There are easily hundreds of apps in the App Store, all wanting to manage your to do list for you; even once you filter out the less polished ones, you still have a lot to choose from. We’ve covered a few of these before, but there’s an new kid on the block.
A few weeks ago, I was looking for “the perfect to do list app,” and I think I’ve found it: it’s called TaskPaper, from Hog Bay Software. Before writing it off as “just another task manager”, be sure to give our review a read.
When you open TaskPaper, you’re met by the home screen. Front and center is your documents list; This isn’t necessarily your list list; more on that later. If you pull the document list down, you’ll uncover a search bar, whose purpose is clear.
Moving upward; you’ll see the toolbar; the “+” button on the right predictably creates a new document. In the middle, you’ll see the currently viewed tag; tap that tag to choose a different one, or show all your documents.
Finally, on the left, we have the menu; menus within TaskPaper are unlike those in any other app I’ve seen, and I like them much better. From within this menu, you can sync your documents with simpletext.ws, lock the orientation of the screen (you can use almost every area of TaskPaper in vertical or horizontal orientation), start Wi-Fi sharing, access the settings, and read the help.
Working With Your Tasks
When you tap the “create document” button, you’ll be whisked away to a blank document. Your cursor will be blinking at the top, waiting for you to enter a name for your project. Every entry within a document is either a project, a task, or a note. Projects are the headings, the parents of your tasks and notes.
Once you enter a project title and hit ‘return,’ you can start entering tasks. Just hit the return key at the end of each task to move to the next one.
You can tag tasks by using the ‘@’ symbol followed by the tag name: @work. You can also give tags values, such as @priority(1).
Taskpaper is right at home with sub-projects. When your cursor is blinking at the beginning of an empty task, hit the ‘return’ key; instead of moving to the next line, TaskPaper will cycle you through your options: task, note, or project. Also, at any point within the document, before typing in a task, note, or project, you can use the ‘space’ and ‘delete’ keys to indent or un-indent your item. These nifty features make it easy to quickly fill out a complex hierarchy of todos.
That’s not all in the way of list managing goodness: it’s incredibly easy to re-order your items. Just tap and hold an item; it and all its sub-items will collapse. Drag that blue line wherever you want it. You have two-dimensional organization, so you can use this method to (un)indent items.
Once you finish playing with these neat list-making features and actually get something done, you’ll want to mark it as done. To do so, simply swipe to the right over the item to mark it complete. This simply adds a tag of @done to the item.
At the top of the document editor (above even the search bar) you can tap the “+” button to add a new item to your list. You can also tap the name of the document (taken from the first project name within the document) to perform a few administrative tasks. You can sync the document to simpletext, send the document as an email, and archive all the tasks marked done (to archive tasks is to move them to a project named archive at the bottom of the document). You can also tag, rename, or delete a document.
The Bottom Toolbar
Let’s move on to the bottom toolbar. On the left, you’ve got the “go to project” button. Tap it, and then tap the project name you’d like to focus on. Taskpaper will filter the document and only show you the items that are in that project. Notice that the search bar now says [project = "project_name"]. The button is just a shortcut to searching.
Next up is the “go to tag” button. This menu lists all the tags in the current document, as well as the tags @done and @today. Just like the project button, tap a tag name to filter your list. Again, notice the search box has been filled with the correct query.
The next button is the search button. If you’re already viewing the results of a search, the magnifying glass will have a dot in the circle. Tap it to return to viewing the whole document. Tap the button to focus on the search box and bring up the keyboard (we’ll look at some search queries in a bit).
The final button on bottom toolbar is for editing items; you can tap an item to select it and then tap the menu. From here, you can edit the item, cut/copy/paste the item, move it to a different project (within the same document), tag it, or change the item’s type.
Searching Your Tasks
Of course, you can type any term you’d like into the search box to filter your tasks by that term. There are also several keywords you can take advantage of.
- You can use the keywords type, level, parent, project and others to refer to specific list details. For example, [type = note] will show all notes, and [level = 0] will show all items with no indentation.
- If you’ve given tags values (using parentheses), you can search for those values: [@waiting = Joe].
- You can use logical “and,” “or,” and “not” operators; the docs give this example: [project Inbox and not @done and (@priority > 1 or @today)]
There’s more you can do with the search box; check out the “Query Language” chapter in the help section.
Moving Lists Between iPhone and Mac
The main reason I decided to use TaskPaper as my task managing app is that it stores your documents as text files. Within your setting, you can add your Google ID to let TaskPaper sync with SimpleText.ws. Then, you can go to the SimpleText website to edit your document.
If you’re on a Mac, you can install the SimpleText app, which will sync your documents to a folder, similar to Dropbox, I understand. For those of us without a Mac (myself included), there’s no current way to sync the files to your computer; Jesse Grosjean, the sole genius at Hog Bay Software, has promised a python script to do the job very soon.
If you don’t want your documents going out to a public server like SimpleText.ws, you have two options. In that top-left menu on the home screen, tap “Start Wi-Fi Sharing.” Type the URL you’re given into your desktop web browser and you’ll be able to edit your notes directly on your iPhone. If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can install the SimpleText software on your own server and sync through that.
In the settings menu, you can choose the sort order for your documents list and choose whether or not summaries of your documents should show in the document list.
You can also lock the screen orientation, enable Text Expander support, and set a password for TaskPaper. And don’t forget to set your syncing options!
TaskPaper is a great app; there are so many little nuances that make it so easy to use. It’s probably the closest you can get to a pen-and-paper experience on the iPhone. One thing I haven’t figured out yet is when to put multiple projects in one document, and when to put them in their own doc.
Up to now, I’ve been using a document per project, but it’s obvious TextPaper is built for more. What’s your solution?
TaskPaper has a price tag of $4.99; I think it’s well worth that amount; the companion Mac app is $29.99.