Gathering Text from the WWW – Making it Short and Sweet


Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could highlight just the snippets of an article we wanted and then harvest them all in one go, ready to slot into a WorkFlowy outline? Less work.  Less fuss.

I think WorkFlowy is more about doing and less about hoarding. So we’re going to look at how the brilliant Highly Highlighter platform hits that sweet spot – helping to curate incoming text and keeping clutter to a minimum.

Highly Highlighter

I’ve played around with a ton of web highlighters, and Highly Highlighter stood out for me. You’ll find them on Chrome, Safari and iOS. Firefox is to follow soon.

What Highly Highlighter allows you to do is highlight snippets of text on whatever web page you visit. They have a whole sharing thingumy doodah going… but for our purposes here, I’m most interested in Highly’s ability to group all of your highlights from any web page on one interface for easy copying over to WorkFlowy. This is Highly in action in Chrome (desktop):

  1. Activate Highly highlighter: click on the “!” icon or use the Shift+! keyboard shortcut.
  2. Highlight… highlight… highlight (all of these snippets are saved in your Highly feed).
  3. Click on the Summary button in the Highly toolbar.

You could now go ahead and manually copy all of your highlights for that particular web page… but I like to clean things up a bit before copying: Notice how there is a tiny red superscript number at the end of each highlight? It’s one of Highly’s features you’ll have to look into… but what it means is that they will get copied over to, say, WorkFlowy, along with my selected snippets of text. Also, I’d like to get rid of some of the extra metadata below the title while I’m at it. This is how…

Cleaning things up with Stylish

I’ve created a little Stylish style especially for Highly Highlighter, which you can add to the Stylish extension. It takes us from this (you’ll skip this part with the style activated):

… to this (you’ll notice a page adjustment too!):

So that we can copy everything tidily, like so:

… and paste into WorkFlowy thusly:

Just the text you want. No more, no less.

Wikipedia: clean up now instead of later

You’ll have noticed that Wikipedia often has a lot of footnote reference links peppered throughout an article, which might need to be cleaned up some once you’ve pasted elsewhere (… maybe WorkFlowy?). Since Wikipedia cannot be avoided for the average web-goer, I’ve come up with something that you’re gonna wanna kiss me for: In the same way that I hid some extras from the Highly Highlighter summary overlay, I’ve created a Stylish style for Wikipedia, which hides those superscript footnote reference links (and darkens all other embedded links too), making for crisper, cleaner copy-pasting… and/ or easier-on-the-eye reading. And… when highlighting with Highly, these reference links don’t show up in your highlights summary. 

So instead of getting this:

… we get this:

… which makes a real, practical difference when copying anything from Wikipedia – whether via Highly Highlighter or straight up.

The circle of life – linking back to the source

Here’s (one of) the cherries on top with Highly Highlighter: You get to copy a custom share link which takes you back to a summary of highlights of any page where you marked your territory:

So you get to pop the the excerpts you want into WorkFlowy (or wherever), plus you get the added advantage of being able to navigate back to those specific excerpts on the original site. This can be done in one of 2 ways: After following the share link…

  1. You can click on any highlight snippet within the Summary overlay or…
  2. You can fast track to different highlights within the context of the actual site via the “place markers” on the Highly toolbar at the foot of the page:

Your turn

I’m sure you’ve got something to share. Please tell us about how you curate incoming text or how you get anything into WorkFlowy more easily than you did when you were a rookie.

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26 thoughts on “Gathering Text from the WWW – Making it Short and Sweet

  1. Olá Frank. You’re a font of ideas. This one looks particularly useful. There was once an extension that could clip a selection and include the URL in the clipboard, but it was abandoned. I looked at this, but couldn’t get it to work. I could select the text, but it wouldn’t stick as a highlight. I’ve contacted Highly and they are at a loss to know what’s wrong. I’ve tried with no other extensions and a cleared cache, but still doesn’t work. Has anyone else had this problem?

    1. Hey Kevin,

      I also had some teething problems initially. What seemed to work for me was rebooting my computer and tinkering with it the next day. At first I couldn’t get the highlights to stick, exactly as you described.

      Once it’s up and running it’s a charm. What I found worked in the interim was after highlighting a piece of text you could hit Shift+! to deactivate the extension and then again to reactivate it… your highlights will probably stick. That I found to be a consistent workaround to see how it worked in reality. Now it works as it should. I recommend sleeping on it 🙂

      1. I haven’t found any joy on a reboot yet. The workaround does work, but it’s awkward. I’ll wait to see what happens. I know from experience that Chrome extensions work in mysterious ways.

      1. Hi Luke, it was a bit of a hit-and-miss for me initially, but it has a way of working itself out. I’ve reached out to the developer, Andrew, and hopefully he’ll chime in here with some troubleshooting. We’ll get to the bottom of this 🙂

    2. Hey Kevin and Co.,

      Give Highly Highlighter another go and report back here 🙂 I’ve been working with Highly’s Tech guy, Eric, to iron out some bugs. Looks like it’s working consistently now…

      1. Yep… Eric did ask me if I was perhaps on a touchscreen. They are working on that specifically.

  2. Frank, thanks for the great post and moreso for getting in touch! Kevin, Luke and others, thanks for your patience! We are looking into this and could use a hand. If you’re willing/able, please shoot troublesome URLs or screenshots/videos of the busted highlighter to

    I’ll report back as we figure this out. Thank you!

  3. Frank,

    Thanks to you and your previous posts, I’ve managed to make Workflowy work for me. I’ve even created TextExpander scripts that will automatically create an entire project for me in Workflowy, including due dates, appropriate hash tags, and everything else. I’ve also created a snippet that will automatically generate a new project number and assign it to a client’s project while populating all of the necessary tasks.

    A create template starter!

    Thanks again for all of your work in Workflowy. My ideas are churning now!

    1. Hey @griffingaryl,
      How about we put together a future WorkFlowy blog post? You’ve certainly got my attention and I’m sure that many in the WorkFlowy community would benefit from your insights into automating templates and input into WorkFlowy.

      1. @frank.dg,

        That sounds like a plan. Right now, I’ve got the following setups in TextExpander which automate by day in Workflowy:

        – New Project (generates a new project with a random project number and all of the subtasks needed for that project);
        – Workflowy Date (simply puts the current date as a tag; I use the format #d20160407 for all of my dates)
        – Next 3 Days (generates a Workflowy search for the next 3 days)
        – Next 7 Days (generates a Workflowy search for the next 7 days)
        – Parent Search (takes what is currently pasted to the clipboard and searches all of workflowy)
        – Several other project templates that are created for the various types of projects I manage.

        My next snippet will be to create a months’s worth of Daily bullets similar to this structure:

        – April 11, 2016 (Monday) #d20160411
        -DAILY LOG

      2. @griffingaryl,
        That sounds amazing! Could you drop me a line at frankman777(at)gmail(dot)com? It sounds like a simple screencast would do the trick of showcasing your dynamics. Let’s see 🙂

  4. Hey! Eric @ Highly here. If you were experiencing issues & you were on a laptop with touchscreen enabled, we pushed an update (v2.1.20) for Chrome yesterday that should clear things up. Thanks for the feedback. Cheers!

  5. I use FireFox so I will be eagerly awaiting their extension of “Highly Highlighter.” In the meantime, I wanted to share how I use Workflowy to keep track of basic information on each episode of one of my favorite TV series. My cousin, who is out-of-state and I gab on the phone every week about the TV shows that we share an interest in and so I’ve started to compile some information on them. Season No., Episode No., Air Date, Name of episode, and a recap that I copy from (with their permission). Here’s the link to my Share (you can read AND edit it): Since I am a rookie I don’t have any tips or tricks yet to share. 🙂

  6. Okay, Frank. I have a question: When I set up my “Share,” I forgot to start with the Main title (it has no bullet).

    Do I just set it up properly and start a new share? And then go back to the old “Share” page and click on “unshare”

    1. Yes… pretty much… just share from one higher level up. Unsharing a child list is not really a big deal, but I would unshare just to keep it visually simpler… Or you may want to keep it as a shared list for any casual WorkFlowy passer by who wants to pop in and take a look.

      1. Thanks, Frank. I should be asking the Workflowy Team this, I know, but do you think that I could request that an “unshared” Web page be deleted? If not, you have a good idea there which I’ll follow.

      2. Hi Frank, I attempted to unshare the majority of the children under the parent “Recap” to make it visually simpler as you suggested but when I hovered over their bullets to click them back to “Share,” it didn’t show “Shared.” They look the same as if they’d never been shared at all. Every one of them shows “Share” when I hover over each of their bullets.

        There doesn’t seem to be a pattern with the parents. The first two or three parents from the top show “Shared” when I hover over their bullets but after that the parents that follow don’t show “Shared.” They just show “Share” as usual, as do each of their children. I made some screen shots for you to see what I’m talking about. Let me know if you would like me to send them to your email address as attachments or, maybe, you can visualize what I’m saying.

        As you can see, when you go over to the “Shared” link that I provided everything is fine. Everything is there (shared).

        I”m confused at this point.

        P.S. There are no worries about deletion of the old shared page, I discovered. I went back to the old link and it said that the page no longer existed. 🙂

      3. Hi Ruth. I’m a little lost at this stage too…

        Back to basics:

        (1) Share any outline you want, whether editable or not. You choose.
        (2) When you want to stop sharing a specific outline, hit the “Stop sharing this list” button.

        You don’t need to share or unshare children lists within an outline… just the main list title itself.

        To simplify a shared list, you would delete stuff on your end.

        You can’t unshare individual children lists within an outline… you just unshare the parent list.

        If you want to start from scratch… duplicate the list and share that. Delete the original.

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