WorkFlowy Feature: Expand While in Search Mode


It used to be that in search mode, you only saw:

  1. Items matching your search,
  2. Their descendants
  3. Their ancestors.

This annoyed a lot of people, especially those who use tags heavily, because sometimes they needed to explore their WorkFlowy document while a filter was active. Now, you can do just that, you can expand any list while in search mode.

A fair number of people seem to have been really annoyed by this issue, so hopefully this saves you a few gray hairs!

Note: The root level of a zoom level currently doesn’t have the ability to expand in this way, so let us know if this gets in your way.


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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16 Responses

  1. That is a great improvement. One problem I noticed though is that expanding a node to see the other nodes at the same level is a one-way trip. Collapsing a node that was expanded in search view will also hide the node that showed up in the initial search results. A work around is to put the cursor in the search box and hit enter to refresh the search results. Even with that, this is a nice improvement.

    1. Yup that’s also the only little anoying behavior I found. Other than that, great feature, much needed;

  2. Hi! I’m new here. Is there a way to hide ancestors and descendents of search terms altogether, which is a kind of opposite to this awesome added feature? Sometimes it’s useful to use the full outline mode when creating or organizing trees, or in browsing around as you’ve pointed out in this post. In my case, when it comes time to recall tagged items, for instance when stepping into a meeting, I’d like to zoom in directly on the tagged items quickly without seeing their context (which can clutter up a screen if tagged items meeting the search term are within deep trees and/or there are many tagged items). I may want to talk with #Steve about 14 items from different subtrees, and just seeing the tagged nodes (without ancestors and descendents altogether) would be the cleanest.

    1. I too would like this as an option. Often the regular search is what I want. However, more than occasionally, I wish for a way to quickly toggle between showing all ancestors and descendants and showing none of them, i.e. just showing items that match the search exactly. This would be especially helpful when there’s a lot of results and they’re at many different “depths” in the tree. If I could get a tightly focused list of results then I could quickly find the one I want and zoom in on it then zoom out levels if need be to see any context I may want.

    2. My thoughts almost exactly Jonathan and Matt. Sometimes (many times) you just need a simple list without all the clutter when searching/filtering to either quickly located and zoom in or just appreciate the simplicity of. I like the idea of some sort of toggle for that (like the show/hide completed toggle)
      Not to be ungrateful though, this new feature allowing you to explore untagged parts of the list while in search mode is a HUGE improvement for workability and makes thing much less confusing and much more intuitive when navigating around workflowy.

      1. YES!!! Please, +1,000. Call it “treeless list” or “no context search” or something like that (I don’t care what you call it, just suggesting a way to refer to it!)

    3. I want to echo the comments here. I also would really appreciate the ability to choose to hide the context of search. Sometimes, I really do want to see ONLY the items I have searched for without the clutter of their context.

      Thanks for all your efforts WorkFlowy team!

  3. Please make it so that in search mode there are three states of a node.
    – Expanded and filtered
    – Fully expanded
    – Collapsed

    Otherwise when I expand a node in search mode, I cannot go back to original expanded and filtered state.

  4. Hi!
    Watching the demo video for this post, I liked the idea of how the tags are used there, i.e. you don’t have to type them, just click in the description of the root element. I thought it would be extremely useful (for me, at least) to use them in such way not for filtering, but rather for navigating.
    I’ll try to clarify. I use workflowy for all kinds of stuff, not only for TODOs. Under the root node, I have a large hierarchy of categories, some of them I use very often (such as “actual TODOs”, or “music”, etc.), and some not. To access the frequently used categories more quickly, I could add tags into their names and list these tags in the description of the root category, somewhat like the example in the video. So I would have always visible list of “favorites” on the top.
    But the problem is that when I click a category tag wanting to navigate to it, the found categories appear collapsed, which is not convenient, I want them expanded BY DEFAULT. Also, when I click another category tag, it ADDS it to the search, while i want it to REPLACE it, in order to switch to another category.
    So maybe it would be helpful to add a new type of tags, aside from the existing # and @ ones. some “navigation tags”. With ## for symbol, or %, or something else. Their only difference would be that the found nodes would appear expanded, and when clicked, they would replace the current search. Or maybe add a setting for the behavior of the existing tags?
    P.S. I know I could use the ‘starred pages’ mechanism for the described scenario, but unfortunately I couldn’t get used to it, didn’t find the current implementation quite convenient. I’ll elaborate on this, if required.

  5. I think this is a great feature. It allows me to see the search target in the context of its peer/sibling items. I previously spent extra time working around the absence of this feature, trying to be sure that I was not missing something.

    An alternative (to glenpj) method to restore the search result is to click on the Back then Forward browser buttons. This method uses two clicks, glenpj’s uses one click and one keystroke. Not much difference. With these methods, an additional command or option is not necessary.

  6. I have a related request:

    Sometimes, I’ve zoomed into a child node. While zoomed in, I click on a #tag to search. But the search only shows the #tag results under the child node that I’ve zoomed in to. This is counter-intuitive to me. I would have expected the search to be globally across my entire tree.

    Maybe some type of toggle..

    1. This is because search currently works as a filter, not say google style. And only on currently viewed nodes. The only thing then, is to copy the search query (if it’s quite long) then click the logo to return to root and paste in or redo the search with same query manually there.

      Expanding on search vs. filter methods:
      If you type “fruit apple”, you will only get results with both words in it. There is no wildcard (“fru*” for fruit, fruppes, fruffles, etc) and no exact search (“fruit apple” with results exactly that order wording).

      Though thankfully now, the two terms can be in any order and still return results.

      A further workaround would be implement google style operators or some other similar syntax. In the style of current “last-changed:” filter (and of course google):
      url: blah = search for only hyperlinks without specifying .com, .org, etc
      email: blah = search for only email hyperlinks without specifying “@” suffix
      “blah four” = exact search for terms; see above
      -blah = exclude term
      ~blah = returns approximately matching terms eg. . blahed, blahs, bleh, blehing etc
      blah* = wildcard search; see above

      Possible combinations:
      blah -[four fruit] = search term, excluding all terms after “-“; any order
      blah -[“four fruit”] = search term with excluded terms in exact order
      blah “f*r* fruit” = search terms 1 and 2 with later being two words in exact order where one of them is a wildcard search.

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