If you ever thought, that there are so many task management and GTD applications, you have definitely sometime felt overwhelmed by all those different user interfaces and file formats.

Todo.txt is a set of scripts that was made for that exact reason. Created by Gina Trapani and supported by a dedicated community, it’s been around for quite a while, offering an alternative solution to task management through the use of text files for simplicity and portability.

The specific solution was mainly focused on computer savvy users/power users who find themselves comfortable working with command line tools. But that fact tends to change with the introduction of mobile versions of the script, as an app for Android and iPhone, possibly useful for more users.

Todo.txt command line interface

The standard command line interface. It runs through bash scripts, so its unix/linux native but it can be setup in MacOS and Windows as well (through Cygwin).

The script gives you a set of simple commands to manage your todo text file. After setting it up (a task that unfortunately is not fully automated) you will be able to quickly add tasks to your todo file, update them and setting priorities. Contexts and projects are supported, so you can have lists of their tasks but without of visual aids. You just use a command line interface with some colors.

I suppose that the system must work pretty well for people who are in front of their PCs all day, but not everyone could get kicked off of their feet by this approach. And if your OS of choice is Windows you need an extra step installing and setting it up using Cygwin.

Todo.txt’s major power is the use of the text file. You can send it and edit it anywhere, sync it through machines but there are some drawbacks in terms of a todo system, like the absence of a reminder system or due dates (though there are some community plugin scripts which may help).


Todo.txt Touch for Android and iOS


The mobile version of the script, is not a script at all. Todo.txt touch Is a full application for Android and iOS, built using the specifics of the Todo.txt approach.

Unlike its script-based sibling, the mobile app is well designed and easy to use, while inheriting some basic weaknesses.

Todo.txt touch has integrated Dropbox sync functionality, so it gets your credentials, and a single todo text file is created which will be kept on sync with all your machines where Dropbox is installed. And while this functionality is superb with a data connection, there is a little flaw when working off-line and need to check a setting from the app’s settings screen to be online again and be asked if you want to upload, or download from dropbox. In case there has been a change from another device, you need to know.

Apart from this flaw, which is easy to get used to, everything works good and peachy. Users can create, edit actions, as well as prioritize and set contexts and projects for each.

The main strength of the system, is that you can see all of your tasks in one screen. And while the priority system (A to E) is not so GTD, it works really well, moving your focus to the top of the list where the (A) priority items are. Each prioritized item has a different color, giving you an easy general look of your top items and each task item bears a context or a projects, but not necessarily.

 iPhone Screenshot 1

The touch app is ideal for users with small task lists and projects. Projects are another point of warning using the specific system.

While users can filter their lists for a specific project in both the script and the mobile app, a task list can be huge if there are different projects with many actions which do not require immediate attention.
This is not an issue in the script, since users can easily run simple queries and get lists of specific projects, but if you are using only the mobile app, the use of a desktop text editor, managing different text files for projects or someday/maybe items is required if you want to keep a full working system.

So, if we could ask one thing from the developer team that would certainly be multiple files support, so you could have some stuff out of your main todo list.

Since I have worked this system for a while, I would suggest the notepad++ editor, which can be customized to color priorities, context and projects so you won’t get lost in your text files. For Android users I would also suggest the use of Business calendar to create reminders and appointments of your tasks using the integrated send to function.

Conclusively, I believe that the whole idea is really good and innovative, with a great potential and I bet there are already tons of ideas for further improvement.

Keeping your data into text files can be an easy and liberating experience, giving you more control over your data.

You can get the Todo.txt cli for free from the official website, and download the mobile apps from the Android Market and the Apple store for a couple of bucks.

Both applications are open source, and you can get it for free for Android from the project’s github page.