Tom MacWright

Notes on using Linear

We’ve been using Linear for a month or two at Val Town, and I think it has ‘stuck’ and we’ll keep using it. Here are some notes about it:

  • The keyboard shortcuts are as good as people say they are: you can do things like hover your mouse over a row in a list, hit a keyboard shortcut, and it’ll apply to the hovered target item. This is really impressive stuff.
  • I do quite like the desktop app - it feels pretty polished, for an Electron (or Tauri, not sure) application. I’ve been using Vimium pretty heavily again - a Chrome extension that adds VIM-style keybindings to Chrome. It is a godsend for my RSI, which is triggered when I use a mouse, but Vimium totally botches most website built-in keybindings. Keybindings are a really hard problem in general but using a standalone wrapped-web app seems like a good way to make them more reliable, by insulating them from whatever funky Chrome extensions you’re using at the moment.
  • I dearly miss the ability to permalink a section of code, paste it into a comment, and GitHub to turn that into an inline code snippet. It was so nice for discussing things like regressions, because you could point right to the ground-truth.
  • I have really mixed feelings about Linear’s editor, which has some Markdown abilities - typing _ around a string will make it italicized - but not others - Markdown links don’t become links, unlike Notion’s Markdown-ish editor. I get that it’s built to be friendly for both managers and engineers, thus creating an interface between the people who know Markdown and the ones who don’t. But it’s an awkward middle ground that forces me to use a mouse more than I’d like
  • Man, there are so many ways to organize stuff. I have in the past had mixed experiences with Linear for just this reason - it allows people to create labyrinthine systems of organization, and then try to apply their tags and milestones and projects to the real world and say “make it happen,” and, alas, the map doesn’t turn into the terrain. But on the other hand, the “cycles” system, which is kind of like a time-constrained milestone that restarts every week or two - I like that. It injected some good energy into the organization.
  • It really is extremely pretty - it’s up there with Notion in terms of applications that just look expensive, like a top-of-the-line Volvo (this is not a dig, I think Volvos, and Polestars, look great).
  • The realtime sync is usually great, but sometimes two people are editing the same ticket at the same time, and it’s just weird. Realtime sync for the “state of the world” seems good, realtime sync which feels like stepping on everyones toes or peeping over someone’s shoulder, not that great.
  • It’s pretty similar on mobile to GitHub’s experience, for now. They’re teasing a native app, which I hope is great.