At the company I co-founded, we have tried for quite some time to find a collaboration software solution that works for young, free-range, independent workers. We’re settling on Dynalist for now – which is not open source 🙁 but otherwise close-to-perfect for our uses, after some necessary adaptations.

Below is a list of various applications I studied during our search, ordered roughly by suitability for our purposes, the best first.

  1. Dynalist. Not open source. Unlimited nodes in private lists even in the free version. Tags, due dates, Markdown formatting. Nice search options with link to searches, allowing “GTD” type selections of nodes like “everything due in the next week”.
  2. Workflowy. Not open source. Like Dynalist, but some features less. “The original”.
  3. Open Source Dynalist / Workflowy replacements. Of course that would be the ultimate solution, but we’re not there yet. I found the several promising base software applications though, if you want to invest some work (best first):
    1.  Treenote. So far, an offline outliner application similar to Workflowy. An online variant with realtime collaboration is in the making as a master thesis project, and “nearly finished” as of 2017-11. That could be the complete solution, so let’s keep an eye on what happens here.
    2. Etherpad Lite. A proven, open source realtime collaborative editor. There are multiple open source variants (most notably Stekpad / formerly Hackpad), and multiple plugins. However so far, there is nothing like the list folding and zoom-to-item features of Dynalist / Workflowy – it’s all one long document, and the tasklist plugin only adds checkboxes before list items (see). Tag, search and filter functions are also not nearly as functional for a GTD / task list application as they are in Dynalist / Workflowy, and there is no deadline feature. But the collaborative editing part is there (incl. full history and authorship), the plugin infrastructure is there, so it seems doable. Given the advanced state of its realtime editing capabilities, and the difficulty to get this part right, this is probably a better base software than any of the below alternatives.
    3. Vimflowy. See also here on Github. It’s the closest open source Dynalist-like software that I found. Can be used with the mouse, while the Vim modes are also useful after getting used to them. It can do remote data storage, but unfortunately no collaborative real-time editing. So that is a major thing to add (but could be simple when not requiring true realtime updates, rather AJAX to make changes, and a button to pull changes). Also the design and a lot of little bugs have to be fixed. But it’s promising, and in active development as of 2017-11.
    4. ndentJS. Engine / base component for a hierarchical list widget with realtime collaborative editing.
    5. Concord. Another open source, JavaScript engine for Workflowy / Dynalist style task management applications. Seemingly the only one that is available open source. Documentation is here. Needs some programming to create a useful application out of this, though, because even in its most advanced incarnation (Fargo), it was “just” an outliner (see), from which we would be missing real-time collaboration features, specialized features for tasks etc..
    6. HackFlowy. And another engine / base component for a hierarchical list widget with realtime collaborative editing.
  4. Taiga. Open source, kanban style collaboration tool. Nice, but you have to like the kanban way of doing things. For my taste, it is still too much form filling for truly agile, “uninhibited” collaboration. In large, esp. public projects where you need a full revision history (such as open source projects with a public issue tracker), Taiga is a great tool though – collaboration has to be less agile, more formalized there to work.
  5. Wekan. Open source, similar to Taiga and Trello.
  6. Tracks. Open source, Ruby based GTD application. Mature, but not much in development. More than 10 years in the making. Misses a more comfortable user experience (no drag&drop between projects etc., rather some form filling) and misses collaboration features (every user account gets to manage their own tasks only, it seems). Otherwise, very nice. You can try it out with a test account on gtd.pm.
  7. Gingko. Not open source. Very nice and somewhat similar to Dynalist and Workflowy concept-wise. However, more specialized for writing longer texts. While it can be used for task-based collaboration, it is lacking specialized features for task-based collaboration on the other hand (no due dates, no “focus” mode). Pay-what-you-like sales model, the free version is limited to 100 cards per month.
  8. TDO. Open source, minimalistic, nice little kanban style task manager. But allows no sub-tasks (which is what I don’t like about kanban style), and seemingly no made for collaboration.
  9. Nitro 3.0. Open source, nice, collaborative task manager with markdown, due dates, priorities, notes on tasks etc.. It just seems that tasks cannot be nested but are contained in multiple flat lists (if judging from Nitro 1.5 is any indication). Also, Nitro 3.0 is not yet released as of November 2017 and it is a complete rewrite, so it will probably not be available as stable software for some months still. But then, definitely worth a look.

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