Fargo Docs

Good morning and welcome to Fargo!

What is Fargo?

Fargo is a multi-tab outliner that stores files in Dropbox.

It's an HTML 5 app written in JavaScript that runs in web browsers.

Where is Fargo?

Basic outlining howto

Fargo is an outliner, of course, and it shares a common core with our other outlining product -- Little Outliner.

We've documented the basic functions of the outliner in the Outliner Howto.

You should probably read and understand that doc before reading this one.

How Fargo connects to Dropbox

When you launch the app for the first time a dialog appears confirming that you want to visit the Dropbox website to authorize Fargo to access a single folder in your Dropbox.

The folder is named Fargo, after the app. Some early users have a folder named smallPicture.

Dropbox plays the role of local storage

Little Outliner uses HTML 5 local storage to keep your outline text and your preferences.

Fargo uses Dropbox for the same purpose. The preferences are stored in a sub-folder named #prefs. Every time you change a pref or open or close a tab, Fargo saves the status in the #prefs folder.

Any other instances of Fargo that you have running observe the changes in this folder. So, for example, you could set up your desktop to have certain files open, and then when you access them from your iPad, it will have the same tabs open and they will have the same items expanded.

This level of synchronization is amazing to us too. We're still figuing out how we'll use it. ;-)

Fargo's File menu

The File menu contains commands that for the most part, create, open and close Dropbox files.

The Get Public Link gets you a link to the file in the current tab. All your Dropbox files are private, until you create a public link to one. Then whoever you give that link to has read-only access to the file.

The View in Reader command is new in Fargo 0.48.

The Outliner menu

Has a new command in it -- Edit Attributes, which allows you to (big surprise) edit the attributes of the bar cursor headline.

The System menu

We call the menu at the right edge of the menubar the System menu. The name of this menu is the name you are logged-into Dropbox with. If you pull down the menu you can Sign Out. This will go through the startup process again, and you can connect with another Dropbox account if you like, or just sign off to prevent local access to your folder.

Icons in left margin

The left margin in Fargo contains a column of icons for frequently used actions.

The + icon adds a new item to a calendar-structured sub-outline in the current outline. It creates headlines as it needs to. The top-level headline of the calendar is the current year. Under that is the month, and below that is an entry for each day. When you click the + it creates a new item under the current day, ready for you to type into it. Try it an you'll immediately see what it does.

The B, I and S icons bolden, italicize and strikethrough the selected text. If you're in structure mode, it does this to all the text in the bar cursor headline.

The link icon creates an HTML link if you're in text mode, or if you're in structure mode, it turns the headline into a link node.

The suitcase icon is a direct link to the Edit Attributes dialog.

The eye icon, if present, allows you to view the contents of the bar cursor headline on the web. For example if it's pointing to a link node, you'll visit the page the link node points to.


The Preferences dialog is organized into panels, one for each subject area.

The first panel, entitled You, asks for your name and email address. This information, if you provide it, is included in the OPML files we generate.

The Font panel allows you to set the font, size and line spacing of outlines as they are displayed in Fargo.

The CSS panel allows you to include CSS style information that controls everything about the way the page is displayed. There are lots of options here. For example, if you wanted to provide a background image to "skin" the Fargo app, you would add this bit to the CSS text.

body {



That will include a picture of Niagara Falls behind the outlines.

Styling outline text

The CSS panel mentioned in the Preferences section, above, can be used to style outline text by level. For example:

.concord-level-1-text {

font-family: Arial !important;

font-weight: bold !important;


.concord-level-1 {

margin-bottom: 8px !important;


Will make the top level heads bold and in Arial font and will add 8 pixels after every level.

To learn more about how this works, for styling experts, have a look at the generated HTML instructions in a good debugger.

Sharing your outlines

You can share outlines with the Small Picture Reader app. To use it,

1. Prepare an outline in Fargo that you want to share.

2. When you're ready, choose View in Reader in the File menu.

3. Reader should open, with your outline displayed.

4. You can then send the URL of that page to friends or colleagues, or use the Tweet icon in the left margin to send it to your Twitter followers.

Reader is always checking to see if your outline has updated, and when it does, it automatically displays the updated outline. If this bothers you, click the lock icon in the left margin. Reader will hold on to any updates, and only show them when you unlock it. When there are changes the lock icon will change from gray to green.

Here's an example of an outline from Fargo being viewed in Reader.

Outline titles and description

There are places where you need a long title for an outline, and places where you need a short one. A short title is good for a tab. But in the Reader app, you may want a longer more descriptive title. Also in Reader, you may want to provide a description for the outline. It's displayed in a smaller typeface just below the title.

To set the titles and description of an outline, activate its tab by clicking on its title, and choose Set Titles in the File menu.

Here's a screen shot of the dialog.

Here's an example, the outline of a presentation that has both a both long title and a description.

Open by URL

The command prompts for the address of an OPML file. The file opens in a read-only tab. If the file changes, the tab display updates to reflect the change.

It's like having a Reader tab inside Fargo. With this you can cook your own group of "Instant Outline" collaborators.

You could, for example, watch the updates to the Small Picture users' directory, which is an OPML file, using this command.

It's a deceptively small feature. It opens up a pretty large new set of applications for Fargo. Here's a great piece about Instant Outlining, written by Hutch Carpenter in 2009. That's what the Open by URL command enables.

This has been an elusive goal for many years. We had an I/O running at UserLand in 2001 when we were developing Radio. That's why we were able to get such an ambitious project done with a team that was so spread out geographically. With Fargo, it seems we may have I/O in a package that can be used by a lot more people.

Watched outlines, Bookmarks menu

There are two kinds of outlines in Fargo.

1. Editable outlines.

2. Watched outlines.

Editable outlines are in the Fargo sub-folder of your Dropbox Apps folder. Open them with the File/Open command. Watched outlines live elsewhere. You can open them in read-only mode via the Open By URL command, also in the File menu. When they update, your view of them updates.

The Bookmarks menu is for watched outlines. It works more or less like the Bookmarks menu in a web browser. When you have opened an outline that you want to remember, choose Add Bookmark from the Bookmarks menu. A dialog appears asking what you want to call the bookmark. We suggest the title of the outline (or the long title if it has one).

When you choose Edit Bookmarks, a new tab opens with the contents of the menu in an outline. You can edit the bookmarks there. The menu contains link nodes. You can change the text, or the URLs associated with the items, and reorganize the menu in any way you like.

Only the top level headlines are included in the Bookmarks menu.

Using Fargo with WordPress

Starting with version 0.54, there is a connection between Fargo and WordPress.

With this connection you can create new posts and edit them -- organizing your work in Fargo's outliner.

You can also use the outline structure to format your blog posts. If you have the ability to edit CSS in your WordPress blog, you can style the text according to level.

To set up the connection, choose Settings from the System menu in the upper right corner of the Fargo screen. Click on the Blog panel. Check the box to enable the connection. Enter the URL of your blog, your username and password. This information passes through our server but is not recorded.

Screen shot of the Blog settings panel.

To create a WordPress post, create a new headline, anywhere, and enter the title of your post. Underneath it, add the text of the post. Place the cursor on the title, and click the WordPress icon in the left sidebar. A dialog appears confirming that you want to post it to your WordPress blog. Click OK. Wait a few seconds. You should hear a beep. If you visit your blog you should see a new post.

To edit the post, change the text or the title and click the WordPress icon again. You should hear a beep when it's saved. You can repeat this as many times as you like.

If you don't see the WordPress icon that means that the prefs aren't set up correctly. Try doing it again.

If you don't hear a beep that means something went wrong on the server. Try again. If after a few times you don't hear the beep or you don't see the updated text on your blog, post an item to the mail list. Include the URL to your blog and an idea of what happened.

This feature is limited to a single WordPress blog for a single user.

Fargo and Markdown

Markdown is a simple language that specifies how to turn plain text into HTML.

Fargo 0.55 has a built-in Markdown processor. In 0.57 we added the ability to use Markdown in WordPress blog posts.

To use it, create an outline with Markdown commands in it, and choose Save as Markdown from the File menu.

A file is created in the #markdown sub-folder of your Fargo folder that contains the generated HTML text. If the name of your outline file is foo.opml, the name of the generated file is foo.html.

Here's an example of an outline, and the Markdown-rendered version of the outline.

In 0.57, we added Markdown processing as an option for WordPress posts.

Named outlines, identity

Every outline can have a name. The name is much shorter and easier to remember than the URL assigned to it by Dropbox.

For example: dave.smallpict.com. When you want to view this outline in Fargo, with the Open By Name command in the File menu, you can leave off the domain and just ask it to open dave. When you do that you'll be viewing a public embodiment of me in the form of a Fargo outline.

You can name any outline anything you want, as long as:

1. It hasn't already been named.

2. The name you want to use is available.

3. The name is 4 characters or more.

4. It contains only alphabetic and numeric characters, or hyphens.

To give an outline a name, click on its tab and choose Name outline in the File menu. A dialog appears. Screen shot. Enter a name. As you're typing, you're given an indication whether the name is available. When you're ready click OK. Be sure this is the name you want to use because it can't be changed or deleted.

Right now there is no charge to create a name because these are early days, and you're helping us debug a new feature. So just name one or two outlines. If people abuse the feature, we'll delete the names and put a price on each.

You can name any outline, but only one outline is you. To say which one that is, choose Settings from the system menu (upper-right corner of the window). In the first panel, named You, there's a place to enter your Profile URL. Screen shot. This should be the address of your outline.

If your name is "mitch" then your profile URL is: http://mitch.smallpict.com/.

Note: If you want to use another system for your profile you can point to that page from this spot. But other features may depend on it being hosted by us, or by a server that's fully compatible with our implementation.

You will notice that if you go to your profile page now, it's blank. If you edit your outline and add a top-level section called profile -- the contents of that page will display when you go there. Screen shot.

Icon Chooser

The Choose Icon command in the Outliner menu brings up a dialog with several tabs. In each tab are 35 awesome icons. Screen shot.

Click on one of the icons to set the icon of the bar cursor headline.

Click Close to dismiss the dialog without setting an icon.

Tips for troubleshooting

1. You may run into trouble if you keep more than one copy of Fargo open at a time on the same computer. You should get error dialogs warning you before you overwrite an existing file with an older version. But the best way to operate is to keep at most one tab with Fargo open at any time.

2. If you open Fargo and find there are no tabs visible, try this. Go to the Fargo folder. Open the #prefs folder. Delete tabs.json. Back in the browser, reload the Fargo page.

3. Reload often. It's the cure for a lot of problems. It also helps make sure you're running the latest version. ;-)

4. Try signing out. The command is in the System menu (the rightmost one, labeled with your Dropbox username). When you choose the command you'll get a dialog directing you to give permission in Dropbox.

5. When you choose the View in Reader command in Fargo, your browser may prevent it from opening, thinking we're opening a popup window (because that's what it may look like to the browser). Usually the browser offers you the option to open the window anyway, but you may have to look for the option (in Chrome for example, it's in the right edge of the address area at the top of the browser window).

Newest features

As we develop new features, the docs are posted in the Worknotes site before they make it into the Fargo Docs (this page).


Ask questions on the smallpicture-user list or on the Q&A page special for Fargo.

Posted on Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 10:04 PM by admin.