. It was really good, but we just felt like we were missing something.

Organizing notes and documentation

We used Jira together with Confluence where we kept our documentation, procedures etc. Those solutions are really great, but we still struggled with the issue of gathering and saving information. How many times we had to look up some particular issue in Google? After finding the solution we could write a new Confluence page, create some comments etc. But this took time – and plenty of it, to be honest. Additionally we were a really small team (4-5 guys) so we couldn’t afford such a waste on bureaucracy. We had to find a way to quickly save and share information and data and even more important – find it in a really easy, reliable and repetitive way.

Then we hit Evernote (Greg - thanks for that!). This was another killer software which helped us a lot. We could easily save whole webpages (via browser plug-ins), tag our notes, create information with rich text editors and later on – browse that on our mobiles. Moreover – Evernote changed our way of taking notes during conferences. We just took photos, attached those to notes and that was it – later we could just use text find option which highlighted search results even on those photos (background and asyncOCR involved). Man – that was really great. But… We found that we lost some of our velocity – we were working as hard as usual, but despite Jira and Kanban and even Evernote – we were struggling with some issues. The problem was that not everything could be saved as a Jira issue (mainly ideas or some jobs that didn’t fit into our workflows, so would probably be lost in Backlog forever). So such things were liable to be forgotten & abandoned. We tried to save those in a special page in Evernote, but it didn’t work out. Evernote is great, but it’s quite a massive application. Moreover we used Linux and there is no native Evernote app there (only NixNote / NeverNote that is way too slow), so we had to use Evernote webpage – which is not that handy.

Simplifying flows

One more thing; Everyone of us has a private life – we took part in some open source projects, developed some ideas or worked after hours on something completely different. And let’s be honest – it’s normal (and even recommended) to use the same management tools privately at home.

So what were we missing? Something really simple – for instance, when I got an idea, I usually saved it to Evernote. Later on, that idea evolved into some private project. But it’s quite hard to manage a project within Evernote – yes there are some “To-Do” checkboxes but those are so hard to use and don’t give you any possibility to create dependencies, trees etc. It’s just a normal rich text editor where you could put lists and checkboxes. That just doesn’t fit.

So I started taking notes in standard text files, which I saved on my Dropbox account, so I had access to those from any device I used. I arranged those into a complicated system of subdirectories (yes, I’m a sysadmin) and… got stuck. It was really horrible to find anything there. But at least I could check the tree of those projects with… shell command ‘tree;) And why didn’t I use Kanban / Jira here? Because no one really wants to Kanban his/hers life. Our lives have that crazy velocity, go in so many directions and through so much mind tunnels that it’s just impossible to save all of that to Kanban board. We shouldn’t even try (maybe with some main activities, but come on – our lives consist of so many activities, ideas and possibilities that you could say that it’s a continuous and evolving brainstorm). So what happened next? GTD. And Workflowy.

Let’s get that done!

Getting Things Done is a stress-free productivity action management system (whoa that was complicated – I took it from Wikipage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done ). GTD is basically about writing down all your ideas and tasks and managing those in a really simple way. This was what I tried to achieve with my text files & subdirectories hierarchy. But GTD over text files doesn’t work. With Workflowy it simply kicks ass.

You have your page which is a clear and simple list of projects, tasks and/or ideas. Anytime any of those evolves into something more complicated – you just extend it into a new branch. you can collapse it in a very easy way, you can open branches in new tabs – and it’s all so simple and takes seconds. You can tag, share and collaborate. It’s like a meta – programming language for managing your daily routines, projects and ideas. Effectiveness by simplicity – it’s what we really looked for! Imagine, that right now I’m managing four data-centers, personal training plans, home works, my Fedora Project contributions, CTFs fights and much more with the help of Workflowy. Yes – still Kanban / Jira, still Evernote but Workflowy is on one corner of that triangle.

So, how the daily routine looked back then, after starting using Workflowy? It was very simple. Workflowy & GTD just wrapped any other management systems. I started my day with Workflowy / “daily” branch. I had that “Kanban” point on the list, that told me, that I had to check the Jira Kanban table. Later on (break, lunch, after work) I’ve rechecked Workflowy and moved on. Sometimes simple lists from Workflowy evolved into normal projects which we’ve put into Jira / Confluence.

Erm, Workflowy.. why? Once again..

  • simplicity
  • mobility
  • 100% keyboard steering
  • tagging
  • sharing
  • faving (starring pages)
  • Just watch this video ;)

An Offline, Desktop App for WorkFlowy

Screenshot 2013-12-18 10.45.12

Offline. That magical word. We’ve been promising it for years, and now, finally, you can use WorkFlowy in a plane, train or automobile. In the subway, under the ocean, in the desert. With a frog, in a bog, on a log. And so forth.

We’ve been using the desktop app internally for several months. I personally use it almost exclusively now, and am really happy with it.  There’s one caveat, though. We built the desktop application on top of Google’s Chrome browser. You don’t need to use Chrome to use the app, but you do need to have Chrome installed. Hopefully that isn’t too much of an annoyance for you. If it is, we’re looking into launching a desktop app that doesn’t require Chrome, but we can’t say exactly when we’ll get to that.

Oh, and one more thing. Offline is free. We’ve been saying offline would require a WorkFlowy Pro account, but we decided it was too important a feature and that everybody needed it. So, you are welcome. And also, you should still pay us, because, otherwise how will we feed our families? How will we keep WorkFlowy going?

So, what are you waiting for?

Install WorkFlowy Desktop

Workflowy as a Gift Buying List

This is a guest post by Mike Dariano. If you’d like to contribute a guest blog post, just email your idea to blog@workflowy.com

‘Tis the List Making Season
The season of gift giving is upon on and if you’re anything like me your list of naughty and nice neighbors and nieces is far from finished.  One of the best WorkFlowy features is the ability to see things from a macro and micro level.  In looking at my list from the big picture I can see who I still need to buy gifts for and zooming in, what those gifts are.  

How to Get Started
Start by making a List based on either the store you’re shopping at or the person you’re buying for.  Our family is in three different gift exchanges this year; an adult but you don’t know who, an adult and you know what they want, and a pair of children and you know what they want.  

To get started on my own organization, I created a list with each person we needed to buy for and then under each person a list of what they wanted.  Then – and this is where WorkFlowy shines – I got organized.  

  • Doug
    • steering wheel cover
  • Karen
    • Movie
    • Book
  • Carter
    • Train set
    • Puzzle

As I bought gifts for people, I crossed off the items.  An Amazon.com order took care of the steering wheel cover, movie, and book I needed.  Also, when I finish shopping for a particular person, I cross their name off entirely.  Doug and Carter need gifts to be purchased, Karen I’m done with. 

Staying Up To Date
Whenever I get an email then with gift requests – maybe Doug wants a new iPhone case – I can quickly add them into my WorkFlowy account. Then when I go shopping and hide the completed items I have a clean list to work from.

  • Doug
    • iPhone case
  • Carter
    • Train set
    • Puzzle

WorkFlowy has always been fast on my smartphone and I know that whenever I’m at a store and need to add a gift, who and what is right at my fingertips.

A Few More thoughts
Steve Stroh, WorkFlowy’s Semi Official Blogger, had some additional tips building on Mike’s ideas.

I use WorkFlowy for keeping track of gift giving the same way Michael does, but I add another layer of hierarchy to prioritize a bit when I’m under the gun at holiday time:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Work
I use WorkFlowy for this continuously, not just during the Christmas season. When I get an idea for something that would make a great gift, I capture it immediately for future reference. Another refinement might be to keep track of gifts RECEIVED from various folks, and then marked completed when I’ve written a Thank You note.

Why I went Pro

This is a guest post by Steve Stroh. If you’d like to contribute a guest blog post, just email your idea to blog@workflowy.com

As I explained in a previous post, WorkFlowy resonated with me immediately. I started using it so intensively and productively that at points it seemed scary. Scary because here was this fantastic app, that I found SO useful, that I was pouring SO many of my ideas into… that was free. Many great, free web-based apps have gone out of business, usually with just a few week’s notice. So I was relieved when WorkFlowy quietly, subtly offered the Pro version and a way to pay them. I’ve chided Jesse and Mike a bit that they made the Pro option a bit too subtle, in my opinion. I just scrolled through the blog, and nope – no mention there. It’s only if you have the free version that you see the video in Help and a “Learn more” link which mentions these features:

  • Unlimited Lists – Pro users can make as many lists and items as they want. Non-pro users are limited to 500 per month.
  • Backup to Dropbox – Never worry about losing your WorkFlowy data. Have full backups automatically uploaded to your Dropbox account every day.
  • Password Protected Collaboration – Pro users can share parts of their WorkFlowy account with specific people, verified by email address and password.
  • Offline Editing (Coming soon) – Want to use WorkFlowy when you’re not online? Go Pro! 
  • Theme and Fonts – Pro users get to change the look and feel of WorkFlowy with a library of themes and fonts. Make your WorkFlowy more personal.
  • Premium Support – We answer emails from Pro members first.

While I jumped on Pro because I WANTED WorkFlowy to start making money, and thus not close or sell out, the main selling points of WorkFlowy Pro, for me, were the Unlimited Lists and Backup to Dropbox. The more I used WorkFlowy, the more I wanted to use WorkFlowy, and after the transition between free and paid (I had a free account for my day job) I quickly bumped up against the monthly limits of the free version. Believe me, if you’re not bumping into this limit, you’re not using WorkFlowy to its real potential. When you can open up a new WorkFlowy list and just let the record your ideas as fast as they’re coming to you, simultaneously keeping ALL your various lists in WorkFlowy… that’s WorkFlowy really amplifying your creativity and productivity.

Backup to Dropbox eased my mind a lot, that there was going to be a complete copy of my entire WorkFlowy in my Dropbox account, updated daily. I’ve also enjoyed changing my WorkFlowy Theme (current favorite: Hacker and Font (current favorite: Light).

Unfortunately, I don’t currently collaborate with any other WorkFlowy users, so I haven’t been able to see WorkFlowy Collaboration in action for myself, but I’m sure glad that’s an option that’s open to me.

Offline Editing (Coming Soon), well, WorkFlowy has offline for iOS and there’s a Chrome App for Windows that works offline. They’re working on a generally available desktop app with offline. In my particular way of writing, Internet access is as essential to me as electric power, so I’m nearly always connected and so don’t miss Offline Editing all that much. 

I think of WorkFlowy as a professional power tool for the mind, and the annual fee is quite reasonable for how much more productive WorkFlowy enables me to be.

Disclaimer – The above is solely my personal opinion. I am a paying WorkFlowy Pro customer and have not been offered any incentives to write nice things about WorkFlowy. I’m just a fan of a great product and volunteered to write about it for publication in the WorkFlowy Blog.

Steve Stroh
WorkFlowy Semi Official Blogger
Seattle, Washington, USA

The Status of Bold, Italic and Color in WorkFlowy


Steve is listening to you!

So, Steve, our resident Semi Official Blogger, has been getting your emails at blog@workflowy.com. He has suggested that our fans are clamoring to hear progress on long awaited features. So, this is the first post updating you on one of them: formatting.

Formatting is coming

If you’ve been pulling out your hair asking, “Why can’t I bold, italicize, or color things in WorkFlowy???” then you’re a little bit crazy, cause you need that hair. Try a stress ball. But also, you’re in luck. Because we’re working on it. We’re about to release a version of WorkFlowy with a major technical redesign of how editing works (next week). The purpose of this release? To enable features like bold, italic, underline, color. The release won’t appear any different to you, but it lays the foundation for formatting, as well as a bunch of other cool features.


We’ve already started working on formatting. After this release, it will probably be a month or two before it comes out. HOWEVER, we make no promises. We retain the right to decide not to do formatting, and instead do a feature that makes ponies run across the WorkFlowy page. Or unicorns. Or a T-Rex. Or maybe the much requested feature of automatically embedding cat pictures inside your WorkFlowy.

You get the point. We reserve the right not to finish it for a few months if stuff comes up, as it often does. So, get excited. But not too excited. Cause, you know, we don’t make any promises. And T-Rex.

Update for Concerned Minimalists: Don’t worry. We won’t let people make their WorkFlowy docs look like myspace pages. Things will be kept sober. Color may be relegated to tags only, for example. We won’t have ugly, ever present formatting buttons while you’re typing. And so forth.