#52Tech Week 34–Outlining with Fargo

Last week I profiled one web-based outliner, Workflowy. For week 34 of the #52Tech series, Fargo and some other alternative webapp outliners are highlighted.

What is Fargo?

Not the movie. The webapp outliner.

Fargo is an HTML 5 application, written in JavaScript, and runs in any compatible browser, including Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Microsoft IE 10. The Fargo files are stored in Dropbox, so you need a Dropbox account to authorise and start off with list making. If you have Dropbox for use across devices, say on your iPad, this also means you can work on Fargo outlines away from your desktop with access into a compatible browser.

Unlike Workflowy, profiled last week, Fargo has some simple rich text formatting options – you can bold or italic text, or add links, with some simple buttons in the frontend. There is also basic Markdown support so you can setup headings etc, which won’t appear until rendered.

Outlines or files can be public or private. To make an outline public, you simply need to name it via a File—>Name Outline option. This then can become a blog post scenario, with dates on each new item. In fact, even if it’s not a public outline, the date post for new entries comes up – I found this annoying because by rote I would like to simply type in a new text item when I press the plus button, rather than having the calendar date infilled.

There are two modes of use – structural and text, but moving between them can feel a little ackward, in my opinion. Tab keys and keyboard shortcuts are available, but I also encountered some Dropbox conflicts which I couldn’t fathom, and I also lost a full outline tab of data inexplicably,so there may be some stability issues.

To add notes to an outline, you can use the html code CMD-\ to comment out some text. This is useful for workplace collaboration – each collaborator uses their own Dropbox and setsup their own outline, then makes it public by finding a public link. This is only public when you share it publically. Then share that link to collaborators who can bookmark that outline into their Fargo bookmarks for access. When the shared outline is updated, a lightning bolt icon will support these changes.

I found using Fargo’s system both unique and complicated. There are a lot of options available, and although you can work quickly to add new outlines by simply typing and tabbing, the arrangement and movement from structural to text modes makes things slow down. However,it’s free, web-based,and Dropbox linked, supports collaboration, links, and feeds. And there are no limitations to the amount of outlines or items inside.

Fargo is not without limitations however.  OPML files can be imported, but there appears no export opportunity with current development work emphasising the publishing options. A reader applet, for instance, publishes an outline to the web for reading, and holds a share link to Twitter button.

Fargo Outliner tab screenshot_thumb[1]


Fargo Features

  • Free webapp service, with no limitations. Currently in beta, although later updates may provide some premium services.
  • Dropbox linked for storage of files.
  • Collapsable branches of lists supporting deep levels or hierarchy
  • Tabbed outlines – so you can have multiple projects for organisation
  • Bold, italic, strikethrough text, and choice of fonts per outline.
  • Keyboard shortcuts and some Markdown support
  • Public outlines for blog posts. There is also a linkpost and bookmarklet for sharing links publically.
  • Presentation mode – public named outlines can also be formatted into a slideshow.
  • No obvious export functions. Files are saved into Dropbox for accessibility across devices, and on your hard-drive as HTML5 files.
  • No large search or filter by tag ability.


Link: Fargo

Is it Helpful for Writers?

Fargo comes across to me as a bit clunky, but it has a depth of features that can be extremely helpful for writers. Outlines are limitless, and once you get used to the input requirements, you can brainstorm/outline to your heart’s content, all for free. But if you do create a very large outline, without some tagging or filtering ability, you may find it difficult to find what node you’re after.

Your data is accessible via Dropbox also. And there are public and linked sharing options making Fargo a possibility for group collaboration.

But – it’s under beta, and I encountered some issues with lost outlines on my first day of use, and the techy nature of the CMS and other features make it less user friendly unless you enjoy mucking around with OPML files etc.


Other Web-Based Outliners

Not into Fargo or Workflowy?  Try these other free web-based outliners –



Checkvist has it’s own abbreviated syntax for key functions, making adding a new node quick. It has Markdown support, or add bold etc via html coding in the text. You can add images, links, tags and due dates into the outline also. And you can add tasks via email. There is a mobile version also.

Targetted for task management, a lot of clients use checkvist as an online to do manager, but the outline lists are collapsible and easy to create so the system can also be beneficial for outliners.

The free version offers unlimited hierarchical lists and sharing and collaboration, while a Pro version (at $19 per 6 months) offers file attachments, integration with Google Calendar, and automatic backup to the Cloud. If you want read-only collaboration – in other words you don’t want viewers to change your lists, you’ll need the Pro version, which you can try for a 14 day free trial.

Link: Checkvist


The Outliner of Giants

outliner of giants_thumb[1]

TOOG is interlinked with Google, allowing you to signon with your Google Credentials. It supports typical key functions for creating and structuring outline items, but has no undo function. Tags are supported – but you have to enter these into a specific field. Textile, Markdown and a rich text editor allow you a lot of leeway in formatting.

The free service limits you to 5 outlines, 1000 nodes per outline, 3 collaborators and incredibly tiny allowances for file uploads and attachments, while for $10 per year you have unlimited outlines, plus more collaborators, daily email backups, and calendar integration.

Link: The Outliner of Giants


#52Tech: This was Week 34 post in the #52tech goal – to investigate and share one technology post once a week for 2014. You can find all the posts indexed via the #52tech tag, or top menu option at hunterswritings.com

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