How does Bike relate to TaskPaper?

Bike and TaskPaper share many of the same goals, but Bike isn’t TaskPaper 4.0. Bike takes a different approach in a number of key areas.

New Editor

TaskPaper is built on the standard macOS text editing component. This provides great utility, but has often limited what I’m able to build.

Bike’s editor is built from the ground up with a focus on performance and fluidity. This is a tradeoff because I no longer get system editing behavior for free, but it gives me the flexibility to build exactly what I want.

Bike’s unique feel and performance are enabled by this custom editor.

File Format

TaskPaper is inseparable from its plain text file format. Bike on the other hand uses a HTML based file format. Rename a .bike file to .html and it’s a web page.

I think the new .bike format will allow for more powerful scripts and plugins.

It’s easy for scripts to read/write .bike files, they don’t need to parse and understand a custom format. It’s just HTML.

It’s also easy for scripts and plugins to store metadata, track items with persistent ids, generally do many things that are difficult when working with plain text files.

Bike also supports reading and writing .txt and .opml documents, but when working with .txt documents metadata, item ids, etc will be lost each time a document is closed.

Framing / Nouns

TaskPaper framed as a todo list. Your document is made up of tasks, projects, and notes. This is good in some ways… I think it makes it easier to explain TaskPaper to new people.

I also think it’s limiting and undersells TaskPaper’s strengths and possibilities. Most of what I want to do in an outliner doesn’t map cleanly in to projects/tasks/comments.

Bike is a more open ended and generic tool. Today everything is just a generic item. In the future I expect other types to begin sneaking in. For example I want to have separator items. Maybe also heading items. Also maybe tasks, etc. The point being again that Bike is more generic and open ended.

Text and Outline Editing modes

TaskPaper works like a text editor with some special outliner commands added in.

In text mode that’s also how Bike works. But Bike also supports a separate outline editing mode. (Use escape key to toggle between these modes).

When in outline mode Bike works like an outliner. Item movement commands work on the entire outline structure and movements are constrained to that structure.

Another important feature of outline mode is that it’s not for text editing. That means all the normal text editing keybindings can be used for other purposes. For example when in outline mode you only need press left arrow to expand an item (in text mode that key moves the cursor left). I expect to add other such shortcuts going forward.

Pure Swift implementation

TaskPaper is implemented in a combination of JavaScript for the model layer and Swift for the UI layer. This is good for some things, but adds complexity to app development.

Bike is simpler, it’s all Swift code. This has made debugging and optimizing code easier and faster.

Long term

I don’t expect Bike to replace TaskPaper. I do hope to eventually implement the next version of TaskPaper using Bike’s editor (keeping TaskPaper file format). But that’s a long way out yet, and I’ve hoped similar things in the past and they didn’t pan out.



Are you using Bike to track tasks and projects yourself now? Or are you still using TaskPaper for that?

I’m using Bike, but important to note that I mostly never used TaskPaper’s tags and filter features. At the moment I miss sidebar most, but living with it, feel like I want to get outliner as right as possible before I think about extra dimensions.


Listening to Changelog right now, and it made me hop over here to see what’s going on. Interesting to hear that you never used TaskPaper’s tags and filters.

Did I say never? More truthfully would be “don’t currently for organization”. In the past I have tried to use them at various times, but it never stuck. I have also regularly used Command-D (@done) to check items off… but I see that as more of a state set, not really using them for organization purposes.

How would you compare your goals with Bike to WorkFlowy?

Apologies, you said mostly never.

I think my main point is that for me hierarchy is the way that I organize things. I sometime use tags as markers on items, but I don’t use tags as a larger system of organization such as how you might use tags in Google Mail.

the way that I organize things

ditto, and in deference to those who feel that trees might be less democratic than networks, I find myself thinking of it more as nesting or branching than hierarchy : -)

(of course, as we now know, the forests above the ground have branching roots that chatter and trade through fungal networks beneath the ground. Most of nature is probably more networked, on the whole, but forests and trees are very good ways of organising thoughts and projects that reach up from the networks towards the sky, and they nourish the networks too : -)

( and branching rivers feed lakes and oceans well )

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Since I first started using Outliners in the 1980’s, that’s how I’ve managed most of the information I use both in my work and personal lives. Back then I was convinced that they were going to become as important as spreadsheets to most people. I wasted a fair amount of time trying to get friends and business associates to use them the way I was.

Since then I’ve come up with various theories to explain why outliners never caught on the way I expected them to. But the bottom line is that it’s simply a mystery to me.

Over the years I’ve had a few occasions where the outliner I was depending on went poof (e.g., Circus Ponies Notebook), leaving me with a crisis-level task to find something else to migrate all my outlines to. Today, I purposely depend on two outliners, so if one goes poof I still have another I’m used to using and know how to easily move data to. My current two are OmniOutliner and Bike.

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Cultural lag ?

I think the full value of outliners begins to be unlocked when we go a bit beyond the ‘Table of Contents’ (topic and sub-topic) model to an argument structure model.

A lot of mind-map use seems to be limited to a Topic → Sub-topic structure, in which child rows are just a break-down of the parent row into smaller parts.

We get much more out of outliners with a key point ⇄ supporting point structure, in which:

  • the parent row is some kind of claim or answer to a question
  • the child rows support or clarify that claim or response:
    • either making it clearer,
    • or making it more persuasive or more finely-tuned
      (with evidence,
      or with supporting argument, refining qualifications etc etc)

Once we are working with key points and supporting points (rather than just topics and their sub-divisions) outliners really are expressing the organisation and re-structuring of thought itself.

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Agreed. I have a cousin who recognized that in the early outliner days and used it as the core concept behind a software package for trial attorneys that became the de facto standard for assembling a case.

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Summation. I think he sold the company in the 1990’s, at which time it was the big gorilla. I’m not sure how widely-used it is today–I suspect that since then plenty of competitors have sprung up.

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