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Mirrors and sharing


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Mirrors are one of the most powerful features in Workflowy. They allow you to keep the same information in multiple places at once and keep all that information up to date.

This is great when you want to either repurpose the same information in multiple places or when you want to bring together different pieces of information in a single view.

When you combine mirrors with shares, you open up even more possibilities. However, that also opens up the possibility that you'll run into issues if you don't abide by the cardinal rule of mixing shared and mirrors - only put source mirrors in shares.

What are source mirrors?

Whenever you create a mirror, you end up with two items. One of these is what we call the 'source mirror', and the other a 'virtual mirror'. If you're only using mirrors in your personal Workflow space, the following does not apply to you and you can ignore the rest of the guide and be on your merry way. However, if you want to use mirrors inside of shared Workflow documents, then this distinction between 'source' and 'virtual' is an important one.

In order for Workflowy's permission system to work properly, you should only ever put 'source mirrors' inside of shared spaces. Whether you're the document owner and are dragging and dropping the mirror in, or you've been invited to the share and you want to mirror something from the share into your private space.

This rule applies whether the share already exists and you want to add a mirror to it, or if you want to create a share that happens to have some pre-existing mirrors. Any 'virtual mirror' inside a share will display a permission error.

How to use mirrors in shares

In order to use mirrors in shared spaces, the 'source mirror' must be inside the shared space. That means you should either:

  1. Only move 'source mirrors' into shared spaces
  2. Create the item you want to mirror in the shared space first, and then mirror out of the shared space.

In both cases the result is the same, the 'source mirror' stays in the shared space and the 'virtual mirror' is kept in the private space.

Take note that this is only in the case that you're the administrator of the shared space. If you're not the admin of the share, you won't be able to move items directly into the shared space, including mirrors.

In this case you would only be able to mirror existing items out of a shared space or create a new item in the share and mirror it out into your private space.

To check which mirror is the 'source' one:

  1. Open the bullet menu of any mirror
  2. At the top of the widget you should see 'Node has x mirrors. See them'
  3. Click 'See them'
  4. The 'source' mirror will be the first one listed and be labeled

What happens if I put a virtual mirror in a share?

If you do this either accidentally or on purpose, the 'virtual mirror' will display a message of 'Mirror of private node - others cannot access'. This means that the content in that mirror will not be available to other users that have access to the shared space.

So even though you will be able to see the content in both mirrors, no other user will see it.

What can I use mirrors in shares for?

Mirrors by themselves are a fantastic feature that lets you either group disparate information in a single place or conversely keep the same information in multiple  places. Two simple but useful examples of this are in creating dashboards and grouping personal tasks.

Creating dashboards

Simply create an item within your shared space (or private space if you prefer) and mirror the information you want to keep an eye on into a board. Paste the mirror into each new column of the board.

In the screenshot below we have a team dashboard where each of the team members' tasks are mirrored. This way anyone on the team can see what's going on and where everyone is. This is especially useful if your works requires close collaboration and handoffs.

Team dashboard with all team members' tasks
A single team member's tasks in their space

Grouping personal tasks

In this second example, we're taking information that is originally located in a single place, the 'Meetings' section of a company, that is then mirrored out to by each team member into their personal space. This way each team member can keep track of the tasks that they're responsible for while still keeping the status of the task in a single place.

Tasks are generated during a meeting
Liam has mirrored his tasks into his personal space to keep track of them


When using mirrors with shares, remember that the 'source mirror' is the one that should be in the share. Otherwise, other people that have access to the share will not be able to view the mirror's contents.

If you're not sure which mirror is the 'source' one, you can check by opening the bullet menu of any mirror and clicking on 'See them' at the very top of the widget to check.

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