3 Hotkey Hacks as Good as Brand New WorkFlowy Features


December 8, 2015


Today we’re going on a walkabout with 3 hacks that provide the powerful capabilities of brand spanking new features. I kid you not.

If you’re not quite ready to have your socks blown off, your mind blown and your face melted off (in that exact order), you might want to skip today’s post. I’m saving the best for last… so evidently having your face melted off is the end goal here.

I’ll be walking you through a couple of tailor-made keyboard shortcuts that may massively change the way you use WorkFlowy in a couple of key areas.

Level of uniqueness: snowflake

The initial ice-breaker dynamic at play here all begins with the fact that each WorkFlowy list has a unique fragment identifier (optional last part of a URL, e.g.https://workflowy.com/#/8fad4873baf1)… and the fact that your whole WorkFlowy app doesn’t reload every time one moves between these countless URL’s (URI’s) which make up our one zoomable document – even when pasted directly into your browser’s address bar over an existing WorkFlowy URL.

Would you like to set up a couple of tailor-made keyboard shortcuts for some of your important lists (that you can use within WorkFlowy) – without opening a new browser tab or refreshing your current one?

Anyways… so don’t we have the starred pages viewer where we can save shortcuts to lists? Yep. I use it all the time. But since I’ve got a bunch of keys on my keyboard and loads of combinations up for grabs, I thought I’d customize a few Hotkeys to take me to frequently visited lists which are permanent parts of my WorkFlowy infrastructure. If I hit Alt+1 (anywhere within WorkFlowy) it takes me to my Eisenhower Matrix:

Alt+2 will take me to my class records and Alt+3 takes me to a saved search for a specific tag filtered from my home page. As you can see, I’m using WorkFlowy in my browser, not the desktop app.

What you don’t see behind the scenes is that my custom Hotkeys are run by a free text expander app called PhraseExpress (Windows). Perhaps one of our readers could suggest the equivalent for Mac. That would be great.

I’ve written extensively about PhraseExpress in my WorkFlowy book and how it can streamline Markdown in WorkFlowy and much more. This post contains some compelling additional use cases, so there’s no time like the present to install PhraseExpress. In PhraseExpress, you would simply:

  1. Create a new phrase
  2. Paste the following parameters into the “Phrase Content” field:
    {#CTRL -chars L} https://workflowy.com/#/3eb6b9f4b018 {#ENTER}
  3. Replace the URL with that of any WorkFlowy list or saved search
  4. Choose a Hotkey (Test it out in your browser and make sure it’s not in use)

Once it’s set up, that’s that. You never need to return to PhraseExpress, except to create additional Hotkeys.

Essentially, what you’re doing when you use a similar Hotkey is simulating more than one action – in this case, moving your cursor to the address bar (Ctrl+L), including the URL of your choice and hitting Enter. The most basic set of simulated keypresses. Whenever you use your custom keyboard shortcut, you needn’t know that PhraseExpress is even running in the background. You simply have a keyboard shortcut that takes you where you want to go whenever you want. I hope this blew your socks off. Now for the mind-blowing part…

Bring it home

In great part, we owe much of what I’m about to show and tell to the humble hash mark which introduces the fragment identifier: https://workflowy.com/#

When you hit your “Home” link in WorkFlowy’s breadcrumb navigation, you’ll see that the hash mark is included in the URL. We’re going to take advantage of this shortly as we tailor-make our own string of commands (in PhraseExpress) to bend WorkFlowy to our will. Getting home is the key. If [you] can make it there, [you’ll] make it anywhere.

Feature 2 – Filter for a tag or keyword(s) within a zoomed-in list account-wide

A number of people have asked for the ability to click on tags in any list and have WorkFlowy filter for like tags all the way upstream to the home page. Normally one cannot interact with tags that way… so what we would need to do is hit the “Home” link in the breadcrumb navigation, and then type our tag(s) into the search box on the home page. Not a big deal. But what if I told you that you could achieve that simply by placing the cursor next to your tag and hitting a Hotkey? Take a look at the GIF below:

  1. Copy the below snippet to a new PhraseExpress phrase and set up a Hotkey:
    {#CTRL {#SHIFT {#LEFT}}}{#SHIFT {#LEFT}}{#clipboard -copy}{#CTRL -chars L} https://workflowy.com/# {#ENTER}{#ESC}{#clipboard -paste}
  2. In WorkFlowy, place the cursor to the right of any tag and hit your Hotkey

I set up the above Hotkey (Alt+9 for me) so that I don’t have to manually select anything. That works well for a single tag.

You can do the same with any keyword or phrase. The command line (having previously manually selected something) will be slightly different, so I set up a new Hotkey for that (Alt+0):

In the above GIF I use the Ctrl+A keyboard shortcut to select everything in the bullet before running my PhraseExpress Hotkey. This filters for your entire selection from the home screen. This is really interesting to tinker with, since you’re visually replacing your breadcrumb navigation with a staggered hierarchical view of any list. Just like with the breadcrumb navigation, you can zoom into any node in the hierarchy… however, there is one practical benefit to doing this: You can go ahead and expand anything you wish in the hierarchy to explore, juxtapose, etc. and when you come out of search mode, whatever you had previously expanded will no longer be expanded if you were to revisit any of the lists you tinkered with.

Another way of looking at the above hack is that you now have the ability to quickly toggle between different views of a particular list.

Here’s the snippet you can use in PhraseExpress to achieve the above:

{#CTRL -chars C}{#CTRL -chars L} https://workflowy.com/# {#ENTER}{#ESC}{#insertclipboard}

Feature 3 – Relocate any list anywhere (no tagging)

This is the face-melting part. You may never be able to update your social media profile pictures again after this…

So you have a list that you want to relocate across the great divide. I’ve written about a couple of nice solutions in my book… but not as quick and convenient as what I’m about to show you.

I’m going to show you a single keyboard shortcut that juxtaposes any target and destination lists of your choosing so that you can easily drag and drop from one to another:

What you see happening above is the following:

  1. I copy the text of the target list I want to relocate (Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C)
  2. I navigate to the destination list and place the cursor in one of its child lists
  3. I activate my Hotkey (Alt+T  for “Transfer”) – and PhraseExpress does the heavy lifting by searching from the home page for the two exact key phrases I selected, by using the “OR” operator between them
  4. I drag and drop my target list into the destination list next to a sibling list

Here’s the PhraseExpress snippet you’re going to need:

{#CTRL -chars A}{#clipboard -copy}{#CTRL -chars L} https://workflowy.com/# {#ENTER}{#ESC}”{#insertclipboard}” OR “{#insertclipboard -item 1}”

  • If you want to relocate more than one list to your destination list with this keyboard shortcut, expand the parent list of your highlighted target list (after filtering) and you can then select multiple siblings to drag and drop.
  • You can use this Hotkey to move any list anywhere… it doesn’t have to be on your home page.
  • One doesn’t need to understand the above PhraseExpress language to set up a Hotkey for this dynamic. It’s a copy-paste affair… and then all you need to do is choose an easy-to-remember keyboard shortcut combination that’s not yet taken.

If what I’ve laid out above doesn’t seem like much, just wait until you’re automating your very own workflow with a few keyboard shortcuts. It makes moving around within WorkFlowy that much more of a breeze.

Happy hacking!

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Stefano F. Rausch
7 years ago

For Feature 3 – and just adopting my take regarding Feature 2 – I am currently using the following PE snippet:

{#setclipboard }{#clipboard -copy}{#check -text {#insertclipboard} -case <- 1 -output {#ctrl -chars A}{#clipboard -copy}}{#ctrl -chars l}https://workflowy.com/#/?q={#replace {#insertclipboard} -oldtext # -newtext %23}%20OR%20{#replace {#insertclipboard -item 1} -oldtext # -newtext %23}{#enter}

It is a more relaxed approach than the original. What happens, if the search term does contain double quotes? Food for thought.

Thank you, Frank, for the extremely valuable insights you are sharing with us!

7 years ago

Aah… I set it up that way so that one wouldn’t have to select a tag… just *place* the cursor.
Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow selects the word to the left of the cursor… Shift+Left Arrow will then select the “@” or “#” as well.
Also, if you were to select your tag before running the script I gave, that wouldn’t work.
Your script looks a bit more sophisticated. What I do is just work on simulating key strokes blow for blow, lol!

Thanks for the addition Stefano 🙂

Stefano F. Rausch
7 years ago
Reply to  frank.dg

Sure Frank, anytime.

Your snippet handles tag searching very well.

My version is more a generalist one. If you select something, that becomes the search term. If you just place the cursor on the line, the whole line becomes the search term. Sometimes I like to be lazy 😉

Furthermore, using directly WF’s search address ( ?q= ) instead of going via the ( ESC ) search field is faster. That’s where I have my “connection” issues here in South Africa … after inserting the search term into the search field, the “homepage” gets very often reloaded, losing the search 🙁

Stefano F. Rausch
7 years ago

Regarding the Feature 2, which by the way is helpful, I am struggling to get your PhraseExpress ( PE ) snippet to work in a consistent manner, Frank.

Playing around with PE, I have settled on the following alternative:

{#setclipboard }{#clipboard -copy}{#check -text {#insertclipboard} -case <- 1 -output {#ctrl -chars A}{#clipboard -copy}}{#ctrl -chars l}https://workflowy.com/#/?q={#replace {#insertclipboard} -oldtext # -newtext %23}{#enter}

Happy enhancements' hunting!

Stefano F. Rausch
7 years ago

By the way : Awesome tips!

Stefano F. Rausch
7 years ago

For Feature 1 : There is the extension “Shortkeys for Chrome” at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/shortkeys-custom-keyboard/logpjaacgmcbpdkdchjiaagddngobkck, which can help, should the one or other not have a dedicated application for custom keyboard shortcuts.

7 years ago

It’s actually very effective to cut and paste. I do that with smaller outlines (Alt+Click to select any list(s) and their children, Ctrl+X)… but if it’s a project or a sizable (or valuable) outline and I want to retain the “Last changed” dates, I prefer to drag and drop.

Also, if you do backtrack (Ctrl+Z) to before the point you cut an outline and then edit anything, you cannot get back to the “future”. Happened to me a couple of times.

7 years ago
Reply to  frank.dg

Agreed, on all points.

7 years ago

Another option for moving: zoom on the bullet. Hold the Ctrl (Cmd) key and type A-A-X (no dashes, the first A selects a line, the second selects everything, and the X cuts it all to the clipboard.) Then navigate to your new destination and paste. Retains the url too.

There is some danger in this method if you accidentally copy something else to the clipboard en-route before you paste. I use an AHK script that automatically copies selected text to the clipboard and sometimes that has borked my WorkFlowy clipboard… but have always recovered with the almighty Ctrl+Z.

7 years ago

As far as Mac goes, TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro are the tools you’ll want to use! TextExpander can do snippets of text, date, and various other fun stuff (including key combinations), and Keyboard Maestro can have keyboard shortcuts assigned to basically anything ever. They each have their own niche, and together they’re unstoppable.

7 years ago
Reply to  jonbash

Thanks for the info. Jon 🙂

7 years ago

I’m now a useless, quivering mess. Hopefully my socks, mind, and face will soon mend so I can get back to work. I’m gonna try implementing these with AutoHotKey. Thanks!

7 years ago
Reply to  rekluce

For the last Hotkey shown (Relocating any list), don’t forget to enclose your clipboard items in quotes for exact matches:
“{#insertclipboard}” OR “{#insertclipboard -item 1}”

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