A wise man once said that one should “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler“, something I have seen to be true in many areas of my life recently. I have been a practicioner of David Allen’s GTD method on and off for almost three years now. I have tried all kinds of implementations of the method, both in software and in paper based solutions like the Moleskine. I started with a lot of lists in a big text file, then a Moleskine setup (see PigPogPDA and Hacking a GTD Moleskine) then an array of different software solutions like TiddlyWiki, MonkeyGTD, ThinkingRock GTD, Midnigt InboxTodo.sh/Todo.txt, iGTD, OmniFocus, Things, The Hit List, Nozbe, RememberTheMilk and a few others I can’t remember the name of. The latest solution I have stuck with for more than four months now is OmniFocus by the OmniGroup, a very nice piece of software.

I have been a user of OmniFocus ever since the closed beta period even if I have tried other solutions now and then (it is in my nature to shake things up whenever I can). I have been driven to other solutions by the fact that, even as OmniFocus is a great app (and OmniGroup produces several other nice ones), it can be quite complex at times. During the collection and review phase it is way to easy to create all to many projects/contexts and organize them into levels of levels of hierarchies. Of course it is very good to get all that data out of ones head, that is the whole point of GTD, but it is very intimidating when you look at it all just to find a single task to do next, like you are about to build the pyramids or some similar achievment. This is of course my personal oppinon which is heavily colored by the fact that I cannot function in a completely organized environment, whether it is my desk at work, icons at my desktop, e-mails in my inbox or tasks in my todo manager.

For a while now I have been “off the GTD wagon” as many refer to not following the GTD guidelines David set up for us. When browsing through my feeds tonight a post at LifeHacker really got me thinking about why my current OmniFocus setup and why it isn’t working for me – Quickly Prioritize Your Tasks by Urgency and Importance by Adam Pash. Just having four priorities really seems like a good idea, UI – Urgent/Important, NUI – Not Urgent/Important, UNI Urgent/Not Important and NUNI – Not Urgent/Not Important. When I thought about how to implement that in OmniFocus with all the levels of organization it would bring I realized that I needed to start over again – todo ground zero. I remembered that I briefly tested a text based GTD app a couple of years ago and that I actually got a license for it together with the last MacHeist bundle. Enter Taskpaper!

Taskpaper by Jesse Grosjean (HogBaySoftware)

The approach Taskpaper takes is to work with plain text based files, annotated (anotation described in Taskpaper User´s Manual) in a way readable both by machines and humans (thus giving the advantage of data beeing readable even when Taskpaper isn’t avaialble for some reason). It features shortcuts for most common actions such as assigning contexts/tags to tasks, marking tasks done and archiving them, adding to @today context and of course adding new tasks, projects or contexts. What I like most so far is the fact that it simply plain text editing. I can just as well open the file in my favourite text editor and hack away, I can save the file in a Dropbox folder and thus obtaining version control and backup of my valuable tasks and I can of course create various Python scripts working with the file for various reasons. A very nice bonus I discovered when I decided to move from OmniFocus to Taskpaper is that OmniFocus can export tasks directly to Taskpaper-format. I just exported everything and opened the file in Taskpaper. After a few edits I had all my tasks in the new environment and was ready to start working.

I remembered that the last time I briefly laied my eyes on Taskpaper I had to fiddle with QuickSilver and AppleScript to get a quick way of entering tasks without bringing the Taskpaper window to focus and finding the right place to add the task to. Again I found a nice bonus. In version 2.0 of Taskpaper Jesse/HogBay added a quick entry window very similar to the ones you can find in apps such as Things, OmniFocus and the Hit List. A huge thumbs up!

Take a look at the Taskpaper screencast and see if it is something for you. As I have changed setup several times during my last three years of GTDing I cannot say that I will stick with Taskpaper yet – it is to early. I will however give it a fair try and see how long I can “stay on the GTD wagon”.


If you are a notorious VIM user or work in another environment than Mac OS X, David O’Callaghan have created taskpaper.vim, a syntax file and file-plugin allowing you to comfortly edit your taskpaper files in VIM.