A few questions for Bike users

Hello, everyone.

I’m hoping to learn from other Bike users about how you use Bike. For example,

  1. What do you use Bike for? What is your workflow like?
  2. Do you use it in combination with any other apps?
  3. Do you store the output as Bike files or do you save the data in some other format?
  4. How do you manage your Bike files? E.g., save all the files in a folder in Finder? Coming from apps like Evernote and Ulysses, I’m a bit spoiled by their library structures and unsure of best practices for an app like Bike.

Thank you for any insights you can share.

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I use Bike in two ways.

First I’m using to track some project specific notes. Generally I do that by saving the Bike file into the project folder, so notes and project stay together. Most of my “projects” are programming, so I end up saving the file file into version control.

Second I use a temporary thinking area. Generally this isn’t a saved file, I just open a window and start typing out and organizing ideas related to whatever it is that I’m thinking about. I might leave that outline open (autosaved, but not saving to a particular location) and then delete whenever that idea is done.


Bike’s my scratch space. I save some files, but mostly I copy stuff somewhere else when it’s done. Instead of opening TextEdit to edit unstructured text or opening Google Docs for outlines, I open Bike now.


I outlined a movie I’m hired to rewrite. It worked amazingly well and helped me to see what happens where and eased the process of changing scene order and rewriting


I use Bike–and OmniOutliner–to “run my life”. I’m a web developer, and keep an outline for each of my clients that contains all the information I need to work with their sites. Each outline has a fairly standard format: Acct Information, General Information, History (records of meetings and actions), and Projects.

I use a similar format for personal projects I’m working on. Then there are special outlines with information relevant to the different businesses and other parties I work with in both personal and work lives. Then “aging” outlines, where notes I’m probably not going to need anymore get moved and then deleted after 30 days or a year, depending. And finally a priority-sorted “To Do” list with information supporting each item hierarchically contained beneath it. And, of course, an “In Box” where things get entered in meetings, conversations, or when a thought occurs–later to be organized.

After too many past experiences becoming dependent on an outliner that was discontinued and left me with an information “crisis”, I now make sure I’m using two products, so if one gets discontinued I can still migrate my outlines to the other. Right now Bike is the only outliner I’ve found that can compete with OmniOutliner in terms of (stability and) getting the outline concept right. And I definitely prefer its “open” file format.

In answer to your question, I keep my Bike outlines in Bike files, and keep them in a super-secure location since they include confidential information. I’d be hesitant to use a “library”-based product because of both security and stability concerns.


Here’s a more concrete example that I was working on yesterday:

This screen goes on for another 2 pages… so it’s not a very large outline, but it’s a big enough set of ideas that I can’t fit them all into my head.

The basic thing that I’m working on is Bike is starting to get more complex and I need to add some new objects to manage that complexity. The question is what new objects need to be added. To try to work that out I will often just work through the system from things that I know. For example Row, Outline and continue making a list that describes the system. At some point it starts to get hard to describe and so I start trying out adding new objects such as (right now) VisibleRows and see if that fits in.

I find this process of rewriting and re-reading the problem quite useful… or at least soothing :). Resting the parts of the design that I am know builds confidence, and gets all the details into memory so that I then have energy to trying adding new aspects to the design.

For programmers a more common way to do this sort of thing is by writing 2d charts, and that’s maybe a better way for many purposes, but I find it’s also a little easier to imagine that all the boxes and lines work when they really don’t. Writing out a list like this is generally how I do it :).


So far I just use it for to-dos and occasionally to wrassle through any exercise that requires hierarchical data. The only other app I am using right now for this kind of note taking is The Archive, a zettelkasten/personal wiki app that has a similar “bare bones” feel.

A long time ago, these needs were met by OmniOutliner and Voodoopad, respectively, but the last few versions of OmniOutliner just don’t feel very good to work in. And sadly, Voodoopad seems to be drifting into being unsupported.


I’ve been using Bike as a lightweight journal.


Same here. I’ve used the script Jesse provided at launch to set up the date as you did here @Blake. I also have used Bike to reverse outline a chapter I am writing for an edited volume (meaning you just write without a plan for one or two drafts, then outline what you’ve written to see how it all fits together).

I also have a Bike file for ongoing projects I’ve been working on, a place to keep notes to myself.

I have another file where I’ve drafted a proposal for an article I may write and still another Bike file where I kept notes for a peer review I conducted earlier in the summer.

Most recently, I have used Bike to bring some order to chaos in the curriculum to a new class I’ve been designing. Bike’s simple interface helps me to clear away the clutter and focus just on the words and importantly, the structure.


And one Last thing I’ve played with in Bike. Inspired by @Beck Tench (for the love of playfulness and visual fun). In the early days of working with Bike, I enjoyed playing with colors in the preferences < editor. I borrowed from BBedit, iA Writer (via The Archive style sheet) the Solarized website and the Nord website and came up with these combinations:

Solarized Light
Background - #fdf6e3
Text - 586E75

Solarized Dark
Background #002b36
Text #839496

Background - 222E33
Plain Text - DAE3E8

Background - 1D1E29
Plain Text - F9FAF4

BBEdit Light
Background - F7F7F7
Plain Text — 141414

BBEdit Dark
Background - 141414
Plain Text - ADADAD

BBEdit Dusk
Background - FBF3CD
Plain Text - 574E43

Seafoam (BBEdit)
Background - EAECFF
Plain Text - 5F646E

Nord Polar Night & Snow Storm Text
Background - 2E3440
Plain Text - ECEFF4

Nord Snowstorm
Background - D8DEE9
Plain Text - 2E3440

iA Writer Light
Background - F7F7F7
Plain Text - 1A1A1A

It’s just a fun thing to do. I don’t feel like I need a formal style sheet. Kudos to @Beck for ongoing inspiration.


I use Bike for a personal to-do list, and to organize my newsletter published through Ghost.io. Tried to do this with OmniOutliner but that was just too complex of a product, and I got tired of hitting Esc all the time to navigate the outline. I was so glad to stop using that app and switch to Bike.

But as suggested in another thread, I too would like some kind of ‘note’ row that would behave somewhat like OmniOutliner, where you can see the note in the context of the row, or you can see it in its own window.

In writing my publication I often have to paste lengthy texts copied from government websites, and it would be nice to have those as their own blobs instead of being treated the same as ordinary rows. But don’t ask me to describe further - I’ve deleted OmniOutliner!