TaskPaper iPhone file format changes

Some existing TaskPaper Mac users are running into what look like bugs when opening their TaskPaper Mac documents on TaskPaper iPhone. The problems aren’t really bugs, instead they are due to a change in the TaskPaper file format.

Originally TaskPaper for Mac allowed lists like this:

project 1:
- task 1
- task 2
- task 3

In the above list all the tasks were considered part of “project 1” and would show up when filtering on “project 1”. Unfortunately this setup caused some confusion, because for subtasks and notes tab indentation level was used create structure, so projects and tasks at the same level was a weird special case. It also make the file format harder for other tools to parse correctly.

Because of this the new format just uses indentation level to determine the structure of a file. So in the new format the above list needs to be formatted with tabs in front of each task like this:

project 1:
    - task 1
    - task 2
    - task 3

The development version of TaskPaper Mac uses this new format. There’s also this AppleScript that will convert existing TaskPaper files to the new format. If you try opening a file in the old format on your iPhone you will notice the following problem:

  1. When you filter on a project none of it’s related tasks will show up. This is because the new format no longer recognizes tasks that are indented at the same level as the project as being part of the project. The solution is to indent those tasks under the project. (Or on iPhone select them all and drag and drop them under the project).

  2. On the iPhone I draw a bullet in front of tasks, but if a task is at indentation level zero I do not show the bullet. The reason for not showing the bullet is that it would take too much space to show it. To make everything like up it would mean that all text in the iPhone would need to get shifted to the right 30 pixels, and so you would always see less text on the screen. Not showing it is a bit weird, but I think it’s worth the tradeoff, especially considering the fact that in most lists tasks will always be indented at least one level because of the new file format that requires task indentation to be part of a project.

  3. Not related to file format change, but on the iPhone I don’t display the trailing “:” from projects and the starting “-” from tasks. The reason is that its hard to type these characters on the iPhone, so editing them directly isn’t as useful on the iPhone as it is on the Mac. Because of this I decided to just clean up the display and now show them.

  4. Last there has been some confusion about tasks vrs notes on the iPhone. TaskPaper Mac allows themes, and one popular theme has bullets displayed next to each note. TaskPaper iPhone doesn’t allow themes, but it displays a bullet in front of each task (except top level ones), but no bullet in front of any notes. The end result is that your lists won’t look pixel exact between the iPhone and Mac, but the underlying meaning and structure of those lists is the same, and I don’t think should cause much confusion once you know what’s going on.

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