Fargo Makes Outlining On The Web Clean And Easy

Bakari Chavanu 17-09-2013

One of the best ways to get started with any type of project is to either brainstorm and outline ideas, or use some sort of mapping technique. For outlining, a new HTML5 web application written in JavaScript called Fargo, just might be one of the best tools for creating, storing, and collaborating on outline documents.


Saikat has shared five outlining tools for writers and artists 5 Tools For Outlining Ideas For Writers And Artists An outline is nothing but a hierarchical breakdown of what you plan to write or create. Arranged according to levels of importance and flow, and marked by numbers, roman numerals, headings-subheadings, indentations, or any other... Read More , and while they are very good, Fargo offers a few unique features that users may find useful. As an online application there’s no need to install the application on your computer. As a user, the application stays updated, and you can easily share your outline for viewing or collaboration.

Basic Features

Fargo can be as simple and advanced as you need it to be. When you first download Fargo, it will ask to connect to your Dropbox What Is Dropbox? The Unofficial Dropbox User Guide What is Dropbox and how do you use it? Our Dropbox user guide will explain everything you need to know to get started. Read More account, where it saves your documents in a single sub-folder (Dropbox > Apps > Fargo). You can disconnect Fargo from your Dropbox account by simply deleting the folder it adds to your account.

Fargo dropbox

The time saving touch is that don’t have to go into your Dropbox Fargo folder in order to retrieve documents. Fargo works like a traditional desktop software application. So, you just need to go to File > Open… to see a list of your outlined documents or you can search them by name.

To just start with Fargo, simply click on the + button and give your document a title in the pop-up box. Your document is automatically saved, and you can start typing the first item of your outline. As with traditional outliners, you hit the Return key (Enter in Windows), followed by the tab key in order to indent and type additional items under the first item after the top-level heading.


Fargo file open

When creating an outline, you might type all of your possible top-level headings first. To do this in Fargo, you hit the Return key after each heading, and then come back to each heading to add sub-items. In order to add a new top-level heading after a list of sub-items, it’s best to type the new heading as a sub-item, select it (by clicking on the arrow for the item), and then simply hit the Shift+Tab keys to move the item to the left. (Note: As with frequently used applications on my Mac, I map shortcuts in BetterTouchTool Power Up Your Mac With Advanced BetterTouchTool Automations I started using BetterTouchTool back in 2011, and since then it has become one of the top three Mac applications for boosting my productivity and streamlining my workflow. Though BTT can be used by any... Read More or Keyboard Maestro Automate Everything On Your Mac with Keyboard Maestro [Mac] I've written several articles about Mac automation, including a MUO Automation Guide on how to get started with Apple's Automator and the built-in OS X features for creating smart folders, playlists, albums, and mailboxes. But... Read More  to activate menu items more quickly.)

You can also click on Outliner > Show arrow pad from the menu bar. From there, simply click on the left arrow to place the item as a new top-level headline.

Fargo arrow pad


You can use the arrow pad to organize items. To delete an item, select it and click the Delete button. Fargo also allows you to drag and reorganize items using your cursor. Though Fargo is a web application, it has its own set of keyboard shortcuts for navigating and editing your documents. Click on Docs > Cribsheet to see all available shortcuts.

Fargo cribsheet

Under the Outliner menu item, you can choose to collapse and expand items as you do in most outliners. But take a second look at the list of menu items under Outliner and you will see Choose Icon…, which allows you to add an icon to your individual items. Fargo includes hundreds of icons, from Font Awesome, for all types of subjects, including simple arrows and social network logos, to assorted tags, media, and web related icons and actions.

Fargo icons


Fargo also puts other formatting items (Bold, Italics, Strike-through, and web links) on the left side of the document area for quick access. Unlike creating outlines in MS Word, you’re not distracted by lots of buttons and features that you probably rarely use.

You may be wondering, though, how do you change the font style and size of a document. With Fargo, you get a wider range of font styles, that is if you know the name of the font style you want to use. Click on File > Outline settings… and type in the font style and size you want to use. (I like the clean Avenir font used in the Day One Keep a Digital Diary with Day One for Mac OS X and iOS Everyone has a story to tell. It's not always a story in need of an audience, sometimes a story just needs to be told. You may want to continue the journal you started when you... Read More journal application.)


You can open more than one document in Fargo, and thankfully they are kept organized into tabs, instead of separate windows. However, if you need to view two or more documents side-by-side, simply right-click on a title link and open it in a new browser window.


Fargo tab documents

Other Features

The developers of Fargo, Small Picture, seem to be dedicated to building Fargo, and also to keeping it simple and approachable. A few of its advanced features include the ability to use Fargo with WordPress, encrypt documents, create and share an RSS feed for posted documents, run JavaScript code, and use CSS to further stylize text.

Fargo RSS feed

You can change the attributes of an outline (Outliner > Edit Attributes…), as well as keyword search documents. You can share your documents with others by providing a public link to individual documents (File > Get Public Link). In turn, the collaborators you share a Fargo document link with will need to copy and paste that link into File > Open By URL. The file should open in a new tab in their Fargo account. When the collaborator updates his or her outline, the icon for that document will change from a person to a lightning bolt. See this documentation for more information about sharing Fargo documents.


If you’re trying to work paperless, and maybe add one less application to your laptop computer, Fargo is a web application you will want to bookmark and use. It’s clean, easy to use, and free. Fargo comes with plenty of how-to documentation, plus a few YouTube videos produced by one of the developers, Dave Winer.

Let us know what you think of Fargo, and what features, if any, you would like to see added.

Explore more about: Digital Document, Dropbox, Writing Tips.

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  1. Trinae
    December 25, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Is there an offline mode to use Fargo? I don't have an internet connection all day, especially when I'm writing, so this would be useful.

    • HansBKK
      January 15, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      As a web app, it's "not allowed" to save to the local filesystem, but hee hee - it "only" saves to your Dropbox, which of course you can put/link to anywhere on any device.

    • HansBKK
      January 15, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      Seems designed for full-keyboard devices.

      On Android, having a hard time, would rather not have to use the Hacker's keyboard.

      Suggestion - if I haven't missed something obvious; if I have do please enlighten me!

      Long-press (aka right-click on other platforms?) on a wedge should bring up a menu of everything you can do to operate on a node/tree/subtree with the keyboard.