TaskPaper and Longer Documents


I am asking the following as a curiosity more than a problem or a suggestion. I enjoy TaskPaper very much. As I have already mentioned in an earlier post, I use it to track project steps. Doing this involves tags, searches, and layouts. Simple and just right for what I need in TP.

Now, I am getting more involved in a book I am working on. To do this I am finding that there are three main documents I will want to create and to maintain; 1) a draft or a dumping place for expounding all ideas related to the project (the book), 2) a draft of the actual document, and, 3) a mind map or good outline representation of the work.

I have several apps already which will do most of this work. In TaskPaper, I like the way it can focus on a section or on an idea. But I don’t entirely trust TaskPaper for much more than what I am using it for. This is because, from time to time, I find a section that somehow got into a different place and so was lost and at the very least, misplaced. I am willing to give TaskPaper a pass on this as it is probably my deleting something out of an outline without paying full attention to what the outline collapses to after deleting it.

I want to ask about TaskPaper and Jessie’s other two writing apps, WriteRoom and Folding Text. I love the way TP can expand or hide text and can focus on just a section of text. I might assume that both WriteRoom and FoldingText do the exact same thing. I know Jessie has recently worked on an update to WriteRoom (or is he now?). I am just wondering what features that TaskPaper has would be improved on if I got WriteRoom and what features any would WR and FT have that TP does not have?

I am currently writing in Nisus and I also have a license for Scrivener. Mind Maps are in Curio (and Scapple if needs be). And of course, TaskPaper is how I keep track of my tasks.

The main thing, and the hardest thing that I have to achieve, is to collapse everything but the section that I am working on, and also be able to expand it all out again to see the whole picture. Right now this looks like several different programs. I was just wondering if WR could do more of this - or if it is pretty much similar to TP. Since I am already pretty familiar with TP then I am already aware of potential benefits and limitations in WR and FT. But then, I don’t know anything about WR and FT - which is why I am asking this here and now. :wink:


I use Taskpaper exclusively as an outliner, most recently to outline a fiction book. I have three TP files:

  • the outline of the book
  • discarded parts of the outline
  • notes

I use Ulysses to write the actual book. By default it wants to do everything on iCloud, but it’s pretty easy to configure it so you can with Markdown files in a folders (one per project). You can nest folders to further organize your project. You’re always editing individual documents in Ulysses but in the sidebar you can limit your view per folder.

My structure is like this:

- Root folder (includes the TaskPaper files, and some misc Markdown files)
  - Scenes (the whole manuscript)
     - Part 1
     - Part 2
     - etc.

Each Markdown file is a scene (or set of closely inter-related scenes) ranging from 700-2500 words. I haven’t decided how I’ll break them by chapter, yet :slight_smile:

At any moment I can view all the scenes, or just those in a specific part. In Ulysses you can combine files either permanently (merge), visually (glue) or during export. So what I’ll do, eventually, is work chapter sections in my existing text.

I like Taskpaper’s focus but I find that Ulysses ability to work on a single file/scene, coupled with its flexible sidebar, is sufficient for my purposes. I also discovered that I like having the actual manuscript be separate from the outline. I write the former following the later, but sometimes I diverge, and it’s useful not to have to worry about the mechanics of that. I just write the new scene and then go back later to work it in the outline.

Because both I use plain text with both Taskpaper and Ulysses, at its heart this project is just a pile of text files. So I can use Sublime Text, my favorite text editor, to manage everything and make cross-tool edits. For example, if I decide to change a place name from XYZ to ZYX, I can just do a (careful) search-and-replace in the project folder.

Hope this helps.

Hanging indent

Thanks. I am surprised that no one has weighed in on the other Hogbay apps. After watching some YouTube videos perhaps I don’t need them after all. I was curious if TaskPapers ability to focus in and out, outline, and fold text was also in Folding Text. One video goes on at length about markdown and FoldingText. Markdown is a separate issue. I have yet to embrace it in my writing. I agree that formatting while writing can be a serious distraction and time waster in my workflow. OTH, I also get important visual cues from my writing. I prefer not to write only in plain text with no capacity to see something bolded, underlined, etc. I am also a bit picky about setting line spacing so it is not all running together visually. I guess you could say I like to keep both the left and right sides of my brain happy (with logic and creative control) :wink:

You say you use TP in three separate documents as you compile the outline, rejected ideas, and notes? That’s interesting. I will give this some thought. My book is more along the lines of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. I keep gathering and associating ideas - some that reinforce a point and some that take it in another direction. Some of these get repeated and need to be rethought to support the earlier points and some need to be discarded entirely. All in all, this has been my biggest conundrum, how to keep track of all the changes and not loose focus of what I am actually doing or where I am going with the document.

Right now I am trying it in TP. If I frame it as you have laid it out, this is still an outline and folding and focusing at this point seems very helpful to my process.

Using Curio to see it as a mind map was also very helpful.

When it comes to the writing, I have not tried Ulysses. I do have Scrivener which “may” be similar to that. And I have Nisus which I like much better than Word (which I also have but don’t like to use).

Incidentally, I tried putting some markdown tags in the TP document and then opening them in Marked2 (a markdown viewing app). The first level header that I marked down shows as a header, but nothing else is affected apparently. This means that if I wanted to get serious about using Markdown I should think about getting FoldingText and if not, TP should do quite well.


I use TP alongside Scrivener, with a project for every chapter. I used to keep checklists and notes etc. in Scriv but found separating tasks and text really helpful. I also keep all my longer cuts (rejected ideas and otherwise) in Ulysses which for me is much better as a note repository than a writing tool per se.

Re: Marked - I know all the Mac tech writers gush about the developer but I have never had any luck with getting it to work with Scrivener.


Where I was getting lost was in failing to understand that there is a real difference between getting the outline filled in and writing the book. Right now I have two TP documents side by side on my vertical monitor. The second is just a copy of the first one. So, as in Scrivener, I have two views of the same document side by side. I am making good progress this way with something that was starting to overwhelm me in Nisus.

I love the folding text feature in TaskPaper.

Shortening links?

Yes I’m working on that WriteRoom update. Also no longer working on FoldingText… that project has been transferred to Mutahhir (who helped me create it in the first place). Here’s working on an update, but I have little to do with the project besides giving him a big thumbs up! :slight_smile:

Generally I think the differences between TaskPaper and the next WriteRoom are bested described by their tagline.

TaskPaper – Plain text todo lists
WriteRoom – Distraction free writing

There will be some feature overlap (once WriteRoom 4 arrives) because they are built on same underlying text model. But they have different focuses. One for making lists, the other for writing. Of course they are intended to be more flexible then the average app, so you can use them for many things. But when it comes down to deciding on a feature the tagline is where I look to help me decide if the feature is in or out.

Upadate I just realized that in the first version of this post I say "I’m not working on that WriteRoom update… I of course meant to say “I AM working on that WriteRoom update”, not sure how the not slipped in.