The Physical Web: Connecting WorkFlowy Lists to Your Physical Environment

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We’re going to be connecting WorkFlowy lists to physical objects using QR codes (Quick Response codes). So… imagine you’ve printed out the QR code below on a sticker and it’s right there, on your refrigerator door, just waiting to be scanned…

Based on a very true story

… You grab some grapes from your refrigerator, intent on polishing them off. You also think to yourself, “I need to remember to buy more grapes the next time I visit the supermarket.” And then your biggest brainwave idea of the day hits you… “Aaaah! Let me put this on my WorkFlowy grocery list!” So you whip out your phone and scan the QR code on the door of your fridge – which then magically takes you to the WorkFlowy list you had in mind. Well, I told my daughter it was magic – but I have a feeling you’ll want to reproduce this dynamic, so I guess I’ll have to walk you through this hand-is-quicker-than-the-eye thing.

First off, here’s the real-life enactment of the above scenario:

QR codes + WorkFlowy

QR codes can be generated for any URL… but WorkFlowy lists are the perfect fit for this dynamic:

  • They load incredibly fast
  • They’re editable on the go
  • They’re practically unlimited

QR code generators

How do we get QR codes for any URL? Simple: Google “QR Code generator”. I’ve tested out a handful and these are my top pics:

  1. Install a browser add-on/ extension – like this Smart QrCode Generator. Click on the extension icon when you’re in any WorkFlowy list and it will generate a QR code for you. You can then drag it to your desktop.
  2. Unitag’s online QR Code Generator will allow you to customize the color and design of your QR codes. You can even add logos to your QR codes. Save this exact URL to your bookmarks (or WorkFlowy).
  3. You can also put your WorkFlowy list URL’s through link shorteners like Bit.ly, Ow.ly or Goo.gl before creating a QR code. Did you know that Goo.gl gives us QR codes? Just hit the 3 dots (on hover over) to the right of your shortened link.

Shared or private lists?

You can generate QR codes for both your private and shared lists. Heck, you can even create QR codes for saved searches of either.

  • Shared lists open up lightning fast in your mobile browser – because they’re generally very light. They’re like super minimalist web pages.
  • Private lists may take a bit longer to load – because you’re loading the whole of your WorkFlowy account in one go.
  • Use shared lists where you’ll want others to access those lists via the QR code… or in any number of discrete places at home or in your car.
  • Use private lists when it’s for your eyes only. Even if others scan the QR codes for private lists, they won’t be able to access them.

Editable or view-only?

You can choose whether any shared list is editable… or not. You can swap between the 2 without changing your actual share URL. In the video GIF you see at the beginning of the post, I’ve used a shared editable list… so that I can easily edit the grocery list when it comes up.

Printing your QR codes

Print out your QR codes on regular paper, sticker paper… or even on Post-it notes. I’ve tried all of the above. Sticker paper is inexpensive. If you don’t have a printer, you can get it done with minimal fuss at your local print shop.

  1. Set up about 20 shared lists and create individual QR codes for each
  2. Copy all of your QR code images to a document like Word and resize the images (I suggest a height of between 1 – 1,5 inches).
  3. Print… or drop by a print shop.

My QR codes on sticker paper:

Post-it notes

If you have a love affair with Post-it notes, you may just enjoy printing WorkFlowy QR codes on them (I tested it out and didn’t break my printer). I followed a tutorial I found here and used Joanne Del Balso’s Word templates to get the Post-it notes in the right position before printing:

You even have space to write on the Post-it, depending of your placement and size of the QR code. This is what they look like (optimized with Evernote’s Post-it scanner):

You’ll notice in the images above that it’s possible to customize QR codes by including icons if you want. It’s a nice touch for Post-it notes.

QR code scanners

You’re going to need to download a QR code scanner to read your QR codes and take you to where they point to. Here are 2 free (and ad-free) apps, both of which can be downloaded for iOS and Android:

  1. CamFind: I used this app in the animated GIF above. It opens your URL within the app itself. You can also hit the share arrow to open in Safari on iOS.
  2. Unitag QR Code Scanner: This app is blazing fast. It locks on to your QR code here-I-come-ready-or-not fast. You then tap “open” to load your URL in your default browser. The app also stores a list of all scanned QR codes.

There are scores of QR code scanners to choose from. The above 2 come highly recommended and are the best of the ad-free ones. Below you’ll see a quick demo of the Unitag Scanner:

Use cases

Your imagination’s the limit. Here follow but a few examples of what I believe to be some honest-to-goodness, practical places and objects to stick WorkFlowy list QR codes to:

  1. Your fridge: As pictured in the 1st animated GIF, this is quicker than opening your app itself and navigating to your grocery list. It’s also drop-dead intuitive. If your list is a shared and editable one, the whole family can add stuff to the list.
  2. Workout equipment: As pictured in the last animated GIF above, I stuck a QR code onto one of my push-up bars. That takes me gosh-darn quick to a WorkFlowy workout list. Less fuss when it comes time to get moving and grooving.
  3. Your car’s glove compartment or sun visor(s): Tuck away a QR code for a WorkFlowy list that contains pertinent data – such as your next scheduled service/ oil change, tire pressure on/ off-road… fill in the blank.
  4. Air conditioning units: Service history.
  5. Luggage: Packing checklists
  6. Tool boxes: I can’t help but think of Bob’s tool inventory, featured in this blog post. A quick scan will reveal the exact contents of each pallet.
  7. Moving boxes: Scanning a QR code on any one of scores of boxes will reveal as detailed a list of contents as you want to make.
  8. Ad/ announcement on bulletin board: Whether you’re renting or selling something, you can include contact details in a WorkFlowy list. The great thing about this is that when the offer has expired, you can delete your contact details or unshare the list. You won’t receive any unnecessary phone calls after the fact.
  9. For your house sitters: QR codes pointing to instructions in several places around the house: dog food container, quirky microwave, alarm panel, etc.
  10. Collections: DVD, vinyl, books. Tuck your code away out of sight – perhaps on the underside of a shelf. You could do some interesting things if you were a librarian…
  11. Print a QR code on a coffee mug for your spouse and he/ she can scan it for a new message every day – whether romantic… or a list of things to fix at home.
  12. Treasure hunt clues: Create a series of clues that lead from one location/ object to another. Number your lists and paste in the instructions/ riddles at the right time. That way, your plan won’t be thwarted before the time if someone had to accidentally find one of the clues.

You’re itching to share!

Share with us some of your own handy ideas for using WorkFlowy list QR codes. You can’t very well close this Pandora’s box now, can you?


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Author: frank.dg

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

11 thoughts on “The Physical Web: Connecting WorkFlowy Lists to Your Physical Environment”

    1. Haha, the only thing I rule are my lists… and people like you, Jesse, Mike and rawbytz (who actually create stuff) are suprem-ER 🙂

    1. Yeah… it might sound a lot more intimidating than it is. Basically (and you already know this): Grab a QR code for a WorkFlowy list and stick it somewhere. Whenever you get the itch, scan it with your phone. That’s the gist of it 🙂

  1. What a great idea Frank. I’ve used the QR code approach before linking the physical world to the digital one (QR on a box linking to an Evernote list of the contents) but since dropping Evernote I’ve not replaced the system but I like this idea.

    A question springs to mind. If I have a list I have already shared with another WorkFlowy user (or made public I guess), for example a list of recipes, can I create a QR/link for an individual sub item inside that main list that the recipient of the shared list can access directly or would I have to share each recipe individually for their own QR/links to work?

    1. “… can I create a QR/link for an individual sub item inside that main list that the recipient of the shared list can access directly… ?”

      Absolutely. You can. But remember that you need to create a QR code for that sub item while in the actual shared list (workflowy.com/s/) – not within your own WorkFlowy account. It will take anyone to the sub item in the broader shared list… and anyone should be able to zoom out to see the broader picture. They will have access to everything – which in your case doesn’t seem to be an issue, because the person you’re sharing a sub list with already has access to the whole. I imagine you’re just wanting to facilitate access to a specific part of your shared list.

      Otherwise, you can also create a new shared list for any child list within a broader outline. People will then access only that.

      1. Thanks Frank, just what I was hoping for (and have been too busy to test). The list in question is recipes so there are a few in the list already and having to share them individually to get a QR for each seemed like overkill. I guess that’s my weekend plan of action decided upon. Thanks for the quick reply and all your hard work making WorkFlowy even more useable.

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