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Author Topic: Love WorkFlowy, hate web apps.. What to do?  (Read 14367 times)
tranglos
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« on: November 04, 2011, 05:09:56 PM »

I've just found the almost-perfect outliner: WorkFlowy. You really have to start working with it to appreciate how smooth and intuitive it is, but this requires creating an account and all that, so here are some screenshots:

Basic view of an outline:


Search results:


Isn't it just awesome? Doesn't get much better than that.

But, I'm not going to entrust my data to a service that may drop off the face of the web tomorrow for all I know, and despite how smooth and nice it is to write in it, using a browser is never going to be as convenient as a dedicated desktop app. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing nearly as good on the desktop side:

Ecco: dead, and all the other features just get in the way

InfoQube: probably too big for what I need, and unfortunately doesn't seem usable just yet. (Open the sample file, then try resizing the panes: IQ starts to "reflow" the text and never seems to finish, have to kill the process every time.)

ToDoPaper: not bad at all, but the outline is nowhere near as neat as in WorkFlowy, the app is buggy and might be dead (version 2.0 announced in February, still not released). But really - not bad at all, I just can't commit to it as it is now.

Main screen:



Search results:




TreeSheets: not really an outliner, extremely odd, can't figure it out, probably doesn't even belong in this list. Have you tried scrolling in it with the mouse wheel?

SainOutliner: Not bad at first sight, but really rudimentary, missing too many features. Can't even change the font size. Typical old Ctrl+F search dialog box, with no "repeat find" (usually F3) feature. No filtering, no highlighting. When you enter a longer paragraph of text, the item area does not resize, so you end up typing in a very long single-line edit box. The area only expands to fit multiple lines when you finish editing. Showstopper: can't select text in multiple items, only within a single item. Read: not really usable just yet, and it's hard to see if it's going to get any of the features it's missing. (Does have a good idea for automatic numbering of items though):



UV Outliner: Another nice idea that never quite got finished. Buggy. Crashes if you leave an item empty, then click it. Little annoyances like when you type at the bottom of the window, some bottom pixels get obscured (truncated) below the window border. Lots of missing features. Worst search ever, with no "repeat find", and sometimes when you jump to a match, pressing Enter deletes the text you've just found. Same showstopper as in Sain: can't select multiple items.  In the "attention to detail" department, this one really needs work. Rare strong point: can create custom columns (but they're just text):



Noteliner: Interesting! Kind of drab and certainly quirky, but has full rich text ability, search with filtering and highlighting, can even add tables inside the outline, can create additional columns... Well, it does crash when you create a new empty file and hover the mouse over the "Note" menu smiley But when I said it was quirky, it's really quirky! Can't seem to set the default font, can't find out how to expand/collapse items using the keyboard, plus lots of weirdness. For example, Under a menu called "Page" click "To do". It highlights the current item and all its siblings in yellow - what does it mean? Is it configurable? Who knows... The whole app feels strange like that, like it has tons of small little features but misses major ones. Anyway, this is what it looks like:

Main window:



Search:




OK, so it looks like I'm posting another of my scathing micro-reviews. So let me add what I think a single-pane outliner should have:

Required

- Ability to hold more than 1 line of text in an item. Few desktop apps can do that, and almost none does it well. Even MLO can't, and when you're limited to one-liners, you can't really type what you're thinking. Adding notes in a separate pane is not a substitute, since you have to constantly jump between the outline and the notes pane, which kills your flow!
- Fast instant search with filtering, just like WorkFlowy! No Ctrl+F and show a dialog box, that's so 1990s!
- Virtual views, where items are filtered based on user criteria (and shown as a flat list). MLO does that.
- Keyboard shortcuts to edit/rearrange the outline structure
- Some form of appending additional, unobtrusive notes to items.

Nice-to-have

- Desktop app!
- Ability to add some formatting to items (make bold, make larger, change color)
- Same as above, but automated: define styles and have them automatically applied depending on the nesting level
- Checkboxes!
- Metadata: timestamps for items (date created, date modified), importance level, etc.
- Ideally, user-defined columns for items (but with the possibility of hiding the columns and only showing the outline).
- Rich text inside items
- Since tree hierarchy is very rigid, it'd be nice to be able to "associate" items with each other somehow. Especially if you need to refer to one item in another. If the list is bulleted, you cannot do that at all. If the list were numbered, and I typed here: "see item 17.3.b", the number could easily become invalid as you add/delete items in the list. So instead, some clickable method of saying "See item Foo" is necessary.
- Easy switching between bulleted and numbered list, with various numbering styles (1, 2, 3; I, II, III, i, ii, iii, a, b, c etc.)

WorkFLowy on the desktop, can anyone do that? I'd pay all kinds of money.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2011, 07:33:35 PM by tranglos » Logged

wraith808
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2011, 07:05:45 PM »

I love workflowy, and use it all the time.  I suppose I could be cynical about the cloud aspect, but even that has its advantages.
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tranglos
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2011, 07:28:49 PM »

WorkFlowy really is great, though I'd love to see some styling options - sometimes I want a part of the outline to stare me in the face.

If my coding skills were up to par, I'd do the same on the desktop, but this is way out of my league. There are no Delphi components that even come close, and tree-based controls are not cutting it for various reasons, I've tried. On the other hand, a text editor (with or without rich formatting) is no good either, because it doesn't have  the concept of "items" as integral elements. You can select and drag a piece of text, for example, but not a whole item, and certainly not including its child nodes. And I just don't know enough to do it all myself from scratch.

The funny thing is, I had never felt a particular need for a single-pane outliner until just recently. As part of a group I volunteer for, I organize and moderate public debate panels. I prepare for these meetings extensively, and there's nothing better than a single-pane outliner to sketch the general concepts and drill down to specific facts I want to include and establish the order in which to present them. I guess I could do it in Word too, but that'd be so boring Wink


« Last Edit: November 04, 2011, 08:15:15 PM by tranglos » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2011, 09:56:51 PM »

Have no idea if it is authentic, etc. but a comment left on
http://www.tanner-smith.c...-reinventing-the-outline/

by Jesse Patel of workflowy says

Quote
Yeah, we’re planning on offer offline access and eventually a desktop app.

dated last November
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Armando
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« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2011, 12:09:09 AM »


InfoQube: probably too big for what I need, and unfortunately doesn't seem usable just yet. (Open the sample file, then try resizing the panes: IQ starts to "reflow" the text and never seems to finish, have to kill the process every time.)


Hi tranglos,

What IQ version are you using ? There was a compatibility problem with IE 9 and some of the components IQ uses. The last build solves that problem AFAIK.
Otherwise, I really don't see what could be the problem as I've never seen anyone complain about that in the forums -- apart from the IE9 compatibility problem.

IQ might not be what you're looking for anyway, but I'm curious about what caused that problem.


For your information:

Required

- Ability to hold more than 1 line of text in an item : YES
- Fast instant search with filtering, just like WorkFlowy : KINDA. There are many ways of searching in IQ, filtering the grids, etc. But the prefered way is... Ctrl-F.
- Virtual views, where items are filtered based on user criteria (and shown as a flat list): YES. This is what IQ is based on.
- Keyboard shortcuts to edit/rearrange the outline structure: YES
- Some form of appending additional, unobtrusive notes to items : YES

Nice-to-have

- Desktop app : YES
- Ability to add some formatting to items (make bold, make larger, change color) : YES
- Same as above, but automated: YES, for the most part (you can automate all kinds of formatting), but there are still features to be implemented (outline styles)
- Checkboxes : YES
- Metadata: timestamps for items (date created, date modified), importance level, etc : YES
- Ideally, user-defined columns for items (but with the possibility of hiding the columns and only showing the outline) : YES
- Rich text inside items : YES
- Since tree hierarchy is very rigid, it'd be nice to be able to "associate" items with each other somehow: YES
- Easy switching between bulleted and numbered list, with various numbering styles (1, 2, 3; I, II, III, i, ii, iii, a, b, c etc.) : NO. Not at this point. Maybe later. There are numbers and bullets but it's rudimentary.
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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2011, 12:12:06 AM »

Workflowy for Coders for formatting (Didn't test): https://chrome.google.com...mp;hc=search&hcp=main

Tree List for Desktop shortcut based outliner with hotkeys (no search): http://www.donationcoder....m/index.php?topic=16008.0

No exact answer for filtering. Lots of similar concepts floating out there as separate apps but Workflowy's filtering method is definitely in it's own league currently.

There's Noteliner's much more robust originator BrainstormWFO and there's TiddlyWiki but nothing comes close to combining a hotkey outliner with that of a search based program to my knowledge. I personally use mouser's the Form Letter Machine for specific outline filtering but I don't quite have a need for tags and tagging in Workflowy often confuses me. (Never could quite get down whether I should tag the parent or the child to get the optimum view when searching.)

As far as rich text, I personally use YeahWrite but it's not really as powerful as OneNote and it searches via dialog boxes but if you combine the hotkeys of YeahWrite and Tree List, you get the closest to Workflowy's hotkeys but this is a lot of copy pasting and cherry picking of outline branches. (Also this doesn't quite include the more dangerous hotkeys such as the delete keyboard keys which in some versions of Linux would be the hotkey for a soft reboot if I'm not mistaken.)
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2011, 06:26:24 AM »

Jesse Patel of workflowy says
Quote
Yeah, we’re planning on offer offline access and eventually a desktop app.
dated last November

-that was then. This November he is now saying:

Quote from: WorkFlowy, 4'th of November 2011
Our focus for the next year will be on the following: mobile, collaboration, and simplicity.

Mobile
Everyone who uses WorkFlowy wants it to be awesome on their phones and tablets. They want it everywhere with them. It's clearly a huge opportunity for us, and we want to essentially replace the Notes application that comes with every phone.

Collaboration
WorkFlowy needs to be as fluid for a group of people as it is for one of them. We always concieved of WorkFlowy as a collaborative tool, but we needed to nail the single user functionality first, so we launched without any collaboration. The collaborative features we currently have are great, but they're rudimentary. It is just the tip of the iceburg. Expect a lot of improvements for collaboration in WorkFlowy over the coming year.

Simplicity
We feel proud of the WorkFlowy interface as it stands right now. It can, however, be so much better. Thus, one of our three main product priorities is simply to make the existing features work better, and to make small but important changes that make WorkFlowy more enjoyable to use.


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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2011, 09:08:10 PM »

Couldn't drop this Sad; had to contribute before going to sleep (3 AM in Stockholm, Sweden):

Checkvist
(some screenshots at top of page at alternativeto.net)

Looks interesting, but I have not tried it yet.
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2011, 09:43:38 PM »

Jesse Patel of workflowy says
Quote
Yeah, we’re planning on offer offline access and eventually a desktop app.
dated last November

-that was then.

The desktop is not in fashion I guess  undecided
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2011, 06:02:06 AM »

Couldn't drop this Sad; had to contribute before going to sleep (3 AM in Stockholm, Sweden):

Checkvist
(some screenshots at top of page at alternativeto.net)

Looks interesting, but I have not tried it yet.


Checkvist does look interesting (I have an account from way back) and on the surface you could see many parallels with Workflowy but where Workflowy is more seamless to drag and drop, Checkvist is more clunky and less real time.

Still it's a service way before it's time as far as online service goes and it's major downfall was that it didn't do one thing extremely great. As a to-do list service, you were distracted by the drop down outliner. As an outliner, pressing shift to edit should have been great but because it's less animated, it's often hard to distinguish between how safe (i.e. clear) moving around an entry is.

Another weakness of Checkvist is that it's very main branch-centric. Even if you click upon an entry of branches, it's not so easy to move back to the some semblance of an "in-between" entry and have those entry be treated as if they were the main entry.

For those who don't want to bother to sign-up, the things Checkvist has over Workflowy is:

-Mass export to Atlassian Confluence format (wiki), txt, HTML and OPML
-Permalink (though maybe this is also how Workflowy's share works, didn't check)
-Undo
-Drop down for main branches (List drop down arrow at top right)
-Archive
-Everything's more static like a straight webpage

Finally somewhat superior shortcuts except for weaving back and forth between branches.

ll gives you a shortcut to the top right drop down list

ee/F2 for editing (double click also works)

del for delete

There's both shift tab/tab and enter and shift enter for when entering text

No notes but Workflowy's notes feature is kind of bad in that you can't collapse it.

For mass editing, there's shift but again it's brought down by the lack of fluidity when editing branches.

Space equals completed item and shift+space equals invalidated item.

You can also cut/copy and duplicate.

All these while you also have the convenience of tags including an actions button for those who want a more mouse-centric less keyboard shortcut way of doing the advanced stuff.

It's also recently updated. It's really a great piece of web service except because it lacks the fluidity of Workflowy, it's simply not an alternative to Workflowy except for those simply wanting Workflowy because it's an online cloud-based outliner.

All in all, if there's one way to summarize Checkvist is that it's to Workflowy as Toodledo and Todoist are to RTM. Both service's free offer beat RTM's free offering but RTM is simply more smooth, it's a lot less clunky for more task items and all in all it's more minimalistic.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2011, 06:26:48 AM by Paul Keith » Logged

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tranglos
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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2011, 06:08:56 AM »

The desktop is not in fashion I guess  undecided

And that's too bad, because the browser sets us back 20 years or so in terms of usability - even if WorkFlowy does a lot of good stuff within that absurdly limiting environment.

And since (years ago) Hotmail deleted six months' worth of email from my then-fianceé just because I didn't log in to the account for a while, and since all the break-ins you read about every week, I won't trust anything worthwhile to an online service, ever.

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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2011, 06:11:51 AM »

So my quest for a (desktop) outliner continued after a night sleep. Now I'm done.

If you go to Wikipedia > marktaw.com > Personal project planer you'll eventually end up at an open source application that I haven't been able to find mentioned anywhere else on the Internet.

The application is now called Planz. There is a interesting video on the website.

It remains to be checked out. Hopefully, this is a what Tranglos is looking for.

« Last Edit: November 06, 2011, 07:39:02 AM by DerekHal » Logged
tranglos
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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2011, 06:54:49 AM »

What IQ version are you using ? There was a compatibility problem with IE 9 and some of the components IQ uses. The last build solves that problem AFAIK.
Otherwise, I really don't see what could be the problem as I've never seen anyone complain about that in the forums -- apart from the IE9 compatibility problem.

Hi Armando! I was using InfoQube0.9.25W1Portable. What happened was that I would click New -> New IQBase with sample data, and as soon as the file was loaded and I tried to resize the two panels, the application would freeze like this:



...and it would stay like that until I killed the process. (The title bar message is Windows saying "no response")

This does not seem to occur in the latest build, thanks for that!

Your list of how InfoQube handles pretty much all my requirements and nice-to-have's is amazing! I'll be giving it a try.
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« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2011, 08:27:05 AM »

The application is now called Planz.

Not updated for 1½ year, and the forum is not working
probably because of...:

Quote from: Planz
Give Planz a Try but Remember…

Above all, remember that Planz is a prototype, not a product.
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Armando
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« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2011, 09:39:39 AM »

Hi Armando! I was using InfoQube0.9.25W1Portable. What happened was that I would click New -> New IQBase with sample data, and as soon as the file was loaded and I tried to resize the two panels, the application would freeze like this:

Yes, exactly. I'm still on XP so I never experienced that. Good to know that was the problem.

Your list of how InfoQube handles pretty much all my requirements and nice-to-have's is amazing! I'll be giving it a try.

Yes, I think it handles pretty much all your requirements and much more. However, you can really use it like a simple one pane outliner and don't bother with all the other features (equations, calendar, etc.). Many many things are configurable in the options and in other menus -- which is both good and bad, depending on your perspective and needs...

I've been using it for almost... 4 years ! and still am. Note that a few things are still unfinished (the calendar, mostly, and some features haven't been implemented yet. The UI is supposed to be rethought to ease filter use.)

A couple suggestions :
- start to build your DB with the Sample DB. NOT the blank one.  It's much easier to understand the basic principles if you start with the sample.
- you can probably figure the software by yourself, but I'd say that sections 2.05 and mostly 2.06 of the manual will help you understand IQ's basic principle (it covers what are grids, items and fields and how IQ basically works).


What are those basic principles ? Mainly that the grids just show items depending on chosen filters. Items don't belong to grids. Hence, you can have a DB full of items but don't see any in any grids because you haven't set the right filters in your grids (To see those filters in a grid, just press alt-s : here's the "source" bar.)

Here's an excerpt of section 2.05 :

Quote
1- All the information in IQ is stored in a database.

2- In the database, there are multiple items which can have different characteristics.

3- These items characteristics are recorded in fields

4- Items and fields are displayed/showed in grids (tables) : the items are displayed as rows, the fields are columns. (Note : we won't go into the details of a grid for now, but... let's just say that grid isn't like a traditional folder : an item doesn't "belong" to a grid as it can show any item that meets certain filter criteria. We'll learn about filters later.)

So, to summarize :  we usually talk about items (rows) and their fields (columns) inside a grid (table).


Don't hesitate to ask questions in the forum or here.

IMO, IQ's basic principles are simple, but there are so many ways to achieve stuff that it can get complex. Especially when you use functions and try to filter out/in items in a grid, etc., as you can either do that through the columns headers or through the source bar (alt-s)... or through both, etc.
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« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2011, 09:46:03 AM »

Here's a quick review of Planz:

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« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2011, 06:49:20 PM »

Loosely belonging to the same category. Scrivener for windows has reached 1.0

Quote
Prefer a more traditional planning environment? View and edit the synopses and meta-data of your documents in Scrivener’s powerful outliner. Organise your ideas using as many or few levels as you want and drag and drop to restructure your work. Check word counts, see what’s left to do using the Status column. Scrivener’s outliner is easy on the eyes, too, making it ideal for reading and revising an overview of a section, chapter or even the whole draft.

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php
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« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2011, 01:00:16 PM »

Hi Tranglos -- just to let you know that there's another build, W3,  adding a couple new useful features and solving a few problems (like clipping when IE9 is installed).
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« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2011, 02:18:05 AM »

Hello,

  I'm one of the creators of Checkvist, and this tool is worth considering regarding your needs.

  Please note, Checkvist is strongly keyboard-centric, it is supposed you can do almost everything from the keyboard.

> - Ability to hold more than 1 line of text in an item. Few desktop apps can do that, and almost none does it well. Even MLO can't, and when you're limited to one-liners, you can't really type what you're thinking. Adding notes in a separate pane is not a substitute, since you have to constantly jump between the outline and the notes pane, which kills your flow!

   You can add new line when adding an item with Shift+Enter - thus adding multiline text.
 
> - Fast instant search with filtering, just like WorkFlowy! No Ctrl+F and show a dialog box, that's so 1990s!

  You have this. Focus filtering field with '/' and start typing.

> - Virtual views, where items are filtered based on user criteria (and shown as a flat list). MLO does that.

  If you filter your list (using tags, due dates, changed: last week etc.) you can create a permalink to such filtered view, which will keep your filtering + collapse/expand state of the items. This permalink can be sent to you colleagues (you need to share your list explicitly first).

> - Keyboard shortcuts to edit/rearrange the outline structure

  Use '?' to see keyboard shortcuts - there are many. Ctrl + Up/Down/Home/End to rearrange items, Tab, Shift+Tab etc.

> - Some form of appending additional, unobtrusive notes to items.

  Use 'nn' shortcut to add notes. Also try 'aa' shortcut for more commands.

  Please write kirsa@checkvist.com if you have any questions.
 
  All the best,
  KIR
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« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2011, 10:46:29 AM »

UPDATED sorry, I didn't see that Checkvist had already been mentioned in the thread.

Hello,

  I'm one of the creators of Checkvist, and this tool is worth considering regarding your needs.

Welcome to DonationCoder, and thanks for making this important disclosure. However, it appears you may have missed the words "hate web apps" in the title of the post. Or do you have an offline version?

« Last Edit: November 17, 2011, 11:36:04 AM by daddydave » Logged
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« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2011, 11:24:13 AM »

Tranglos, I've also been searching for a long time for something like this.  I'm familiar enough with you to say that IQ would probably be overkill for you, but it doesn't hurt to try.  I would love it if you could program it, you'd do it right.

I f'ing hate all these cloud apps.  All the programs I seem to want now are all cloud apps.  They are slow, their interface is like you said a step backwards.

Planz is good!  I like it, I may use it for a while and see if it gets me off MLO.  I don't think it will be able to fulfill all the things you want, but I don't know of any program that can do all that.  it would be awesome if something did.  I'd like to see this program mature, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
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« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2011, 07:30:54 PM »

Tranglos, I've also been searching for a long time for something like this.  I'm familiar enough with you to say that IQ would probably be overkill for you, but it doesn't hurt to try. 

My 2c : While I agree that IQ could be overkill for very very simple usage (e.g. you just want to be able to type text, without any needs for an outline), I can tell you that Pierre himself uses IQ for mostly simple things (with the occasional complex stuff, of course)... And he's the developer.

The cool thing with IQ is that you don't need to use the fancy stuff to take advantage of some the flexibility (e.g. : if you're just interested in an app allowing you to add Boolean/check box felds, then so be it...).

But then, if later your needs expand, you're not stuck trying to find another solution, export or sync your data, etc, etc.
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« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2011, 09:35:07 AM »

Tranglos, I've also been searching for a long time for something like this.  I'm familiar enough with you to say that IQ would probably be overkill for you, but it doesn't hurt to try. 

My 2c : While I agree that IQ could be overkill for very very simple usage (e.g. you just want to be able to type text, without any needs for an outline), I can tell you that Pierre himself uses IQ for mostly simple things (with the occasional complex stuff, of course)... And he's the developer.

The cool thing with IQ is that you don't need to use the fancy stuff to take advantage of some the flexibility (e.g. : if you're just interested in an app allowing you to add Boolean/check box felds, then so be it...).

But then, if later your needs expand, you're not stuck trying to find another solution, export or sync your data, etc, etc.
Agreed, if you try IQ and it fits the bill, it's definitely the way to go.  I also use IQ in mostly simple ways, except for some of the stuff in the project management grid, but Armando did all the hard leg work on that one.
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