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Building a template library


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This guide walks you through how to set up a template library in Workflowy. Regardless of what you're doing or how many people you're collaborating with, it's likely that there are some activities that will be done over and over again. Taking the time to organize a template library for the benefit of your collaborators will save you time and effort in the long run. In addition, using a template is a great way to standardize a process instead of asking someone to create a new item from scratch each time.

If you're still not convinced and need another good reason, consider how having templates makes it easy for the people you're working with to follow whatever process you have in place. By having a template that's ready to be filled out, you reduce the mental effort for the person that has to do the process and it more likely they'll provide the information required because it's clear in the template what's supposed to go in it.

So let's get right to it. The steps to create your template library are pretty simple:

  1. Figure out your common processes
  2. Create standard templates
  3. Organize them in a library

Figure out your common processes

No matter what type of collaboration you're doing, you're bound to have processes that repeat. That can be something like creating a support ticket, adding a journal entry, adding a new week to a board, creating meeting notes, and so on. Basically, anything you do over and over in Workflowy - is a great candidate for a template.

So take a moment to think about all the processes that take place in your workspace. Which of those repeat and require some sort of document or ticket to be created and filled out. In fact, you might already have some documents that could serve as the base for a template in your workspace.

For example, let's say you're running a bike shop and when a customer brings in their bicycle to be serviced, you have to create a ticket to track what needs to be done to the bike. Here's an example of what a ticket might look like:

Create standard templates

Since we have to create a ticket like this one for each client, it just makes sense to turn it into a template we can use over and over to save us some time. What we'll do is duplicate this ticket and keep only the parts that don't change. We'll also add a placeholder for things that do change but don't have a label, for example the client's name. We'll add an underscore to connect the word so it's easier to select if the person is using a mouse - they just need to double-click it and write the client's name.

For this next step you need to make sure you have the Template feature active on your account. To check, open up the settings panel and scroll to the toggle labeled 'Templates'. Make sure this is toggled on before continuing.

Now we can take our item and turn it into a template by opening the bullet menu of the item that contains the information for our template and selecting Make template. If you've never used this feature before, you might be a little confused by what happened. Basically, our ticket has become a template button we can click to create a new template. If we expand the contents of the button we can see our ticket's content. We can also see the code that will allow us to put this template in our library.

So now, whenever we need to create a ticket for a client, we simply click the button and get a blank template we can edit.

It's pretty straightforward if there's only one template or only a few templates that are commonly used in a given area like in our bicycle shop example. But what if you happen to need a bunch of different templates. Keeping them all right where you'll eventually need them can be cumbersome and impractical. For that let's look at another case.

Now let's imagine you're doing job interviews and have very different types of questions you ask people depending on what role they're applying for. You would need to keep all your templates in the area where you're going to use them - not a practical solution. And what if you need those templates in multiple areas, you would need copies of them everywhere! Instead we'll use one of Workflowy's powerful features to make this super easy.

What we'll do is create our templates one time and keep them in our library. Then, whenever we need one we'll simply pull it to our current location with a mirror. So let's first start with the template.

Next, we need to give our template a tag that will make it easy for us to pull into our workspace. We recommend using abbreviations to make the tag quick to type. For example, we might create tag like #t-int-plumber. #t for template, int for interview, and plumber for well plumber. So now we could tag our other job interview templates with a similar scheme.

Now to actually use this method we would do the following:

  1. Put our cursor where we want the template to go
  2. Type double parenthesis to bring up the mirror widget
  3. Type in the tag for our template and select it
  4. Open the bullet menu for the item and detach the mirror

It's a lot of text to describe what is actually a very quick and simple process. So the two main benefits of using this method are that you don't need to keep all your templates in the space where you'll need them ahead of time, and because the template is centralized, you only have to update it once in your library and from that moment on when you use it, it'll be the latest version.

Organize them in a library

Lastly, let's discuss the library itself. For templates where you want to tag and copy them with mirrors, a dedicated library is the obvious place to put them. However, you should also keep copies of templates that are only used in a single place like with our bike shop example.

A good reason to do that is that is that your template library serves as a central repository for everyone you're collaborating with. Other folks you're collaborating with could benefit from your templates. In addition, the library serves as a backup in case you accidentally delete or modify a template and want to go back to an older version.

If you already have a centralized wiki or section where you document things like your workspace's processes, that would be a natural place to put your template library. You should also group templates by area or function to make it easier for other collaborators to browse and search.

And that's how we create a simple template library that will save us and our collaborators countless hours if we take the time to figure out which processes need templates, spend some time making those templates, and organizing them in a library for everyone's benefit.

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