The WorkFlowy Keyboard Shortcut Challenge – Time Trials!


Keyboard shortcuts really put the flow into WorkFlowy. Getting familiar with and wielding them is a must if you want to get comfortable hanging out in your lists. Using kbs’s is like hitting the “Skip Ad” button on Youtube videos… everything just flows so much better. Not using kbs’s is like moving into a new house and not unpacking your boxes. Do you really want to live out of boxes for the rest of your WorkFlowy life?

I’ve got some kbs challenges for you in several shared demo lists… see if you can shave a couple of seconds off my best (timed) efforts. The demo lists are identical to what you’ll see in each GIF. (By the way, you don’t need to add the lists to your account to tinker with them.)

Exploding tags

Do you still delete tags by placing your cursor and then… Backspace, Backspace, Backspace, Backspace, Backspace? Try Alt + click.

Click here for the demo list. My time: 48s

Zooming into lists with Alt + →

Using kbs’s to zoom in (and out) of lists is magic. Here’s a demo list to get you started. If you ever wondered about the etymology of the expression, “Down the rabbit hole”, tag along for Alice’s epic ± 4,000-mile fall to Wonderland. No time trial for this next GIF. It’s way too fast… so everyone wins.

Now… follow the arrows down the rabbit hole to win a trophy. Use your key to get you to the right list and Alt + → to zoom in.

Click here for the demo list. My time: 46s

Don’t forget about Alt + ← to zoom out a level or two. It’s much quicker than heading for the breadcrumb navigation bar with your mouse.

Shuffling lists around

Using the Alt + Shift + Arrow(s) keyboard shortcut is often way quicker and more precise than dragging lists around. My favorite part about using this kbs is that when moved up or down, your list maintains its hierarchical level whenever possible.

Click here for the demo list. My time: 22s

Selecting multiple, random lists and sorting

It was a glorious day when we were able to select multiple, arbitrary lists by Alt + Clicking on them. Selecting and moving lists go together like “Speedy” and “Gonzalez”. So you’d do something like this: Alt + Click, Click, Click …then Alt + Shift + Arrow Keys. Here’s an opportunity to use both:

Click here for the demo list. My time: 38s

Duplicating lists

Duplicating lists easily becomes part of your workflow when you have a fast way of doing it. Alt + drag any bullet(s) to clone them. Try duplicating the first list below 10 times as fast as your fingers can go.

Click here for the demo list. My time: 15s

Jumping to adjacent sibling lists

Instead of zooming in and out of sibling lists or expanding entire outlines to see the content therein, one can zoom into a list and then jump to adjacent siblings by using:

  • Alt + Shift + 9/0 for Windows
  • Ctrl + Shift + 9/0 for Mac

Click here for a demo list to tinker with.

Here’s a whole WorkFlowy blog post dedicated to this beauty of a keyboard shortcut.

Deleting whole outlines/ bullets

Instead of deleting stuff like this…

… you could place your cursor anywhere and hit Ctrl + Shift + Backspace to wipe out entire lists like so:

… or an entire outline in one fell swoop:

Click here for a demo list to tinker with.

Navigating list history back and forth

I’ve saved the best for last. This is a kbs that needs to be used to be appreciated. No amount of demonstrating will do it justice. We use Alt + ← /  to navigate our list history back and forth (just like in any browser)… BUT, one needs to toggle Alt once before doing so – to take the focus from WorkFlowy to your browser. So it goes like this: Alt, Alt + ←.

Click here for a demo list to tinker with…

(1) Zoom in to each successive bullet until you come to the end (Alt + →) … then (2) hit Alt once (your cursor disappears) and then (3) Alt + ← to navigate your browser history back in time. The lyrics to an iconic Bee Gees song will appear in order.

Keep in mind that you if you hit Alt + ← without hitting Alt once before, you’re just zooming out – not navigating your browser history back. You can tell by the way there’s no “zoom animation” that you’re navigating your browser history back. It’s instant and very fluid. It makes going back to where you came from (and then back again) a breeze. This is possibly the most powerful WorkFlowy navigating tip I can give you. Speed is your friend.

A kbs for your kbs’s

To access WorkFlowy’s keyboard shortcut helper, hit Ctrl + ?… or you can check the following box under Settings:

Share a kbs demo list with us

It would be incredibly awesome if you had a demo list or two to share with us – lists that’d help us practice keyboard shortcuts. Share your list as “view only” and tack “?demo” on to the end of the URL.

A comment’s a comment, no matter how small

Give us your thoughts on keyboard shortcuts in general. Also… were you faster than me in the time trials? Hmmmm, were you??

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Author: frank.dg

Author of the book, "Do Way, Way More in WorkFlowy", I blog on and for the WorkFlowy blog.

58 thoughts on “The WorkFlowy Keyboard Shortcut Challenge – Time Trials!”

    1. Generally the equivalent for Window’s Alt would be “Option” on Mac (often printed on the same key) and for the Ctrl (Control) key you’d use Command (or Control) on Mac.

      If you hit Command/ Control + ? (Or go to Settings) you can enable your keyboard shortcut helper, which should give you the exact key combos for each kbs depending on the system you’re using at the time.

      As far as I know, the only notable difference in kbs’s between Mac and Windows would be the one where you jump between sibling lists. That is outlined in the post… You would use “Command + Shift + 9/0” or “Control + Shift + 9/0”.

    2. The shortcut for browser history on my Mac (in Chrome) is cmd + [ (]). For zooming in and out I have to use ctrl+cmd + arrow right or left. Hope this helps!

    1. As far as actual WorkFlowy kbs’s go, all of the one’s I know of that are not on the Keyboard Shortcut Helper Menu (at least in the Window’s display) are:

      1. Ctrl + Shift + 9/0 (Mac) and Alt + Shift + 9/0 (Windows) – Jumping to adjacent sibling lists
      2. Ctrl + Space – expanding/ collapsing lists (alternative)
      3. Alt + Click (on tags) – to explode them
      4. Alt + Click (on lists) – to select them
      5. Alt + Drag (on bullets) – to duplicate/ clone them

      6. Double clicking on a zoomed-in list title to expand/ collapse all children lists fully (not a kbs)
      7. Double clicking on a bullet’s “+”/”-” to expand/ collapse all children lists fully (not a kbs)

      Then there are a handful of universal kbs’s for moving around within a bullet, etc. that are not exclusively WorkFlowy kbs’s, all of which I’ve included in my book.

      In a nutshell, the only WorkFlowy kbs’s that are not referenced in either the Shortcut Menu or in this post are… nothing. Well, there’s #2 above, but that’s an alternative to the Ctrl + Up/ Down kbs.

      And then, to top it off, dragging and clicking combos would probably disqualify most of the above from technically being kbs’s. Also, the jumping-between-sibling-lists kbs was/ is an experimental one 🙂

      1. Also one can quickly double-press Ctrl + Space shortcut to expand/collapse all children lists. Just like double clicking on a +/- would do.

  1. Love this post Frank! Keyboard shortcuts make workflowy-ing addictive! On my phone for the evening so no comparisons unfortunately.

    Only other kbs I can think of is, once you’ve alt + clicked on one or several lists you can use the ctrl + x / v cut and paste shortcuts to move them where you want. I don’t think there’s even a way to do this with a mouse? For all I know everyone already knows this, but it’s super powerful for anyone who doesn’t. You can transport a list from one place to anywhere else with ludicrous ease.

    1. Back on laptop and just checked this, after the alt + click selection, attempting to right click with the mouse and cut / copy on windows doesn’t work (they are greyed out), so copying and cutting alt + clicked links is only available by keyboard – this feature works so perfectly that I am sure it must have been intentional from the WFy team, but the fact that it’s impossible by mouse (Wfy’s own drop down menu has nothing) confuses me .. an odd one!

    2. Thanks for that Stephen. I use that a lot… but one has to be aware of a couple of things:

      1. Your last-changed data will all be reset
      2. It might wreak havoc with shared lists
      3. If you cut an outline and then copy something else, you lose what’s on your clipboard (unless you have additional software that might help)… and if subsequent to cutting your list your browser inadvertently refreshes (or a couple of other undo/ redo scenarios), you’ll have lost an outline. It’s happened to me with large ones before.

      Having said that, yes, I cut outlines a lot. I’m just weary of doing that with shared lists and large lists. Otherwise it’s a super fast dynamic for run-off-the-mill lists.

      1. Hey Frank, yes you’re right, caution is undoubtedly wise with this trick!

        I have done it a few times with shared lists and it doesn’t seem to have caused any difficulties so far, but I haven’t extensively tested it (perhaps I’ve pasted it fast enough each time to avoid WorkFlowy updating to the server so keeping data continuity, hard to say). Will have to test this.

        I’ve never been too scared of losing data (although admittedly it’s definitely possible) because you can use ctrl + z to undo seemingly to infinity on chrome at least (it will even effectively press the back button on your browser to go back to previous lists to undo changes etc) so if you accidentally copy or cut a second thing you always have that lifeline.

      2. I just tested the shared list thing, and am once again just amazed by how well WorkFlowy works. So I made a shared list, cut it, saved WorkFlowy and tried to load the shared list link – ‘Page does not exist’. I went back to WorkFlowy, pressed ctrl + z a few times to bring the shared list back, refreshed the shared link page, and bingo, it was back, no problem. I love this program.

      3. Absolutely! Great tip.

        As Murphey would have it, I have, on multiple occasions, cut something (and subsequently copied something else to my clipboard)… then gone back to before the creation of the list previously cut (Ctrl + Z,Z,Z,Z,Z,Z)…. changed something… and then… point of no return.

        Now, when backtracking, I’m super conscious of not changing anything (while forraying in the past) if I haven’t already copied the stuff from the future (Ctrl+Shift+Z) that I can’t get back to… and also what I have on my system’s clipboard.

        I do have PhraseExpress’ clipboard cache too… but it doesn’t retain all the emphases, note formatting, etc. Either way, like I said, I cut stuff a LOT. I’ve just had to be keep a number of mental checks in place while I’m at it.

  2. Oh, I just thought of one more – this one is somewhere between a ‘trick’ and a keyboard shortcut. So it always used to annoy me when you have multi-line bullet points that ‘home’ only goes to the start of the current line, rather than the start of the whole bullet. So if you have a 3-line bullet point (or note) and your cursor is in the central line and you press Home it goes to the start of the central line, not the start of the bullet. The longer the bullet (or note), the greater the irritation.

    To overcome this, some while back I realized you can press Ctrl + A to select all the text in the bullet, then press the Left Arrow key to go back to very start of the bullet, or the Right Arrow key to go to the end. Now we have start / end of line (Home / End), start / end of bullet (Ctrl + A + Left/Right) and start / end of entire page (Ctrl + Home, Ctrl + End). Woop!

    The key use for this trick I suppose is when you are mid-typing but realize you want to start a new bullet point either before or after your current.

    1. Brilliant! Ctrl+A+Left/Right… Right there under my nose this whole time.

      This is going to make things flow a lot better for me right away. You’re spot on with wanting to start a new bullet either above or below one that you’re currently editing. That right there is money. No more clicking on the end of the previous bullet and then hitting Enter… or placing my cursor at the end of the current bullet and hitting Enter.

    2. A gal by the name of Ksenia pointed these ones out to me:

      Ctrl + Alt + Home/ End – scroll you to the beginning/ end of your page without moving your cursor.
      Ctrl + Alt + Page Up/ Page Down – scroll you incrementally up and down, pretty much like what hitting the Space Bar does on any web page.

      1. Just so we’re clear Ctrl + Alt + Page Up/Page Down does exactly the same as just plain Page Up/Page Down. Where the knowledge of the more complicated one comes in handy is when one remaps the Page Up/Page Down keys to do something else (like navigate through sibling lists as mentioned in other posts)

      1. You are right… and by multiple lines, you’re probably thinking of multiple lists (bullets)… but the challenge comes when you have one single bullet with multiple lines… basically a paragraph. There is no direct keyboard shortcut to get to the beginning/ end if you’re not in the first/ last line already – unless you set up, say, a Hotkey via a text expansion app, which would include Ctrl+A, Left/Right.

        This is what we’re after (Ctrl+Home/End will not do this):

    1. Great! Yep – Ctrl+L will do the trick. I use that as a keystroke simulation with several PhraseExpress Hotkeys for WorkFlowy list shortcuts.

    2. I use a Linux box on occasion too. I use Alt+D (instead of Ctrl+L), keeping my left thumb on Alt, and then hitting the arrows with my right. Pretty snappy.

      Of course, NONE OF THIS WOULD BE NECESSARY if WorkFlowy changed the zoom shortcuts and stopped hijacking the standard browser history shortcuts for 90%+ of browser users worldwide. My suggestion is Alt+Down = Zoom & Alt+Up = Unzoom. I do that now with AutoHotKey and it’s AWESOME. Alt+Arrows becomes a WorkFlowy super navigator of sorts. (climbing down off soapbox)

      PS: I wish I could enlist more squeaky wheels to this cause.

      1. Thanks for the tip – I just implemented the same in AutoHotkey 🙂

        If anyone’s interested, here’s the code:

        #IfWinActive, WorkFlowy

      2. It’s been a while since I did this… remember running into some conflicts and breaking the move shortcuts. Here’s what I use:

        #IfWinActive, WorkFlowy




      3. rawbytz and jakupmichaelsen, thank you for the AutoHotkey scripts. Question: the “#IfWinActive, WorkFlowy” doesn’t seem to work for me. Once I comment it out all is good. Any ideas? Thanks.

      4. Ksenia, you probably need to add this to your Auto-execute section or before #IfWinActive:

        SetTitleMatchMode, 2 ; A window’s title can contain WinTitle anywhere inside it to be a match.

        That said, I don’t use the #IfWinActive I posted, instead I create a Group. This ensures that my WorkFlowy stuff only runs on WorkFlowy tabs, and not (for example) a blog page that has WorkFlowy in the title. It also allows me to add JavaScript prompts to the group, so I can enter tags via Hotstrings into the WorkFindy prompt.

        The group is created in the Auto-execute section like this:

        ; Match WorkFlowy home and bullets and eliminate false positives
        GroupAdd, WorkFlowyGroup, – WorkFlowy
        GroupAdd, WorkFlowyGroup, WorkFlowy – Organize your brain
        GroupAdd, WorkFlowyGroup, says: ; handles WorkFindy javascript prompt

        Then before my WorkFlowy section, this:

        #IfWinActive, ahk_group WorkFlowyGroup

      5. rawbytz, thank you very much for the updated code! After some more learning of the AutoHotKey syntax and finally remembering that the “-” (dash) copied from the WordPress needs to be retyped… I made it work :-).

        For those, who are like me and never used AutoHotKey before, a couple of tips for this particular code: the auto-execute section is the top section that (at least in this case) should end with “return” (no quotes); the “SetTitleMatchMode, 2” line of code was necessary to create the proper items in the group. So here’s what I ended up having in the auto-execute section:

        SetTitleMatchMode, 2
        GroupAdd, WorkFlowyGroup, – WorkFlowy
        GroupAdd, WorkFlowyGroup, WorkFlowy – Organize your brain
        GroupAdd, WorkFlowyGroup, says: ; handles WorkFindy javascript prompt

  3. I use AutoHotkey to remap Alt + Shift + 9/0 to PageUp / PageDown, when I give a presentation using WorkFlowy. That we I can use a wireless presenter (which maps to PageUp/PageDown) to give presentations PowerPoint style 🙂

    1. Hey! Thanks for that tip. I’m smiling from ear to ear 🙂

      Previously I had tried mapping Alt + Shift + 9/0 to a 2-key kbs via PhraseExpress… but shut that idea down because one had to hit both keys for each and every “jump”, whereas with the actual kbs, one would simply hold down Alt + Shift and hit, say, 0,0,0,0. BUT NOW, mapping them to a 1-key kbs (Page Up/ Page Down) solves that problem… since there’s only 1 key to peck away at. It’s a PERFECT fit… because who uses Pg Up/ Pg Dn in WorkFlowy anyways?

      Also, thanks for the presentation tip.

  4. Hi, Frank! I don’t know if my doubt fits in this post, but I was looking for a way to filter all items without a specific tag. Let’s say I’d like to see all items without #yellow. Is it possible?

    1. “Your search phrase” -#yellow

      In other words, you need to be searching for something while at the same time filtering out your tag.

      Searching for just -#yellow is telling WorkFlowy to search for everything minus #yellow. It doesn’t behave as you’d expect… And neither does Google. Imagine searching Google for everything minus, say, Justin Bieber. That would be a lot of information! So you would search for something and also exclude Justin Bieber from that search.

      1. Thank you very much, Frank!
        I’m writing the outline of my dissertation and I’ve just installed Re – Painter 2.
        Some of the items are actuallly sentences that will appear in the final draft, and there are also “high level items”, so to speak, whose function is just to indicate certain themes or chunks, but won’t make it to the final draft (something like “Discussion of theory x”, etc.). I’ve chosen a color for this latter type of items in order to quickly get an overview of the structure and to differentiate them from the sentences that will form the body of the text. It would be good to hide the “high level items” when doing the actual writing of paragraphs in a text editor. In other words, I’d like to see just the sentences that I’ll use to form paragraphs.
        Maybe I could just put some tag on the sentence items, e.g. “#sentence”. In that case, could turn the tag invisible?
        Do you have some other idea about how to achieve this?

      2. Hey Thiago,
        When you mention “doing the actual writing of paragraphs in a text editor”… are you talking about WorkFlowy or some other app? Also, these “high level items” you mentioned… are they actual parent lists or are they in line with your paragraphs in one flat list?

  5. Hey @dwarvenplague,

    I think the behavior you’re asking for would be undesirable to most. It would return “polluted” search results. What you would do is either expand the tagged list manually or zoom into it. The current behavior you describe is to be expected.

    If you don’t care to tag all of the children lists within your tagged parent list, here are a couple of suggestions:

    1. Pop your children list(s) into the parent list’s note instead and put your tag into the note somewhere, too (or only).
    2. Create a saved search that zooms into your parent list so that children are immediately exanded – and save it to the starred pages menu so that it is accessible anywhere. Personally I like clicking on a tag on my home screen and then zooming into the resulting list title tag, as described in this post:
    3. Nest a series of items in a list, all staggered one under the other and tag the last child list in the hierarchy. It’ll be a diagonal list.

  6. Is there a keyboard shortcut to go to the home page of workflowy? By which I mean the top page with all your bullets collapsed? At the moment I just have to press ctrl + left arrow multiple times to get there.

    1. Or install WorkFindy and assign a keyboard shortcut. Your go Home shortcut is the keyboard shortcut + Enter (you are effectively searching WorkFlowy for nothing) If the reason you are going home is to do a global search, you’ll realize the benefits of WorkFindy even more.

      1. … And another favorite of mine is rawbytz’s WorkFindy-Home hack. I (1) hit Alt+F3 to bring up WorkFindy… (2) Enter:

        Otherwise, I mostly use WorkFlowy to find stuff globally from wherever I am in my one zoomable document. This is a must-have tool. Follow rawbytz’s link in the previous comment.

      2. Yes, I have considered setting up a Keyboard Maestro macro but it just seems like the kind of thing which should have a native shortcut for.

        And clicking on ‘home’ is the very antithesis of a keyboard shortcut!

        I’ve downloaded Workfindy and am trying it out. Looks hopeful


      3. For some reason I thought you were not aware of the “home” link in the breadcrumb navigation… because you “just” had hitting Alt + Left multiple times at your disposal… which to me was kind of the antithesis of fast.

      4. Just to add one final way: there are browser extensions like ‘Speed Dial’ for chrome which allow you to assign keyboard shortcuts to your bookmarks. WorkFlowy lists can be bookmarks, so any list, including home can be assigned a keyboard shortcut this way.

  7. Yes, I find my self doing things which are a little slower rather than switching between keyboard and mouse. There is a minor psychological cost in switching between the 2 which means I’d rather stay in one or the other most of the time.

    1. … especially if you’re using a “real” mouse as opposed to a mousepad. I can see how that would be much slower. Then there’s more than the psychological cost.

  8. Just one tiny additional step I thought I should mention for Navigating list history back and forth (Alt, Alt + left/right arrow) – another Alt once you’re in the view you were looking for to actually get the cursor back in your outline. It might be pretty obvious but nonetheless.

  9. Interestingly, list zooming is available through quite a few combinations involving the angle brackets:

    1. Alt + < / >
    2. Shift + Alt + < / >
    3. Shift + Win + < / >
    4. Win + > (however Win + < brings up Desktop preview).

    Combine those with the documented Alt + left/right arrow and this proves that WorkFlowy is serious about its zoomability – at least 4.5 native shortcuts for zooming in and out 🙂

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