Idea: WorkFlowy Presentations


WorkFlowy offers a wonderful way to develop and expand ideas, what if it offered an equally great mechanism to communicate ideas with others? We messed around with the idea of quickly recording a presentation using WorkFlowy to replace slides, and the above video is an example

Is this something you’d use? Other feedback? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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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63 Responses

  1. Very interesting idea, you can clearly see where you are at any time and the structure of the presentation is clear. Images would help make it more visually engaging as you mention

  2. Ok, so plus a million for image support. Workflowy has a thousand words. But we know a good picture can replace that. Being able to embed images/screenshots/iPhone cameraroll etc, would be HUGE – and very helpful.

    To be honest, while the video box is really neat, I’m not sure I WOULD use it. The reason is, if the issue is complex, then I’m driving it and live. So I’m talking, and showing this. I need to hear my users, I’m leading a group, I’m getting their input. And I do use PPT a lot – and I can bang out a few slides in 2- minutes using tables, charts etc. And people are used to getting those.

    So if its complex, I’m going to be live. If its simple, I’m going to send them a handful of slides and ask for a meeting. I don’t think I’d use this, or that people sitting in cubes would want to have to listen to something out loud.

    Thanks for pushing this all forward though. And oh, boy, I can’t wait to get images in there!

    1. I think the video box is awesome for online presentations, especially if it’s optional. Remember that you can simply do WF presentations LIVE in the office which eliminates the need for recording and this video thumbnail.

  3. Hey Jesse,
    I think that (internal) embedded links would streamline things… That way one could click on highlighted text to shift to another part of a shared document… as opposed to a nested html link or a link within a note. That would bring one closer to a personal-wiki type document.

    1. It seems so obvious to some but I sincerely believe large volumes of the user base probably does not “get” that every node has a unique URL. I suspect alias internal-text links would go a long way to making that feature so much more obvious…

      Linking would be huge just so people *understood* that power since wikis are common and links are the native language on the Web.

      One of the features I want to try in an Extension is to convert a Workflowy link to the destination node’s text. But it would be great if it did it automagically…

      1. +1 for this; relational links to connect disparate ideas. The only other way to create something of a link between notes is with hashtags at the moment

  4. Embedded links would be a definite plus (not sure how you’d make that work in the desktop app though, as there’s no URL).

    As for the preso idea… I wouldn’t personally use it. When I do use Powerpoint (rarely) I keep my ideas simple, and points few and brief. The other major reason is to take advantage of the built-in styling, formatting, and the text-shrink functionality when I add too much copy (super useful).

    Having the nesting that WF allows you would potentially complicate the idea as you were presenting it. For example, when I saw the collapsed bullet points in your video above, I thought “OK… what are they? Are we going to see them?”

    I really see where the idea has come from though, but I kinda see it as trying to cram too much into the WF zoomable concept. By all means, have hierarchical data, and by all means find a way to display it, I’m just not crowbarring FW into doing this “thing” you think it needs to do is going to work in very specific situations, and even then there’ll be a bunch of things you have to do first that will probably feel hacky (like lots of the tag and @ stuff does at the moment).

    I did a bunch of work with one of the HTML5 slide / presentation engines a while ago (Deck, from memory – and that was a pretty cool way to do things but I do remember having to add a really decent amount of formatting to make it work. I guess I just wonder without the context of all the rest of the tree, how usable it will be.

  5. Something else to take inspiration from might be Photoshop Layer Comps. So few people know about them, but they rock.

    You basically have another palette that you use as “master” visibility for the individual layers, groups, and filters. When you get a combination of layer visibilities / positions / filters that you like, you save the combination as a Layer Comp, and can come back to that arrangement later, by clicking on the saved comp name. You add as many as you like, then can navigate through ideas quickly and easily, without having to turn off the individual layers.

  6. I would most likely use this, if Workflowy could embed images, and also it would be nice to have link aliases. It would be great for tutorials and for classes. I would use the video box, too. Neat idea!

  7. I think using Workflowy for presentations is excellent. The (somewhat) hidden next / previous ancestor navigation facilitates this in the extreme! Since finding that, I’ve considered it a viable option for sure. And you can do that today without any changes.

    That said, adding video recording or similar feels extraneous to the feature set in some ways…

    More unique or useful might be — maybe a “remote control” or presentation mode where a shared Workflowy zoomed in-and-out for watchers as the presenter presented … (Wow I just thought of that now, lol).

    Personally I think that a community resource with “recipes” could be just as effective for the recording feature, but I’m more of a hacker type so perhaps I’m not a target user.

    I’ve also been toying with a Workflowy Chrome extension that converts markdown style links and image references — but it is wrought with caveats and gotchas due to how the content is (rightfully) sanitized before it’s saved.

    As Frank’s book shows, a few fancy CSS tweaks goes a long way. Combine a zoomed document with a distraction free CSS applied and you’ve also created a full screen text editor on top of a tool that exists today with little to no code changes.

    But I could go on and on.

    Back to your core question — I’d use Workflowy for presentations but I’d be unlikely to use built-in recording tools since my company already is subscribed to similar services. I think the screencast option is nice but the core promise / benefit of Workflowy is the unique problem it solves or the way it can organize or present information. The zoom itself is reminiscent of Prezi.

    1. There is a ( limited ) way to do that Dave. Select the node from which you want to start to cycle and hit SHIFT + CTRL / CMD + 0 to move forward and SHIFT + CTRL / CMD + 9 to go backwards on the same level.

      Hit CTRL, if you are on Windows. On the Mac, both keys do work — at least for me.

    2. I should mention that only sublists one level deeper have not to be expanded for their Items to show, while cycling. Going further down the rabbit hole, needs more planning in advance, how you would like to communicate — they are not automatically expanded.

  8. Yes. In fact I’ve already been using WorkFlowy as a PowerPoint replacement in my teaching. All I had to do was to increase the text size in the browser so the text is legible on the projected screen in a big lecture theatre.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “recording” though. Do you mean a video recording of the speaker as in the above video or recording the sequence of the presented bullet points so the presentation can only be viewed in a fixed sequence?

  9. Would use embedded images but not use it for presentations. Primarily for the reasons mentioned by Dave Stewart, namely keeping points simple and not to have the distracting elements of collapse bullets.

  10. I’d use images (whether embedded in the document, or remote images displayed inline), but unlikely to use them for presentations.

  11. My $0.02 is that it’s a pretty cool idea, but I have no real need for it right now. I do like the idea of being able to hover a bullet (with children) and click “present” (or some kind of interaction) and that bullet goes full screen with some nice typography and any notes are equally presentable. Then I can just hit one key (the arrow keys) to go back and forth between the children in that list. And notes (and hopefully embedded images 😉 are presented to be read from the back of a room. Then hit escape or one key to exit presentation mode for that list. That way, any list (with children) can have a shared link, or a presenter link.
    Video recording is not really that important to me. And I have no idea how many programming nightmares I just induced, that’s just how I would use presentations.
    My lazy google-fu turned up this. I guess I’m thinking something like this mixed with slide share.

    1. Hmmm… the pop-up menu on the side of a node is the perfect place to toggle a “present” mode or something. Also, possibly the “share” feature could be “view | edit | present” or something along those lines.

      We need to start a Workflowy wishlist … Workflowy doc, lol

      Just so Jesse and Mike can see how crazy their users really are, lol

      1. I’d still say that, for now, CMD + Shift + 0 and CMD + Shift + 9 are good enough for doing “slide shows”. I was just thinking of how I would want to use a slide show within workflowy. I’d rather have embedded images.

  12. I can see this being exceptionally useful … however, and I get what you’re talking about quickly bolting on some screen-capture code … where it would really come into its own is if you could do it in real time, so you can go back and forth, and spend more or less time on given items.

    So, you talk to someone on the phone or Skype or whatever, but control WorkFlowy in real time, and they see what you’re doing.

    1. This real-time collaboration is what Google introduced with Wave which is now in their online file editors — wouldn’t it be cool to have that kind of real-time collaboration in a shared WF tree? I think it would be amazing!

      Until then, a workaround could be that one user does a screen cast while in a conf call, and that user does all the typing for everybody.

  13. I would definitely use an ( inline image and linking ) enhanced WorkFlowy for presentations!

    Currently, the workaround with ( Multi ) Markdown and preparing separate more styled slides together with Marked — and a standardised CSS — on a Mac is a very good and viable solution for me.

  14. Excellent idea guys. I have been using it for presentations but have found it lacking without image support. What is great is that whilst you are busy with the presentation you can record peoples inputs into WF and whenw e are done we have a working document, but images are important in my business and it will take WF to a new level – Good luck

  15. I routinely outline my presentations in WF and transfer to ppt. If you support images directly in WF then I would present direct from WF as is.

  16. An idea that struck me while watching this video is the ability to immediately capture #feedback as sub items to the current node! That is a HUGE WIN over rigid presentation apps like PowerPoint.

  17. I have used Workflowy regularly to present ideas or project outlines to colleagues. I think Workflowy is great for informal presentations with feedback loops directly adding into the tree.

    Image support would awesome!!!

  18. For me, Workflowy is powerful yet simple tool for creating, organising, analysing stuff, for tasks managent. It is some some of backend. And Workflowy is the best tool outhere.
    There are so many presentation tools, most of them are based on simple sequence of slides. And it should be so, no complex tree of slides.
    But there is a great way to use Workflowy for any kind of media, just prepare a solid API. Presentation could exist as an extension tool, using API. I look at (and Org mode format), Dropbox Paper. Workflowy could became a platform.

  19. This looks like a cool and a worthwhile idea, but it’ll be disappointing if development energy is put into something like this at the expense of getting stuff like date/notification support built into WF.

    WF is so close to being a great cross-platform GTD system, but the lack of date support undermines it. The same is true of a flat list view like this:

    It’s great that there are workarounds available (see comments for how to assign a hotkey), but it’s a shame this isn’t available as native feature.

    1. Yeah, I hear you. I almost didn’t post the video worrying that people would think this was going to become a focus. It was just something fun to mess around with.

      1. Good know. As somebody who teaches on-line from time to time, I could totally see using the WF outline as a framework for recording a lecture on a subject, particularly if there was image support.

        Vue is a mindmapping app that some people use for that purpose, but I could never quite get my mind around how to make it work.

      2. Jesse, not to push too much, but in your part 2 interview you mentioned some features you’d like to see such as “better native mobile app, I’d like a left bar so it was easier to navigate to dramatically different parts, I’d like image support, I’d like a ton of stuff related to collaboration and communication…” Any insight as to what is currently the focus and when we can expect to see an update?

        BTW, I think it’s great that you try stuff on the side. That’s how amazing things are created, and sometimes you need to take a step back from you daily focus.

  20. Please go in this order:
    1. Inline images and attachments
    2. Supporting tags with dates attached to them #due:2015-12-09 , #scheduled:2015-12-10 and the ability to show a mini-calendar, a really simple agenda-list or even just filter based on those tags (show me all the #dues for the next week, show me all #scheduled for today), with syntax like: #due:+7d
    3. Start think about the presentation mode if you still think it’s needed

    1. Personally I’m a fan of TaskPaper’s tagging syntax, where tags can be tags, but also have values. Ideally, if something like that worked in WF (as @palesz) cites, it would be compatible with how it works now.

      In TaskPaper a value for a tag is presented in parentheses, e.g. @due(2015-12-01) and then you can search on “@due = ‘2015-12-01’ ” and even do greater than less than searches, etc.

      Quite powerful, and endlessly extensible if you think about it.

      1. Yeah, that’s a great idea. We’ve wanted to have tag values generically, but I hadn’t thought of using it for dates. That’s a good idea.

      2. That’s fantastic. You know I always forget about Greasemonkey thinking about bookmarklets and extensions. Hmmm

        I’ve got several bookmarklets and stylish styles I’m getting ready to release on Github. I’ll be sure to link to yours!

  21. YES! I would — in fact, I do! — use Workflowy every day in my French I and English IV classes as the primary medium for presenting curricular content as well as plans for daily lessons, for curriculum units, and other administrative matters.

    About three weeks ago, I had an epiphany: I knew (suddenly) that I COULD and SHOULD use Workflowy for these purposes: I already use Workflowy as my lesson plan book; why had I wasted so much time transferring information from Workflowy sometimes to Power Point, sometimes to Sway, sometimes to SMART Notebook, sometimes to the whiteboard? Why not simply show MY work to students using the interactive whiteboard? I taught my first French lesson using Workflowy less than an hour after this epiphany: because the essential elements for presentation already exist in Workflowly, the lesson went swimmingly! No explanation was necessary, and for the first time, no corrections to the order of slides, no apologies for my ineptness with Power Point, and very little distracting visual clutter.

    Realization, implementation, execution, with no need for bloviation — in less than one hour. This never happens to me.


    #1. Images, yes! The ability to embed HTML for images AND sound would be very, very helpful.

    I present to young adults using a SMARTboard: text must be visible to students in every part of the classroom, and it must not be encumbered by distracting visual elements. To that end, I would ask that you:

    #2. add one “really big font size,” specifically for presentations. (I can and do increase the size of the font by increasing the size of everything on the Workflowy page in my browser, but this method is inefficient and awkward. It seems to interfere with Smartboard interactivity and, perhaps or, Workflowy functionality For example, I must leave the board and go to the computer when I need to zoom — extra steps and minor annoyance for me; distraction and downtime for students. A font size suitable for classroom presentations would be much better.

    #3. add a function that permits tags to be hidden in presentation mode. This is a lot to ask, I know: I love tags — tags made it possible for me to make one master vocab the official textbook replacement for French I. (THANK YOU!) One tag, when it appears beside a term they must learn or a question they must answer — distracts and confuses: for non-native speakers of English and students with learning differences, a tag or any other distracting element has the potential to become an insurmountable obstacle to learning.



    PS: I have much more to say about Workflowy’s potential use in English and world language courses, especially TPRS (“Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Stories”) and other comprehension-based world language courses in which there is little to no use of a traditional textbook — but I’ll save it for another time.

    1. Awesome! This is so cool to hear. Such a good example of what WorkFlowy is good for. We would certainly need to have a massive font size for presentations.

    2. You can already achieve 2 of your 3 requested feature with Stylish, Joey.

      Throwing in the following ( very rough ) CSS:

      .bullet {
      display: none !important;

      .content {
      font-size: 3rem;
      line-height: 3.5rem !important;

      .contentTag {
      display: none;

      .notes {
      display: none !important;

      It just “hides” the bullets, increases the font size as well as the line height and “hides” the notes.

  22. If there was an easy way to “record” a walk-through or guided introduction of an outline, I’d use it a lot. Something like this would make it easier to share with folks who have never seen workflowy before. I can see doing two different styles. One, a read-only presentation or guided tour of some topic. Two, the same plus a shared editable outline for them to work with or comment on after I show them around the structure.

    I’d really love to see markdown-style(*) links added. This would make it so much easier to use and explain internal navigation via links, with or without searches, and to link to images and other sites. And if you have friendly links to images then maybe it’s a simple step to display them inline or embed them somehow…? I’m not so anxious to have them actually stored inside workflowy unless workflowy is available as a completely offline app for windows.

    (*) or if there’s a better way to make shorter friendlier links

    1. Yeah, this is one of the main things I’m interested in, is helping create resources that help others use WorkFlowy, and get started with specific content.

  23. I would definitely use it, at least on occasion, but just for doing in-person/live, i.e. I wouldn’t use the video-capture component. (I’m in a university setting, but I don’t teach online classes, so that shouldn’t ever be necessary.)

    One caveat, though. One of the things I like about WorkFlowy is that, with a few exceptions (like bold/underline/italic), it’s all pure plain text. That’s what makes it so powerful – you can ‘mind-meld’ with your WorkFlowy list and spill out what you’re thinking. I’m really concerned that if bells and whistles like images are added in, it might detract from this. Wouldn’t image support require WorkFlowy to allow for additional server space to host the images people upload? (What if someone uploads something with a gigantic file size?) And a file manager to organize/rename/delete/etc. all those images?

    For presentations, yes – images would be crucial. A presentation is a totally different animal, with a very different set of necessary features. What we don’t want to have happen is to build a program that tries to be two things at once (making lists + giving presentations) but ultimately fails (i.e. is merely mediocre) at both. I guess, then, the right approach would be to add in a few extra features that make giving presentations a bit easier/better but that don’t compromise the awesomeness of what WorkFlowy already is. And, of course, adding in some new feature doesn’t need to directly impact the old-school users so long as they can simply choose not to use it. (No harm done.)

    Here’s one idea. Perhaps could you build in the ability to handle image URLs. For example, if I have a node that is:
    Then all WorkFlowy has to store is plain text. No file managers, server space, or anything. On the backend, though, it would detect that we have a bullet containing nothing but an image in a certain set of file formats (ending in “.png”, “.jpg”, etc.), so it could bring in that image file and display it, so that the user can see the image they want to when they have their WorkFlowy open. Not sure how this would work for offline WorkFlowy users, but I always use WorkFlowy in a browser, so I need to have an Internet connection anyways. If there’s zillions of images in the WorkFlowy, it might take a while to load, so perhaps (over a certain threshold, say 10 images) the user would be asked when they open their WorkFlowy whether they want to load them in or not (and, if not, be able to load them in later on.)

    This sort of functionality shouldn’t be too hard to code, right?

    1. The first version of images will just handle image links, as you suggest. Handling the images on the server, though, is a pretty well understood issue, and we wouldn’t provide a bunch of additional UI options for managing images. It’d probably be just drag an image onto your document, then it uploads and you get a little superscript thumbnail that you click to show the image.

  24. Hey this would be really awesome as I am always sharing WorkFlowy lists with everyone even not WF users which sometimes they do not know how to operate and navigate inside the lists!

  25. Also I believe that if the result shared screen is clean, minimal and aesthetically appealing I would use WorkFlowy as my personal website! Would I be able then to personalize the url of that shared document as use as published website to the world?

  26. (Thank you for including us so early in your process — feels pretty nice on this end.)

    This seems like not one, but two separate features:
    1. Image support [ yes! — do this yesterday please! 😉 ]
    2. Presentation creator [ maybe? ]

    [ You might even expand ‘image’ to ‘media’ – others have mentioned sound, which could be amazing – but that’s another discussion… ]

    1. Image support – I would use this. A lot.

    I’m for it. As a target use, consider organising a photo library — WorkFlowy seems like a natural for this.

    Imagine, for example, a date+time indexed list which shows (thumbnail, caption) pairs in the heirarchical list. Click on a thumbnail and the full image plus metadata loads, much as clicking on an item now opens the page view.

    Now imagine threading the image list with tags; e.g. #of-me, #lolcats or #italy, #europe2014, etc.

    [ If not just image support, but generalised media support, what would a sound file thumbnail be? What would the ‘page view’ be? ]

    Variant: url thumbnails – I would use this, conditional on performance

    You already have auto-linking to url.

    Once you’ve implemented image support, consider providing the option to turn on a thumbnail view for urls and file paths.
    Thumbnails could be ‘live’ or cached, and maybe this should be settable by the user, locally and/or globally.

    I would use the above. In fact, I’m pretty stoked about it. 🙂

    2. Presentation builder – maybe…?

    On the one hand, I don’t currently create presentations.
    On the other hand, this may be because I loathe PowerPoint.

    Pls correct me if I’ve misunderstood:
    My impression is that you are proposing an image-enabled, WorkFlowy-linked, programmed presentation which would, like PowerPoint, be rigidly linear at presentation time. This might make it easier to create a presentation (I don’t know), but it does not fundamantally change the game — we’re still locked into a linear slide show.

    Where WorkFlowy might be a game-changer would be if ‘presentation mode’ preserved WorkFlowy’s strength: the heirarchical tree list.

    If a presentation could be ‘played’ from and ‘rewound’ to any node in the tree, just by clicking…well, that might be amazing.

    This could free a speaker to adapt the presentation in real time, as alotted time shifts, as she reads the audience’s interest, as she fields the Q&A. Such a presentation would be run from a smart phone or tablet held by the speaker, instead of that stupid clicker…

    Takeaway: Media support = YES.
    Wait and see how we use media in WorkFlowy, then revisit the presentation builder concept.


  27. That would be super useful. I’d probably abandon most of my mindmapping if I could easily create a directed presentation from workflowy. Right now I often use Mindmanager and create an interactive mindmap to use as a presentation. Good for presentations, not as good as workflowy for actually managing the information.

  28. Has there been any development on this? It would be very useful for me, as I already draft my presentations in Workflowy before exporting out to the Markdown based presentation app Deckset. If I could just present from within Workflowy that would save me some steps.

    1. We haven’t done anything on it, was just an idea. However, we’ve been doing a lot of general user research and have been surprised about how many people do use wf to draft presentations. So it is something we may do, and we were actually talking about it this week. I’ll contact you via email, would be interesting to see how you use WorkFlowy + Deckset

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