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Tips for getting a handle on Legend

I’ve written before about a personal knowledge management application called Legend. Since that article, I’ve fully adopted Legend as my primary information management tool. I am finding it remarkably useful, but it took me a while to become comfortable with Legend. In this article I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned that have helped me “conquer” Legend, and which might help others attempting to adopt Legend into their work flow.

First, read this great introduction to Legend.

Understand the difference between documents, panes, and boards

First, some definitions:

  • Document: An outline
  • Pane: The windows in which you view and edit your outlines
  • Boards: Set collections of panes

In most information managers, the left-side panel is where you navigate your folders and files. That’s not how Legend works. In the default view, the left panel is where you select the board you want to work on. Boards are views into your documents, but not the documents themselves. You can delete a board without effecting your documents. Something that helps me keep this straight is the option to arrange the list of boards along the top of the screen, instead of on the left. Then boards look like tabs, which is a helpful way to think of them. Select this option by clicking on the three dots at the top of the left sidebar.

Use the documents view to navigate among and within your outlines

You edit your documents in panes. You can open your list of documents by clicking on the documents icon at the top left of the pane. Now you have a more traditional (well, as traditional as Legend gets) navigation panel. You can see the list of your documents, and you can use the little disclosure arrows on the left of each document for a “table of contents” of headings in the document, which you can click on to navigate to that heading. Note, headings only show up in the documents panel if they have content nested under them.

Set the default view for your most used boards

One of the things that tripped me up with Legend is when I would have board set up, but then I’d navigate to another section of the document or to a new document altogether. Then I would have to recall the initial state of the board to get back to that view. But there is a much easier way.

In the board view you expect to use the most, right click on the board title and select “save view as default.” Then you can navigate to a new view in any pane, do the work you want to do. When you want to return to the original view, right click on the board title and select “restore default view.”

This tip alone will greatly improve your Legend experience.

Make good use of the filters

Legend has a number of very useful filters, and makes it very easy to apply them. You can filter the view of any pane using the filter box, which sits at the top right. By default, the checked (or completed) items filter is selected as a negative, so completed items are cleared from the view. Personally, I like to see my completed items, so I usually deselect that filter. Clicking into the filter box reveals the standard filter options. Selecting one of the icons finds instances of that type of entry (i.e. high priority). Double click on an icon to exclude items that match that selection.

Filters are great for winnowing down the items in a document. In my Action Journal board I have one pane open that shows me my daily log. In a second pane I show just open tasks from my entire journal.

Get to know and understand the various views

Just to the left of the filter box is the view selector icon. There are two types of options in the view:

  • View. Select from outline, list (your items without hierarchy), and calendar. These are pretty self explanatory.
  • Group by. How you elect to group the items in the pane has a huge impact on what you see and how you see it. It is worth experimenting with these to get familiar with them (and if you do, don’t forget the tip above about setting and restoring the default view.

Don’t be intimidated by the “blank canvas”

As you can see, Legend is a very versatile, flexible tool. This is the secret to its power. But it can also be an achilles heel for new users. That’s because Legend doesn’t prescribe how to use it. Task apps like Todoist or TickTick have some flexibility, of course, but for the most part you can use them intuitively. Make tasks, assign due dates, and organize them into projects.

When you open Legend for the first time, you have almost a blank canvas awaiting your brilliant set up. (Blank really isn’t true, because Legend sets up a Home board for you.) My best advice for getting started is to take it slow. Start with one document and one board of one pane. You will soon be adding views organically, instead of trying to build a whole PKM from the start.

This set of tips is only scratching the surface of the features available in Legend. So my final tip is to make use of all the excellent help features. Access the newly revamped help resources through the gear icon at the bottom of the sidebar… or on the far right of the sidebar if you’ve taken my advice and listed the boards along the top.



Legend is designed for you — to work the way you do and to be the one place for all your productivity needs.

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