+ Add Suggestion

Prompt for all attributes when adding tasks, projects, etc.


In general, I really like the visual layout of Todoist, but I'm finding its data entry restrictions rather frustrating.

Data entry is slowed down both by the requirement to be within a project to be able to add a task at all, and by the fact that many attributes of a task can't (easily) be added (unless you have memorised the shortcuts / syntax where available) without having to go back and edit the task after it has been added. While it is useful to be able to edit information about a Task, Project, Label, etc., I work much more efficiently if I can (and am reminded to) fully define all the required attributes of a task (or other entity) when adding it in the first place.

For ease of use, you should never need to use the gears or (usually invisible) notes icon to access all options when initially creating a Project, Task or Label. Also, fields for all possible attributes should be displayed (even though shortcuts in language can also be used to create some of them in the task details field).

* When adding a project, you have to first add, then edit to set a colour for it. Why not have a colour choice (with the default / inherited colour pre-selected) when adding the project in the first place?
* When adding a task, you have to first add, then edit to set a reminder (other than the default one for a task with a due time)
* When adding a task with a label, the Manage Labels button appears, but if you use it, you return to the list of labels, not to the task you were in the middle of adding, thus losing all the details of the task completed so far.

I would like to be able to add a task from any view (not just from within a Project), and for each attribute of the task to have its own keyboard-friendly field (pre-filled with the default, based on the user's preferences and the current view). This will help users not to forget useful criteria.
* Task (free form text, as now, including all the same quick-add keyboard syntax for other attributes)
* Project (required; defaults to current project if the view allows this to be determined; otherwise the presence of this field is the thing that will allow actions to be added from any view within Todoist. You could allow users the option to set a default project (or to choose not to), such as InBox for quick idea dumping from any view, for later review and refining).
If the user is adding from within a Project, pre-fill with that;
if not, but the user has set a default Project, pre-fill with that;
otherwise, leave blank and require a project to be chosen; present sub-projects as a path (e.g. Work/Project-A) or indented under their parent project
* Label (auto-completing as now, but available either in the task field or in a separate label field - i.e. a keyboard-selectable field, rather than a label icon that has to be mouse clicked. (Currently, the very subtle label icon looks more as though it is has something to do with the due date field.) Display label(s) here if the user typed any in the task field.)
* Due date and time (date picker or natural text)
* Priority (auto-complete / drop down)
* Reminder (pre-filled with the default if the task has a due time, with an option to add extra reminders, with a date picker or natural language options for absolute reminders)
* Notes

All field defaults to be as now, i.e. no label, no due date, no priority, no reminder for tasks without a due time / 1 reminder for tasks with a due time, no notes.

I appreciate that not all users will appreciate the "clutter" of a multi-field task entry dialog, but that is easily addressed by giving the user a preference for Compact (current) or Verbose task creation. Alternatively, you could display the current box, but have the additional fields open up when the user tabs beyond the date field to "More ..." (Save is still keyboard accessible by pressing Enter)

All responses

David Trey staff
Replied on Jun 25, 2011 - 01:06

Hello Julie,

thank you very much for all your suggestions, we appreciate it and will consider them in future development.

Some things you've mentioned are already implemented, for example:

- You don't have to edit each task to set a reminder, you can add it typing <remind today at 1pm> while entering the task. You can find more details about reminders here: https://todoist.com/Help/viewReminders

- You don't have to use the "Manage Labels" button to create or add a new label, just add @labelname1 @labelname2 etc. in the task name and if the auto-completing box appears, hit ESC.

- Priority can also be set while typing the task name using !p1 !p2 !p3 or !p4 for each priority level.

- Due date can be set using natural text in the due field (more info - https://todoist.com/Help/timeInsert ).

I hope this helps for now. As you've already mentioned, many users appreciate the simplicity yet great functionality of Todoist that's why we decided to allow them defining many tasks' properties within one field using the tags mentioned above. Of course having a choice between the simple and "advanced" view could be a solution.

Again, thank you very much for your feedback.

Best regards,

Julie Wills
Replied on Jun 25, 2011 - 08:54


Thank you for listening, and for your prompt reply. I hope you'll view my suggestions as constructive ideas to make a great product even better, rather than criticisms.

I fuly expected to be able to add a new label by simply typing it, and thought I had tried it, but clearly something made me think I couldn't do it. Perhaps it was the "Manage Labels" popup?

I currently have something like 200 tasks on my todo list (of varying importance and urgency, of course!) and have been evaluating many different web-based + Android app task management solutions, with a view to at least attempting to apply GTD principles - get everything out of your head and recorded in a trusted system, and have ways of breaking it down in ways that allow you to deal with it. I'm less good at the review discipline! Keyboard-friendly data entry is very important to me - a mouse has its place, but I'm much more efficient with a keyboard for non-positional tasks. I also need repeating tasks for routine stuff.

Todoist isn't perfect, but it's my favourite so far. It has a generally clean layout, uses colour coding in a way that I can control (I'm a great fan of colour-coding!), and allows me to do a large proportion of what I want to do.

My aim is to group my tasks into projects within life areas (Work, Personal and Home), and to organise tasks within them logically. I also want to be able to view tasks by context or a combination of contexts (whether context means physical location, people I'm dealing with, resources I need, or status indicators), and not miss hard deadlines.

To that end, I have set up three colour-coded Projects (Work / Personal / Home), each with sub-projects in the same colours. For more complex stuff (e.g. house renovation) I may even subdivide the projects further into manageable chunks.

Tasks are labelled with contexts (I'm still refining how best to use these in Todoist - some contexts are geographic (@home, @work, @ikea, ...), others are resources (Phone, Computer, Printer, ...), a third group is people I need to work with / delegate to / wait for, and GTD-style status (Next Action, Waiting, Someday/Maybe) form a fourth type. For the time-being I'm experimenting with using colour-coding and/or prefixes for each type.

As you say, you don't have to take a separate step for all of the task properties, but typing
<remind today at 1pm>
etc. definitely falls under the heading of "unless you have memorised the shortcuts / syntax where available" as mentioned in my original request. And there are (AFAIK) no such shortcuts for setting the colour of a project, nor for adding a note to a task.

Looking through the Support questions, a UI which prompts users for the available fields would get rid of a lot of the "how do I ..." questions too, and so reduce the load on user support ;-).

I'm actually a big fan of quick keyboard shortcuts, and the ability to use them is great ... once you're familiar with them. However, there are some properties which I would only use occasionally, and will struggle to remember the shortcut notation for - but I'd still be irritated by having to go back to a tsk to hange it just because I couldn't remember the correct notation to enter it directly. That's where separate, labelled fields for data entry work really well. I've just realised that I missed Repeat Pattern off my list of fields too.

It also seems a little odd to me that the whole concept of labels seems to be quite well hidden. Until you've created and used some, the only indication of them in the UI is the somewhat cryptic (for most new users) @ sign under the query box. The gears box doesn't have an option to add / remove labels from a task either - the only way to do that is by editing the text of the task itself, which seems a bit unintuitive. Despite really wanting to use labels for contexts, I do often forget to type them because I'm not prompted, and then there's no way to search for all tasks without a label so that I can easily find and fix things which might otherwise get lost in a long list.

NB: I've now spotted that the ability to add tasks from anywhere is a duplicate of http://todoist.com/Vote/showProposal/18/


For the record,
RTM (Remember the Milk)
Pros: Has hands-down the best Android app that I've tried, especially for adding new tasks, with syncing for offline use. Good reminders (email, text messages (on any network), native Android notifications). Flexible repeat options (due on particular dates / days, or tasks which have to be re-done after a certain amount of elapsed time since last done). Smart Lists allow you to create almost any search you can devise. Tasks can have a location property, with location awareness in the official Android app. Can collaborate with other RTM users.
Cons: Only one level of grouping (lists), a hideously outdated monochrome web UI (although some seem to like it), no way of grouping tasks except for a single level of lists (and the developers have shown immense resistance to users who have requested way to group lists together or to the concept of subtasks). I have implemented workarounds using SmartLists, but in practice, I've come to the conclusion they're just unworkable. I only wish there was a way to export nearly 200 tasks recorded there in a useful format (iCal just isn't useful)!

Pros: Innovative concept of importance, based on an algorithm involving priority, due date, etc. Tasks can have a context and a location. Can collaborate with other Toodledo users or publish lists.
Cons: Only one level of grouping (folders). Can only use pre-configured views (by context, by folder, etc.) Overwhelmingly uninspiring UI, which is ultimately draining rather than productive for anything other than a very small number of tasks.

Pros: In theory, task management + the clipping / reference / data storage advantages of Evernote. Private/Public lists. Free.
Cons: In practice, reminders seem somewhat divorced from the tasks they belong to, e.g. completing a task doesn't seem to cancel the reminder for it. The UI that many consider beautiful and inspiring seems disorganised and messy to me.

Pros: Sticks very closely to GTD principles, with Projects, labels, contexts, etc. Integration with Evernote. Project sharing and task delegation to other Nozbe users.
Cons: Very mouse-intensive data entry, with little auto-completion and no natural language dates etc. Very expensive compared with all other similar web apps I've tried or even something like Evernote. Can only use pre-defined views of tasks (although these generally work well).

Pros: Clean, mostly clear UI. Colour coding for Projects and labels. Multi-level sub-projects and sub-tasks. Keyboard-friendly data entry with natural language dates and autocompletion. Tasks can be viewed by date, label, project, priority, text in task description, and some combinations of these via custom queries.
Cons: Data entry requires either memorisation of syntax for various task properties, or picking additional properties from a context menu after the event. No Boolean combination of search criteria (so no way to find unlabelled tasks, or to see a "Could do today" list of Due, Overdue tasks, together with those labelled as a Next Action). Available Android apps only offer a subset of functionality, and no offline access or synching. SMS reminders may or may not work, according to network. No way to save custom queries (other than the start page). Separate "reorder" mode to move tasks around within projects. No drag and drop to move tasks from one project to another.

I've spent a number of weeks working with real life tasks in each of the above, and have also tried many others, such as Nirvana, GTDAgenda, ActionComplete, Dooster - none of which have tempted me beyond a half hour investigation. Each and every one of them will be suitable for someone, but not for me. OpenLoopz looks promising, but is currently only an Android app (although a web interface and sync is in the pipeline - even if it does appear to be a very LONG pipeline), and I really need a proper keyboard for all but emergency "out-and-about" data entry, and reliable online data storage.

(So there I have the basis for my To Do management comparison blog post ;-).)