Who doesn’t love lists? They’re a great way to organize information and scribble quick thoughts from the top of your head. They’re a nice way to digest information quickly — after all, how many times have you scrolled through these AppStorm round-ups just checking if one app grabbed your attention? I certainly have.
Truth be told, lists are everywhere. When you check a forum, it displays a list of threads; a Google search shows a list of results; and most of the services you use that are focused on content present their information as lists, one way or another. Perhaps we can assume that the whole information architecture of the web is based on lists.
There’s one thing missing, though: your lists. Where are you keeping them? Join us in this round-up to find the best app for you.
What is a list?
Considering how we jot things down on paper, a list is a number of items in order, with each one of them covering a specific space, which in our regular notebooks is shown by its regular lines. Every item in a list can be interacted with as well — for example, when you strikethrough an item to mark it as done or circle to emphasize. That’s how your parents used to do grocery shopping. Luckily we have a few more flexible tools nowadays.
For the sake of this article, I won’t go farther on the concept of how everything can be organized in lists. I’ll keep it simple and suggest a few options for versatile list managers, which can be used as grocery lists, bucket lists, wish lists and even to-do lists.
This service has been on beta since 2011, however, it is still a solid approach to social lists. Favorite music albums, places to visit when you go to a country, and more: on Listgeeks, you share information as lists to inform or help other users. If you’re looking for inspiration, browse through the many lists available on the website sorted by latest, most popular, most liked and even staff picks. You can mark any item with a star to check it out later in your home screen.
When you create a new list, Listgeeks will suggest titles and topics based on other lists and even show similar lists on the side, just in case you miss an essential item. Every item can also receive a link to an external website, so you may, for example, create a list of favorite movies linking each one of them to their IMDB profiles. You can check my favorite movies’ list here.
Similar to Listgeeks, Listography also explores the social side of list-making. You write your list in a single field, using asterisks to mark the beginning of each item, after you’re done, you can customize your list by selecting a different color, font, style or icon, attaching an image or sort alphabetically. There are a few more tricks like setting bold and italic, adding checkmarks or striking an item through and even adding links. You find all those tips on the guide.
A curious function is Explore, which will take you to a random profile and visualize the lists from another user. It’s like a big cork board of sticky notes and every list can be sent to email, commented or followed via RSS. Perhaps the nicest feature is transforming every item from a list as search queries to famous engines, like Amazon, Wikipedia or Youtube.
Many services often used on desktop or mobile are synced through web services, but only a few were focused on list making until Silo. Although most of its credit comes from the Mac and iOS counterparts, Silo’s web interface offers a delightful way to keep track of your lists on any device. It’s easy to create new lists or add new items using the quick input field, every item holds a checkbox and options to edit or delete.
Apart from Silo’s simplicity and beauty in terms of design, you can share lists to specific emails only as a free feature, so if all you want is to create a grocery list and share with your beloved one, Silo keeps everything only between you two.
Technically, Workflowy is an outliner, which is like taking lists to the next level when it comes to organizing information, yet Workflowy offers so much more. It is like taking your lists to the theater to watch Inception. Adjust your items level to form an hierarchy, which is great for recipes as you can see on the this example, expand and collapse the titles to hide items or click on the bullet to focus on the topic.
Lists are private, but you can share a link or, if you’re a pro subscriber, share privately to a specific email. The Pro plan also offers unlimited lists, Dropbox backup, password protection, themes and fonts, premium support and early access to the upcoming offline editing feature. If you want to make complex lists, read our last review of Workflowy to learn more about its features.
Sometimes a list holding items with a single information is not enough and we switch to spreadsheets, which are often a little cumbersome. Flexlists offers the versatility of spreadsheets with custom fields, adding details to your content. You can start a list from scratch, which requires some custom fields before scribbling down your notes, or perhaps you can pick from the templates available to create a spreadsheet to fit your needs.
Beyond that, FlexLists allows sharing and even keeping track of modifications via RSS, several import and export options, public lists and many other options, with the potential to start as your grocery list and become a full team management environment.
Ready to create your lists?
As a piece of paper, as long as an application allows you to write more than a single line, it is susceptible to keep your lists, no wonder why many people use services like Evernote or Simplenote as a stash, but sometimes you use these services for other reasons and your lists may stand in the way. Even if you’re happy with your system today, it’s always good to keep your options around.
Where have you been keeping your lists? Did we forget a service worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments, which are also displayed as a list, so to speak.