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Posted by Daly de Gagne
Sep 2, 2012 at 03:56 PM


Workflowy is a single pane outline which is being marketed as browser-based to-do list. Here’s a review on Wired: http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2012/08/workflowy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+wired/cars+Wired:+Section+Cars+2.0&utm_content=Netvibes  And here’s the Workflowy url: https://workflowy.com/

The only thing I can see which makes Workflowy a to-do list is that that’s what its creator has decided to market it as; it seems to lack the usual task tools, such as setting dates, reminders, etc., and seems to have little or no metadata capability. That is not to say it can’t be used effectively as a to-do list; it just doesn’t have the features we’re used to seeing.

But what makes Workflowy interesting to me is that it is essentially a single pane outline, and one that allows in-line notes.

Not only that, but the example of a Workflowy outline on Wired was a reminder of how useful a single pane outliner could be. I do not imagine myself using a two-pane outliner this way, though I suppose I could. If you check out the Wired review by Geek Mom, you’ll see a screen capture which illustrates my point.

And so I am going to take a closer look at Noteliner, which has many features, including metadata capability.

I wonder if there’s a tendency to limit ourselves when using a two-pane outliner in ways we don’t when working with a single pane outline..



Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Sep 2, 2012 at 08:58 PM


Workflowy is nice, but I personally found Checkvist much better both for task management and collaborating. I think Workflowy’s prominence has to do with it being heavily marketed to people unused to outlining as if it were something revolutionary.

I concur with our self-limitation but I don’t think it has to do with a specific type of program, more with our overwhelm with unneeded features. The fact that there’s an extra pane doesn’t mean that we have to use it. When I first tested UltraRecall it had no less than 5 panes open by default and I couldn’t even imagine what I would do with them; then I switched all but two (tree and notes) off and starting building my info around those; at the end I added the rest of the panes and more, docked and in tabs so that they didn’t get in the way, and the result is indeed useful.

I recently purchased Natara Bonsai for a specific use; I had tried it ages ago but found it too noisy. Then I followed Dr Andus’ excellent advice http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/4193/0/natara-bonsai—still-a-top-notch-outliner and simplified its layout and things fell right into place.


Posted by Fredy
Sep 2, 2012 at 09:22 PM


Columns apart, inliners are nothing other than MS Word, with much less functionality, and not any more functionality (since Word has got that outline view). Most people love this concept, and prefer the best offering, Word.

Outliners, on the other hand, are quite another concept, they do “artificial” fractionizing of your material instead of pressing it into an endless paper roll. Only some people prefer this concept, but they prefer it for good and would never go back. The first concept is the modern realization of ancient rolls, the second is what we’ve used for several centuries now, paper sheets (which were an intermediate technical realization of those ancient tablets).

I’ve always loved paper sheets, in the form of “one paragraph and its sequels, one sheet” - I have been the “index card” type, decidedly, with the only hitch that I never succeeded in miniaturizing my handwriting enough, hence the full format sheets. But even in those years gone by, I observed that most people weren’t index card types, but of the type who prefers, at the end of a paragraph / thought, to continue writing on his sheet of paper even though that means the following paragraph will be broken up between sheet 1 and sheet 2, and so on, for many a page.

So, instead of being astonished that most people do NOT prefer the way I cut up and re-arrange my things, I muse that indeed, as you ask here, Daly, they MUST get something “more” out of their continuous writing experience - seems it’s “flow”, an inconscient sense of “holding things together”...

But permit me to appear brutal when in fact no offence is intended: Most people don’t argue (= conceive thoughts in their writings in general) in very detailed a way, so some “putting things together” does NOT HARM their writings too much - whilst in my personal experience, I need - and people rightly ask me for - some “interjections” since without, too many details are interwoven and striving to multiple directions though.

Which has led me - just not in programming which makes the exception of the rule and where I said, do hundreds of items within multiple indent levels - to my preference for RATHER FLAT hierarchies, but consecutive points, of which my AHK vs. AI post is a graphic illustration.

Of course, for 10 such consecutive points, you’ll do it inline, and you can easily use what-is-that-editor-coming-with-Windows-called-again or anything, but for 100 such points, many of them sub-divided by perhaps 2, 3, 6 sub-points, but only where needed, not in that prevailing artificial systematic way we see in most textbooks, a more “technical” writing environment (e.g. paper sheets where do you do NOT write “beneath the bottom edge in a flow”) - or an outliner, but not an inliner -, might be preferable.

Don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying that text processors (Word, etc., and all its victims it killed in its way) are for the simple-minded. But it’s evident that with rather flat arguing / text construction, the “flow” from one sheet to the next, be it on paper, be it in the electronic age, is REASSURING, whilst it represents a serious obstacle for really differentially thinking / writing - and if you need such tools then, you are willing to do without the “continuous flow from sheet to sheet” experience and the reassurance coming with it.

That’s the answer I give to myself when musing why about 99 p.c. of people “writing” do without proper outlining.


Posted by shatteredmindofbob
Sep 3, 2012 at 06:49 AM


I’ve tried it in the past and it looks pretty slick and could be useful, but I can’t see using it.

I’m honestly not a huge fan of web apps in general (and really hate that everything seems to be moving in that direction…) but what really gets me is the Pro account cost - $50 per year.

Workflowy is pretty similar to TaskPaper on the Mac (or ToDoPaper on Windows) which cost $30 *ONCE*

Sure, there’s upgrades but I can choose whether or not those are worth paying for and can still use the original version I paid for. Same with the company going out of the business or being aquhired. Suddenly, it’s all gone. At least with a desktop app, I still have a copy.


Posted by Fredy
Sep 3, 2012 at 10:47 AM


I’d like to add two other aspects:

Most books (= end product of writing, in this respect) are written / printed as that “continuous stream”, many beginning a new page (or even a new sheet = odd-numbered page) for main chapters only. A tiny fraction of books only does something like “outlining” in the sense of systematic fractionizing content down to the spatial representation: There are SOME books that, e.g., begin each atomized subject with a new double page (even page number, plus the following odd-numbered page), often (then) doing an “executive” paragraph, often printed in a bigger font size, followed by the corresponding “details” - or having the “executive summary” at the end of that double page (and if the details are too long in order to sit on just two pages, they often do 3 such pages, exceptionally, leaving the following odd-numbered page white). I always thought this is a very interesting concept for presenting material to the public, to the reader.

Of course, you can write a book, heavily fractionized with sub-headings, paragraphs, and such, and publish it in the flow style notwithstanding. Many authors do exactly that, hence the incredible amount of such sub-headings of many indentation levels all over all pages - I’ve seen books with 600 pages but 8 pages of table of “major” (upper-level) content, and then 40 pages of detailed content table - for me, such a concept is “the horror”, and that’s NOT a “style question” only, since you’ll have to admit that even if people might be able to do such an atomization of material in a way making any sense, this leaves completely out any “third dimension”, i.e. such myriads of exploded tiniest bits MUST have myriads of cross-references AND possible multiple different ways of “collating them together”, of possible / meaningful / necessary (!) alternative ways of clustering them, that such 40-page “detailed content tables” are nothing but a preposterous and misleading if not highly manipulative artifact. So you see this first concept can easily be lead ad absurdum, and in fact, it is, more and frequent, it seems; during these last months, I’ve seen more of such examples than I’ve seen in ten years, some years ago.

On the other end of possible structural choices, you’ll get French literature in the social sciences field. In fact, as anybody knows who has done some reading in this field, the VERY big majority of French authors present their thoughts in quite a different form as others (English-speaking, Scandinavian, German authors in those same fields) do normally: They (the French) go on for pages and pages, putting in dozens of disparate thoughts, do a literal explosion of different subjects there, and most of the time even without separating things by separate paragraphs, things that have nothing to do with each other, except for minuscule associative origin in the minds of the writers.

You can name this “chaos reading” if you want - this style is the apotheosis, then, of the above-mentioned “Word” style, “continuous style”, but totally misused, for depth of arguing it was never invented for, at least in this particular form, leaving out 95 % at least of any “needed” breaks, paragraphs, sub-headings, etc. Some of yours will have read - or put an eye into - Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, and so they will know that nobody else, for depth of “findings” in such quantitiy, this “endless flow of putting anything you want together”, was taken to even lesser summits coming a little bit close even. Which makes me muse if Proust has taken this, then pre-existing, “art” of mixing up things to new - and never re-atteined afterward - heights, or if it’s simply the other way round, with Proust having introduced a completely new (and awful) style, which then has impressed French writers (I’m not speaking of belles lettres here, and Proust himself was a minor novelist, but the greatest essayist of “all” time, or among them) so much that they feel, in such number, obliged to ape the unattainable example (about 10,000 pages or not much less anyway) in their little 200 page products - and I’m not even speaking of avarage sentence length here, or let my just say that in Proust, many a sentence flew over a page, almost a page or even more than a page, and here again, French authors LOVE to try the same, but not as exceedingly as they ape the great master’s muddling up 101 different subjects without doing the slightest paragraph break, let alone sub-headings. (If it’s Proust worship or just “French style” even before him, check by looking at social sciences text of the 19th Century.) And here you see that the second concept can be led as easily ad absurbum - and is, frequently, in the French culture - as the first one.


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