Wish: To-Do/Task List

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AmberV
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Fri Apr 21, 2017 6:44 am Post

I think the main problem with this line of idea in general is that it’s… well it’s a rather huge area of stuff. There are entire software packages, some quite expensive, that devote themselves to managing to-do lists in one form or another, and the many countless ways in which they do so together compounds with the first problem: (a) this isn’t something that is easy to just slap into any old type of software that doesn’t already specialise in productivity and (b) there is a wide latitude of what various people want in such a program. You seem to be assuming that if there were a feature, it would do what you want. But what does that feature even look like? You’re talking about aspects of it that nobody else has suggested before even right here in this post. Look at the thousands upon thousands of features in the countless to-do style programs that exist out there and tell me what the quintessential concept is that any random non-productivity program could easily embed that would make it so this request went away?

Take for example the post above: I use TaskPaper as well for some things. It’s a remarkable tool for the job, especially for larger complex tasks that require extensive documentation of the steps you take. What better format to do so than in a text file—and that I can throw TaskPaper files into the binder and open them as needed with ease is just a bonus to the whole idea. But to some people, the concept of tracking to-dos inside of a plain old Notepad level text file would be ridiculous—1985 all over again, markup, who does that any more?

My strong sense is that no matter what we did here, if we did anything at all, only a few people would like the way it works anyway—and even among those who liked the basic idea, it would still never be enough (refer back to this being the domain of entire programs). It’s the old problem of if you don’t have a feature people ask for just the feature—if you make the feature, ten times more people ask for it to be different. ;)

It might be the case that the L&L team doesn’t think there should be a text-integrated task management feature in Scrivener, but as far as I can tell, it’s really not true that some combination of existing features already meets that need. At least not very well, especially when compared with how good the implementation is other functionality.

Case in point, that’s a matter of opinion that I happen to completely disagree with. Yes, I do use to-do programs for other things (not everything I need to do is inside of a project), but I find the toolset Scrivener provides hits just about everything I need of it for tracking the things I need to do inside of a project. I don’t need a big sortable list of colour-coded filterable to-dos in Scrivener like you mention. I don’t need checkboxes. I need a cross-referencing system, snapshots, global and stepwise search, simple text-based markings and the ability to pepper a working document with these “invisible” codes, sometimes back-referenced to simple bullet list documents with strikeout. It does just about 100% what I need it to without any dedicated features.

So what if we made a dedicated “real” to-do feature, whatever that means, and it doesn’t have sortable universal listing or whatever—you’d still be saying it’s not good enough. So we make those things, but then there are other things other people think are critical to the idea—and before you know it Scrivener is a shambling mutation, straddling the line between PIM and database and whatnot.

You know? Why can’t something just be a writing program—that’s a pretty big topic all by itself after all. :)

But to that: yes, there are some pieces of the puzzle you’re missing on Windows right now—and well for that matter the Mac is missing a lot too. Scrivener has been moving more deeply into all of the things I’ve been talking about—not to make a better to-do system, but to overall streamline and improve all the things it already does well. More tools, more ways to combine them, more flexibility within them. For example cross-referencing will be way easier. Filtering by multiple axes will be possible and easy. Building your own checkbox functionality will be possible. Building views based on checkbox states will be possible. Assigning dates to items and filtering by date ranges, done. Compiling based on meta-data states will be possible. Viewing global lists of markings in the inspector in large Scrivenings sessions will be possible. Having an item open with a 5-point checklist referring to fifteen binder items in a separate window with easy access to those items in and out of the project window will be possible. Effortless integrated two-way editing access between any linked pair of documents; possible. And again, lots of things that haven’t been invented yet by other people, that I haven’t thought of are all buried in there as potential, too.

The great thing about this approach is that you might use this stuff to track what you need to do, but another person might use it to track where they mention certain types of toxic sea urchin across five different volumes in a twenty volume set on scuba diving. There is no hard coded prescriptive way to use any of the above.

The people who are organized enough to use some multi-step system for task management probably aren’t the people who REALLY NEED Scrivener.

Well maybe, or maybe they use Scrivener differently than you do. :) I mean, I’d consider myself in that group, and I’d have a pretty hard time giving up Scrivener. Glad as I am to hear it from you, for me it’s not an organisation life saver, for me it’s a friction killer. It makes 250,000 words feel like 2,500 via its dual-pane multi-function history based heavy duty outliner. But hey that’s part of the magic—and I’d say part of why it has that magic is because it doesn’t excessively service either of us specifically, but rather gives us both a set of omnifunction tools that were designed to be good at organising things and busting down the sheer weight of a large text in one move instead of two.

derick wrote:I can look up next tasks on a second monitor or ios device while devoting the computer to writing. For me this has been a much better solution than jumping between tasks and writing in the same app.

To each their own. For me there is no more efficient interface on my Mac than Scrivener, and no better place to say “fix this” than stuck fast within millimetres of the thing I need to fix. I do need other programs and use them alongside it—that’s why these things multitask after all—but effortlessly moving through a manuscript, piece by piece, jumping from task to words, from one thing that needs to be done and back again, well, that’s what Scrivener does, to my mind. To me there is very little difference between task, process and product in my projects. I move between them as simply as I move between subsections within a topic.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
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derick
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Sat Apr 22, 2017 4:57 am Post

Yeah, I'd concur with nearly everything you said. I only mentioned my approach because I had tried to work for several years on a big project keeping tasks in Scrivener but have made much more rapid progress having moved everything out. And yes, taskpaper works great for these very highly detailed tasks. For the big picture though I've switched to omnifocus from TP, which was another breakthrough for me. All of which for me confirms the argument against trying to build a track tracking system into a writing program - not only will different users want different features, they'll also expect different features sets for different kinds of writing (not to mention the folks who use Scrivener as a general notes repository etc.). Given limited developer time, I can't see that this should be a priority.

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liz
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Sat Apr 22, 2017 8:48 pm Post

AmberV/Ioa, thanks for the detailed response. I agree that the planned features you describe would do the trick and also be more flexible for other purposes. So I guess I'll just have to sit tight. :wink:

FWIW, for reasons I won't go into here, I have mixed feelings about managing Scrivener-related tasks on a separate app. I do often use the excellent Windows/iOS/Android personal organizer MyLifeOrganized (which is very similar to OmniFocus). But the big obstruction for me to using MLO (or TaskPaper, or whatever) to manage tasks in Scrivener is the lack of a Scrivener URL scheme together with a way to grab a link to a Scrivener doc that doesn't involve pasting the link in a Scrivener doc.

I've tried using the scrivlnk protocol with several other apps that launch other URL schemes just fine. But scrivlnk doesn't seem to even launch Scrivener. If there's a way to get this to work, I'd love to know what it is.

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AmberV
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Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:17 am Post

…is the lack of a Scrivener URL scheme together with a way to grab a link to a Scrivener doc that doesn’t involve pasting the link in a Scrivener doc.

And that’s another thing we got planned. :oops: We’ve been working on a Windows version to finally get all of this caught up, as well as to the new Mac version that is yet to be released. So there is a bit of a back log of ideas at the moment. But yes, having external links makes external software even better of course, as well as making multiple projects more useful together. For example I can jot down a note on something that needs to be fixed in Scrivener in one project, and put down a reference there pointing to how that behaviour is described in the user manual, so that if the fix alters the way it needs to be documented I can go straight to it. That sort of dependency based “to-do” mechanism is something I’ve found difficult to implement in OmniFocus/idea-bucket style programs.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
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ethnographer
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Thu Jul 13, 2017 6:02 pm Post

-- Bypassing all the philosophical debates about the meaning of task manger --

It would be super awesome to just be able to insert a live checkbox anywhere in a document. And have a big button to do so. Like in MacJournal. That's all. =)

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KB
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Thu Jul 13, 2017 6:10 pm Post

ethnographer wrote:-- Bypassing all the philosophical debates about the meaning of task manger --

It would be super awesome to just be able to insert a live checkbox anywhere in a document. And have a big button to do so. Like in MacJournal. That's all. =)


In the future you'll be able to add a checkbox to the Inspector's custom meta-data, but not in the main text area.
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annewalk
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Sun Nov 26, 2017 5:24 pm Post

I am using styles to accomplish a lite version of a checklist. In the list format options, you can use a checkmark for a bullet. Save this as a style. Now you can use it on individual list items to mark something as checked. It's work around but it works.