Struggling with document organization

I know this might be atypical behavior but I have been using Taskpaper to capture meeting notes as it allows me to quickly tag, categorize, and organize my thoughts. It also works really well for capturing tasks/action items :slight_smile:

My problem is that I now have a large collection of different taskpaper files (usually one per project) that each have some kind of task that I need to do which is becoming a challenge to keep organized.

I realize that I could just use single file for all projects although that doesn’t seem like it would scale that well.

Are there plans to allow for more than one file to be opened at the same time and display all the projects/tags/searches for all open files? Basically a sidebar like we have now that would work across multiple files.

Any other ideas/tips/scripts that would give me a summary of all matches for a given tag across multiple taskpaper files?

1 Like

I am not a developer, but I think I can answer your questions.

  1. Yes. There is a plan to have a document viewer of sorts that will help you to keep things organize. Some of the work is already done, but we are still waiting in the implementation. Here is a sample of how it would work. Just consider that the sample program I am showing you is not the final implementation and TaskPaper is not even rendering anything there. Library View feedback

  2. Yes, but it might take a while. I was one of the ones that was very supportive of the idea, but there are several other ideas that are further up the queue. I was asked to remind @jessegrosjean when the time comes, but I am not sure if a week and a half is too soon :wink:

With regards with having multiple task paper files. I would recommend you that for the time being you just put them all together in a file. At least until queries throughout the Library is implemented. Honestly, at this time it is the best way to keep all of those things together. You can separate them by a well define category and then use queries to search for a particular meeting, subject, tag, date, etc. I have a file that is really HUGE, but it works really well. If you need some ideas or help with the queries, just post a sample and I and others might be able to help.

I have four big files and then I just keep them open and tab across those. I think that my system would get too complicated with more than four files.


I was going to post this as a new topic but I think I have something that will add to this. I just returned to using TaskPaper and I know I have suggested the following before - I don’t think Jessie agreed that it was a good idea (I could be wrong).

I have a tag called “@focus” that I use for things in my various lists that I need to focus on. The problem is that when I click on focus, instead of just seeing a list of all lines that end with “@ focus”, I also get all the lines headers and sub headers and on and on.

I am organizationally challenged - no, really. When I want to focus on things I have to do then I need visual simplicity, I only want to see those things that I am working on. That is why I am using tags in the first place isn’t it?

This turns a potentially great idea, showing a simple list of things I need to focus on into a visually complex and therefore confusing result where I have to mentally block out all the levels just to focus on well … what I used the focus tag for in the first place. As fas as I am aware there is no way to change this.

As far as multiple documents, I don’t have an answer for that. When I first started using TaskPaper I tried that too. The only thing I can say for sure is that I have learned to drag and drop files that I want to associate with a project. I suppose you could do that if you had a main organization document and then any meeting notes or other project saves as a second To document and has it’s link dropped into your main document to monitor progress when needed?

I recently started doing that with saved HoudahSpot searches. I set my HoudahSpot search for the tags and all I need for each project and then drop a HS document link into that projects organization in TP. When I have a new task then I put it down in TP and I take care of it there.

Wow, that houdahSpot hack is very creative. I am tempted to try it.

With regards to the context to the tags, I see your point and @jessegrosjean’s too. I think that the difficult thing is that it would be very hard to implement that in TaskPaper because of the engine used to query things. I think that in order to implement something like this, Jessie would have to redo either the search engine or the rendering part of the program.

If you are good at some scripting language, you could probably do this using regex. Then just have this script run every so often and create a file with the unique tasks that you want. A good way to start this might be the script that Brett used to create events and tasks in TaskPaper. I modified it (I am not good at scripting, but I know enough to make a mess of things :slight_smile: ) and placed it in the “scripts” page.

Thanks, HS saves custom searches as stand alone documents so launching a saved search will give you the results you want in HS. It took me a long time to figure this out and I was getting very frustrated as every time I revisited a project I had a hard time remembering what I had already sent off or where this or that document was that related to the project.

I have given my projects (important) searches a special leading space or dash so they all sort to the top of my HS saved search sidebar. That way when I have HS open I can easily click on any (active) project I want to look at.

I have also just started keeping a Pages document for each project where I try to track notes to myself; what we spoke about the last time, who I was speaking with, what progress I have made, etc. I have that notes document come up with the same tag I used for the other documents for each search so it should be easier to track my notes as I progress.

The only thing that the HoudaSpot link doesn’t do for some reason is move focus to that HS document if it is already open - and I leave HS open all the time. I am truly visually focused with organization so I have an iMac and two extra monitors, one horizontal and one rotated to vertical. I use a track pad so it is very easy to work around this limitation by having my HS document on the desktop right beside my TaskPaper document. When I launch a project search I swipe on to the right and I am there.

I have a diagnosed Traumatic Brain Injury which is actually much more common than most people realize. This means the executive functioning part of my brain, the part where I organize things, is not working very well at all. I am still highly intelligent but I get lost very easily. I am easily overwhelmed by too much information all at the same time. I also have memory challenges which means I have to set things up so that when I forget where I am (often) then there is an easy way to get started again.

If using a script would achieve this result then I will put that on the list to look at. Unfortunately once I get started trying to solve a major problem like this it can take a while to get back to what I was already trying to do. So I will have to get back to that idea at a later time. Thanks for the suggestion though.


I am sorry to hear about your brain injury. It seems as if your coping mechanism is working great. I have a bunch of things going on right now, but I think that implementing something like this might be something that I can be interested on. If I get to work on this, will let you know.

Thanks, you’re very kind.

UPDATE: I asked for help on the Keyboard Maestro Forums and someone sent me a script that I as able to modify. I can’t say this resolves what I would still like to see in TaskPaper where I could continue to work on @focus items, but it does very well for gathering the items for a quick paste into Notes so that I can carry them around as an actionable list.

Thanks for the responses!

It seems like my best bet for now is to move everything into a single file and manage things that way.

Not ideal but it’s the only way I can think of to use taskpaper for now without going crazy.

Really hope this kind of functionality is added to the LibraryView module sometime in the near future.

@tasker and @mylevelbest,

There is a library in Ruby that can help you accomplish this kind of easily. I have been trying to understand the Library, and I think that I can do something like what you are asking. In short, I can create a script that scans your TaskPaper document folder and goes through your TaskPaper files looking for a specific tag. Then the program creates a new TaskPaper file with the all the elements with a particular tag. Here are the limitations of my coding abilities (which are pretty much non-existing).

  1. It only gives the actual element that is tagged. I will not get all the children if such element has them.
  2. It is cool to have an overview of this, but remember that since it creates a separate file, any changes to the file will not be replicated to the source documents. In other words, the file created will be useful for review only.

I already have something that looks through a file for tags and can create another file with such tags. I think it would take me 10-20 minutes of work of having the script go through a whole library. You would have to modify the script to look for a particular tag(s). Is that something you would be interested on? IF you are, let me know and I can share it soon.

Hi Victor,

Yea that sounds awesome!!! :grin:

Please share when you have something.


I am not done with the file. The difficult part was trying to somehow represent where those lines come from. Trying to see how to do it, I came across an example. It used grep in the code. Playing with grep, I realized that the whole thing could be done with grep using regular expressions without having to do any sort of code. Okay, here is an example.

Let’s say that you want to create a file with all of the @focus tags. First start with something like this. This RegExp, “[^\s]@focus”, Requires a space before the text “@focus”. For more info and help with RegExp check RegEx101

grep -ERsh "[^\\s]@focus" ~/Dropbox/Apps/TaskPaper/Documents/

That will go through all of your documents and show all the lines where there is a " @focus" tag. Use something like man grep to figure out what are all of the options for grep in this example.

Now, lets’ say that you want to look for @focus or @important. Just add it to the grep RegExp search.

grep -ERsh "[^\\s]@focus|[^\\s]@important" ~/Dropbox/Apps/TaskPaper/Documents/

Notice that it is the “|” that functions as the boolean OR. If you want to place the results in a file, just pipe the results to your file. That creates the file where you are in the terminal, but you can change the path too. Just remember that “>” erases all the previous contents of the files with the new info. If you just want to append, use “>>”.

grep -ERsh "[^\\s]@focus|[^\\s]@important" ~/Dropbox/Apps/TaskPaper/Documents/ > test.taskpaper

If you don’t want to show lines that are already done, just grep the results eliminating all the “@done” from them; and then pipe them to a file. Something like this,

grep -ERsh "[^\\s]@focus|[^\\s]@important" ~/Dropbox/Apps/TaskPaper/Documents/ | grep -v @done > test.taskpaper

Hope that this helps!

1 Like

I have been using TP since around 2009 for exactly the same thing. keeping meeting notes, and on the fly, include action items tags so i can find them later. I also use it as a general editor to outline my thoughts. I have never used it strictly for 2Do lists…

I keep all projects in separate files inside the directories where the rest of my files are for that project. so I also have on the order of 1000 of TP files across these years. I like being able to separate all the notes and tasks from other projects. when I finish a project, those notes and tags stay with that directory and don’t get in the way of other work.
when I need a master list for all the active projects, then I have another file that I transfer the tagged notes to, which is a master list. it is like a hierarchy of files, with a master that spans all topics, and local files that let me manage the tasks when I’m dedicating time to that 1 project. procedurally, I mark a task in the lower level project files as done, and note that I transferred it to the master list. if I ever need to find strings across multiple files, I use textwrangler, which lets me search across multiple files and shows the list of matches in all the files.
it may sound complicated, but is is very modular, flexible, and convenient for me. on occasions where I had mixed different projects in the same file with all the meeting notes, I always got completely lost. so keeping the project partitioned this way has always worked better for me.

I rarely have time to check in. but was sick from work today and notice your topic in email notices. I had posted about my similarly atypical TP usage years ago. Nice to know I’m not the only “unique snowflake” using TP. I think the websites have moved around since then…
good luck-

To organise multiple Taskpaper files, I use nvAlt. It is a great way to search across many documents, although they all have to be in the one folder. I have designated Taskpaper as the default editor in nvAlt preferences, so when I have located the taskpaper I am looking for I can edit it in Taskpaper.

1 Like

Update: Earlier in this thread I mentioned that I was using HoudahSpot’s ability to save a search as a separate file and that this can be embedded as a link in a TaskPaper document. I said that there was a slight problem in that HoudahSpot was not taking front window focus when launched this way if it was already open and on a hidden desktop. I wrote the HoudahSpot developer, he reviewed the problem and is going to fix it in a future release.

I am using HoudahSpot more and more for organizing files in my workflows in that I have been setting up saved searches for the different projects I am working on, each with a tag related to an item of that project. The default search also opens with a cheat sheet of sorts, a file in Pages that keeps a list of all my tags and what they stand for lest I forget.

I have also discovered that using my ScanSnap scanner I have been able to take my standard 8.5 x 11 yellow tablet notes and scan them in, give them a tag, and with the preview and quicklook in HoudahSpot I can now find and read my notes very easily.

I love writing notes long hand and I love organizing using my mac as my prosthetic brain so this is the best of both worlds.

As far as TaskPaper goes, it is a text based program and therefore it’s previews (in HoudahSpot) are most unattractive. Indenting that makes sense in a TaskPaper document now looks so large that the preview seems completely jumbled together with text lines.

Why this matters is because I have challenges when organization is not visual. My brain just works that way. It is too bad that there isn’t a way to keep my stylesheet setting for the taskpaper preview. Because of this I am using Pages to track my progress in the aforementioned HoudahSpot organizing scheme.

The Keyboard Maestro script I have will do a great job of taking all the tags that end in @focus, make a new list with just those lines and cut off the tags. I have already tried this using TaskPaper and pasting results of the script to my Notes app which then allows me to access it on my iPhone.

I appreciate all the code tips mentioned in this thread, but the idea of solving the problem by creating yet another TaskPaper file just to understand my focus items is not a good direction for me. I am looking for simple, reliable (sustainable) organization. In TaskPaper the idea of clicking on a tag and seeing a search result of just that tag and all other tags is brilliant. It is simple yet powerful. It is sustainable over time with any number of saved searches.

Unfortunately, until Jessie rethinks how he wants the results to show, a list of tagged items found without their parent hierarchy also showing, this really does throw a wrench into the machinery of an otherwise great idea.

I think this clutter focus approach will continue to keep me away from a deeper embracing of TaskPaper in the short term. My brain will not tolerate visual disruption like that. Wish it were not so, but, there we are.