4 Pretty Useful Things You Can do With Shared WorkFlowy Lists


With the last 3 posts in this space we’ve delved into collaborating with WorkFlowy. To get the collaboration ball rolling, one has got to share a list. But what if you’re not ready to collaborate? What if you’re a recluse and you like it that way? Well, there’s a little something for everyone with shared WorkFlowy lists. Let’s get to it…

0. First things first – The default state of shared outlines

Did you know that you can set the default/ “first-view” state of your shared outlines? In other words, you can determine which lists are expanded and which are collapsed when an onlooker sees a shared outline for the first time. This is how:

  1. First, expand and collapse the parts of the outline you’re about to share until it looks exactly the way you want people to see it once they’ve clicked a shared link.
  2. then hover over your list’s bullet (or zoomed-in list title) and click “Share” (and then “Share” again in the popup dialog box). Grab that link and share it.

1. Less is more – Shared lists for extra stuff

If you’re a blogger you may want to include this one in your repertoire…

You may have noticed that with the more recent posts I’ve been including extra information in shared WorkFlowy lists. You’ll see what I mean when you click on “A couple more pointers…” above. Those who are interested can go off the beaten path and get some extra tips and cues – and add the outline to their WorkFlowy accounts if they wish.

When you’ve got a bunch of technical points that might not be pertinent to your entire readership, this serves to declutter a post and make it a tad less long-winded. Tell me you don’t love me already 🙂

2. The marketing gurus call it “Content Upgrade”

Many online writers offer free, extra content which expands (upgrades) on an article you may be reading. To get your hands on it, you’ll most likely have to sign up for a newsletter by registering your email address. If you can’t get enough of a particular blogger/ writer – it’s one of those win-win thing: You get useful information mailed to you once in a while… and the writer gets to discretely pedal his/ her wares – which may also be incredibly valuable.

I opt for a sort of hybrid of the above model… I don’t want people to have to obligatorily sign up for anything to get extra content related to a specific post – however, you will most likely see something similar to the following if you follow a shared list link I post:

You see that promotional bar at the bottom of the shared list? For that, I’m using a “freemium” service called “Sniply”. I think it’s great for promoting your own content and it’s not too in-your-face. You can customize the background color to make it less obtrusive. If you click on what they call the CTA (Call To Action), you’ll be redirected to where the creator wants to take you. Currently, I want to take people to a sign-up form like so:

TIP: I’ve seen people using shared WorkFlowy lists together with Sniply on Social Media. If you have some sort of a promotional page that you’d like to direct people to, you can bypass the blogging scene (if that works for you): Social Media + Shared WorkFlowy list + Sniply. All you need to focus on is sharing a list that people might find useful. Perhaps a cheat sheet like this exhaustive Unicode list or the entire Bible in WorkFlowy.

3. ?demo lists – Knock yourself out

By adding “?demo” to the end of any shared list’s URL, it becomes a… demo list. One can shuffle lists around and edit anything to your heart’s content. And… when the page is reloaded, the list goes back to default.

This gives anyone the ability to go wild and test things out. You can create entire nested outlines with tags, navigable internal links, etc… but the slate is wiped clean when the page is reloaded:

Go ahead and tinker with the very same outline in the above GIF. You can go all Wreck-It Ralph… and then back to square one. I’m sure your mind is already racing with all kinds of use cases for this one!

4. Share a list with yourself

I’ve shared a couple of my own lists with myself. Editable shared lists, that is. The idea behind this not-so-looney dynamic is speed. The speed of loading a shared list in a new tab. Here’s one of my use cases…

I’ve never felt the need to have more than one WorkFlowy tab open at a time. Not until relatively recently. Now I have a “Notepad” list that loads real quick in a new tab when I hit a custom keyboard shortcut:

When you load WorkFlowy in a new tab, it will load all of your lists (That’s why it’s so blazing fast to get around)… so it’ll take a couple of seconds depending on how large your entire account is. Now when you load a shared list, it loads just that list and no other. So it loads quicker than normal – even with my background image. That there makes it practical enough for me to temporarily open a new tab with my “Notepad” when I want to jot a random idea down. I can then shut it down if I want when I’m done.

I also like giving my “Notepad” outline a different look and feel with narrower margins. If you’d like to set up something similar, you’ll (1) want to take a look at a post entitled, “Background Images for Both Light and Dark WorkFlowy Themes.” and (2) create an additional Stylish style specifically for your shared list:

Finally, if you’d like to set up a custom keyboard shortcut that opens a shared list in a new tab, one possibility would be the “freemium” PhraseExpress. You can then create a new phrase and tell it to open a specific web page: Options gears > Automation > Open a web page. Insert your shared list URL and choose a Keyboard shortcut:

What, where, who, how?

Just in case you’d like to find all of the shared or embedded lists in your WorkFlowy account, these search operators will come in handy (hit Esc[ape] and pop them in the search box):

  1. is:embedded  – will find other people’s lists you’ve added to your account
  2. is:shared  –  will locate all of your lists you’ve shared with others

Your turn…

I’d (we’d) love to hear about how you’re using shared lists for use cases both big and small 🙂

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43 thoughts on “4 Pretty Useful Things You Can do With Shared WorkFlowy Lists

  1. These are great thoughts and tips – thanks!

    I love the prospect of a rapid-load sublist (like your Notepad). I’ve tested it out, however, and I’m not seeing any loading time improvement even for a list with just the one word in it. Am I missing a step, some kind of option I need to check in settings?

    1. Hey Adan, so you’ve shared the list and grabbed the share URL? How long, exactly, does it take for your shared list to load? How many seconds?

      1. Hey Frank, thanks for the response – I’m sorry, I attempted to reply to my original comment with an embarrassed explanation of what I was doing wrong: I didn’t realize the distinction between the regular list’s link and the share link. Doh.

        So yeah, with the shared link it loads instantly!

      2. Well… at least you never created a whole outline in a ?demo list thinking you were in a regular list and ended up losing everything when you closed up shop. Been there, done that.

  2. Great post, Frank!

    I share some lists with myself so that I can link to them from other areas of my Workflowy.

    For example, I do a GTD weekly review each week. I run through a checklist of things as part of that review. The checklist is in Workflowy, of course.

    One item on that checklist is to review my goals, so I have a link to my list of goals inside the weekly review checklist. That way, I just click the link to be whisked away to the section of my Workflowy where my goals are. After reviewing, I close the tab.

    Workflowy internal referencing, FTW!

    1. Hi Carl,

      What if you simply grab the “usual” list URL (from your browser’s address bar) instead of the shared list link? That way you will jump to any list linked to instantaneously… no load time. My advice would be to learn how to navigate back to where you came from comfortably (within the same tab)… to do that after following a link, you would hit “Alt” to set the focus on the browser instead of WorkFlowy… and then Alt+Left Arrow. That will take you back to wherever you came from. So: Alt, Alt+Left Arrow. WorkFlowy’s Starred Pages Menu will also record your last list visited… so you can also hit Ctrl+; and get back to the list you were in originally.

      1. Wow. I didn’t realize that each URL was a permanent, unique like. I ASSumed that I had I share the list to link to it.

        The scales have fallen from my eyes!


  3. Hi Frank…another great post! The “default state” tip is going to be a lifesaver for me.

    I don’t know if you take requests, but I have a challenge for an upcoming blog post: your posts do a great job of teaching us how to handle items once they’re in Workflowy, but I’d love to see you tackle the challenge of getting items into Workflowy quicker and more efficiently. Specifically, I’d really like to see what kind of hack you could put together to give Workflowy an Inbox.

    I’m 100% in the bag for Workflowy, but the one thing I miss from my Things and OmniFocus days is an inbox that was easily accessed from outside the program. I really miss the ability to trigger a quick entry dialogue box from anywhere on my computer that automatically recorded an item without having to leave the program I was in. I also miss using Drafts on iOS to quickly send items to my task manager of choice.

    I know it sounds like a minor inconvenience, but having to tab over to Workflowy (or on iOS, open the app) is often just enough friction for me to say “eh, I’ll remember to add it next time I have Workflowy open”…which I almost never remember to do.

    Right now I use Things as a inbox for Workflowy, and I have a recurring daily task in Workflowy to “Clean out Things’ inbox.” But this is inelegant and a kludge.

    I know that if you polled 100 people about what absolutely essential bit of functionality is missing from their productivity software of choice, you’d get 100 different features. But this one is mine: an easy and quick way to get items into Workflowy from outside the app. I’d really love to see how you’d solve this challenge.

    1. Hey Johnny,

      Really good question(s). There’s a bunch of ways to get stuff into WorkFlowy easier. Some of those we’ve looked at over the months:

      Clip to WorkFlowy (by rawbytz): https://blog.workflowy.com/2015/11/24/clip-to-workflowy/
      Highly Highlighter: https://blog.workflowy.com/2016/03/31/short-and-sweet/
      eHighlighter in this post: https://blog.workflowy.com/2016/04/07/workflowy-for-studying/

      There’s a handful of others, including MemoFlowy and HandyFlowy for mobile device (3rd-party WorkFlowy apps)… you might have to scour these pages.

      In terms of “Inbox”, there’s another Chrome extension called WorkFlowy Clipper. You can set a default WorkFlowy inbox for information clipped from web pages. Also, with MemoFlowy on mobile, you can set an Inbox too. You’ve got some work ahead of you!

      Take another quick look at the “Notepad” outline (Sharing lists with yourself) in this post… I’ve been using that to jot down ideas from time to time. That sort of acts like an inbox for free radical stuff. Having said that, to be quite honest, I’m not a huge fan of Inboxes in general. I’ve written many an essay on just that. Inboxes mean you have to sort at some point. I really dislike sifting through stuff… so I work VERY hard at putting things where they best fit from the get go. That means coming up with solutions to my workflow that make my life easier in the long run. One such solution I use is called “List Title Tags”. There’s also a post on that in this space. Basically I have a tag on my home page for a couple of thing… one such tag being a @use tag (New use cases for WorkFlowy that come to mind)… when I click on that tag it filters for the other tag buried in a list somewhere (which is actually the title of a list called “New @use cases”. So I get there in just one click and outline my ideas which will go into the next edition of my book.

      I understand your need for things like OmniFocus and Drafts. Quick entry. Figure out a way on mobile to get the job done fast. MemoFlowy does an awesome job. I think there’s also a MemoFlowy script that allows Drafts to connect to WorkFlowy. Rawbytz came up with that one, I think.

      You’ve posed a bunch of really, really good points… and I think I may warm to the challenge of writing an “Inbox” post. But my tendency is as follows: sometimes a change in perspective allows us to cut out an inbox altogether. But then again, an inbox means something different to different people. It’s a HUGE topic. 🙂

    2. Hey Johnny,

      Here’s how you get from Drafts to WorkFlowy:

      • Download the iOS MemoFlowy app, and log into WorkFlowy inside the app. (https://appsto.re/us/mmsV-.i)
      • In Drafts, create a new URL action with the following URL scheme:


      When activated, this will automatically create bullet(s) at the bottom of your WorkFlowy home page (via MemoFlowy), and then return you to your Drafts inbox. It’s really fast. Keep in mind, any line breaks in your draft will generate a new bullet. Better yet… any new lines starting with a space will be children of the line above, so you can actually outline a bit in Drafts like this:

      Child 1
      Child 2
      New Parent

      I actually don’t use Drafts! I’m using the Workflow automation app (https://appsto.re/us/2IzJ2.i) to do the same. I use the Reminders app as my “Drafts inbox” (mostly via Siri: “Remember this”) and then trigger a workflow to convert all my un-timed Reminders into WorkFlowy bullets, and then delete the Reminders (all in a couple taps). I trigger these workflows from the Notification Center via the Launcher app (https://appsto.re/us/iLR81.i)

      Here’s a link to my iOS Reminders to WorkFlowy workflow (whew! that’s a mouthful):

      And here is one of my absolute favorite Launcher shortcuts. It simply grabs the current contents of the iOS clipboard and then creates a bullet, opening MemoFlowy. Fantastically useful! Swipe, tap, done. From anywhere in iOS. In fact, I’m writing this on my desktop and using this url scheme it to copy all the links and code in this comment. Fast.


      I guess I don’t need to write that blog post now….

      1. btw, my drafts example formatting got borked, it should look like this:

        (space)Child 1
        (space)Child 2
        New Parent

      2. Hey rawbytz, you think there’s a way to get MemoFlowy to load a shared list URL only and not one’s WorkFlowy account itself?

      3. Frank, you can do it in HandyFlowy, not sure about MemoFlowy but I don’t think so. What is your use case? If it’s about getting things into your notepad fast, you don’t need to go the shared route.

      4. Would be cool if one of you folks did a blog post on Memoflowy. Just gave it a quick look on Android after reading this comment. Seems like it glues some things together. But it also raised some questions, as the developer’s documentation in English is a little bit rough.

        For example, is there anyway to use it to send items to a specific WF list, like the Chrome Workflowy clipper extension? (e.g., by using the Template feature). Would be so cool if that was possible. Then, one could copy and send text from almost any place in android.

      5. kingsinger, Can only speak for iOS, and still learning by trial & error.

        The template feature is optional formatting of what gets sent, but has nothing to do with where it gets sent.

        In the paid version, you def can define 4 different inbox locations. If you look at the URL scheme, you’ll see “send0″… that 0 could also be a 1,2 or 3 defining each inbox option.

        I have the paid version… just not sure if “send0” is customizable in the free version as it is in paid. I got the app free for beta testing, but I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase it.

      6. Thanks rawbytz. I figured out defining an Inbox list on Android Memoflowy:

        1) push the Workflowy button from the input screen;
        2) Push the bookmarks button; and
        3) You’ll get the option to set a particular list as your Inbox.

        After that, when you sent text to WF using MF, it’ll place it in that list, either at the top or the bottom of the list, depending upon how you have it configured.

        Not sure that Android has the url actions. But if you select some text in any Android App and press the share button, MF is one of the options you can share to. And once it’s in there, you just swipe up on the WF button in the input screen and it will automatically put in your inbox.

        So it seems to work pretty similarly to the Chrome Extension on the desktop.

        Looks like I have the option to define some additional bookmarks too. But I haven’t figure out how that works yet.

      7. OMG, those two Workflow / Launcher recipes are going to totally change my life! Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to share them. (Sorry it took me a while to get back to you…unexpected work trip.) The Drafts URL is a godsend, too.

        Combined with Remind Me ( https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/remind-me/id618776410?mt=12 ), Reminder2Workflowy actually gets me 70% of the way to a desktop Workflowy inbox, too. I hit the Remind Me hot key, create a new Reminder that syncs with my phone, then later import my reminders using your Reminder2Workflowy recipe. It’s a bit of kludge but it’s a lot better than what I had before and it’ll hold me over until you tackle a desktop inbox. 😉

        Thank you again for taking the time to respond. I don’t want to sound too hyperbolic, but you’ve totally improved the quality of my life.

      8. Johnny, glad you liked everything. My biggest problem now is my WorkFlowy inbox fills up too quickly!

        Kingsinger, good to hear you got Android figured out. The bookmark method is the same in iOS. Having things integrated into the Share menu sounds nice.

    3. I have this problem also… which is……. while working on project A, I find something for project B or I think of chore or something else I may want to do or remember. Just me…. if I do not write it down or catalog it somehow.. its gone. Frank’s tip on shared lists (did the trick for me) I use typeitin (most people use phrase express) and created a hotkey macro that does the following

      opens tab in chrome browser
      enters shared workflowy List (in my case it is my inbox)
      creates a new bullet item
      enters date (160825.053632 occasionally I track time)
      then runs a dropdown list of priority tags (@p1, @p2, #today, #atsmpt, #filethis)
      once I select the priority the next list runs
      which is a list of categories (#projects, #chores, #learnmore, #readlater, etc)
      I then type in context of note and close tab or ctrl 1,2,3 or 9 in chrome to go back to what I was working on.

      I do a “nightly” review of my inbox and clean out my inbox to actionable or non-actionable items, tag accordingly, and then prepare a #today list of what I want to do the following day/ or #tickle for some time in the future (macro does this also)

      Also much of my work is testing web based database solutions. I now keep a “shared list” link on each build. As I test to find errors, adds, subtracts, etc I can quickly link to document my findings on this shared list and then go back to testing. I now have an “organized” record by build, by date, by problem, and by fix. This will come in handy when I know I had this problem before but how did I solve it. Some people have fantastic memories… I have none…. why workflowy works for me.

      Thanks to Frank shared lists tips my workflow just became much easier and certainly simpler…

      1. That looks like you’ve got quite some automation going with Typeitin 🙂 … and a perfectly tailor-made setup for your different workflows. Oh the possibilities…

      2. I recently found a Chrome extension called “Toggle Switch Recent Last Tabs.” It allows you to set up a hotkey that will take you back to your most recently used tab before the one you’re on.

        May not be that useful if you don’t keep that many tabs open or you have a very regimented system, but if you have a lot of tabs open in Chrome (perhaps to the point were the little favicons are no longer showing), it can be convenient to hit a combo like Alt-Q and go right back to the tab where you were before.

      1. Hi @EL,
        Thanks for the tip here 🙂 I’ve tinkered with the WorkFlowy Panel before… but I think I may just revisit it to see if I can fit somewhere into my (broadening) WorkFlowy workflow.

      2. You’re welcome! It’s also useful if you want to open 2 lists side by side to compare, or move things around.

    1. I got it straight from the horse’s mouth. And then I failed to mention that rawbytz helped confirm the default state of shared lists thing 🙂

  4. One more thing you can do with ?demo. This works on view-only shared outlines when you want a perfect copy of a sub-section of a large outline. ?demo also activates the bullet hover menu, so you can selectively export. Select OPML and copy that to your clipboard. Then paste the OPML directly into your outline and all the formatting, hierarchy, notes, etc will be in tact.

    1. That’s good to know 🙂 One thing you can do, whether in demo mode or not, is select the content of an outline and copy paste it over to your own WorkFlowy account. That should work too.

      1. But it doesn’t. 🙂 Not even in shared outlines where you have edit privileges. The zoomed parent will paste on the same level as the children. Notes get totally borked. Any children not expanded will not copy. OPML nails everything perfectly.

      2. You’re right. I tested and copied over complex outlines (all fully expanded) and seemed to have no issues at all… but when I added notes, those got compounded with their list titles. So… OPML wins the day… and exporting while in ?demo mode is the way to go if you want to copy sub-sections as opposed to adding the entire outline to your account. Just like you said.

  5. Hi Frank. Another great article. I love the idea of sharing a list with yourself. I have a readable sized list (nothing compared to yours in sure) that just doesn’t feel as snappy it used to but as in adding to it daily that’s only going to get worse. A bit of a rethink about the current content (mostly a daily to-do system going back a few years plus a reference list) might help to return some of that speed.

    Thanks again for another great post.

  6. Hi,

    I use shared lists occasionally but have been frustrated that I cannot decide to share list on the go. So I created a bunch of shareable lists on my home computer and gave them simple titles like “share1”, “share2”, “share and edit”. I copy and paste the link to the shared list in the notes section of the list or a sublist.

    So when I have info I need to share with someone on the go I just have to move it beneath a list I already have a shareable link to, then copy and past the link into a text or email to send to my friend or coworker.

    1. Hey David,

      Awesome tip! Looks like shared WorkFlowy lists are an entrenched part of your life.

      Another possibility on mobile is to “Request desktop site” in your browser… although there’s a whole skillset to tapping your way around on a touch screen (which can be quite annoying)… so I prefer your pre-planned approach.

  7. Hi Frank,

    When accessing a list I’ve shared with myself, I’m distracted by a small dialog box which appears in the lower left of the page reading “This is a collaborative WorkFlowy.” with a button “Add it to my account”. What, if any, drawbacks might there be to clicking that button?

    1. … and then click the next one.

      An easy way to get rid of it for good is to edit the link you use to get there. Replace /s/ with /embed/.

  8. Thanks Frank – I’m usually a ‘click it and see’ person, don’t know why I was reluctant this time…

    Thank you for the suggestion, rawbytz – but replacing ‘s’ with ’embed’ seems to have the result that Theme and Font Settings are ignored…

    Am I right that it should be possible to concoct some CSS a Stylish to make this button invisible?

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