WorkFlowy: Plain Text Productivity

I’m a To Do list junky. Throw in access anywhere and a beautiful interface, and you’ll probably have me hooked.

WorkFlowy is up there with the best of the them on these two fronts. It’s a plain text to-do list app with an elegant, clean design that’s simple to use. Read on to see if it lives up to the rest of my expectations.

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WorkFlowy

WorkFlowy is, at its heart, a To Do list. It runs in a browser. That’s it. No apps. This is good news as, if you’re using virtually any kind of computer or mobile phone, you’ll have access to a browser and hence your WorkFlowy tasks.

WorkFlowy is fast. It’s fast at rendering, fast at adding/moving/editing tasks, fast at synching. In fact, it has one of the fastest syncs I’ve seen for any kind of To Do application. Have the app running in two browsers and an update in one results in an almost instant update to the other.

The developers have put a lot of thought into making WorkFlowy quick and easy to use, with virtually every function having a keyboard short cut. This means you can drive the app almost entirely from the keyboard. This is important to me, especially when I’m brainstorming new stuff, where I’m constantly moving tasks around, reassigning them, adding notes etc.

Tags and Filtering

Everything you type into WorkFlowy can handily have tags, by adding the usual # and/or @ prefixes. Once you have one of these in any of your tasks, they’re auto suggested as soon as you type # or @. You can also click any previously entered tags to filter the view to only show other items with the same tag.

Filtering is handled well. Just type any text into the Search box and it’ll filter your tasks in real time to those that match the search pattern. This will be familiar to anyone who’s used Notational Velocity, TextDropApp etc.

Another aspect of WorkFlowy that speeds up your To Do processing is that it consists of only a single page. This, apparently, can be huge, with the developers quoting no slow down, even with a 2 year old, 20,000 item list. I’m guessing that should be more than enough capacity for most people.

You can use WorkFlowy on your iPhone/iPad/Android/Almost Anything With A Browser by simply visiting the usual WorkFlowy URL. It obviously behaves somewhat differently when you move to a touch interface but it’s not as good an experience as on a desktop browser.

For example, in Chrome on my Nexus 7, the +/- icons, which are usually (and intuitively) to the left of a collapsible list on the desktop browser, are oddly moved over to the right of the page, where it’s difficult to ensure you tap the correct one. I also noticed some rendering issues, where it would overwrite the bottom half of the text on the line above, for example.

Pricing

You get a lot for free with WorkFlowy. Which is just as well, as it’s expensive if you want to upgrade to their Pro account. $49 per year is, in my opinion, way too expensive, especially when you consider what other services you can get for that kind of money. I don’t know how many takers they’ve had at that price, but I’d be surprised if it was a huge number.

The good thing is, you can export all of your data as plain text, if you ever decide you need to move to another service, and there’s also some basic import features if you need to bring in data from other apps.

Conclusion

I’m constantly on the lookout for that “perfect” To Do application. It has to be cross-platform and available everywhere. It has to be quick to use and intuitive. My data shouldn’t be tied in to a specific platform and, as a bonus, it doesn’t hurt for it to look good.

WorkFlowy covers all of these, so long as you always have access to a network connection. Unfortunately, I don’t. I travel constantly and a lot of the time I lose all data connectivity. In its current form, this means I lose my WorkFlowy list. Off-line access has been “coming soon” for some time. I’ve contacted the developers to try and get some time scales and they’ve advised “We’re hoping to have the feature within a month or two, however, it’s always hard to predict these things with certainty.”.

There’s also the rendering and usability issues noted above, which somewhat prevent me wanting to use WorkFlowy on a mobile device.

Of course, these may not be issues for you, specifically if you’re predominantly sat at your desk all day with a permanent network connection, in which case I’d be happy to recommend WorkFlowy. If, like me, you’re out and about a lot, you may want to consider some of the alternatives.

Go give it a try now. It has a free tier, so you’ve nothing to lose.


Summary

A plain text to-do list app that makes it easy to keep up with everything you need to do, online.

8
  • Tim

    WorkFlowy? Seriously? That’s its name?
    And $49!?! No thanks. Even a one time fee of $49 is too much for this, considering Evernote is free.

    • herb

      If you are comparing it to Evernote, they you don’t understand what it is and why it’s useful.

      Where Evernote is more of a repository to clip, scan or write things into, WorkFlowy is text-only and more of an outliner. It’s a way to make hierarchical lists (any kind, not just to-do lists) in the way a writer might use an outliner. It’s power is that the lists you make are infinitely nestable and you can zoom to any part of it for more or less detail to focus. And, it has great keyboard shortcut support for people that don’t like to reach for the mouse. So, if you are typer that likes to make lists, there is nothing better.

      $50 a year (for the pro plan, there is a free one too) is definitely expensive. But, I paid for one anyway because I like it that much and I was worried that it would be one these services that disappears after a couple years without actual money coming in.

    • Simon

      Actually, Evernote isn’t free. You just choose not to pay.

  • Keith Hill

    Looks a little like CheckVist but not nearly as good

    • http://getkeystone.com/_be Alex Parker

      Uh, just signed up on CheckVist to see what you were talking about. Its terrible compared to Workflowy.

      • Duggy

        I agree completely, Alex.

  • http://xangelo.ca Angelo R.

    I’ve been using Workflowy for a couple weeks now, both at work and with personal projects and just things I need to remember. It’s actually really great. Once you start using it a lot you find it weird to function without it.

    While the 49$ a year is quite expensive, I find that the other applications (and I’ve tried a ton) add a lot more options and make it a bit more restrictive. If you need to do something, you have to do it their way. Workflowy gives you that blank slate to do whatever and only tacks on useful things and never in a manner that imposes any sort of restrictions on you.

  • http://evanpayne.com Evan Payne

    I’m incredibly scattered and Workflowy does wonders to help keep me focused. As others have said, it lets you do things your own way, and the search function is great for quickly finding what I put in to a 12-step-deep list 7 months ago. Being an early adopter, I was allowed to use the pro version for free, which is great, but at this stage, I’d be willing to fork over the cash if I had to, just to keep the app in my life.

  • http://www.letrader.net jordan

    I test this application and i am happy now

    Thanks

    Good Application for real…..

  • http://www.mediatechpub.com Erica Williams

    There are too many to do list apps that helps you mange your life so you can do your job in time. Though apps that allow to have access offline are also available already ‘RememberTheMilk’ is one example but competetors are still to come so working offline is a feture that can give this app a bit uniquness among other common to do list online apps.

  • Chris Dugdale

    I’ve been using Workflowy for a few months now, and i love it, i wrote a piece on my site about it and just can’t stop using it!

  • Simon

    Workflowy’s great alright but as suggested in the article, development has all but stopped. Lack of offline use, no mobile apps, etc make it impossible for anyone who isn’t at a desk all day to use it effectively. I also paid (why do some people expect others to work for free?) in order to keep it going but sadly, the developers haven’t kept their side of the bargain. I won’t renew my subscription until there’s some activity from their side.

  • http://getkeystone.com/_be Alex Parker

    Workflowy is incredible. First of all, the technical implementation of it is great, and speed impressive for how much it’s doing on the client side. Secondly, I have about 2000 bullets when its all expanded. The ability to “zoom” in on any given node at any depth, is pretty freakin awesome. It is exactly what it claims to be, a way to organize your brain. Got an idea? I jot it down in workflowy. It’s how I scope out client projects, statements of work, user flow outlines, business objectives, app ideas, bugs on a site. And once you have all the shortcuts down on the keyboard, you can outline soo much, very quickly, then just share the list with whomever you wish to edit or just view it. I’ve been using it for about a year, but really really actively the past 4 months or so. Don’t just breeze past this one, take some time to learn it and figure out how it would fit your work flow. Also for the record, I am at a desk all day.

  • Jay

    Just trying out Workflowy now. There is an iPhone App out now so maybe a second review is in order.

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