IFTTT and Taskpaper TODO Workflow

This is a writeup on my DO Note/Dropbox/Taskpaper workflow which allows "ubiquitous capture" on my iOS devices.

Two decades of computer usage taught me to fear vendor lock-in: situations where your software holds volumes of data but lacks an export feature, making it difficult to switch software if your needs change or if the software becomes unsupported. Apps like nvALT, Byword, and Marked are an important part of my writing and note taking workflow. These programs are Mac-specific, but they operate on flat text files, so they also work with file-agnostic services like Dropbox and BitTorrent Sync, or Unix-standard text tools like grep(1).

Taskpaper, a task list app by Jesse Grosjean, is a great example of building software around flat files without sacrificing usability. Headers (lines that end ":"), tasks (lines that start with "-"), and tags (keywords that start with "@") are perfectly readable and transformable in a plain text editor, but are nicely formatted (and have useful tap actions) when you use Taskpaper.

By combining DO Note, Dropbox, and Taskpaper, I have a simple, text-driven task list that's available everywhere but still easy to update on the go.

DO Note for iOS lets you perform actions ("recipes") on arbitrary text, like sending a tweet or email. My "Add task to inbox" recipe (screenshot) formats the note as a Taskpaper task and appends it to a Dropbox file called "INBOX.txt",

  • File name: INBOX.txt
  • Content: "- [NoteText]"
  • Dropbox folder path: "Notes"1

With this recipe, I can quickly add tasks to my Taskpaper Inbox either by opening the DO Note app, or (better) using the ubiquitous iOS "Share" dialog (screenshot). Tasks are added to the Inbox, then I move them to the correct list (personal or work) next time the Inbox is reviewed.

Taskpaper Inbox

Back on my laptop, I have an Alfred workflow which quickly opens all my standard Taskpaper files, including the Inbox.2

Alfred workflow

Alfred keyword

This constellation of apps and services enables the same flavor of task capture you get in apps like OmniFocus or Todoist, without locking your todo list to a specific platform or app. As long as there are sync services and plain text editors, this workflow survives. That means a whole lot to me.

  1. "Notes" is the directory I use for flat text files. Apps like nvALT and Byword use this directory by default.
  2. I share Alfred settings between my work and personal computers, so unfortunately this workflow opens my personal task list on my work computer, and vice-versa. I would prefer to share the "tasks" keyword but not see my work TODOs on my personal computer.