Workflowy Review - Online workflow and to-do list

Written by Tyler King

If you're anything like me, you probably have an overwhelming number of lists in your life. You've got a to-do list, a shopping list, a list of goals you want to accomplish and many more. There are a number of decent software tools to help you stay organized, but I was never able to find anything that seemed to really do the trick. Until now.

Workflowy is a simple web-based application that claims to be a way to "organize your brain." I just started using it, but so far it lives up to the billing. At it's core, it's basically just a giant list. Just like a bullet list in any text editor, you can create high-level categories and then nest more lists beneath each one. It seems to support as many levels of sub-categories as you want, so you really can map out absolutely everything you could ever want to keep track of. That might sound messy, but the one thing that really separates this from any other list I've seen is that it let's you zoom in on any category. 

I can have my main "Projects" list and view a specific project. This is a really slick way to handle lists because it basically means that you can store absolutely everything you need in one list (rather than a bunch of different ones) but it doesn't get too messy or unmanageable because you can focus on specific sections of the master list.

As I mentioned, I just started using WorkFlowy, but I feel comfortable strongly recommending it. It's the best way to keep track of all that random info that normally ends up slipping between the cracks. That said, here are the things I like, and the things I don't like:

Things I like
The best thing about WorkFlowy is that it's ridiculously general. There is no intended use case or template you have to follow. You start out with a blank screen and you can create whatever type of organizational system you want - no rules. It also has decent keyboard shortcuts which make it easy to manage lists. The learning curve might be a little to steep for some people, but if you put the time in to learn it, it really works well.

I also like that you can enter notes about each of your list items. The traditional list structure is great, but sometimes you want to go into a little more detail. Workflowy makes that easy. I have yet to run into a situation where I had trouble storing information in an intuitive format.

Things I don't like

UPDATE: One of the Workflowy founders left a message in the comments of this post that you might want to check out. Also, since writing this post, they have added a very basic copy/paste export feature. They still have a long way to go, but they're clearly headed in the right direction.

I admire the simple approach of Workflowy, but they are missing some essential features. This would be an absolutely killer product if they supported real-time collaboration (so teams could use it to manage projects) and exporting (so I could get the data into other apps such as gmail). Right now the data is stuck in Workflowy. You can't even copy and paste it (unless you want to do it one line at a time). I think that Workflowy is very new which means they'll probably add these features eventually, but that brings me to my next concern...

It's too new. Workflowy's website has absolutely nothing on it. No info about the company. No statements about their goals or history. I want some sort of assurance that the service won't vanish tomorrow. I'm putting a lot of very important information in there, and I feel very uncomfortable trusting it to a mystery company. This is especially problematic because of the lack of an export feature. This is an absolutely critical issue which needs to get resolved immediately. I plan on using Workflowy for the next month, and if they don't have exporting working by then (plus some sort of information about their company posted on their website), I'll be looking for something else.

But despite my reservations, Workflowy really is the best organizational tool I've ever used. I'm willing to give them a temporary pass on all the missing features, but I'll be keeping an eye on their progress over the coming weeks. Overall, I definitely encourage you to try it out at http://www.workflowy.com/

Posted on Nov 10, 2010
Filed under Tech Analysis
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