WorkFlowy Has A Fancy New Left Bar

Let’s talk about the things that might annoy you in WorkFlowy:

  1. Have you ever had to do a big re-organization of your WorkFlowy and found it tough?
  2. Have you ever been frustrated moving between things in WorkFlowy that are far apart from one another?
  3. Have you ever been annoyed with the crappy interface for accessing saved searches and starred nodes in WorkFlowy?

If you answered yes to any of those three questions, you’re in luck: we’re launching a left bar that should help.

Reorganizing your WorkFlowy

Hopefully the above GIF helps make clear, but this creates an easier way to move stuff around in your WorkFlowy. It’s handy, dandy.

Getting places, and adding stuff, quickly

The biggest way the left bar has changed the way I personally use WorkFlowy, is in my use of saved searches. I never used to use them, and now they’re one of the main ways I organize my stuff. Every day, I click on “@jesse #today” and I get to work. Members of the team know that if they want me to do something, they need to tag me on it. They can tag it wherever it makes sense to them, deeply nested in their own work, and I see it, and respond in context. And I love this.

But it’s also just useful for getting around. It also works on mobile, where I find the quick-add functionality particularly useful.

Re-organizing with the left bar closed

Some people don’t want it open all the time, but they still want to quickly re-organize stuff. If you don’t want to have it open all the time, just close it. You can still move stuff into it by just dragging whatever you want to move over the icon, then into the left bar when it pops open, as demonstrated in the GIF below.

To-do

There’s still more stuff that I think could be useful in the left bar. I think it could probably use a section related to your current location. Perhaps containing the children of the currently zoomed node. Also, I think a list of recent zoom locations where you’ve made edits would be really helpful for jumping back and forth between a few different areas of active focus.

We’ve taken a bunch of feedback on this already, but if you have more, please let us know what you think! Comments on this blog, or emails to help@workflowy.com are both welcome.

55 thoughts on “WorkFlowy Has A Fancy New Left Bar

      1. Left bar is working as expected (and it’s very nice).

        However, on the Desktop version, mine currently doesn’t have options for Dates, Full Width Page, nor Search Helper in Settings.

        Is that just my version and I need to update it or are those still to come?

  1. Workflowy user for years. I LOVE this feature. Thank you so much for always taking this app forward and never making changes that ruin the magic.

  2. Looks great on desktops, but not very good on mobiles.
    “Quick Menu” at the bottom of the screen (“Home”, “Starred”, “Search”) made Workflowy lightning fast. I’m right-handed, now I have to stretch my thumb across the screen to the left side.
    (Sorry for my weak English, hope you understand me).

  3. Using it now for a few hours, and I haven’t used it all the ways Jessie Patel describes above, it is making WorkFlowy _way_ faster and more pleasant to use (and I liked it before).

  4. This will have immediate valuable benefits. What a lovely new-year’s gift! Chiefly in being able to work at the level of leaves in the main view and drag leaves and nodes into the top-level headings in the left pane.

    For me it misses a keyboard shortcut to show/hide it.

    I don’t have a search widget in the sidebar. I guess first I’ll read about saved searches and/or update my app.

    1. First time I’ve heard “leaves” being used to describe children bullets/ lists. Love it! Makes sense… because if one’s WorkFlowy document is a tree… then there must be branches and leaves 🙂

      1. The leaves are the outermost parts of a tree (those with no children)… I’m not making it up, this is computer science, I promise!
        Disappointingly, the connections between the leaves and the root are called arcs, not twigs

  5. I love it from a very long term user. Moving items from one place to another has always been a challenge if they are far apart! This was a great idea and implementation making Workflowy so much easier. I have always dreamed of some kind of cut and paste. But I like this solution better. Thanks!

  6. Absolutely love it! The only tweak I would make is to bring back the ability to reveal the bar by moving the mouse to the left side of the screen. Right now the mouse needs to go to the menu button in the upper left corner to reveal the bar. The bar used to be revealed by just hovering the mouse anywhere on the left side of the screen. I don’t like the bar to be on all the time and it doesn’t need to be, I remember where everything is when it’s hidden. I like the efficiency of just moving my mouse to the left and when the bar is revealed my mouse is very close to where I want it to be.

    1. Hi Michael, we’ll keep trying to polish this dynamic. We disabled the left-margin hover dynamic on popular request :-(. One dynamic you might want to try and see if you like is to have the left bar activated… but drag it completely closed – so that you don’t see it – and then out again when you need it.

      1. Thanks for the reply Frank. Wow why would people want it off? My only guesses would be multiple windows open or using Workflowy set to full width? If you are using standard width in a full window I can’t think of anything that it would be interfering with. Could we maybe have it as an option to turn it on or off? Again it’s way more efficient than going all the way up to a small button and then back down to where you wanted to go in the first place.

      2. Be careful with this solution. I just tried this and pushed it too far to the left, making it totally invisible. Had to go into dev tools to increase the width of the div directly inside of of “leftBar” manually so that I could resize it to be larger and (I assume) reset the cookie so it reloaded properly. @devs — please note this current bug. 🙂

  7. I would like the ability to open a list from the left nav in a new tab. I frequently keep multiple lists open at once and the new left nav makes it easy to see my other lists but currently, I can’t open them separately. Adding that ability would make this much more efficient.

    1. Hi Emil!

      What is your use case for multiple tabs? Does the left bar somewhat alleviate the need for more WorkFlowy tabs than you needed before?

      1. Hey Frank! I literally use Workflowy all day, every day, starting with my “Daily Checklist” list. I keep that open all day and work off of it throughout the day. So that’s one list. Separate from that, I have other lists I add to/edit throughout the day for separate, specific things. I have been doing this by having each separate list open in its own tab and like that workflow, I just saw the left nav and thought that’d be an easier way to open all the lists I need to work off of. Thanks for taking my feedback into consideration.

      2. For now… a decent workaround might be the following:

        1. Activate the jump-to menu (Ctrl+K / Ctrl+;)
        2. Middle click (open new tab) or right click to get the std browser link menu and “Open link in new tab”

        You can do this with multiple starred pages before closing the Ctrl+K menu.

        You could also keep a list of links to open in new tabs… and Ctrl+Click on each one in the list in turn 🙂

      3. Definitely second tabs and/or a two-column / tiling view. It’s one of those features that will make people need new pants once implemented. Think of the washing machine salesmen 😀

        For me though, one thing I definitely found Workflowy wanting in when I tried managing tasks in it was that typical task managers let me have lists and the lists then contain tasks. Workflowy offers wonderful freedom, but the ability to have a hierarchy/”container” tree open on the left and pop one subtree open, zoomed in as a pseudo-page on the right would be so good.

  8. Wow! Super! And now with full width typing available as well I can get rid of my clunky Stylus scripts (thank you Frank.dg with all the help on sorting that out). This is really super.

  9. OK, I must be the only person who’s having a hard time “getting” this. I’m a long time user (2013), so not new to workflowy. I understand the Big Idea and it seems very useful. But I’m having a hard time following the details of what I should and shouldn’t be able to do.

    The only main sections I see in my left bar are Starred and Home. And then inside of those I see my starred nodes, and my top nodes inside home. In the little mini video, it looks like there should be a “search inside left node” under starred…? It has a little magnifying glass by it? And the node called “Left Bar in Workflowy” is just a normal node that you named that for the purpose of the video…? Why is the text in the left bar area sometimes normal and sometimes grayed?

    1. Erika, you’ve pretty much got it. It’s just the example phrases they’ve used that are confusing.

      • “Left Bar in WorkFlowy” is just a normal node they named for the video.
      • The “search in Left bar in WorkFlowy” item under Starred would have been added by navigating to the “Left bar in WorkFlowy” node that they created, searching for the word “search” and then starring that search page. Whenever a search view gets starred, it will have the magnifying glass icon in the Starred list.
      • All the text in the left bar is grey except for the current page node.

      I’m really happy to see this feature. Thanks WorkFlowy!

      1. Thanks, Ryan, for helping Erika with this explanation! I just want to add that the grayed lists in the left bar mean that you can’t drag items from your main WorkFlowy document and drop them into these lists. They might be embedded lists or saved searches (and a search isn’t a distinct place!). Basically, anything in your left bar where it would not make sense to move lists to. The magnifying glass you see next to some of the starred items is precisely because those are saved searched (starring search results).

      2. I also didn’t know, and couldn’t figure out, how saved searches worked. Thanks for this, I think I will get value from this knowledge too!

      3. Thanks Ryan, that cleared up my questions. And this really will be a useful feature. No longer having to use a temporary #movethis tag.

  10. I’m very happy to see this feature, but I’ve got a couple of comments/suggestions:

    1. Nodes in the left bar do not indicate completeness. In other words, if “show completed” is turned on, nodes in the open page display in strikethrough, but those same nodes are not struck through in the left bar. I find this confusing.

    2. The “new node” button in the left bar appears when an empty child (leaf, as I’ve just learned) is expanded, and at the end of the Home page when it’s expanded, but not when a node has one or more children. But every node (except Home itself) also has a plus sign button at the right (always on mobile, and on hover on desktop/browser) that allows creation of a new child whether or not the node is empty and whether or not the node is expanded. I think this makes the “new node” button superfluous and just kinda in the way.

    3. On desktop, dragging a node from the left bar allows scrolling up and down the open page by moving to the top or bottom of the window if the list is longer than will fit the display. The reverse does not work – dragging from the open page into the left bar doesn’t scroll the left bar, but instead scrolls the open page itself. It seems to me that scrolling the left bar would be the preferred behavior in this case.

    4. I’ve always wished WorkFlowy would expand a collapsed list when dragging something into it – this would allow going more than one level deep as well as choosing a specific position in the list when dropping the node. But this strikes me as even more useful behavior when dragging in the new left bar.

    I guess that’s more than a couple of things, but I repeat that I’m very happy to see this! Thanks, Jesse & Team WF!

  11. First off, this is awesome. Thank you!

    Suggestions — I think bolding and italicizing should be respected on the sidebar. I realize you’re using this for “navigation” but that seems counterintuitive to the years of specific bolding and italicizing folks have done in the main interface. It would also be great if hashtags were respected in the timeline so you could quickly jump from the sidebar as well (and so that their formatting was identical to the main interface with the underline and slight color shift). Would also love to see double-clicking pop open and close the items in the list that can expand.

  12. I love this feature. A few thoughts on it:

    First, you guys are awesome.
    Second, I like the tree items to have less space between nodes. It looks like it’s 1.5 or 2 spaced, whereas regular Workflowy window looks single spaced. This seems to be a trend in software (like my online outlook email) where things are spaced so far apart. I like compact.
    Third, I like mostly what you’ve done with the app interface. Good job. One thing that I think would be SO useful for users would be user-defined options to have all newly created or dropped-in bullets to show up at the end of the list. I see that there is a plus sign at the bottom of the list, but I still need to scroll to the end of it to hit it. Also, the plus signs next to the nodes in the pop-out tree add to the top. Small detail, but when I capture ideas, I like them to be chronological. When I type items on a keyboard, it naturally adds items to the end with a return. However, when I’m adding on the run in the app (say while walking to an appointment), then it adds it to the top. When I empty my inbox, I have a random capturing of things were were not added chronologically.

  13. Wonderful, wonderful! I have been waiting for a feature like this to years, and can’t wait to finally organise and restructure the mountains of data in my Workflowy!

  14. This is fantastic! Using this feature will make my daily updates so much more efficient. And I will finally schedule that data cleanup I had been postponing for years because of the hassle. Thank you, WorkFlowy Team! You rock!

  15. Love the feature. For quicker navigation I would personally like it better when I could open and close a list by clicking anywhere to the left of the bullet, and not just the tiny triangle.

  16. I’ve been after this for a while so well done! Now for authors laying out work all you need do is come up with a switch to turn off the bullet points, I used to use Stylish but it doesn’t work anymore with Mac OS Catalina. Bullet point areas still work, providing context menu etc, but the bullet itself just isn’t shown.

    This is so we can outline a work, then start writing directly into the outline as ideas emerge. without bullets the text looks exactly like a word processed document with paragraphs etc – makes it much easier to read and edit. I think with the left hand bar and clean text outlines this would give Scrivener a run for its money as it is far too complicated an authors toll for most of us! 😊

  17. Same use case as Emil (I usually have 3 long narrow windows open side-by-side viewing very different sections of my WorkFlowy). This left sidebar solves so many problems for me (I used to dream about drag-and-drop functionality between those windows – no longer needed) but I agree that “open in new tab (or window)” would make that left sidebar even better. Thanks for the great addition (best update since I’ve been onboard)!

  18. Love the idea but a few initial issues. On iPad it doesn’t seem to be possible to drag and drop bullets to new locations anymore? Therefore I can’t get this to work – the bullets appear to float up or down but they don’t reposition when you let go, and the left bar doesn’t open when you hover over the menu with a bullet.
    Also, the new left bar covers over the left alligned content on mobile.. could it shunt the content across to the right to make sure both are visible, allowing movement between both? Finally, it feels like I should be able to swipe the left bar in from the edge of the screen rather than only press the icon – i can swipe the left bar closed just not open.

  19. Is it just me, or does this feel really weird?

    It’s essentially a “feature limited” Workflowy tree that works as a kind of secondary navigation, but with **additional functionality** to create new nodes with both “New Node” and “+”.

    Surely a navigation system should not allow altering of the content, and if anything should not show leaf nodes? It feels like it doesn’t really know what it should be.

    I don’t think I need a secondary “navigation system” when Workflowy IS a navigation system, and favourites do an adequate job of getting me to the top level of my most-used subtrees.

    That being the case, why not just allow a full-functionality dual-pane view of the tree, then we can move stuff around any way we like… which really seems to be the use case here.

    1. Additionally, the current rendering implementation STILL does not render physical HTML text outside the viewport meaning that we still can’t search (using CMD+F) for text we know is in the page… which if I’m not mistaken is probably one of the use-cases for this “secondary” navigation feature.

      1. Fully agree with your comment : “Surely a navigation system should not allow altering of the content, and if anything should not show leaf nodes? It feels like it doesn’t really know what it should be.”

        I think this new sidebar, while quite useful, clashes a bit with the rest of workflowy’s design.
        It works almost like the other, regular list view, except for a few strange things : for instance, archived nodes are shown as regular text and not strike through.

        At this point it looks so much like a regular tree that it should probably work exactly the same, in a sort of dual panel (optional) view.

        For your other comment about rendering the full html outside the viewport, I suspect you will never get this as the performance hit would likely be major on deep trees. Maybe they could have an additional option in the workflowy search bar to highlight occurrences in the current tree rather than filter…

  20. > I suspect you will never get this as the performance hit would likely be major on deep trees

    I’m pretty sure you could use Intersection Observer to render the text but miss anything more chunky.

    When WF switched to React it was a useability degradation IMHO. Performance ceases to be a concern when you can’t find the text you know is in the tree.

    If a user is careless enough to have 1000s of nodes showing, then perhaps it’s a PEBKAC not performance issue.

    The current rendering optimisation is a tradeoff too far for my day to day workflowy work 😦

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