I’ve downloaded a copy and it’s a delight to use. Not clumsy like Outliner, which forces you to use data entry screens. The developer, Jesse Grosjean, said he intended to make it as natural to use as paper and it is. Everything about it is smooth and natural.
If you need an outliner for roughing out a book or something to manage simple project and to-do lists, you might want to look into it. It’s $4.95, and for that price you also get a $5-off coupon for the Mac version, making the iPhone/iPod touch version essentially free.
Like the iPhone version of WriteRoom, it synchs through a password protected website, so you can move easily from an iPhone or iPod touch to your Mac or any Internet-equipped computer. Turn on automatic synching, and you don’t even have to remember to synch.
Agreed. I’m finding TaskPaper much better than WriteRoom for taking down book ideas. The notes look better and it’s much more powerful in what it can display.
I can have a document for each book and within each document use the Project feature to listen specific areas where I want to take down notes. The result is better than a long, unorganized WriteRoom list, especially since the bullets make it easier to read. And if I tag ideas, searching by tag will display all ideas with a certain theme under each of the projects and nothing else. It’s like magic!
For instance, if you are writing a murder mystery and want to work in motives for each character, then creating a project for each character will allow you to place all plot ideas for each character in the appropriate project list for that character. And if you take every character’s motives with @motive, then a tag search for @motive will display just the motives for every character in a list that excludes all items not tagged with @motive. Being able to look in multiple ways is so useful, I may start using TaskPaper for the Mac the same way.
Now if Jesse would just build synching to SimpleText into his Mac versions of WriteRoom and TaskPaper all would be wonderful.
I’d be very interested to hear how fellow scriveners use TaskPaper as an outliner for writing projects, and particularly how they integrate it into their Scrivener workflow.
I always hesitate to buy new software if I can achieve the same thing (for my purposes) in what I have already, so I’d like to know what TaskPaper can do for me that iCal, Notes, TextEdit, Scrivener etc can’t. It does come highly recommended from many sources, but my task-management needs aren’t as complex as many others’. But if TP would make a good omnioutliner replacement, and if that could be integrated with my Scrivener workflow, hmmm…
I too hope he implements synching, but for those who don’t use these apps, you can still get WR documents (and, I assume, TP docs) back and forth between iPHone/Touch and Mac, though it’s not as easy as automatic syncing. You can create a document in WriteRoom for the iPhone, and then synch it to the simpletext website. Then, from the Mac, you go to the website and copy the text into WR, Scrivener or whatever on your Mac. Or, going the other way, you can create the doc on the Mac, then paste the text into a new doc on the simpletext site, and open it in WR on the iPhone. I’m assuming it works the same way with the new TaskPaper. I’ve never done this , but you can also download the free simpletext app to the Mac. It would be very smooth if, as Mike said, this could all happen so the doc appears on both devices automagically.
There’s an inherent tension between dedicated and general applications. A dedication application, say one that keeps to-do lists, tends to do that better than a more generalized application like TaskPaper. On the other hand, using the general application means one less app to fool with.
However, on an iPhone/touch, I find I like one-trick ponies. I use Notes, for instance, for things that don’t change often, like clothing sizes and long-term shopping needs. I’ll probably use TaskPaper for book ideas and notes, and keep my to-do lists in some other app and I especially want to-do list keeper that syncs with my iMac. I’d use iCal’s simple to-do list keeper, but for reasons that defy comprehension, Apple doesn’t sync iCal to-dos with anything on an iPhone/touch. What I really need is a to-do list that synchs between my iMac and iPod touch as easily as iCal engagements do.
No app on the iPhone can or ever will be able to replace Scrivener’s sheer power. You can’t really write much with a tiny screen and touchpad, but if you want to do some writing, say a very rough draft as it comes to you, WriteRoom is certainly one of the best. That said, if you’re happy with Notes and with extracting text from Mail, there’s no reason to change.
One problem at present is that WriteRoom and TaskPaper not only synch through the SimpleText website, as best I can tell, neither application can distinguish its documents from the other’s. That doesn’t cause any technical problems since both are just text files. For WriteRoom, text is text. For TaskPaper, there’s a clever way of interpreting colons at the end of lines and hyphens and tabs at the start that TaskPaper displays as an outline. Both can display the other’s documents. They just look a little different on each. But practically, this means that both your WriteRoom and TaskPaper documents appear in both apps, making the list you need to scroll through longer. I assume that eventually there will be a fix for that, but for now it’s a nuisance.
TaskPaper isn’t a OmniOutliner replacement and isn’t meant to be. Its power lies in a simplicity that hides more power than you might expect but that is still limited. OmniOutliner, on the other hand, is powerful through and through. And there’s no OO version for the iPhone/touch, although when they develop an iPad version, they may create a simpler version for the iPhone/touch.
All I can say is that when I first began to use TaskPaper on my iPod touch, I was impressed for these reasons:
a. It uses the touch interface brilliantly and lets you move items around without the clumsiness of cut and paste. And moving outline items in and out a level couldn’t be easer. Given the tiny screen, indention offers an easy way to differentiate the ideas you are entering. If you want to create list under one idea, simply put the items in the list one more level in. You can’t do that in a typical text app.
b. I’ve been frustrated with WriteRoom (and all text apps) because none offered an easy way to create categories inside a document. For instance, if you are working on a novel, there was no easy way to enter plot ideas separate from character ideas. With TaskPaper, you simply make each category a project and it’s easy to display or move between projects without a lot of scrolling
c. Tags are also amazingly handy. In long Scrivener lists, I often tag an idea that I don’t want to forget with “***”. But to get to those ideas, I have to search through a long list, one item at a time, which is clumsy. With TaskPaper, it is very easy to have it display all items tagged with “@imp” and they display as a single list without any other items. In fact, the TaskPaper outline interface is so brilliant, I suggested to Keith that he incorporate it into Scrivener, but he demurred, not wanting to take an idea that Jesse developed.
And finally, I find that TaskPaper’s bullet list display makes idea listing look much better than anything a text app can do. In WriteRoom, Notes, and SimpleNote, I never liked having to choose between not using blank lines and having ideas run together and wasting scarce screen space by putting a blank line between each. With TaskPaper each item has a bullet to distinguish it. And for me, having what I take down look good, leaves me more inclined to put everything down.
The last brings up the main benefit I discovered when I got my iPod touch. It has an advantage no netbook or MacBook has. It’s almost always with me. Working in my home office, it’s right beside my keyboard. On the go, it’s in my pocket. Sleeping, it’s beside my bed. When an idea comes to me, it starts up in a few seconds and within thirty seconds or so, I’ve taken the idea down before I forget it. I’d never carry my MacBook that many places and my handwriting is so terrible, I despair of reading it myself two minutes later.
That’s why my writing workflow has become:
TaskPaper on an iPod touch (ideas and perhaps the basic flow)
Scrivener on a MacBook (content worked on at a variety of locale, so I don’t grow stale)
InDesign on an iMac (appearance and final editing on two large screens for ID’s cluttered UI)
Hope that helps. Jesse, the developer of TaskPaper, is away on a brief vacation, but after he comes back on Feb. 16th or so, he’s planning to create a video that’ll explain how the shipping version works. That’ll let you see if it fits your particular needs.
Mike, I really appreciate your taking the time to explain TaskPaper’s advantages in detail. For some reason, I really need that step-by-step level of description to fathom how I might use an app, and you’ve made it quite clear that TP might well fit my work flow in the same way it does yours.
As for a to do list, though, I just use a Note (which appears in both iCal and on the iPhone, of course) for that and I’m not sure that my relatively light level of daily to-do’s could justify buying anything more sophisticated than that. Agreed that Apple should certainly make iCal’s to do’s synch with the iPhone.
I totally agree about the Touch/iPhone’s value – I’ve listed so many ideas and even drafted concert reviews with it, in situations where I’d never bring my macbook. I’ve been using WriteRoom as my note manager (thanks to your recommendation here back when the Mac version went on sale through that MacHeist bundle) with simpletext, and it’s definitely been a big help in several journalistic situations. (My handscrawl is probably worse than yours.) So even though I really don’t need it as a to-do list manager, I’m inclined to give TaskPaper a trial run as an idea organizer. I’m sure you’re right that it doesn’t really replace OmniOutliner, but it still sounds like I might be able use it to accomplish some of the main functions I used to use OO for, which includes functions that you use TP for now. I’m one of those writers who really think in outline / structural terms (which is of course a major reason I so cherish Scrivener), and if TP makes that easier at the idea-generating and -arranging stage (with easy grouping and hierarchy, as you describe), it could be a real help.
Thanks again for the excellent report!
Thanks for the link to Lois Borba’s paper on his use of Writeroom and Taskpaper. I would like to echo the praise for Jesse Grosjean’s work over the years. Also the benefits of pocket computers like the iPhone/iPod Touch for note taking.
My first experience of them was when I bought a HP200LX and found to my delight that being able to write reasonably comfortably anywhere almost doubled my output. About a year ago I bought a netbook but find that I use it less and less often and now do most of my portable work on an iPod Touch.
Although over the years I have tried and usually bought licences for most notes, outliner, and free text database apps for all platforms I have become increasingly reluctant to use more than a minimum, or any whose format does not allow the core text content to be read with a competent text editor. Even though most that fail this test allow exporting to text files I prefer not to rely on the self discipline that this expects.
A few years ago, when using the first flat panel iMac, I tried to open and search a 20Mb text file in all of the text editors then available for OS X. I found that most struggled and several failed. Although I think Textedit did reasonably well (and better than Textmate which was highly regarded at the time) the outstanding exception was BBEdit/Text Wrangler. It was the only one that opened and searched the file in seconds. Since then I have preferred to use a few large text files and BBEdit for all notetaking, adding each new note with a date stamp to the head of the file. Though I also use Yojimbo for `housekeeping’ (hints, tips, howto, invoices, product information, encrypted notes, etc) and Devonthink Pro for archiving.
On the iPod Touch I find that, having tried most of the alternatives, Notes/Simplenote and Outliner meet most of my note needs, but now expect Taskpaper to replace, or complement, the latter for many purposes.
Recently, however, I came across another app that I think may be of interest to some Scriveners. It is a wiki called Trunk Notes and has a number of useful features including tagging, bullet and number lists within notes, and the ability to link to a desktop wirelessly via the browser without needing an intermediate site. Although, in spite of my best efforts, I have never felt convinced by the benefits of wikis on a full sized computer, not least because their format is usually complex and opaque to text editors, I think that Trunk Notes seems particularly well suited to the limited interface of the iPod Touch. It also allows its database to be exported as text and so far has proved fast and stable.
Although I don’t want to derail the topic, I should point out that keywords are Scrivener’s equivalent to tags. Just add a keyword to the document, then you can search by keyword to get a list showing only documents tagged with that keyword. Unless I’m missing something, this does much the same thing.
I also want to clarify here. Although I would certainly never want to steal ideas from Jesse (or anyone else for that matter), the bigger issue is that TaskPaper’s outline and Scrivener’s outline are really only alike in being known as outlines. Functionally, they are very different, and TaskPaper’s outline wouldn’t work in the context of Scrivener any more than Scrivener’s outline would work in the context of TP. Scrivener’s outline is a representation of documents; it is a hybrid between a file system outline and an OO-style outliner. TP’s outline is a textual outline that can be filtered and rearranged easily. They are entirely different things, and to suggest that one is better than the other is to ignore the fundamental purpose of each.
Like Mike Perry I use the “***” to mark important ideas. The purpose is not tagging a document, but to “tag” a phrase or paragraph within a document so we can find it in a faster way. Although clumsy, like Mike says, it works. (Ex. missing bibliographic name; idea, date or names that need reviewing.)
As for keywords in Scrivener — like you mentioned, they “tag” the full document.
Now, imagine we can insert a @review in several parts of a draft (several documents). When you searched @review all the paragraphs with that “tag” would appear in rows so we could indeed review them. That would be neat, eh? Maybe on Scrivener 3?
You wouldn’t want @tags appearing in your final draft though. In 2.0 you will be able to use annotations as bookmarks for this sort of thing, but it’s not quite the same. I see what you mean, though; in that context it’s not a bad idea. Maybe in the future.
First, I want to clarify any remarks I may have made about syncing to the SimpleText website not being available on TaskPaper for the Mac yet. This evening I discovered that it is via a Mac application called SimpleText, which gives you a menu bar icon that lets you synch a SimpleText folder on your Mac with the online one that’s also synching with an iPhone/touch. The details are here:
Make that SimpleText folder the folder for your TaskPaper files on your Mac and you can synch to your heart’s content. The scheme is so handy, you could use it as a basic, if slow, text messaging scheme between an iPhone and iMac.
There’s also the beginnings of a scheme to let the iPhone/touch apps distinguish between WriteRoom and TaskPaper documents. It’s done by tagging the documents (not the items in the documents) with terms like “TaskPaper.” It’s too late at night to explain now, but you can find the details on the TaskPaper forum at:
After tapping on the top bar of master document list, TaskPaper on the iPhone will give you a list of tags. Select one and only documents with that document tag will appear in the document list.
Note too, that while the main purpose is to separate WriteRoom and TaskPaper documents, you can also use it for separating out multiple documents that are part of a common project. Tag all the documents on your iPod touch about a book on cats with “Cats” and you can display only them and not the notes on your companion volume on dogs. This illustrates the brilliance of Hog Bay Software. Like Scrivener, seemingly simple features prove, on closer inspection, to be very powerful.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this ability in WriteRoom for the iPhone, but I assume it will be added as soon as Jesse has time.
One final note to Keith. When I mentioned adding TaskPaper-like features to Scrivener, I wasn’t referring to it as a replacement or supplement to Scrivener’s outlining features. I should have been clearer about my meaning. I was referring to it as an optional way for writing/displaying documents within Scrivener, much like scriptwriting has special behaviors.
In TaskPaper mode, a Scrivener document would act much like it does in TaskPaper with the same colon and hyphen coding scheme creating the appearance of an outline. There’s nothing new about that. There are tweaks to BBEdit, TextMate and Vim, that let them act like TaskPaper. Jesse has posted a list here of them and seems quite open to the idea spreading.
The reason I suggest that, is that I often create a reference to a book I am reading as research by roughly outlining it, making the chapters like TaskPaper projects and ideas in the chapters like tasks and subtasks. This feature would also provide a way to import a TaskPaper outline done on an iPhone/touch into a document within Scrivener and still have it look like an outline. Scrivener and TaskPaper already complement one another marvelous. This would increase the synergy.
He shows SimpleText keeping files synched between an Mac and an iPhone. I’m doing much the same with an iPod touch, an iMac at home, and a MacBook on the go. No more sweating which files are on which machine or which has the most recent copy. When I need them, they’re there. I can even access the files from a web browser.
The SimpleText folder that is synched via a website can be moved to another location in your file structure, so he’s also using it with DropBox, which allows the files to be edited as pure text files on Windows and Linux machines. TaskPaper files, in case you haven’t discovered, are simply text files with special encoding to give meaning (like Markdown tags). Ending a line with a colon, for instance, makes what’s on that line a project. Tasks start with a hyphen and tags start with @.
Those who’d like a different form of note taking on their Mac, one that can handle larger collections of notes with more text, might want to look into the open source Notational Velocity, which synchs with SimpleNote, a popular iPhone note-taking application. It’s free and you can find it here:
It runs under OS X and id a simple but effective way to store several paragraphs (or pages) of information information, much like you’d do on physical 3x5 cards with captions but also with a powerful search function that will show all the notes having your search term. It allows basic formatting such as indenting, bold and italic. I’ve only briefly used it, but it looks like it’d be great for large projects.
Unfortunately, there’s no iPhone/touch version of Notational Velocity. Instead, you can use it with SimpleNote, a popular note-taking application.
Right now, the SimpleNote app is free at the iTunes store, giving you a no-cost way to sync notes via WiFi (or cellular with iPhones) between your Mac and an iPhone/touch.
NV on your Mac and SimpleNote on an iPhone will sync through the SimpleNOTE website, much like Mac and iPhone versions of WriteRoom sync via the SimpleTEXT web site. Unfortunately, as best I can tell, there’s no search function with SimpleNote. You can take notes and read them on an iPhone, but you can’t search for terms. For that you will need your Mac and Notational Velocity.
[The preceding was corrected to make clear that Notational Velocity on a Mac works with SimpleNote on an iPhone and not with WriteRoom or TaskPaper.]
[b]Personally, I still prefer TaskPaper because the bulleted outline format makes it much easier to create and read the sort of short notes that I like to take on my iPod touch. SimpleNote formatting isn’t bad. It just isn’t as attractive as that in TaskPaper.
Also, both the Mac and iPhone versions of TaskPaper have keyword filtering. If you have more than a dozen or so documents on your iPhone/touch, that will save time by allowing you to filter out documents (or within a document, projects and items) you don’t want. With SimpleNote you have to scroll down long lists of documents, looking for the one you want. [/b]
Reading this thread has made me check out TaskPaper. I absolutely love the Mac version, and I bought the iPhone version today. I feel like it could be a little more faithful to the Mac version, but it’s still good. I’m somewhat dismayed that it’s $30; I have a hard time justifying that price for such an app, but it’s clearly well-made, and fits my workflow better than Things (which is also good, but more expensive). Over the 15-day trial, I’ll have to evaluate just how much I use it. Maybe (hopefully?) I’ll find it indispensable.
I also just downloaded Notational Velocity. Another really cool program; thanks, InklingBooks.
Jesse is in the process of revising how the text needs to be formatted to create an outline in TaskPaper. The iPhone version follows the new standard, but the currently shipping Mac version doesn’t. This web page:
explains the change and includes a link to a development version for the Mac that does. I’ve been using it without any problems.
Also, as he explains, the Mac and iPhone versions will always look slightly different. Space is very tight on an iPhone screen, so all unnecessary indention is avoided. On the Mac version, he’s not under that strict limitation.
The Mac version does allow the “Theme” of the outline to be changed to radically alter the appearance (see Theme Options under Preferences), so someone will probably create a Mac version that looks a lot like the iPhone version.
Also, remember that Hog Bay Software is a one-man operation. Recently, he’s been concentrating on creating an iPhone version of TaskPaper. Now that that’s complete, I expect that soon be he will be narrowing down the differences between the two.
Those who wonder about the price might keep in mind that they may find that the Mac version of TaskPaper ($30) serves their needs as well as Things ($50) and OmniOutliner ($40). Things is a more powerful to-do app and OmniOutliner is a much more powerful outliner, but if you don’t need that power, you are wasting your money. And if you need both a to-do app and an outliner and can make TaskPaper serve both functions, you’ve saved yourself $60.
My point with being “faithful” was probably unclear. I meant in terms of entry: hitting ‘-’ to make a task, removing it to make a note, adding a colon to make a project. In the iPhone version, you instead have to tap the item, tap the bottom right button “…”, hit “change type”, then select the type. Hitting the punctuation on the iPhone keyboard does also involve more taps than a keyboard, obviously, but you don’t have to change the modality of the application in order to do it.
It’d be nice if both methods are available, but maybe in testing he found it simply wasn’t viable.
As for price, I’ve used TaskPaper a whole bunch today, outlining the next part of my book. Odds are very good I’ll buy it before the end of my 15-day trial–probably getting it with the WriteRoom bundle, which makes writing in low-light conditions very nice. They seem like a great couple of companion apps to Scrivener.
Keep in mind that touch-based applications have to be fundamentally different from keyboard-and-mouse based ones. The iPhone/touch’s tiny screen and limited touch keypad compounds the problem.
A good UI for touch may be a bad UI for keyboard & mouse. On the iPhone version Jesse has to use the spacebar in place of tab because there’s no tab key. Some of the changes you mention are to deal with the messiness of entering a - on the iPhone keypad. Hitting return automatically creates a new task and hitting space automatically indents, creating a subtask. That avoids the iPhone’s secondary keyboard, a hassle that doesn’t exist on a Mac. The colon for a project problem can’t be fixed, but projects are less common than tasks.
Jesse puts a lot of thought into his UI. That’s one reason why his apps are a delight to use. I suspect in the future he will smooth out, as much as possible the UI differences between the iPhone and Mac versions. Some of the tricks he developed for the iPhone version would work in the Mac version even if they’re not strictly necessary.
I also suspect some improvements are in store. For instance, the SimpleText website doesn’t distinguish between WriteRoom and TaskPaper files. Both are simply text documents and both synch to both WriteRoom and TaskPaper. But TaskPaper can attach keywords to documents and display only those that are TaskPaper documents (or only related to a specific project). I’d imagine some feature like that will get added to WriteRoom so its users don’t have to deal with document lists cluttered with TaskPaper documents. It’d also let users with many documents display only those for a particular WriteRoom project, like drafts of individual book chapters.
UI differences are also why one Flash developer has come out strongly against Flash on smartphones like the iPhone. The Flash interface was designed from the ground up for keyboard and mouse. Mouse over, when the mouse pointer is over something, is very often used in Flash applications. There’s simply no finger-over equivalent with touch screens. And if a developer is going to totally rewrite a Flash video or game for touch screens, he might as well create it in some other technology that doesn’t impose the heavy demands Flash imposes on a CPU and battery life.
By the way, on my iPod touch, I’ve grown rather ‘casual’ with punctuation. I often use periods when I’d normally use a comma. Why? Because I can enter a period by hitting the space bar twice very quickly. A comma forces me to bring up that pesky secondary keyboard. Since these are just notes to self, the details don’t matter.
If any of you have a connection to a computer hardware company, you might suggest that they create an iPhone-sized Bluetooth, thumb keypad. Thanks to Blackberries and similar products, there are a lot of people who can type fast on them. As a minimum, it’ll work with the iPad and, if Apple gives the iPhone/touch Bluetooth keyboard capabilities (like they ought), it’d give us an almost full-featured keyboard for the little gadgets, one that doesn’t require an awkward mode shift to type non-alphabetic characters.
I still think the keyboard control could work out. Typing a ‘-’ and a space is the same number of taps as it is to change the item type now (three). Deleting a dash (say, if you wanted to create a note) is one less. Since the number of taps is the same, you don’t add any more frustration to changing item types, especially if you allow both modes.
Now, I say that it’s the same number of taps, but the bigger deal to me is that it reduces the modality of the app. You could change item types on the fly without having to go back and change them after you’re done adding things.
In the end, though, it’s not worth arguing over. I understand it probably won’t happen, in part because you’d have to give up some screen real estate to show the hyphens. I’ll just have to work around it; and in the end, I do like the program. I wonder if he’ll have an iPad-enhanced version of it (and WriteRoom) once the blasted thing comes out.
It’d be a smart move. Surveys are suggesting that the market for iPads could be much bigger than that for the first-gen iPhone. My suspicion is that, just like the iPhone is a smart phone for people who hated the complexities of conventional smart phones (I did), the iPad will prove to be a computer for people who hate computers, as well as an accessory for those who do.
I also suspect that people who want to write but don’t want the hassles of a computer or Word (whatever their age) will be drawn to iPads. Think older people wanting to write family histories. Think kids with a bent for story telling. Think non-geeky guys and girls who’d still like to put their words down. And while the default application for iPod touches is gaming, that for the iPad may be more productivity oriented: browsing, email, reading, and writing–things that just aren’t that enjoyable on a tiny screen.
Easy-to-use, intuitive products like WriteRoom and TaskPaper should do well in that market. So should Scrivener. Keith’s already gotten someone to handle marketing and sales. It’s be great if a top-notch iPhone/iPad developer joined the team.
A dream machine for creating ebooks would be an iPad with Scrivener for the draft stage and an ePub-enabled Pages creating the final copy for upload to online bookstores. It’d be light, inexpensive, and produce gorgeous results.