In the past I’ve been a proponent of using Evernote everywhere. Because it‘s simple, it works, and they have apps on every major platform . But plain text is nice too. It‘s clean and simple and is quicker to open and edit than any Evernote app will ever be.
Speed has been my biggest complaint against Evernote in the past. The other thing to note is that I don’t love it for maintaining a list of current tasks. I’ve tried GTD in a few ways. My favorite way was with an App called The Hit List but that‘s Mac only and the iOS version is/was broken. Hopefully this amazing productivity application will rise again now that it‘s been purchased by Karelia Software.
Unfortunately, The Hit List, will probably never come to windows or a web browser. I realize that I don’t like having my task management system in a 3rd party application (or datacenter) that can be shut down, be hacked, dissappear or be limited by arbitrary monetization schemes. If I need to collaborate with people we will find a system that works well together, I probably can’t make them use my app. But, I can probably send them an email with a portion of my current task list pretty easily.
I thought Evernote would be a usable GTD option. They recently added reminders functionality to notes, which seemed promising. I couldn’t really get in the hang of that though. When using it like prescribed at The Secret Weapon it‘s pretty good, but relies on tagging a lot. And there’s a nice Apple Mail to Evernote applescript I used. And, of course Evernote installs a nice plugin for Outlook on Windows to aid in task capture from email there. But I eventually realized I’m never accessing the tasks on my iPhone because the evernote app on iOS is slooooow.
So, I’m back to plain text. There’s this amazing app called Taskpaper. But again, it‘s not cross platform. A year or two ago I tried building taskpaper-like (or GitHub like) functionality into my unfinished webapp CardBoard. Thinking this would be my own home-made GTD app. It didn’t work out.
Finally, let me cut to the chase. Here are the 3 major components of my working GTD system today.
- SublimeText (with plugins)
- Editorial on iOS
The text editor SublimeText is incredible, and it has a vibrant plugin community. I decided to use Sublime Text to write 2 different book projects, and I love it. I found a plugin called PlainTasks which has a setting for taskpaper compatability! It‘s a free crossplatform implementation of taskpaper productivity in plain text files in the same application I already love to use for code and prose!
In my Dropbox Projects directory I created a file called
projects.todo.taskpaper. This file has headings for all of my current projects, and I keep it open at work in Sublime Text. Sometimes even in a second pane .
Right now I use one text file for everything current. I can easily split that up and create more focused lists inside of each project directory.
On iOS you can open these same plain text files an any number of applications (as long as it‘s stored on dropbox), but one that is especially nice is Editorial. It even has “swipe to mark complete” functionality for
I can’t even begin to convey the power of this application. You could start skimming some of Federico’s articles here.
Applescript to Insert into a Text File from Apple Mail
And the final bit of magic that makes it all come together is this script I hacked together to prepend a task to any Taskpaper file with
Inbox: on the first line. Here is my rough applescript based on the previous evernote one.
I have a lot more thoughts about productivity in SublimeText. SublimeText and Editorail are an incredible combo. Fancy text editors are a nice bridge between the command line and a bunch of GUI apps. Plain text files don’t make you compromise on who has your data… (ignoring the whole dropbox security and privacy problem for now).