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Should You Be Using Workflowy as Your Zettelkasten?

By Matt Giaro


If you want to know if you could use Workflowy as your zettelkasten, then this article will help you.

The Zettelkasten methodology of taking notes has gained popularity in the past several years. It’s an effective way to retain better and encourage collision between ideas.

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Workflowy: An outliner app with Zettelkasten features

Workflowy is a web app that’s called an outliner. It’s trusted by over 3 million people across the globe.

But what the heck is an outliner?
An outliner helps (as its names suggest) to outline something. Mostly used to outline a project, or a book, some other Zettelkasten apps like Remnote or Roam use the outliner structure, too. Which means that you can write down ideas quickly and nest them under them.

So, at first sight, Workflowy seems to be pretty close to other Zettelkasten apps. In my opinion, outliners are one of the best ways to brainstorm and organize things quickly and effectively. I love using outliners to lay out my online courses or when writing my books.

The other exciting thing with Workflowy is that you can have infinite bullets. This means that you can nest as many bullets as you want and still be able to zoom in and out efficiently.

Workflowy has no folders. And this is not a bad thing, as the Zettelkasten folder structure is just another distraction some productivity geeks came up with.

On the flip side, you can use tags in Workflowy, which makes it interesting if you’d like to keep using them to classify some of your notes.

You can drag and drop things around.


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What makes a good Zettelkasten outliner?

What makes a good zettelkasten app besides the basics (not crashing, being able to export your data, etc.) is that you want to think and link your notes between them.

At its core, the zettelkasten methodology is all about links and relationships. And workflowy allows you to link notes between them. But there’s still an issue that I’m going to tackle later on.

Before that, I wanted to pinpoint the difference between Zettelkasten apps that adopted the outliner approach and others that took the “text editor base” approach.

The difference between an outliner and a text-based app.

Outliners encourage the rearrangement of thoughts and structure. While text encourages more writing. Many people found that writing in your Zettelkasten is more important than outlining. This is why people on Reddit mentioned that they switched from Roam or Remnote to Obsidian because Obsidian is based on a text editor. But you can add a plugin that can flip your bullets into an outline. This is, in my opinion, the most versatile way of doing it and benefitting from both worlds.

Final take about using Workflowy as your Zettelkasten

Workflowy offers some Zettelkasten features like links. But you have to keep in mind that Workflowy is, by essence, not a note-taking app. Yes, you can jot down ideas. Yes, you can link ideas between them.
But you can’t see the relationships between ideas. There’s no graph view, no linked or unlinked mentions features as supposed to Obsidian.
And that’s not a flaw in Workflowy. If you check out Workflowy homepages, it states that “Workflowy offers a simpler way to stay organized.” Which means that Workflowy is definitely a tool to stay organized rather than to learn, discover new relationships between ideas or become more creative.

So could you use Workflowy as your Zettelkasten? Definetly yes. Are there apps that are more suitable to the Zettelkasten methodology? You bet!

This is why focusing on the tools first is stupid.

It’s important to have the right methodology and then look for a tool.

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