Another long post I’ve been meaning to get to… sorry if it’s a bit rambling, but I don’t have time to condense it, and it helps me sort some questions out. Hopefully it might help others too.
Looking back at my recollections from when I was a new user of Moo.do (Legend), in March 2021, until now (well, I still feel mostly like a new user): I had been evaluating and comparing many different outliner apps, to replace Circus Ponies Notebook that I’ve been using for many years, so I was already familiar with the basics of outliners. In my notes at the time, I wrote something along the lines of this, which kind of summarizes my first impressions of Legend overall:
Wow! So many great features! I’m going to use this! Take my money!
Wow! So many bugs! I’m not sure if I even can use this!
A lot of things have changed since then, but I still have more or less that feeling. I still go back and forth between being excited about the potential of using Legend, and being frustrated that I can’t actually, because things don’t work. Some are minor but glaring annoyances, and some major broken functionality. To be fair, a couple of critical issues for me aren’t really bugs, but small missing features, but they stop me from importing my files from Notebook, which is a dealbreaker.
What sold me on Legend was:
- It’s an outliner, that can import/export files, including some metadata like creation dates, via OPML.
- There’s a mobile app for my phone, with end-to-end encryption, while still supporting local-only files on the desktop for even better security.
- Mirroring, so I can replace my “Today” list in Things 3, among other things.
- Shared collaborative documents in the cloud.
- Reasonable pricing, and lots of functionality for free (e.g. unlimited items).
Unfortunately, I have to report that few of those have actually panned out for me. Despite some much-appreciated date-import support being added, I still can’t import 90% of my old files because of line breaks, I can’t import sensitive data to a local-only file, and if I do import dates metadata, I can’t export it again (though none of the other apps except Notebook export dates data either). The encryption and cloud/local system does seem to work pretty well. Mirroring is so buggy that I literally can’t use it. My experience trying to share documents with people hasn’t gone very well (see below). Finally, the price has more than doubled, which surprised me. So far, I’m still not using Legend for very much, and I haven’t bought a subscription. Because Notebook doesn’t work at all anymore on the new Macs, I ended up paying for another app, NoteTaker, that doesn’t have most of Legend’s features, but does allow me to import (but not re-export) my old files with metadata and line breaks.
I’m still looking for something where I can be sure to get my files in intact, and safely back out again. At the moment I’m looking at open-source alternatives, and maybe a coding bootcamp for me… I’m afraid of getting burned again by an app developer unexpectedly shutting down like Circus Ponies did. With Legend, because it’s a cloud app, I don’t even have the option of keeping an old computer around that can still run it.
Another thing that I wrote in my notes back in March, was how little the Help file helped. Also, that there wasn’t a coherent user forum. Both of those things have been greatly improved! The full Help file explains a lot of things that were missing. There is some room for improvement: the brief section about links doesn’t really cover it, for example, how the autocomplete works. There are other areas that are very sparse, like Sync Plugins, etc. It should maybe contain the list of hotkeys, or at least tell you where to find them. It’s pretty good now, but still seems like it could use someone to spend a day or two fleshing it out a little more. I wish I could open it in the desktop app instead of it opening the browser. Also, maybe there could be a section in the forum for discussing improvements to it.
I’m not sure what to say about the in-app help menu. I never use it, I go directly to the full Help file. It’s hard for me to say anymore what it would be like for a brand-new user. Yes, it’s shorter to read, but it skips over a lot of stuff. A lot of it duplicates the pop-up “tool tips”. I don’t get what’s going on with the checkmarks. There’s at least one error - under Panes, it says to press command-Enter (on Mac) to zoom in. But that “completes” the item (even though it’s not a task) - it should be control-Enter. Even though there’s a big green button saying “View Help Page”, it’s conceivable that someone might miss that, thinking that they’re already on the Help Page - since they chose “Help” from the menu. Maybe not, but it might be good if it was a bit more clear that the in-app menu is a sort of simple summary of basics, while there’s a full manual elsewhere. I’d prefer if both were in the main menu, like “Getting Started Tips”, showing the simple in-app menu, and “Help Page” or “Reference Manual”, that would open that directly - and as I said, ideally directly in the desktop app, where it could open in a new window.
Apart from missing functionality, one of the most challenging things has been getting used to the ideas of boards, panes, documents, and projects, and how those things map (or don’t) to concepts from other apps I’m used to. The Help does a better job of explaining now, but I still really struggle. By now, I pretty much understand how they work, but I still don’t feel like I know how to make use of them effectively. It’s so different from the desktop apps I’ve always used, where you open each document in a window, and can move the windows around freely and drag things between them. Being able to open the same document in more than one Pane is great, but also confusing if you’re not used to that. Not being able to drag items between windows/tabs is frustrating. The fact that the expansion state - which items are collapsed or not - isn’t part of the document, but seems to be attached to the Pane, drives me mad! (and will be a separate long post). Sometimes I need to work on half a dozen documents or sections in a day, and I feel like I’m constantly juggling panes, needing to have a bunch open at once and scroll sideways to find the one I want to go to, instead of maybe having them in windows or tabs; never having them the width I want, and so on. I made a “bookmarks” document with frequently-used links, that helps. I have the feeling that there are better ways of dealing with this, but I can’t figure it out. I wish there were some kind of tutorials about things like this. I do find videos with live demonstrations to be probably the most helpful, in addition to a well-written manual.
I was thoroughly confused by the boards. I thought that the ones that come by default: Today, Calendar, Mobile, etc., were fixed-function things. Like if you wanted to see the calendar, you had to go to the Calendar board. It took a long time to realize that they were just suggestions, with arbitrary names, set up with certain views, that you could delete, or set up new ones yourself, and put whatever panes, with whatever views, you want. Except for the Mobile board, which does have a special function of being shown on the mobile app. I think there needs to be a much clearer explanation of this in the help file.
I don’t actually use boards, nevermind different views, calendar, dates, agenda, filtering, and so on. Again, I can read something about these in the help file, but I don’t feel like I have any idea of how to make use of them. I’m still using Things 3 and Apple’s Calendar for most of that, and shuffling tasks around between apps. It’s not working nearly as well as I’d like. I had hoped that Legend could help me consolidate my notes and tasks, and maybe my schedule, in one place, but that hasn’t happened. In fact it’s kind of worse, because now I have a few notes and tasks I moved into in Legend, but most still in Notebook, Things, and Calendar, so now there are four apps to shuffle between instead of three, plus NoteTaker is now five.
I’m also still using Dropbox Paper for shared cloud documents. I did get one person to get a Legend account so we could share a document, and she was able to get access to it, but I think she found it too complicated and wasn’t happy about using it. There’s another person I need to share documents with, and with him, I wouldn’t even try. If I struggle even now to understand boards, panes, views, etc., he’ll never get it. I think Legend isn’t suitable for people who will just use it for one or two documents, who will lose their account login and password, and aren’t really motivated, committed, or willing to read the whole manual or remember how any of it works a month later. I wish there was a kind of very stripped-down user interface for other people, where I could just send them a secret link and they could use a simplified and intuitive shared outliner, without all the other bells and whistles, or the need for hours of study and practice.
On the other hand I wish that I could make use of the advanced features like e-mail integration, and link e-mails into my notes. But I don’t have a Google or Outlook account, and never will. Maybe someday there will be a plugin for Thunderbird, or just directly using IMAP. And maybe for iCal/CalDAV, instead of Google Calendar, and something other than Google Drive for files? But for now, I can’t use any of that.
One other thing that really struck me at the beginning was how little visibility Moo.do had. On YouTube, there are many channels of productivity gurus, reviewing and giving tutorials about various apps: Trello, Monday, Notion, Workflowy, Roam, and on and on. But nothing about Moo.do/Legend. I couldn’t find a review about it anywhere, and I almost passed it over. As I looked at it more closely though, and realized the level of features it had, and how favourably it compared to its closest competitors, I was really surprised. After the re-brand to Legend, I thought there would be a big publicity push, but I haven’t seen that, though maybe I’m not looking in the right places. I might be hesitant to do that right now though. If I was a reviewer, I’d have to take a couple of stars off the rating, because of the bugginess. I’m not sure if it’s appreciated just how much of a problem the bugginess is in Legend, compared to other apps. It’s great that new features are added, the filter interface is renovated, and so on. But I’m afraid that the interesting and creative work of inventing and impementing new ideas is (understandably I guess) in the forefront, while cleaning up the bugs and rough edges of them takes too much of a back seat, and the app really suffers.
I wish I could be a little more positive about my experience. Jay seems like a great guy, and I am really impressed with the features of Legend, it clearly beats out some other very popular apps. Or it would, if the features actually worked. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my particular case, well, that hasn’t been the case. I’d love to move all my stuff fully into Legend, but at the moment, that seems unlikely. I’m not sure what will happen next.