How do you use TaskPaper?

I am thinking of trying out and getting TaskPaper but I can’t really find a way where it would fit into my workflow.

Right now I use 2Do for all my tasking needs. I set tasks for the day and divide into projects and lists, it is very powerful. I also make weekly plans in MindNode. TaskPaper seems like a pretty good tool but I am not really sure where and how I could fit it into my workflow.

I am really curious to see how you guys are using it? What is your workflow with it like?

It is really hard to give you an answer because TaskPaper was made to be a very flexible tool by design. I just started using by TaskPaper as a combination of Project Manager/Tasks Manager. I also own 2do, but for some things it is not practical to have a gazillion (technical term) tasks. For that I started to use TaskPaper. I now use task paper for a more of my workflow.

My typical workflow is to simply use Taskpaper as a document editor. I have to create several papers a week (In English which happens to not be my first language) and I usually start with an outline and then build upon that. The key to do this is to start writing and not to stop for anything. I just create a tags, projects, sub-projects, etc., as I go. Later with the use of some queries (using tags like, @research, @long-winded, @obtuse, @baloney) I work on those, in order. This is just one of the many ways I use TaskPaper.

When I am done, I move the copy to Ulysses and add MMD because I like how I can change my documents to several formats and the organization (which I believe one day will be implemented in a similar fashion in TaskPaper :slight_smile: ) that Ulysses provides. Hope that this helps.


My whole TP workflow has shifted. For maybe six years I tried to use it as general purpose task manager, with mixed success. Then late last year I switched to omnifocus, which has been great - a lot of omnifocus’s built in features are things I was trying to do in TP with AppleScript, and when TP dropped support I wasn’t going to try to recreate all that in JavaScript. And other reasons, but scripting was the catalyst.

But–in the last two months, I’ve been using TP a lot, and completely differently than before. I am working on a big writing project, and have been focusing on separating tasks & planning from the ms. Itself. So I’ve moved probably two dozen status and todo list type documents out of Scrivener and into Taskpaper. Each chapter (of 7) is a separate project, with 30-40 entries and notes etc. at a level of detail that would be Impractical to dump into omnifocus. My tasks are tagged by type e.g. serious editing, formulating an argument, checking a reference, etc., and summaries are also tagged by theme/topic so I can quickly search in TP to get a picture of the work remaining and also the structure and coherence of the whole manuscript. Having all this in one TP document rather than scattered in various locations (including the margins of unrevised paper drafts…) has been a tremendous help.

The irony is that I think it’s only by moving away from TP to a more structured task management system that I’ve been able to come back to it and use it more effectively than ever before.


Oh, and I also use TP as general purpose plain text outliner (and I use the TP format even working in other programs anytime I need to outline). I have tried mind node and omni outliner but found both clunky and in the way when I am just trying to get structured ideas or quickly.

At first, I tried using TP as a GTD system for task and project management. I think it works great for this, but the one thing that’s kept me from using it as my go-to GTD tool is that there’s no good client for it on Android or through a web browser. I am not always around my Mac and I need GTD to be basically omnipresent. So I’m using ToDoist for all that.

So instead I am using TP for checklists. There are times when I am so slammed with projects and tasks that my GTD next-action lists are just too much to handle, and I find it helpful to break out of ToDoist and just simplify down to a plain checklist – things that don’t belong to a particular project but are thematically grouped, like “stuff to finish by this Friday”. TP really excels at this, and I find that TP has a calming effect on me when I have to go into triage mode.

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I agree and would add that TP is especially valuable for people who run life mainly from the calendar, not from within todo apps, and who hard-wire their main tasks inside specific time blocks of the day. In such use cases, a free-form outliner seems to me more balanced and transparent.

I use TP in conjunction with OmniFocus. My flow is to capture projects and primary objectives in OF, but then to break it down into daily tasks using TP. TP makes it easy to be very granular while still being very lightweight.

I used to do the same thing entirely in OF, but found it wasn’t as good for me when dealing with myriad tiny tasks. I don’t need to see my very granular tasks on my iPhone, and so only use TP on my Mac and OF on both.


Interestingly, I am developing nearly the inverse use case.

I was tracking everything in TP but I started getting serious overwhelm from my enormous text file (and breaking it up into files-per-project just lets me forget what else I need to work on). Plus, I could never get a comfortable workflow for surfacing things at the right time. An essential element of any task management for me, psychologically, is that things stay hidden until it is time for me to care about them. I played around with tags and nvremind and geektool but my weekly reviews were becoming stressful triage of all the things that had fallen through the cracks.

So right now I use TP for outlining/brainstorming and project planning and management, and something more integrated for granular details and actual things-to-do. Most of my work is freelance writing, so I keep a list of current projects, status, etc in TP and then put actual actions into something else. At the moment I’m using toodledo (anyone remember that?), because it is the only syncing tool that seems to deal with the essential-to-me idea of “start dates” (and that doesn’t cost $40).

I’ll chime in here since I don’t feel like my general flow was represented by the comments so far. I realized I needed to have plain text to have the flexibility I needed. Most todo apps and project managers keep your data locked up nicely into their app and accessing it in a useable form outside the program is difficult. I need to be able to keep track of everything and then search through everything, picking apart what I need and extract the text to other places for further processing.

Prior to discovering TP I was using Emacs and a few Lisp scripts to write what I called “journal entries” which were really Todo lists. This worked great but I was duplicating information in many files, and extracting the useful bits meant writing a collection of Python scripts.

Now I use a single TP list to track everything. The trick is in the proper selection of tags so that I can slice and dice the list into the useful bits I want to see. Then, every 6 months I archive the list and start a new one, extracting out all the important bits and archiving them into the other docs I need. Using plain text means even if TP’s powerful searching goes away (@jessegrosjean don’t let this happen!) , I could still write my own set of Python scripts (or use Birch) to parse the files.

I’ve written a few TP scripts to help with this. The most important part of my workflow is to use the Pareto Principle to prioritize my tasks (with the knowledge that a great many things on my todo list really aren’t that important). So I wrote a few scripts to let me set priority for tasks (a combination of effort and benefit), then sort my list according to priority. Then, using search in TP, I always get the results in the priority that makes sense to me.

I’ll also add that I use FoldingText (which I find to be brilliant in so many ways) as a general note-taker, idea generator, and individual project manager. So I have FoldingText files for each project, and then the actionable items from that get merged into my TP file. This separates the dumping ground of constant ideas and notes from actionable items.

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I came across this post recently which describes use scenario very similar to my own.

This is actually really interesting. I really do love the fact that task paper is so mendable so one can really fit it together in a way that works best for you. I might try give it a go but I still feel like for pure task management system, 2Do is just phenomenal. For doing planning and layouts, mind mapping is amazing. Kind of unix’s philosophy of have one tool that does one thing and does it extremely well.

One thing I find really bad thought is the fact that there is no ‘quick add’ global hotkey for the app. I really wish there was a really well made and well thought out quick add feature that one can use from whatever app the user is in.

I like the simplicity and “lightness” of text driven programs. I use nvALT for my general notetaking for example. While in some ways I appreciate GTD systems, I find my life moves too fast and I don’t want to spend a lot of time recording tasks that will quickly be done anyway. So I guess my lists end up being mainly things that are important but not urgent. Things that if I don’t keep them present I might procrastinate away. With that background, my TP lists has a few main sections: 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) at the top that I update every day. Most days it has 6-8 things listed - LOL! Then I have a section of other critical tasks that I evaluate for promotion into MIT area. Then I have a list of current projects or initiatives (say 20 or so) that I mentally review for next actions and record them.

I used NirvanaGTD for a long time and the feature I miss the most is having a Focus list emailed to myself in the morning for review.

Something I am trying to do more of is tagging my tasks with expected time for completions @5, @15, @30, @60 and so on. If I can remind myself that some tasks are quick to know out, I am more likely to do them.


I’m trying to use TaskPaper for three different things: 1) managing my professional and personal life, 2) managing the details of my projects, 3) drafting outlines.

As a GTD app, it’s going to replace Circus Ponies Notebook, a very flexible app that has recently stopped development, and is unfortunately plagued with some major issues that make it unpleasant to use. Since TaskPaper is much simpler, I’m trying to see if I can make my GTP workflow different, maybe cleaner.

In GTD, everything starts with lists. Then lists get collected into projects, then in different areas of work/life. For example, I may make a list of books to study for an exam. Then I will group them in the exam’s syllabus. Then in a folder containing all the materials for the exam (teacher’s name and contacts, lesson’s room, exam’s date and results). All this will go inside the university cycle dossier together with the other courses. And all this is either a page in Notebook, a main-level project or a separate file in TaskPaper. Something like:

  • Studies [page, file, or project]
    • Bachelor in Humanities
      • Linguistics
        • Professor’s name and contacts
        • Lesson syllabus
          • Schedule
          • Books
          • Further materials
        • Exam’s date and results
      • Literature

Or, I can organize my job, something like this:

  • Work
    • The Big Ultrasonic Airplane Project
      • Customer’s company
        • Address and various informations
        • Referral’s contacts
        • Technicians to talk with
      • First draft
        • Meeting dates
        • Proofreaders
          • Contacts
          • Contact them tomorrow!
      • Final draft
      • Updates

And so on. A separate file could contain the details for the single project, with each step detailed and managed individually (status of the single parts, daily briefings, visits to an external company, detailed notes on things to do, double check, revise).

Most list items have a deadline, some a starting time, and must interface with my Mac and phone calendar. With Notebook, each item/activity can be synchronized to a calendar. Completing an activity and checking it makes it disappear from the calendar. Editing it makes it be automatically updated in the calendar.

Unfortunately, Notebook has a serious bug that makes editing activity times very clumsy, having to deal with palettes and separate fields. This is the main reason I’m leaving it. I like, on the contrary, being able to write the time inline, as you do in TaskPaper. I only would like that the search engine understood natural language dates (January 20), instead of ISO-formatted ones (2017-01-20).

TaskPaper lets you easily create an event in the calendar, by using the Quick Look feature. It is not a synced event, but it should work. In case of editing it, you have to go go the calendar, delete the old event, and create a new one from TaskPaper. I know there is a script that should help making this easier. I would love it could make this syncing process assisted, as the most recent version does with Reminders (that I use very sparsely, instead relying heavily on calendars).

Another thing I rely heavily on is a list of due-soon things to do. If the calendar gives the big pictures, and lets me plan my time, the due-soon list gives me a procedure to follow for the next few days. Notebook had the SuperFind page, showing the next events grouped by context (page/project), and ordered by date. Nearer or overdue activities were shown in strong red, nearing activities in pale red. I don’t think coloring by date is possible with TaskPaper’s search results, but I think this is something I can live without. Also, date order could be not so important, if I can focus on a shorter time, and use the calendar exclusively for a bigger pictures and longer time forecast. What I really like in TaskPaper, is that it shows each activity in a detailed context’s hierarchy.

As an outliner, TaskPaper is very simple and effective. Create a project, and it becomes an headline in the sidebar, for easy navigation. Collapse and expand items at will. Focusing is immediate as cliccking on a project’s name. Copy everything, and paste it into a wordprocessor or mindmap app, and you are in an effective integrated system. Themes in the newer version would be great for choosing the right style, but I’ll live without (or, I’ll understand how to use the older version, that I’m not fully understanding).

So, at the moment I’m using TaskPaper as an outliner, and as a detailed planner/task sheet for a couple projects I’m working on. I’m only experimenting with it as a GTD system, with the lack of complete calendar synchronization making it less useful than expected. Natural dates processing would be a plus, but I guess I can live without (and the newer version makes it easy to enter ISO dates).

I’m sticking with it? Who knows. I like the concept, but for some time I’m also limited to the features of the very nice version 3.3.2. Any innovation will not be for me. But I’ll see if it will work for me in any coming future.

I’m arriving late at this conversation, but

There’s an excellent Alfred Workflow made specifically for Taskpaper 3. You’ll have to buy the Powerpack, but believe me, it’s worth the money for many reasons.


I’m re-discovering the magic of TaskPaper 3. I like to follow canonical GTD. The idea is to make separate lists for projects, next actions, and someday/maybe, and agendas. The argument is that it helps to separate open-ended things bouncing around your head to things you can actually do now or in the very near future. To do this, I re-interpret the meaning of Jesse’s definitions of projects, tasks, and tags.

I set up my single .taskpaper file like this:

Waiting For:
On Hold:

The items listed with “Projects:” are just a flat list of “Tasks”. Following canonical GTD, these “Tasks” are all the goals I want to accomplish in the next few months. These require two or more actions to complete.

Mac:, Lab:, Office:, Phone:, and Errands: are GTD contexts, and they list the next actions for projects as well as one off tasks that do not really need to be assigned to a project. Here is some TP magic: the tags. This helps me keep track of which task is associated with each project. I write something like this: - task 1 @projects(project_name). Clicking on the project name in the parentheses pulls up all the related tasks associated with “project_name”. Boom just like that. Instant sorting. No complex query constructions. This is a problem I had by just relying on simple text files or just; how to keep track of the tasks linked with each project.

The ease and speed (with a few keyboard shortcuts) with which one can add subtasks, notes, and then quickly hide or expand these subtasks, the ability to quickly Focus In and Focus Out on different items, the ability to open different parts of your file in tabs, really puts me at ease because I can quickly think about granular details but then zoom out to see the big picture. A complex text file becomes this quickly configurable manageable list.

Copying particular items from within TaskPaper to Reminders is helpful if I want to work on my iPad and be reminded of particular tasks. And I can use a capture list on Reminders on iPad or iPhone or my trusty set of index cards to capture ideas without my Mac easily accessible.

Just cool stuff.