Task Lists W/ Checkboxes


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?

I know that it is a significant extension of what DTPO supports but I’d LOVE a checkbox/list file type that is available in both DTTG and DTPO versions. I’ve looked at many other task, grocery and list managers and all depend on some cloud service I do not control (iCloud or DropBox or similar) or do not have a desktop version or do not have the simple solution of a template I can duplicate and use once as I do a tasks.

I do use Omnifocus and while I can create templates for tasks in it it does become cumbersome for these sort of very large checklists. (700-800 item).

Keeping as much of that in the few apps I want to use that work across all my devices, desktop, laptop, tablet and phone is critical.

Grocery list? how big is your shopping cart?? :mrgreen:

With tasks lists I go the Numbers route and have it indexed in DEVONthink. This works well for me.

As far as the subscription argument goes I am generally against them and if a software goes to subscription I will look for an alternative that is not subscription. When Adobe made the move I did this, found and tested some alternatives and settled on the DxO suite of software together with an old (free) version of Lightroom; I mention this not to advertise DxO, (I could easily have chosen something else but DxO just suited me more) but to make the point that if you look around there generally is software that will do the job as well and sometimes much better than the subscription one. Interestingly I found that in making the move from Adobe I have hit upon a suite of applications that sits me better and which I find simpler to use with better results.

Lesson of the story? Perhaps it is good to occasionally have a look to see if alternatives are better.

When you only go shopping once a month or even less frequently because the nearest major place to shop is a 150 mile round trip and you use a large four door pickup truck with a shell on the back so lots of cargo space it’s easy to have a shopping list that contains several hundred items to get. The total list though is much larger. I hate having to redo things so I use the giant shopping list as a reminder of the things and brands of stuff we buy.

Sounds very cool! :smiley:

Sounds terrible, I do not like shopping!

Apologies for the length of this

I would (politely) challenge some of this, on three grounds (all of which are highly debatable):

  • Productivity works differently for different people, and I am suspicious of wide generalisations like the two here. So much depends on how you measure productivity and over what period, as well as personal idiosyncrasies. I’d argue that productivity measured by number of activities completed in an hour or a day is a very different thing from that measured by goals achieved in a day/week/month etc. There isn’t a simple relationship between rate of activity completion and rate of goal achievement and I don’t think this kind of assertion recognises that.

  • Even within the same app, switching tasks is a switch. Yes, a substantial thunk in UI makes the switch bumpier, but there’s a cognitive difference between (say) reviewing research material, setting a task and writing a memo. For some (maybe many) people, a consistent UI eases the transition, but there’s still a switch into a different kind of thinking.

  • Different UIs will for some (maybe many) people be a positive aid to the different kinds of thinking involved in different types of task.

I don’t know whether developers are having a hard time or not (some certainly are). Apps have got cheaper, in some cases by orders of magnitude. The overall market has grown by several orders fo magnitude, which increases potential revenues, but also increases the potential support load. Once upon a time, price was a barrier to entry for users, so they had a real need or a real belief before they paid your high price; your customer base was a cohesive group of like-minded people. Now, you’re trying to support everyone from the dedicated pros to the (forgive my rudeness) half-educated dilettantes who want the app to “just work”. Not to mention annual radical OS updates and short hardware cycles.

I can see that it’s a problem and I can see why you might make a rational commercial judgement that subscription is the best way to go. I think the apps that survive as sub-only will be those that reward subscribers by (a) being good and (b) supplying frequent, substantial updates. But, in truth, most of them won’t survive. As you say, after a year or two, people will start looking at their subscription outgoings and decide to trim them. To that end, extending your software to cover a range of uses might be a benefit (if you do it well).

Just to note - I do not subscribe to software. The overall cost can turn out to be massive (it wouldn’t take much for me to be paying hundreds or even thousands per year) and, frankly, a sa self-employed freelance project manager, I have to know that I can keep my tools during the inevitable lean periods.

I am happy to agree that some of us spend (waste?) far too much time trying to identify the perfect app for the job, and should maybe just get on with our work :mrgreen:

@ThatGuy: No worries and an interesting op-ed. :smiley:

There is a Task List template (Data⇒New from Template⇒Productivity⇒Task List. It contains Checklists that can be used.

1 Like

If you like OF you will probably like omnioutliner which supports status checkboxes and also column checkboxes.
If you put your omnioutliner files in iCloud folder or other cloud folder then you index that folder so you can see all your outlines in DT but can also open them easily from the app on iOS.
It’s a reasonably elegant solution. I agree with your sentiment about not putting all lists in OF and cluttering it up. Also if you wanted you could save your files with checklists as a template in omnioutliner and reuse those as you see fit.
There is also a button in the toolbar to open a file in an external application so when you’re in Devonthink you just click that button and it will open your files in omnioutliner by default.

Welcome @jgaryellison

Glad that template is proving useful to you.

Just thought I’d mention my solution to this here, in case useful for someone. Nothing new conceptually – I’ve seen a number of mentions of using some form of text expansion to achieve checkbox lists. But perhaps a small new element in the implementation, which might be of some interest.

By way of background: In my workflow, I make a lot of notes on a project as I go, to document what I am doing and why, and how I am solving a problem – and I often make a checkbox list at the end of one segment of the project, to take stock of where I am, and as a guide to what I need to work on next. I’ve been making the checkbox lists right at the end of my notes on the particular segment of the project, all in OneNote. For me, it has felt really valuable to have the checkboxlists integrated with my documentation notes.

Now that I’m attempting to switch to DT, and having settled on RTF as the format I’m going to use for notes, I found that clickable chekbox lists are not possible within an RTF. I therefore experimented, as people have suggested here, with using checkbox lists in a different document that is still accessibel from DT (OmniOutliner; iAWriter; Notes; a Task list template) – but (for me) this felt disruptive as compared with having the checkbox list embedded in my notes.

So, my current low-tech solution (which hopefully will work well enough for me) is as shown below. Not real clickable cheboxes, but visually distinguishable nevertheless (both as to-dos, and as completed to-dos), and right where I want them in my RTF notes:

This is done using two snippet expansions in Alfred, with keywords !td (for orange “to-do”) and !dn (for green “done”).

So far, working for me … YMMV

1 Like