Minimalist Task Management with Todo.txt Touch

Todo.txt Touch is a native Android app for Gina Trapani’s open source command line interface, Todo.txt — a simple tool that lets you manage a todo list based around a single plaintext file. From the website:

Typing commands on your mobile phone isn’t easy or fun, and neither is syncing files from your phone back to your computer. Currently coupled with Dropbox, Todo.txt Touch helps you manage your todo.txt on the go and automatically syncs the file to all your devices.

In this review, we’ll take a look at Todo.txt Touch and what it has to offer.

Getting Started

Before we get started, I should note that while work is being done to support other platforms, currently you need a Dropbox account to use Todo.txt Touch; you can get a free account here.

There are two places where you can get Todo.txt Touch. The first is the Android Market, where it costs $2.00. The second is Github, where you can download the apk, as well as the source code, for free. Downloading it from Github is good if you want to try the app first, or if you want to make your own customizations (assuming you’re familiar with programming for Android devices), but one drawback is that it won’t update to newer versions automatically. You’ll have to shell out the $2.00 and buy it from the Market to get that.

Login & Home Screen

Login & Home Screen

Once you download and install the app, you’ll be prompted to log in to Dropbox. Doing so will automatically create /todo/todo.txt, where all of your tasks will be kept.

If you already have a todo.txt file in a different folder in Dropbox, you can change the location by pressing the Menu button on your device, choosing Settings, and scrolling down to “File Location.” When you change the location, be sure to include the preceding slash: /a/different/path/todo.txt. The app will then pull your tasks from there. Similarly, if you are already a todo.txt user but are new to Dropbox, I recommend copying your current todo.txt file to the /todo/ folder in Dropbox and changing the todo.cfg file on your computer so that it points to the new file location. That way, you don’t have two versions of your todo list.

Todo.txt Syntax and Terms

Todo.txt has a few terms and symbols to denote different functions within the app that you should know about before adding your first task.

  • Priorities: Adding a priority to a task will increase its importance by listing it above other tasks, as well as giving it a color code it so that it stands out. You assign a priority to a task by adding a letter from A-E, like this: (A). While you can add this anywhere within the task, it has become standard to add it to the beginning of the task, like so: (A) Remember the Eggs!
  • Projects: Projects are used to keep a group of smaller tasks together. You mark a project title with a + sign. Again, they can go anywhere, but most people add it to the end of the task. Example: (A) Remember the Eggs! +DinnerParty
  • Contexts: Denoted with an @ symbol, the context is where (or in what context) you’ll handle the task. For example: @home, @work, @phone. Like  the others, you can add a context anywhere; like projects, they are usually added at the end. In our example: (A) Remember the Eggs! +DinnerParty @shopping

Luckily for us, Todo.txt Touch handles most of this itself. When adding a task, you can choose a priority and any existing project or context from a select menu. That means we only need to add a project or context once. Let’s create some tasks!

Creating & Managing Tasks

Add and Priority Screens

Add and Priority Screens

Todo.txt has an incredibly simple interface, so adding a task is very easy.  You can add tasks in three ways:

  • With the + sign in the top right corner of the app
  • By pressing the Menu button on your device and selecting “Add Task”
  • Through a shortcut icon that you can add to your home screen (to do this, long-press the home screen; then, when you’re prompted to add something, select Shortcut, then “Add Task”)

Since we have no tasks yet, we’ll have to add in the project and context ourselves: type Remember the Eggs! +DinnerParty @shopping. We can still use the Priority select box, which will automatically place the priority at the beginning of the task. Choose a priority, click “Add,” and you have your first task!

To manage your task, simply press on it to bring up a context menu with four options: Complete, Prioritize, Update, and Delete. While they are all pretty self-explanatory, I do want to point out the difference between Complete and Delete. Deleting a task will remove it from your todo.txt file. Complete will mark it will an ‘x’ and keep it in your todo.txt file, eventually archiving it in a file called done.txt. Within the Command Line Interface, there are some reporting options that use this file.

Organizing Tasks

Filter and Sort Screens

Filter and Sort Screens

Todo.txt Touch also comes with some extra options for organizing your tasks. Press the Menu button on your device to bring up these options.

  • Filter: This option allows you to display certain tasks based on priority, project, context, or keyword. For example, you can display only tasks with priority (A) or context @shopping. Keyword will allow you to filter tasks by a term of your choice.
  • Sort: You can sort your task list four different ways. Priority (default) will sort your tasks based on priority, sorting them A-E, followed by tasks without a priority. If two tasks have the same priority, they will then be listed by ID. The ID is simply the order in which they were added. You can sort your tasks by ID Ascending, which lists oldest tasks first, or by ID Descending, which lists newest tasks first. Finally, you can sort your tasks by Text, which is an alphabetical listing of your tasks (excluding priority).
  • Search: This will search through and display tasks based on a search term, much like the keyword filter does. There are two ways to search: through the context menu, and by pressing the Search button on your device.

Settings

Options and Settings Screen

Options and Settings Screen

I mentioned the Settings (accessible through by pressing the menu button) earlier when I told you how to change the location of your todo.txt file. Other settings allow you to show the line number per task (which is the same as the ID), date new tasks, which will add the date to the beginning of any new tasks in YYYY-MM-DD format, add Windows line breaks in case you plan on accessing the todo.txt file on a PC, and log out of Dropbox. You can also get to the official site, todotxt.com, by pressing “Todo.txt Touch” under the About section.

Final Thoughts

QR Code

QR Code

Though this app is still in its early stages (Version 0.2), it’s a great, simple, easy to use app for managing your to do list. Plus, you have the option of managing your list on any platform, as long as it has a text editor. My only request is a home screen widget (which is currently in the works; to see what else is in the works for this app, you can head over to Github to see other upcoming features). It’s definitely worth the $2!


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