Drop support for * and + leading symbols in tasks?

At some point when writing TaskPaper 3 I decided to be expensive and include * and + in addition to standard - as possible lead symbols for tasks. The idea was to match Markdown syntax for unordered lists… but I don’t think that was a useful idea and I think very few if anyone actually uses those symbols for TaskPaper tasks.

Instead I get a few bug reports a year that typing * or + at the start of a line results in weird looking character… and it does because part of the default styling is to stretch the leading task character… so that - looks good and is easy to hit with mouse.

So the questions… does it seem reasonable to just stop recognizing + and * as leading chars for tasks. On one hand this breaks TaskPaper format. On other hand it seems like a pretty inconsequential break and would likely avoid confusion that people are experiencing due to existing behavior.


Sounds sensible to me.

Hi @jessegrosjean,

Here are my thoughts. In Markdown -, *, and + are all recognized as item’s markers in text source, but they are all converted to the same bullet character in e.g. HTML output. So I think TaskPaper should accept all those task markers, but display them all using m-dash (or other custom symbol). This way, it would not break existing TaskPaper format, while keeping aesthetic and usability at same level. In fact, this is how this issue is handled in Emacs’ TaskPaper mode plugin .

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I’d actually like to go the other way and be able to use different characters. I’ve gotten into the habit of dropping a ‘❏’ character anywhere I happen to be taking notes if I think of a task. Then during a review I can do a Spotlight search for that character to collect the tasks — it’s sort of a virtual inbox. So it would be great if TP also recognized that character as a task marker.

I vote for stop recognizing + and *

a difference between input and display sounds a little complex and underdefined to me …

  • It widens the gap between the plain text and the display (users may be confused to find that three different characters are represented in a single way)
  • It introduces an ambiguity as to what is saved, and how predictable that is
    1. If star and plus are represented as -, then are they saved as themselves or as -?
    2. If what is saved diverges from what is seen, where are we then, and how do we know exactly what our file contains?
    3. If star and plus are loaded at item markers but converted to (and saved as) -, then might users who make use of the difference (visual bullets inside notes for example ?) not reasonably feel a bit surprised by some loss of information ?
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Sorry, my point was probably not clear. I mean, task markers should not been converted but just displayed in TaskPaper window as appropriate bullet characters or maybe checkboxes.

Honestly, I don’t see this as problematic. Considering quite a lot of existing applications hiding/interpreting explicit user markup (e.g. Org mode with org-bullets, Dynalist, Typora, MarkText, etc.) and discussions here, here, and here, I think this would not lead to much confusion for users. (Of course, this behavior should be documented in the User’s Guide.)

Considering all the factors mentioned above I vote for ditching * and +.

I love Markdown and use it profusely everywhere else but I think this strays away from the straightforward simplicity of the Taskpaper format unnecessarily.

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Thanks everyone for feedback. I’ve just posted preview that removes * and + as leading char options for tasks. I’m really looking to simplify format at this point and fix display but that comes up from time to time.


That’s a great idea. The power of TaskPaper is its simplicity

Yes please drop * and + - so that I can have bullet points in my notes that are not tasks and…
If people start using * and + instead of the standard - it breaks the standard.
For example tasks with * and + will work in Taskpaper but will not import in Omnifocus which relies on ‘-’ as a standard.

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