Tracking Changes in WorkFlowy (à la MS Word) – Viewing Markup, Your Final Draft or the Original Text



I’m about to walk you through a very real, very useful use case of mine for collaborating in WorkFlowy. If you’ve ever used MS Word’s “Track Changes” tool, you’ll want to bookmark this post for the next time you’re editing someone else’s work in WorkFlowy… That is, if a WorkFlowy user who’s text you’re editing cares to compare the original, the marked up revision and the final draft of their work.

Tracking changes

The idea behind tracking changes (in MS Word) is that you are able to clearly see what someone else has edited. The author might wish to retain some of the stuff that’s been deleted or get rid of some of the stuff that’s been added. Tracking changes is about easily seeing what changes have been made and having the chance to accept or reject them.

The scenario

Another WorkFlowy user asked me to edit a book she’s writing. This damsel is going the whole 9 yards and writing up every scrap of content in WorkFlowy itself. Not just the outline. By the way, if you’re a writer of any flavor or form, you’re seriously missing out if you’re only outlining ideas in WorkFlowy. I’ve got an extended section on writing in WorkFlowy in my WorkFlowy book.

The challenge

This person would love to see exactly what I’ve edited – every last teeny weeny thing – from the i’s she’s forgotten to dot and the t’s she’s forgotten to cross (think about that one!) – to suggested wording changes… and copying sections of text from WorkFlowy into Word and back again would be a royal PITA.

So I’ve figured out a simple way to flip a switch in WorkFlowy and show either (1) the original text, (2) the original text with markup or (3) the final draft.

Eye of the tiger – the making of

Here are some of the (rumored) original lyrics to an iconic song:

Here was some behind-the-scenes polishing:

Thankfully, here’s how the chorus turned out:

The on/ off switch

This is how I toggle between “Edit” mode, “Final draft” view and the “Original” text – using 3 small Stylish styles I created for you and I:

It’s a kind of magic…

…sort of. How to get those on/ off switches shown above? How to stylize text destined for deletion in red and struck through? How to show fresh additions in blue? Pay this shared WorkFlowy list a visit and/ or add it to your account for safekeeping. It’ll take you less than 5 minutes to read through, set up and get the ball rolling.

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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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18 Responses

  1. Thanks a heap for this! I currently work with ~20 collaborative lists and it’s always been a pain to make sure no one screws anything up. So grateful 🙂

    1. Hey @dwarvenplague, this won’t guarantee that no one will screw anything up (because tracking changes the way I’ve set it up requires specific actions on the part of the editor – it doesn’t track stuff automatically)… for general collaboration purposes I recommend implementing some tagging conventions covered in the previous post. Also… read through the tips and advice in the shared list from this post 🙂

      1. Aha. Yeah, we have some systems in place with tagging. I will see if we can work this to our advantage too 😉

        Also, i’m assuming you know/use Slack.
        Someone I know is working on a Slack integration with WorkFlowy! I don’t know any details, and it’s still in the works. I’ll get back to you if I find anything more about it 😀 Keep up the awesome work, mate.

      2. That would be nice to keep tabs on. You can mail me here: frankman777(at)gmail(dot)com. Cheers!

  2. Just wanted to say Thank you for your awesome work here and your inspiration for using Workflowy.
    Keep it up!

    1. You’re welcome Daniel. A lot has been done with inspiration from and the help of a bunch of smart people in the WorkFlowy community 🙂

  3. Frank,
    I enjoy all your articles so much that I wanted a way to be able to save them. I created a database (in WorkFlowy of course) to be able to track them all. I sorted them by date and then put the remainder at the bottom. I have sent you the shared link for you to see. I want to thank you for all your help, and for publishing the blog on my ‘El Nino project’. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Jere,

      No, a huge thank YOU for that blog post. By the way, I’ve been following the progress of what was initially a WorkFlowy shared list of resources for the homeless, which seems to have diversified more than that. I’d love to do a post on that at some point 🙂

    2. Thanks for this Jere! I just came back to this post to refresh myself on how Frank’s system worked, and now feel shamed to be searching through the internet for it … how pre-workflowy of me … much more elegant, thank you!

  4. By the way I should thank you again for this gem frank, and add one tiny bit of information some might find useful.

    I have just finished writing my thesis (in workflowy with latex coding) and now have to show my thesis examiners that I have made all the changes they wanted me to make. They have no interest in engaging with WorkFlowy, they have to see the changes in word.

    At first I thought this would be an absolute nightmare .. I’d have to copy it all over to word, make the changes for their benefit, then manually copy them all back into workflowy to print the thesis again as a pdf.

    However, the contents of this post have saved me. I can make all the changes in WorkFlowy, then, copy them all over to Word, and through a (I think?) little-known trick convert them into something at least resembling track changes there. I’m not sure how many know this, but you can convert fonts to other fonts with Word’s search and replace function as well as word->other-word conversions. So if you copy over something bold / italicised etc to word from WorkFlowy and want this to be clear to a completely naive reviewer that it’s something you want deleted, you can batch change all bold / italic / underlined stuff to ‘strikethrough’ in one fell swoop. You do this by, in the search and replace function, clicking on the ‘more’ button and going to ‘font’. You can also of course change all the stuff that is supposed to be comments to ‘highlighted’, and so on … it’s not quite Word track changes, but it’s good enough (I hope!) for someone who just wants to see what changes you’ve made. This has saved me so many hours of pain!

      1. Hi Frank,

        Thank you very much, and yes that’s me – I have that wordpress blog and this psychologyandevolution one which I never use (I think I set it up around 10 years ago) – out of the two, this comments section automatically chooses the latter as my display name, which is a bit annoying – I really should figure out how to change that at some point!

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