The “Clip to WorkFlowy” Extension and “The Lowly URL as The Irreducible Atom of Work Management”



I recently touched base with “rawbytz” a programmer and prolific WorkFlowy hacker – who pointed out that top of his wishlist, he wanted a slackline for Christmas. I had previously installed his “Clip to WorkFlowy” Chrome extension and all 3 of his amazing WorkFlowy Stylish styles. I have since gotten the scoop from rawbytz on half a dozen WorkFlowy hacks that he has either completed or are in the pipeline. He will be sharing all of those in good time here on the WorkFlowy blog. Today we’ll be taking a look at his Clip to WorkFlowy extension – but first, a wee bit of background, cobbled together from a couple of our conversations:

FRANK: Could you tell me a little about how you got into creating your own hacks for WorkFlowy? What sort of tech skills does one need to put something like that together?

RAWBYTZ: I’m an engineer – spent a good part of my career in technical sales. I’d find myself in a hotel room, with crappy internet speeds and the need to upload/download data with big, ugly corporate databases. I taught myself AutoHotKey, a scripting language for Windows. I’d fire up my laptop and launch a script. Then I’d take off and enjoy a nice dinner, leaving the script to curse at the crappy speeds and ugly databases. Later on when I started tweaking bookmarklets, I realized many concepts I learned in AHK applied to JavaScript… I just needed to learn some new words and syntax. It’s an ongoing process.

FRANK: How did your WorkFlowy journey kick off? Did you get what you could really do in WorkFlowy right off the bat?

RAWBYTZ: I first found WorkFlowy in 2012 and was immediately smitten. But I required mobile offline capability, so it was a no-go. Once the iOS app with offline support arrived in early 2013, I migrated most of my system into WorkFlowy. It was short-lived. The lack of dates, and my lack of understanding of what was “under the hood” were factors. I kept Workflowy for notes and brainstorming (I LOVE WorkFlowy for brainstorming) and moved tasks and projects back to my old todo app.

And a funny thing happened. The more I “flowed” in WorkFlowy, the more I got annoyed with the lack of flow and overall clutter of my todo app. I decided to find ways to make WorkFlowy work. The blog post about Hidden Search Operators was a revelation. I could save nodes and complex custom searches in my bookmarks bar. I settled in on a combination of WorkFlowy and Google Calendar and I haven’t felt the need to look for anything else since. For better or worse, WorkFlowy has made me intolerant of the columns, icons and fields you find in other apps.

FRANK: What’s the motivation behind making your hacks available to the public? It’s got to be a lot of hard work.

RAWBYTZ: My motivation with the coding is pretty simple. Solve my own problems. If I think it might benefit someone else, I put it out there.

FRANK: Tell us a little bit about Clip to WorkFlowy and how you use it.

RAWBYTZ: As things moved irreversibly to the cloud, I came to realize the importance of as Stowe Boyd put it “the lowly, lowly URL as the irreducible atom of work management.”

The URL is the simplest way for different apps/services to connect. In other words, your web app/service better create unique URL’s for items or it gets crossed off my list. WorkFlowy excels at this. Every time you create a bullet, a permanent URL is created that doesn’t change even if you edit it, tag it, or drag it. Not all apps get this (looking at you Evernote!).

The lowly URL was the driver for Clip To WorkFlowy. So, I was bookmarking a lot of webpages and all that copying and pasting back and forth was a bit cumbersome. With a single click, Clip To WorkFlowy captures the webpage title and URL, applies special formatting and copies it to the clipboard for one easy paste into WorkFlowy. I use it to create links to everything: Gmails, Dropbox files, Google Drive files, and Google photos. I use it to create intra-WorkFlowy links and to save WorkFlowy searches right in my outline. Oh, and to bookmark websites… that too.

There’s also a bookmarklet version that works in most browsers, as well as a version for the awesome iOS app called Workflow. “Clip To WorkFlowy for Workflow”… clear as mud.


Rawbytz has been kind enough to put out a blog post especially for us (and set up a blog!) to walk us through a couple of easy steps with his Clip to WorkFlowy for Google Chrome Extension, bookmarklet and the Workflow App for iOS. He will also be sharing future extensions and hacks there.

Be sure to follow his blog… and while you’re at it, take a look at his twin post, Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Chrome Extensions. That should set you up with a keyboard shortcut for his Clip to WorkFlowy extension.

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Workflowy replaces your notebooks, stickies and bloated apps with a simple, smooth digital notebook that makes it easy to get organized and be productive.

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35 Responses

  1. Awesome. I’d installed his extension but, for whatever reason, hadn’t used it *inside* Workflowy.

    Now I want to hack it to make it work on a selected node inside Workflowy, but I guess you can zoom in / out real quick to get that.


  2. Super… great post!
    I’d love to hear more about how Rawbytz “settled in on a combination of WorkFlowy and Google Calendar.” (is there some interaction between the two or some techniques that can be shared?)

    p.s. I’ve added this hack to the Workflowy How-To outline:

  3. Just to say thank you Frank for your book and for all posts shared lately on the blog. Also, thanks RAWBYTZ, hoping to see all the scripts you are currently working on very soon. I discovered workflowy 2 weeks ago and I am completely hooked!

    1. I envy you… 2 weeks in and you get to see what can really be done in WorkFlowy from the get go. You’ve hit the ground running 🙂

    2. I also wanted to say Thanks to Frank for his posts. I’ve been using Workflowy for about 2 years and I’m also hooked. The “Clip to Workflowy” extension is terrific. It motivated me to switch my default browser to Chrome.

      1. Moving to browser will kick you up many notches… not only for extensions such as Stylish, etc. – but also for access to URL’s, browser shortcuts, browser search in tandem with WorkFlowy’s search and much more. Welcome to online 🙂

  4. Great post and fantastic ( Chrome / iOS Workflow ) extensions! I installed them some time ago, and I am using them daily.

    What I like about the iOS Workflow extension is the fact that I can adapt it to my personal way of handling things, i.e. how to “mark” / prefix an internal WF link, not to style / italicise the main item and which node ( in the rabbit hole ) to load for saving. It would be fantastic if this degree of flexibility would be available with the Chrome extension too.

    1. Well Stefano, all those things exist as bullets in the CTW roadmap. I resisted releasing the internal link styling, because I know styling is a very personal thing. I released it for purely functional reasons, because I found it too easy to confuse the internal links with the original WF bullet. My plan is to make it an option. The options page is on hold until I add selected text to the extension… and that is going to require some restructuring… a project that has made me prone to pursue shiny objects elsewhere. 😉

      The bookmarklet is already setup to customize the “inbox”. It’s in the first line… you can edit the url in “var inbox=”

  5. Thanks for the post. I’m wondering why the use of Google Calendar, along with WorkFlowy? I find it easy to use a simpler for me version Frank D’s Kanban calendar technique. I didn’t know there was a WorkFlowy to Google Calendar available. I will check it out

    1. My WorkFlowy Kanban Calendar does not replace an actual calendar. I use a calendar for routine tasks/ items (especially repeat ones) that are time sensitive and block out a period of time on given date(s). I use my Kanban Calendar for tasks that are not time sensitive (but date specific) and which I can prioritize as I see fit on any given day. My Kanban Calendar serves more as what GTD-ers will call a “Tickler File”.

      1. Thanks Frank. I have installed and used both the extensions mentioned in yesterday’s blog post. I noticed that sending “wf notes” to Google Calendar activates notifications. That is helpful.

  6. “For better or worse, WorkFlowy has made me intolerant of the columns, icons and fields you find in other apps.”

    That’s what I find what I try out other apps.

    1. I like that with Rosulekm’s clipper you can set any list as your inbox quickly by zooming into it and then hitting a button in the extension.

      With Rawbytz’s extension, it pastes (obviously) wherever the cursor is placed (exactly where I want the clipping to go). So I’ve set up a PhraseExpress Hotkey which includes the Chrome extension shortcut I set up for his clipper and Ctrl+1 (move to the 1st tab where WorkFlowy is) and paste where my cursor is. So there’s no clicking at all… just activate my PhraseExpress hotkey, having previously placed my cursor where I want it in WorkFlowy.

      I can see myself using both extensions, especially Rosulekm’s if I’m clipping multiple pages which I want to have in a particular list. I also like the ability to edit the list title (site title) – and even add tags if you wish – before clipping… and that whatever you highlight/ select from any page will be included in the note after the URL.

      I like that with Rawbytz’s extension one can also clip within any WorkFlowy list and when it’s pasted elsewhere in WorkFlowy (as an internal link for cross-referencing) it formats your list like so:

      See: “list name”
      …with the URL below in a note

      (Rosulekm’s clipper does not clip within WorkFlowy for internal links – but rather enables one to set a certain list as the default/temporary/permanent inbox)

      What I would like to see with both clippers is the ability to have a URL nested as opposed to pasted in a note. Have that as a configurable preference. What I do is collapse the nested URL list/ bullet… and the whole thing feels cleaner to me. Just a list of sites/ pages with nested URL’s.

    2. Not in poor taste at all! I’m more than happy to relinquish the crown! Nice work, rosulekm.

      I’ll use both, mine for internal links only, until you add my feature request:

      When the user activates inside WorkFlowy, add a box that says: “Copy WorkFlowy link to the clipboard” or some such. Bonus for points for optional user styling.

      Now I’m going to go remove some roadmap bullets…. Thank you sir!

  7. I appreciate the positive tone of the contributors to this blog and the overwhelming focus on enhancements by the contributors rather than problems people are having and complaints. Thanks for all of the extensions that have been offered.

  8. Rawbytz your clip extension that allows internal pasting of URLs of WorkFlowy lists solves a problem for me. I have some lists that I use as templates. I used to have to copy the list and then place the copy in a specific client’s list. If I thought of new things I’d have to add them in both the new client list and the template. With your extension, I don’t have to do that duplication. Thank you.

    1. So Bob, are you now copying a link to the template into the client’s list? I’m not sure if I’m properly following what you are doing.

      1. Cflat, I do paste it into a clients list. I haven’t totally thought it through or experimented. I just find that clipping has the potential to avoid having to edit two lists, the copy and the original. If the list is unique to the customer, I can then make a copy with the clients name attached once the project is complete and I’ve done all the editing I’m going to do. If it’s a reusable list, then I can either delete the clipping ior move it to another client’s list.

    2. That’s great, Bob. Here’s a trick I use with reusable checklists. From the checklist parent level, I search for “is:complete”. I clip the search, press Esc to clear the search, and paste it as the final item in the checklist. Lastly, I rename the bullet to “Reset Checklist”.

      Using it is simple. Once I’ve completed everything, I click on the Reset Checklist url and WorkFlowy auto-magically shows “Completed:Visible”. I select all the completed bullets with the mouse. Then I click on the crossed out “Complete all” in the popup menu to toggle them. Press Esc to clear the search and auto-magically go back to Completed:Hidden and a reset checklist. Done.

      1. Brilliant tip Rawbytz – for those who keep their completed items invisible. That may just very well fall into the realms of Personal Kanban’s “Visualize your workflow” core principle… in that the process has a visual cue (reset checklist) so that the brain doesn’t need to think as to the next step.

        Keeping in mind that this is a reusable checklist, half the instructions above only apply at setup. The other half of the instructions boils it down to: click, select, Ctrl+Enter, Esc. One has to put it into practice to see how uncomplicated it is. Nice 🙂

  9. How does one get the URL for a Workflowy item from the desktop app? Internal links work correctly within the desktop app, but I don’t see how to know what the URL is without being able to see the address bar. Thanks.

      1. Thank you. The offline capabilities are very important for me, but I also use the browser version. The post you linked to is interesting

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