The fine knowledge management app no one talks about
It seems these days that everyone is looking for, writing about or creating the ideal note-taking/task management application. There are so many choices, I’ve actually started a Dynalist document to keep track of them.
But one app that I find notoriously missing from this discussion is called Legend (it used to be called Moo.do, in case that rings any bells).
I am not affiliated with Legend and do not get any compensation for this article.
Legend falls into the category occupied by the likes of Workflowy, Dynalist and even Roam Research, because most fundamentally it uses outlines to manage your information. But to call Legend an outliner is to belie its many practical uses. Legend isn’t merely an outliner with other features grafted on. It is an outlining app with useful information management tools integrated into its core functionality. I hope this will be clearer as you read on.
In Legend you create documents — the top level organization tier.
There is a plan to change the database structure and move away from individual documents; however, this may be more of an under-the-hood-type of change, so you will still start by creating “root” topics that appear like individual documents, if I understand it correctly. I am going to use the term “document” here, because I find it clearer.
A document holds several types of blocks, accessible with the “/” key. Each block can nest under the one above and there is no practical limit to how much you can nest your blocks. Thus the outliner part!
So far none of this should be new. It is how most modern information managers work.
You view your documents through “boards.” A board can be as simple as a single pane, through which you navigate/write a single document. Or it can be a set of panes that can provide different windows into your current document or views into various documents. You can use Legend’s powerful filtering function to ferret out in one pane just the information you want to see, while viewing the entire document in another pane. See the trees in one pane and the forest in another.
Let me give you an example. I have one document I call my bullet journal. If you are familiar with the analog bullet journal system, you will know that it is composed of daily log pages (daily notes) and pages dedicated to a single topic (collections). I’ve created my bullet journal board to show me three panes:
- My daily logs (hoisted to the current date)
- A list of my collections
- An open tasks pane
So I add bullet items to my daily log, including any tasks that crop up. At the end of the day, if not sooner, I can drag and drop any item that belongs in a specific collection from the daily log pane into the collection pane (if I want to leave the original note in place, I can “mirror” it). And as time goes along, all my open tasks appear in the open tasks pane, so I an stay on top of them.
But wait, there’s more.
When you create a new pane, you can select it to be an outline, a list (the outline flattened), or a calendar. You can add a date (due date or event date) to any block in your outline, and it will populate to the appropriate date in the calendar.
You can also drag items from your outline in one pane onto the calendar to schedule that item. Because you can narrow the focus of the calendar view to one week, you can use this board combination to schedule your work as well as your appointments.
Your calendar can sync both ways with Google Calendar (I don’t use Google Calendar so can’t comment on how this works).
Legend also incorporates an email client, but to be honest, I have yet to figure out how to make use of this feature.
Some nice bells and whistles
There are a lot of thoughtful features in Legend. Here are some of them:
- Legend handles due dates well, including recurring tasks.
- You can add notes to any block, which opens a small rich text editor.
- Legend is available online through a browser, but also has desktop apps for Mac, Windows and Linux (I suspect these use Electron as a foundation if that matters to you), and is available on iOS and Android.
- You don’t have to be connected to the Internet to use Legend.
- It’s easy to drill down to focus on one topic while keeping the big picture in view. In your main outline, select the topic you want to work on and choose “open in a new pane.”
- Legend handles linked references nicely, allowing you to link to any item in any of your documents.
- Legend uses client-side AES-256 encryption to sync data securely.
In Legend, your information can look as simple as a text document, or as complex as a Trello board. I admire the app a lot. But if you like the spareness of an app like Workflowy, Legend may not be for you. But it is worth checking out if you’re in the market. The app is continually being developed. It costs as little as $4 per month (or possibly even less if you sign up for the $299 lifetime subscription).