TaskPaper 2.1 review

There are scores of programs these days aimed at helping you organize your tasks and projects. The most basic simply give you a place to list, and check off, your to-dos; the most complex have difficult learning curves and require you to master the program's intricacies before you can even start using it. Some are designed specifically for the Getting Things Done (GTD) system; others simply aim to take the place of a sheet of notebook paper.

Wherever your needs fall along either spectrum, chances are you’re looking for something with a good interface and that ultimately helps you be more productive; Hog Bay Software’s TaskPaper 2.1 satisfies both requirements.

TaskPaper’s most unique attribute is that it offers speed and dead-simple ease of use while still providing the essential formatting you need for tracking tasks and projects.

There are no complex formatting buttons and menus: only a single pop-up menu for creating new projects (lists), tasks (items in a list), and notes (text notes within a list) in the current document. (You can also access these commands via the Entry menu in the menu bar or by using keyboard shortcuts.) You can create hierarchical entries using the tab key, and rearranging items is also easy: You move a task or note, and any sub-items, by dragging the item's bullet to a different location in your document.

Alternatively, click anywhere in an item and then use the Move To Project command.

TaskPaper also lets you add tags to projects, tasks, and notes. One such tag, @done, is used to designate a task, project, or note as complete; this tag can be added (or removed) by clicking on the bullet in front of an item or by using the Tag command.

TaskPaper automatically “crosses out” any items with the @done tag. You can apply the other default tags, @today and @priority, to note items that you want to handle today or with high priority, respectively. And you can create your own tags to designate, for example, work and personal tasks. If you’re a GTD adherent, tags work well for contexts.

What makes tags useful is that you can click on any tag, or use the Navigation pop-up menu, to display just those items with a particular tag. So, for example, you can quickly view just completed tasks (@done), all tasks to be completed today (@today), or all work-related tasks and notes (@work).

If you want to hide completed tasks, an Archive Done Tasks command creates a new project in the current document and moves all completed tasks to it. Conveniently, TaskPaper adds the name of each task’s original project as a tag so you’ll know where it came from.

While TaskPaper’s interface makes it easy to format and tag your lists, what I like even better is that you don’t have to use any of these menus or commands. Instead, TaskPaper lets you designate list elements using text characters:

* If an item ends in a colon (:), it automatically becomes a new header; top-level headers become projects, with the item's text as the project name.
* If an item begins with a dash and a space (- ), it automatically becomes a task.
* If an item is neither a project nor a task, it's formatted as a note.
* If an item ends with the @ symbol followed by a word—for example, @today—the item is tagged with that word as the tag.
* You use the tab key to make an item a “child” of the previous item; in other words, to create hierarchical lists.

In other words, you can compose, format, and manage your lists by simply typing text—you never have to take your fingers off the keyboard. (Bonuses: TaskPaper auto-completes tags as you type, and all but a few of TaskPaper’s menu commands are also accessible via keyboard shortcuts.) If, like me, you’re a keyboard-oriented person, you’ll love the convenience—and freedom—of this approach.

NEXT: Viewing lists in TaskPaper


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