Fargo solves outline syncing and sharing

I love outlines. One of my favorite writing and thinking tools is OmniOutliner. Most of my teaching notes start life in an outline, and some complete classes live within a single outline. Every research paper I’ve written in the past 8 years has started as an outline. I can’t imagine a better tool for organizing and re-organizing ideas as I think through the best way to explain something. There are two problems with outlining software, though: sync and sharing. Both of these problems are solved by Fargo, an outlining application that lives completely in the browser.

In my dream world, the outlines I keep on my Mac would automatically sync with the outliner on my iPad. Even though they’re working on it, the Omni developers don’t yet have this working between their Mac and iPad clients. I can use Dropbox to act as a middleman, but that’s not the same as real sync; I have to remember to manually update to the latest version of the file when I’m using the iPad, and to export changes before I open the file again on the Mac. Ugh, might as well use a floppy while you’re at it.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

fargoAppAs a native web application that runs in the browser, Fargo is never not in sync. Here is how it works: when you first load http://fargo.io in your browser, you are prompted to grant access to your Dropbox, where it stores your outlines in a folder. From that point, any outlines you open or create in Fargo are always in sync. I was able to export my topic outline from OmniOutliner as an OPML file, move it into the Fargo folder in my Dropbox, and open it from within the Fargo app running in my browser on my Mac and iPad. I like to teach with my notes on my iPad, and this has been a perfect solution. Editing on the iPad has already improved significantly from the first days after launch to detect the touch interface and allow single taps instead of double-clicks, for instance.

The other major bummer with outlines is that I’ve never found a good way to share them. I can’t send an OmniOutliner file and expect anyone else to know what to do with it, and even the open OPML format is not widely known. I complain when somebody sends me a Word file, so I surely can’t be so hypocritical as to distribute an even more obscure file type. This means that at some point in the life of an outline, I have to give up and export to plain text or HTML, which means, from that point on, I lose most of the advantages of a real outliner.

Fargo has an answer to this problem too, with a built-in ‘Reader’ mode. In Reader, the outline is read-only and outlines can be shared through the Reader with anyone through a public link. For example, have a look at my outline on plant reproduction. I haven’t tried this with students yet, but I think it might be a solution to the sharing problem for teaching outlines while I am still editing and building the outline.

Fargo is being developed by a startup of two called Small Picture, one of whom is Dave Winer, who is, in my opinion, the prototypical blogger, but I’ll write more about him and how he has inspired me some other time. Suffice to say, I think the small team at Small Picture is onto some big ideas.

8 thoughts on “Fargo solves outline syncing and sharing

  1. Good review and Fargo has some nice features. I like the new post date/timestamp feature, the dropbox integration and the OPML support … However I still prefer Workflowy because of it’s powerful searching, tagging and hoisting. If only it would import / export OPML !

    1. Workflowy? It does… well, via cut&paste unfortunately.
      I like the cleaner interface and quicker way of working with Workflowy.
      I haven’t used fargo too much yet.
      What I would love would be a way to export as a single page HTML, PDF or something the like (with the aim of either prodicing a readable PDF of a MS office document of some kind)

  2. Did I understand you to say that you can open Fargo on the iPad (to read an exported OmniOutliner file)? I haven’t been able to manage that. If you did, how?

    1. Fargo works quite well on the iPad, I use it daily. You have to authorize it to use your Dropbox account the first time you open it in any new browser, but it works great after that. As far as opening an exported OmniOutliner file, that can be done as long as the OPML file is in your Fargo folder in Dropbox. You can open any OPML file using the File – Open command. Let me know if you need more help, or go to the Fargo mailing list for help.

      1. Hmm. No trouble authorizing it for Dropbox, but in Chrome and Safari, I couldn’t get it to recognize my Logitech keyboard, so couldn’t add or change anything. I’ll have to dig a little deeper. Thanks for the comment.

      2. I’ve not tried it on the iPad with an external keyboard. I wonder if you need to toggle between text and structure modes by pressing Enter (not the same as Return) on your keyboard, as described on the Cribsheet?

      3. Doesn’t work with the Logitech keyboard, and I can’t figure out how to hit tab without. I guess just for reading things, the iPad works, but not for creation. But I know Winer is still working on things. Thanks for replying. I’m a big fan of outliners, too.

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