What happened to WFx?

… and how do I get it back?

Chrome has removed the WFx for WorkFlowy extension from the Chrome Web Store claiming it “violates of Chrome Web Store policy”. The first time I heard about this was in an automated email informing me AFTER the removal, claiming I had failed to reply in time to an “earlier email”. THERE WAS NO EARLIER EMAIL! Had there been one, I most certainly would have noticed and immediately replied. I wrote the extension, but I’m a user too, and I’ve grown to depend on it, just like you. If you are interested, I will expand on the ugly details of this ordeal at the end of this post. But for now let’s get you back up, and zooming faster again.

These instructions will depend on what Chromium based browser you are using. I have broken this into two sections: 1) Chrome and Brave and 2) Edge. These are what I have installed and have tested. If you are using something else, I’m guessing the Chrome/Brave instructions will work. Please update me in comments, and I will update this post.

CHROME AND BRAVE:

First things first, if you are using Chrome or Brave, you should be able to open chrome://extensions (or brave://extensions) and re-enable the extension. It should work for bit, but it will get automatically disabled again whenever the extension pings the web store looking for updates. Having to re-enable the extension may get old quickly, so with the extension enabled do the following:

BACKUP YOUR SHORTCUTS

  • Activate the WFx prompt, and enter wfo to open the Options page.
  • Navigate to to the MISC SETTINGS tab.
  • Click on DOWNLOAD EXPORT FILE (this file contains all your shortcut data)
  • Make note where it has been downloaded

DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL A LOCAL COPY OF WFX

  • Download a local copy of WFx for WorkFlowy from here
  • Extract WFx.zip to a known location.
  • Open chrome://extensions (or brave://extensions).
  • In the upper right, enable “Developer mode”
  • In the upper left, click “Load unpacked”.
  • Select the WFx folder you extracted in Step #2.
  • If all goes well, you should see a new instance of WFx at the top of the extension page
  • Disable the original store installation of WFx (this should be sorted alpha near the bottom)
  • Navigate to chrome://extensions/shortcuts (or brave://extensions/shortcuts)
  • Re-Define your keyboard shortcut for the top WFx entry by clicking the edit icon (do this even if it looks right to you)
  • Close the extension page

IMPORT SHORTCUTS INTO YOUR LOCAL COPY

  • Activate the WFx prompt, and enter wfo to open the Options page
  • Navigate to to the MISC SETTINGS tab
  • Click “Choose File” (below IMPORT USER DATA)
  • Select your WFx_export txt file
  • Click IMPORT FILE

IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT IMPORT:

The last digits of the export filename indicates the total number of shortcuts, after the date of export.

WFx_export_2021-04-18_62.txt

In this example, there are 62 shortcuts. If you have more than 120 shortcuts you will need to import once for each multiple of 120 you have. This is due to a write operations limit of the Chrome extension API. Chrome storage can only be written to 120 times per minute. So for example, I have 308 shortcuts, and I have to import my file 3 times. You must wait 60 seconds between each import.

Also because of this, the import function will not overwrite (or duplicate) any existing shortcut data. So if you already have a shortcut called “x” defined, the shortcut of “x” in your backup will be skipped on import.

IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT RUNNING A LOCAL COPY

The extension will work just like installing from the Store (the code is identical) with one important caveat. Your shortcut data will not sync to other computers using the same login. You will need to repeat the local install process for each computer. Any subsequent changes to any local install will remain with that install, and will not sync.

EDGE

If you installed WFx from the Microsoft Store you should be OK, WFx has not been removed by Microsoft. As a precaution, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you backup your shortcut data. See these instructions.

Users that installed WFx into Edge from the Chrome Web Store are reporting they cannot re-enable the extension. Unfortunately, this means you have lost access to your shortcut data for now, unless you made a backup previously using the export function in settings. So you will have to recreate your shortcut data. I recommend you install WFx from the Microsoft Store . Then be sure to make periodic backups of shortcut data as noted above.

If you have a shortcuts export/backup file, follow the instructions from IMPORT SHORTCUTS INTO YOUR LOCAL COPY and read IMORTANT NOTES ABOUT IMPORT above in the Chrome/Brave section.

THE UGLY DETAILS (Optional!)

Here is a screenshot of the FIRST correspondence from Chrome from the email address
chromewebstore-noreply@google.com:

There is no indication as to why this is happening, but there is a reference to an “earlier email” that does not exist. I immediately clicked the Support Page link, and was led through a series questions. I ended up selecting the “Did not receive any email” option, which generated a “Check your spam folder” response. I did just that, expecting to find nothing, after all I hadn’t set up any spam filters on this GMAIL account, and I was sure Chrome wouldn’t block Chrome Web Store email. After all, this email certainly didn’t get blocked. And of course, as expected there was nothing in Spam.

I indicated “no spam” and the form said someone would contact me. A few hours later that did happen, though it appears to be automated as well. I suspect the original “violation” was probably a bot scanning the 100’s of thousands of Chrome extensions. To date, I have yet to hear from an actual human.



OK well at least I now know what the “violation” is. Oh and for good measure, they ask me to check my spam folder again. I guess this is tacit admission that they are in fact supposed to email me before they remove the extension. In fact, they do admit finding spam as “sometimes there could be a possibility”. Yup, that would be really cool if they did email you before they remove your extension.

You can read about the infamous tabs permission here in developer documentation. At the top they tell you why you need to request the tabs permission:

Yep, I require access to the URL, because Find Tab or Create (FTOC) uses that to see if you need to jump to an existing tab or create a new one. The truly baffling part: the “violation” is that I’m using “query, create and update” methods. (That is true!) Baffling because just below, the manifest section, is the methods section… which documents all the great stuff you can do with the tabs permission… things like query, create and update tabs! Go figure!

Here’s the top part of the “methods” section of the API documentation.. I cut it off because it is really long.

Also worth noting, the tabs permission is powerful. I understand why they guard it. WFx queries for URLs only, and does nothing else. It DOES NOT collect, save, transfer or do anything with your URLs. , other than figure out if the URL your shortcut references exists or not, and then it does the FTOC thing. I don’t even use Google Analytics in the extension.

So this is where we sit… still waiting for a response from Chrome from a real human.

15 thoughts on “What happened to WFx?

  1. The REALLY great news is that your email instructions for access to Power Pac worked for this 80 year old…..and I’m back in the fast short-cut access to bullets et al again. Can’t thank you enough. Please keep up your great work for all us “Flowy-Meister” wanna bees. Best, chuck

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  2. Thanks, Rawbytz! I appreciate the time you took to document this. I’m back up and running on one machine, at least. Praying that you will get a response from the Chrome store people to get syncing working again.

    I looked for other similar tools and didn’t find any. Thanks for contributing a valuable tool for the rest of us.

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  3. Similarly google banned one of the websites I was working on ten years ago when the website started making a decent amount of money. The blame was that we – web site owner and developper – were making artificially high ad click number by click on ads. We had quite a good traffic at that time. There was no way to discuss this, no details, no human contact, we were switched off without a warning. Seems like you are experiencing something similar.

    Thank you for your work and patience!

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  4. Hi there, any idea if the issue will be resolved. I keep re-activating it, so not a disaster, but would obvs be nice to avoid that! Great product though

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  5. I hope this is the right place to ask – I’ve unfortunately only found the extension now, when Chrome has already killed it. I’m mostly looking for a way to sort list alphabetically, and I understood that I can do that with this extension. It didn’t seem to be working for me, so I did some more digging – are those functions only available to PowerPack users? Or did I completely something?
    Thank you so much

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    1. Sorry Rach, I’m doing a bad job of keeping this blog updated!

      WFx was reinstated without any changes to the extension code. The Chrome Web Store mistakenly removed the extension, and has corrected their mistake.

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      1. I ended up tracing it through Git and installing a bunch of the extensions, but thank you so much for the prompt reply and for the extensions! My Workflowy is looking great 😀

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