Is Dynalist Here to Stay?

I am a regular free user of Dynalist and I really like it. I’d like to go all in and use it as my second brain for the long-run, but I have the following concerns.

  1. Will Dynalist just fade away and die, maybe be deliberately ended, or become incompatible with some future operating system or browser? Might it convert to a paid-only format?
  2. How easy is it, really, to take data out of Dynalist? I know there’s an export option and that Dynalist kind of uses Markdown formatting, but the export files are .txt and .opml files. The .txt files lose information, such as highlighting and checkboxes. The indenting has not played nicely with my markdown editors (Obsidian and Zettlr). And the .opml files… well, I barely know what those are, and even the internet mostly says you need to be a bit of techie to deal with them. So I don’t feel like the data is all that portable and wish that the export files were markdown, so no information would be get lost.

What do you think of those two issues?

Thank you to the Dynalist programmers/maintainers and anybody who can help me out here. :slight_smile:

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This is what the dev said. You can join Discord.

OPML is fairly straightforward 95% of the time. If something doesn’t work, just try a different converter.

It’s not a very well specified format, so programs can interpret it differently. Not really techie. That said you are still limited by how Dynalist exports into OPML and how other programs import those exports.

wrt Dynalist’s future: it will die - that’s the way of life.
The developers will keep it going while the cost (time and effort) is manageable, but it’s not essential for them to do it in the same way Obsidian is. At some point something will change and it won’t be fixable without rewriting the app.

Glad to hear you think .opml is easy to work with 95% of the time… that being said I just tried Vertopal and Alldocs, and neither really worked.

On the left is Dynalist and on the right is the file I got converting the .opml file to markdown using those websites. Bullets were converted to headings according to indent, which I definitely do not want. Highlights and checkboxes appear lost completely. There are unwanted line breaks all over the place.

I opened now.opml though and it appeared the code inside did contain all the right information.

Can you recommend a better converter?

I hope Dynalist goes forever, but as long as it can backup/export/convert easily to other file formats, I’ll be happy. :slight_smile:

The question is where do you want it to go?
I’ve very rarely used converters.
And with Dynalist there’s at least 4 export options if you include copy and paste.

One of the issues with general converters is that they don’t understand what the OPML is meant to represent. And often have a limited understanding of where it’s going. Not so much a problem with docx which is better defined but is with OPML and markdown.

iirc most conversions of Dynalist outlines via OPML make bullets into headers (up to h6) and then bullets for the rest.
That’s because the Dynalist export to OPML doesn’t assume bullets, and the prime outline in markdown being via the headers. In markdown headers are primary organisation and bullets are secondary content. Look at the sequence in any set of markdown shortcuts.

I understand that Obsidian is the company’s #1 priority now.

But Obsidian does 100x what I need and does not handle outlining very smoothly. Dynalist is by far the better option for simple outlining, which is all I need for a task manager.

It’s hard for me to know what this means.

“No plans yet, but we intend to keep it functional for the foreseeable future”

Thanks! I’ll ask the same question in there. It seems much more active than these forums. :slight_smile:

I’d like one way to manage my tasks in an outline format that will stand the test of time. Notion, Evernote, MS Word files, etc. are unlikely to meet that criteria as their versions change, formatting changes, paywalls come and go, features are born and die, companies come and go, etc.

But .txt - and likely .md - are safe and mine forever. :+1:

The options I know of:

  1. Download backup → .txt. This loses bullets, checkboxes, highlights, etc. This really isn’t good enough.
  2. Download backup → .opml .
  3. Copy/Paste into a markdown editor. This loses highlights and checkboxes. It replaces completed checkboxes with strikethrough. It also adds empty spaces right after bullet points for some reason. It is also a manual backup method that requires file-by-file selections of everything, expanding everything (non-expanded bullets don’t get copied), then copy-pasting. Errors are 100% certain if anyone does this. So this is an OK method for backup, but obviously not perfect.
  4. No idea what the 4th option is. Enlighten me! :slight_smile:

Can I ask why Dynalist does not have an option to export to .md? Is this their form of user lock-in?

I understand that .md wasn’t really made to emphasize nested lists the way Dynalist is. Might something like preserve all the bullets, checkboxes, highlighting, etc.? The information is there in the .opml file!

From an outline pov, asciidoc and org-mode are better than markdown. txt is better than md because it makes no assumptions about markdown syntax.

Problem with all the formatting it is that’s dependent on interpretation and so not really permanent.

When Dynalist started, rich text was popular and programs using markdown internally were not prevalent in the way they are now. No lock-in.
I can’t remember how much formatting is exported (I stopped using Dynalist some time ago), but I do remember that it was best if you typed the markdown rather than using the keyboard shortcuts.

You could set Logseq up in org-mode and import your OPML into that. Though looks as if the logseq import is broken. There’s a fair chance org-mode will outlast markdown (doesn’t have the huge number of variants) - EMACS has been around a long time.

tbh, I don’t think you can have your desired long-term permanence together with all your preferred formatting.

I just tested.

  • Export.
  • I selected formatted option
  • I copied the export
  • I pasted into a new Obsidian note
  • It was set out as a perfect outline with bullets.

What is better about asciidoc, org-mode, and EMACS? Have they stood the test of time in terms of syntax and formatting for outlined bulleted lists and checkboxes?

I’m not sure what you meant by “assumptions about markdown syntax”

And as for permanence… I don’t need literal permanence. I just want my methods to endure until the next generation of AI - in, say, 2027 or so - can easily handle all backups, formatting, conversions, etc. for me. So anything that can last, say, 5+ years should be good.

Just so we’re clear, since I’m not technical, and I thought I did this and got different results:

  • “Export” means I click on “Download backup”, right?
  • Where is there a “formatted option”? I don’t remember seeing that anywhere.
  • Why would you make a copy of the exported files?
  • What exactly did you paste into the Obsidian note? Did you open up .txt file, select everything, and copy-paste that?

Markdown has only 6 levels of headers and multiple variants trying to deal with its deficiencies. The other two don’t have those variants and more levels of headers. Org is designed to be an outline.

Export is an option not download backup.
Copy is one of the ways it works. And the easiest to use.
I just pasted into a standard Obsidian new note - ie .md

Got it, thank you!

Minor downsides include

  • The bullets didn’t quite format normally, as the horizontal spacing was off.
  • Checkboxes and highlights disappeared, but I guess I can live without those.

Overall, though, this seems like a reasonably easy backup sytem. Perhaps it is time for me to go all in on Dynalist. Your input has been invaluable. :slight_smile:

I’d expect Dynalist to last that long.

Based on the popularity of Obsidian? Or is Dynalist ultra low cost/maintenance?

Based on the commitment of the developers and that there’s unlikely to be and major forced changes in the technology stack that would break it. Tickover maintenance should be enough.

We talked on the Dynalist discord but for everyone else, regarding #2, here is the best way to get the non-markdown stuff converted to markdown for a universal backup copy (checkboxes, highlights, headings)

Awesome, thanks for the info! Glad to know this exists.

does it work?