Task Lists W/ Checkboxes

I am brand spanking new to DEVONthink coming from the Evernote brand and I already very fond of this product. It’s versatility is unquestioned.

However I am still learning an still trying to figure out the workflow for what I do.

I use Omnifocus which seems to work great with DT for linking research materials with actual tasks. If I find a web article that I want to blog about, I can save it to DT from Pocket or Feedly and then send it to Omnifocus as an actionable item.

But sometimes I need to do checklists which I dislike to do in Omnifocus. My checklists are often a ‘Template’ used over and over again.

So my question is this:

Is there a way to create a checklist (one in which I can tick off items as they are needed) in DT? Then I can simply create a task in Omnifocus, linking to DT? I have tried and searched and I have not found the answer. It looks like this question was posed and requested a half-decade ago but without resolution.

Thanks for your time!


No. There’s no template for a checklist, and checklists are not easy with the document types that DEVONthink can edit (RTF, Markdown, Formatted Note, Plain Text, CSV / Sheets). Not impossible, just not easy. I believe most people will link document in DEVONthink to OF actions. Fastest way to do this is to copy the item link from DEVONthink with Edit > Copy Item link, then create an OF action with the OF quick entry dialog and paste the item link into the text area of that action.

There are lots of other workflow suggestions for integrating OF and DEVONthink – here, at the OF forum, and all over the blogosphere.

I suggest tracking task completion in one place, not two. I.e., check off completion in OF not DEVONthink.

I understand where you are coming from, but to me checklists are normally too fine-grained to be put as separate tasks into OF; they would drown out the real tasks I would have to accomplish on a given day.

Checklists are more like quality-control for certain types of tasks, to guarantee repeatable outcomes. A common example could be the checklists some people use for blogposts (random example via Google search: https://writtent.com/blog/ultimate-blog-post-checklist-hit-publish-button/).

It makes perfect sense to turn this into a checklist document that you duplicate and check off each time before publishing a post. Having 22 subtasks in OF for this would be annoying.

Every time you make a mistake that is not covered by your list, you can add another entry. This is very similar to how you create tests during software development to avoid re-introducing bugs once you have fixed them.

Finally, once your checklist has stabilized, it can become the blueprint to automating much of the process (where possible/economical).

To me OmniOutliner is an excellent tool for checklists. I realize that it will be an additional expense, but it works brilliantly with DT (but not as well with DT2G): The checklists are displayed nicely inside DT via QuickLook preview, and Shift+⌘+O will open it in OmniOutliner for editing.

You can mark your checklist as a template inside DT, so creating a new instance is very quick via the “New from template…” mechanism.

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  • Numbers is good for creating and maintaining checklists. And now it is free for all. Viewable but not editable in DEVONthink – open with [size=120]⇧⌘O[/size]
  • OmniOutliner Esstentials is good and $10. The full-cost OmniOutliner Pro is not needed if checklists is all you want to do. Viewable but not editable in DEVONthink – open with [size=120]⇧⌘O[/size]
  • RTF tables are OK, but become cumbersome quickly if you have to move rows around. Viewable and editable in DEVONthink. Free.

All of these accept x-devonthink-item:// links and omnifocus:///task/ links, if you want to tie documents and task management together with your checklists.

If your checklists tend to be similar, e.g., if projects are templated and need a checklist with the same actions, then create a document using one of the suggested methods (or something else) and use File > Export > As Template and save the document to the Templates.noindex hierarchy that DEVONthink suggests. Then for future use just create an instance of your template using Data > New from Template.

OmniFocus is not a list-making application or even a “todo” application, as you note. It’s a task manager. RTF and Plaintext can do lists but not checkboxes, which seem critical to your workflow. I have to echo Korm then: you really want a dedicated list-making application. I can’t speak highly enough about OmniOutliner. It makes lists VERY easy (oh, and it also does really great outlines). The new pricing that OmniGroup has launched with the release of OmniOutliner 5 makes the cost of entry very, very low. If you have lists that you regularly re-use, OmniOutliner’s templates feature is super easy to use and you can easily make frequently used content into reusable templates.

Thanks for the feedback. I will investigate OmniOutliner though I do much of my work on the iPad and with DEVONthink To Go.

I am in HR, so unfortunately when I lose an employee I have to ‘wash-rinse-repeat’ with the same procedures. I need to ensure that I get these things done, but as has been noted, that can really bog down Omnifocus.

Thanks again!

OmniOutliner is available on iOS as a separate purchase. OmniOutliner iOS supports Document Provider, which means it can open and save files from / to DEVONthink to Go. The feature has to be activated in OmniOutliner iOS settings (“Use Cloud Storage Providers”).

Unfortunately, DEVONthink to Go does not provide previews for OmniOutliner documents in any format. DEVONthink desktop does provide the previews. The lack of complete previews in DTTG is a hassle, in my opinion.

You could create a plain text/markdown file and open in iAWriter

Not a bad suggesting in the abstract, but this doesn’t address the need for checkboxes, which seem to be critical to the OP’s needs.

Doesn’t the syntax in iAWriter for creating/manipulating task lists (with checkboxes) satisfy the OP’s needs? 100% agree that it would be great to see this in DT though!

Ah, I see. I haven’t used iAWriter and didn’t realize it has some special/proprietary markdown syntax.

I suppose, in some respects, yes, as long as the OP didn’t mind viewing it in iAWriter, this could work!


How about using the builtin MacOS Notes app? This makes nice checkbox lists, can be shared with others (I share the grocery list with my wife), syncs across devices. To get a link to a note, click on the Share icon, and there is an option for copying the link.


I’ve been looking into this too. I like the idea of having most if not everything in one place.

The problem comes with using other applications when you’re on iOS.

I’ve simply opted for the iawriter approach or some form of text expansion.

All I really need is:

List name

  • [ ] do x
  • [ ] do y
  • [ ] do z
  • [x] completed a
  • [x] completed b
  • [x] completed c

If you edit md on macOS using iawriter this is really simple:
Option+Command+L creates a new item
Command+. completes an item

It’s also fairly trivial to add the “x” in DTTG.

If you wanted to get fancy on DTTG you could use a text expansion to create your list items.

I highly recommend Bear: bear-writer.com

I stuff all reference material into DT, but for making quick notes/checklists/as a scratchpad, Bear is faster and nicer. DT is the filing cabinet; Bear is the yellow pad on the desk. (I also have a pad on the desk.)

The difficulty is having things in one encrypted secure place. Plus Bear is yet another subscription on a landscape already chock full of subscriptions.

For me the plain text solution is as good as pen and paper and keeps things in DTPO and more importantly DTTG.

I too have used DTPO only as a filing cabinet, but have realised this is a mistake as DTPO is so much more. Templates, linked notes, spreadsheets, smart groups and the like make it so much more. As ever some time investment is needed to benefit from it’s full capabilities.

When I came to the conclusion that every developer wanting a subscription for their software was financially unsustainable, it pushed me to see if more could be done with less. I have slowly been moving all my work into DTPO from these other apps and am pleasantly surprised at how effective it is. I realised I was paying for software where DTPO could do the same thing. Admittedly some of the UI is not as glitzy, but then nor is pen and paper and I love to use it.

At the moment my project and task management are all done on paper (shock horror!) with support documentation going into DTPO synced to DTTG. Lists are also in DTPO as are email archives. I have removed all my contacts off my phone contacts and placed them into DTPO (would be nice if DTTG could render vcard properly). Why you ask, because every app seems to want access to my contacts as do email programmes etc (and those are just the one’s that ask for permission). It is convenient, but also the weakest point in terms of keeping people’s personal and sensitive information secure.

DTPO is my hub and it’s synchronisation to iOS is secure and marvellous!

I think using DTPO only as a filing cabinet is like only using a smartphone to make phone calls. It does it well, but can do so much more.

That’s great. But not everything outside DEVONthink is on subscription, or likely to be, and I believe using DEVONthink with external apps is a far richer approach than just trying to use DEVONthink’s internal editors or other features.

Right, Korm. It may surprise most of today’s users that UNIX (MacOS is a variant) has the philosophy that each app should focus on one thing and that a user is best served using a collection of such utilities to get things done. A Swiss Army knife utility is generally eschewed (I never did like that word).

As for the use of subscriptions, I’ve read that many/most developers are having a hard time making a living producing $5.99 apps, even at $29.99 and higher. I suppose coding an Angry Birds Editor might be successful, but if I value the capabilities of a certain app, then I’m willing to pay for a reasonable subscription. After all, we’re encountering the same thing with video delivery. Subscriptions for Hulu, Netflix, Amazon (indirectly), CBS, NBC, Acorn etc. tend to add up. That’s the way things are shaping up.

I would respectfully disagree.

From a productivity point of view it’s fairly well known that spreading your tasks and projects between apps slows you down and adds the risk of missing something. There’s also enough study coming out now to indicate that switching focus, even though temporarily can cost you 30 minutes to get back to how you were thinking before the switch. I appreciate that “one size fits all” doesn’t exist, but DTPO comes pretty close.

It’s funny how “many/most developers are having a hard time making a living producing $5.99 apps even at $29.99 and higher” argument is so often touted. Yet the fact is that software has thrived for the last 20 years. I appreciate that subscriptions makes things easier for developers, but many will lose out as the market is already saturated. I’ve had 6 apps in 2 months go subscription. The result. I’ve decided not to support this model of revenue. I do not personally like it as a consumer and I simply cannot afford it. I think long term we’ll see many apps go under as people realise they cannot carry the cost.

I personally find my productivity is increased if I do not need to switch apps. The more I can do in one app the more time I save (and ultimately cost). Maintaining deep focus is important for me and app changes tend to break that focus. Many apps such as Bear do not have any significant functionality over DTPO simply because they are text editors (which DTPO does very capably). I’m often drawn to these apps because of their nice UI not functionality. How many apps do we all have that simply overlap a massive amount in functionality? I have wasted no end of time looking and trying apps and then porting data and re-porting it. I’m finding that spending that time to learn my current tools well is a far better investment.

In the end I believe less is more when it comes to apps.

I am also one who likes to keep as much in one app as possible. Years ago I had almost everything I did in InfoSelect and it was great. I rarely switched out of the app except for specialized applications.

In todays environment that is more difficult, but I still like to do so as much as possible in one app.

I keep task lists in DTPO, but each task is an individual text file, usually with just the title, but sometimes more if the task requires additional information. I recently switched to all Markdown files because I can format the additional information in the file.

I researched something similar to the idea of a task list in a file recently (similar to what the OP asked for), and saw that some versions of Markdown support checkboxes either internally or with a plugin. I do not believe our version of MultiMarkdown does so, but that would have been a nice way to implement what the OP desired.

Although not what the OP wanted, I thought that a checked option added to DTPO alongside the flag marker would be nice so that you could toggle items as “checked.” I believe it has been discussed before. Maybe in version 3?