Don’t Be Under the Cloud (Part Ⅰ)
Using TaskWarrior for Project Management
I know they’re sexy. They’re beautiful. They’re everywhere: To-do list and project managers like Asana, Behance’s ActionMethod and Nirvana. [You can go on forever listing these, they're easy to make, easy to market and extremely competitive.] If they’re free, eventually you’ll run into their limitations. I especially enjoyed PivotalTracker, but they since changed their business model and it was no longer useful to me (on my budget). Lessons learned: Free + Online always means you’re going to be vulnerable to Internet, weather, or market conditions. Get off the cloud whenever it makes sense.
I’ve always been a CLI-person, since learning UNIX back in the good ole’ days in the late ’80s. There are just some things that are more reliable when you’re not fighting the latest GUI fashion of the day, whether it be in your web browser or your operating system. I needed a CLI-task/project management system, something that wouldn’t require a web server to install or web browser to display. TaskWarrior (which I’ll abbreviate TW) fills that bill and I don’t have to be nagged to “upgrade” when I exceed a number of tasks or projects. I won’t regurgitate how you can use it here when there’s a very short 30-Second Tutorial and a Longer Tutorial already there to use. What I do want you to know about are the reporting features.
to your shell configuration and you’ll save a couple of keystrokes invoking TW. You could use TW’s built-in “shell” command but since TW may-or-may-not have GNU Readline support built-in, it’s easer to edit and run from the shell. If you don’t make this alias, mentally replace tw with task in all of my following examples.
The Default Report and Other Reports
The default report is what is shown when you simply run tw– you’ll get a list of tasks ID, Project, Priority, Due-Date, Age, Active-Tasks, Urgency (a unique TW feature) and Description. This report is good enough to clue you into what you should be working on next and will highlight what you’re actively working on if you have started it.
Urgency is TW’s way of weighting tasks so they bubble up to the top of your heap. Tasks not assigned to projects aren’t as urgent as tasks that are and tasks with closer due-dates are more urgent than tasks without due-dates, and so on. If you really want to nuance (or waste your time) urgency, you can also set priorities on your tasks. I prefer to use wait:<duration> task-modifications to take the tasks out of my immediate horizon, giving myself permission to ignore a task, knowing that when the time comes, it will come back.
The first command you should know about is of course the report command. This tells you all the possibilities you have with TW:
- active shows you the tasks you have started.
- all shows you all the pending and completed tasks.
- blocked becomes useful when you start relating tasks to each other as being dependencies of other tasks—blocked tasks can’t be started until other tasks have been completed.
- burndown if you’re familiar with SCRUM project processes, is a view of how much left there is to a project, which can be useful for estimating completion dates.
- completed of course shows you what has been done.
- ghistory gives you a graphical bar-graph of Added, Computed and Deleted tasks. You can view it by month (the default) or annually by adding .annual to the end of the command. If you don’t want the bar graphs, use history instead.
- information is the complete laundry list of details about each task.
- list is just barely more verbose than next, but without showing Urgency.
- long will fill your terminal with task information including: ID, Project, Priority, Added, Started, Due, Recurring, Countdown to ready, Age, Dependencies, Tags and of course, its Description.
- ls shows the tasks by ID, Pri, Project and Description.
- minimal shows the tasks by ID, Project and Description and nothing else, it’s the same as ls without Priority.
- newest shows you the tasks you’ve added by their age.
- next is the default action when you run tw without any arguments, showing you the next actions.
- oldest is the opposite of newest and will instantly show you your greatest goals along with your worst procrastinations.
- overdue is exactly what you think it means.
- projects gives you the bird’s eye view of collections of tasks you have. It doesn’t show you the tasks, but it shows how many tasks of each priority there are in each project.
- ready appears to be the same as next.
- recurring is your life-hack to reminders of things that you have to do periodically. I use it to remind myself and track my Omega-3 supplements.
- summary gives you a feel-good progress bar view of your active projects.
- tags shows you your other task classifications other than project. You can use tags for GTD contexts or other project management concepts like tracking assignments to other people.
- unblocked shows you what’s ready to be worked on.
- waiting shows you the tasks that you have pushed into the future.
This just gives you some idea of what you can do with the reports—of course, read the tutorials so you can see how to use TW for adding, changing or removing tasks. If you have any CLI chops, I think you’ll enjoy having TaskWarrior available as a tool without having to resort to vim with a simple text file as your TODO list. Not that there is anything wrong with that…
Filed under: Software, Technology Tagged: Command-line interface, Project management, TaskWarrior