Lists within lists with Workflowy

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By Pete Davison Comments

Workflowy is a new iOS productivity tool from the company of the same name. The free app, available now from the App Store, is designed to complement Workflowy.com’s web-based experience, and requires users to sign up for a proprietary Workflowy account before it may be used. There is no option to use the app offline or sign in using other services such as Facebook.

At its core, Workflowy is a bullet-based note-taking application. Users add bullet points one at a time and may add additional supplementary “notes” to each one by tapping an on-screen button. The app may also be used as a to-do list, as individual bullet points may be marked as “completed,” at which point they are crossed off and hidden by default — though the latter behavior may be disabled if the user desires.

Workflowy’s biggest strength is its ability to focus, however. By tapping on a bullet point next to an item, the user “zooms in” on that particular item and is then able to make another list inside it. This may also be achieved by using the on-screen “indent” buttons, but tapping on the bullet point instead causes the individual item to monopolize the whole screen, minimizing distractions from other lists. There is no limit to how many layers deep the user can make their lists, allowing them to, say, make work and home lists with sub-lists inside them for projects they would like to work on, and sub-lists inside those for individual steps within the project. It’s a very flexible system that allows the user to micromanage themselves as much as they wish — and the ability to zoom in and focus is great for those who are easily distracted or discouraged by having too much on their plate at once.

There are also additional features that make organizing lists easy — there’s built-in support for hyperlinked hashtagging, for example, and a robust search facility. The Web-based interface for Workflowy.com also allows for collaboration with others on a communal list — the iPhone app marks which lists are shared with a differently-colored bullet point, but does not appear to offer the option to activate or deactivate sharing within the app.

As a note-taking app, Workflowy is powerful but easy to use. As a to-do list app, however, it’s a little wanting — there’s no facility to assign dates or reminders, though the developers recommend using hashtags such as “#soon” and “#now” to organize priority of tasks.

Despite this, however, Workflowy is a solid app that will doubtless prove useful to many of those who find making lists to be conducive to productivity. There’s certainly no harm in users trying it out for free, and this in turn may encourage them to check out the Web-based Workflowy service and possibly, by extension, the paid Pro offering, which allows access to a variety of additional features. The app itself is simple to use and intuitively designed, though some App Store reviewers have noted that they would prefer gestural controls, as tapping on bullets to focus on an individual item can be a little fiddly, particularly on the small screen of the iPhone.

For those looking for a good cross-platform solution to replace the default iOS note-taking app, then, Workflowy is a good solution.

As a new release, Workflowy is not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.