David Findlay

a man, a plan, a cake: nirvana

TaskPaper: a to-do app for the rest of us?

I've been dipping my toes into GTD territory for some time. I've tried doing it in Backpack, Basecamp, iGTD, OmniOutliner, and the OmniFocus beta to name a few. I seemed to get on okay for a while with each of them, but eventually I gave up; they were either just too complicated, or web-based which doesn't play well with the uplink tube at my work. I came across TaskPaper from Hog Bay Software. I had played with their WriteRoom app a while back, but it wasn't something I had too much of a need for.

At first glance, TaskPaper seemed just too simple. But when I actually started using it, I found that its simplicity was exactly what I needed. It's like a piece of paper with fring benefits. The simple syntax->format mechanism fits my programmer brain, and the fact that I can make up my own structure in a document without the application getting in my way is priceless. That's what always ended up putting me off the fuller featured apps in the end, and it's what ultimately sold me on TaskPaper.

To define a project, you type in the name of the project followed by a colon. That's it. TaskPaper turns what you've just type into a nice title. Within a project you can create to-do items by typing a dash as the first non-whitespace character on a line. It doesn't force that dash to be at the left margin though, so you can create simple subtask structure without any fuss. It doesn't do rollup of those subtasks, but then why does it need to?

So if you type:

- eggs
- milk
- cake
- more cake
- eat cake
- eat more cake

you will end up with:


Easy! If you notice, there's a tab there at the top that says Home. That means it's showing you your entire todo document. You can type a search into the search and it will instantly restrict your view to the matching entries. For example, here's the view when I search for cake:

Show me cake!

So you can still see your projects, but only the important, cake-related entries within.

You can also click on a project title to focus on that project:

just shopping

You can also open multiple tabs on the same document:
shopping tab

So you can see, it's pretty easy to get around in your to-dos. Once you find something you need to do, and then you actually go and do it, you can mark it as done by either clicking the circle in the margin or placing your cursor somewhere on the line and pressing Cmd-D. Here I only have more cake to finish my lists:

almost done

You will notice that "@done" appears in gray on a task that you have marked as complete. This hints at another feature of Taskpaper: tagging. You can tag items by prefixing the tag name with an ampersand. Here I'm trying to offset some of that cake:

And, like projects, and arbitrary text, you can also filter based on tags. TaskPaper even builds a drop-down list of them for you automatically:

my tags

show me healthy

So it actually does a fair bit more than you might expect, but just as importantly, it doesn't try to do too much. There's a 15-day trial, and if you like it it's $18.95 so I'd recommend giving it a go.