Color coding for Active, Waiting, Scheduled, Someday

Original Post by Heath on May 5th

I like the color coding for the various “states” such as Active, Waiting, Scheduled, and Someday. However, the colors that have been chosen are too light for my eyes to see them clearly. Can they be darkened a bit so that they stand out more? Also, should the entire row have color or just a specific part of the action item row?

Comment by Folke

I like the concept, too. Brilliant! It is very useful, and actually also very unique, to be able to tell the difference easily between Next, Waiting etc when they are in the same list.

But I honestly did not even notice them at first. Remember I wrote in another post that “selecting Someday, Waiting and Scheduled for a task seems to only result in the N marker disappearing, but no other marker is shown instead and the tasks do not show up anywhere else.” Maybe I was unobservant or maybe I was sitting at an odd angle. But I did notice the color at some stage later.

But, yeah, I believe they should be made easier to see. But then, if they get too vivid, it might get too garish. Maybe better then if it were smaller and only covered a part of the line or a particular spot. The main thing for me is that I can see it out of the corner of my eye without reading text or decoding symbols.

What about this daring possibility: use the focus indicator (the exclamation mark) like this: Use bright colors (red, blue, yellow and such) when tasks are focused, but use a half-strength version of that same color (instead of gray) when it is not in focus?

Using the focus indicator to convey the “state” would perhaps be particularly “logical” when seen from the Focus list. For example, you cannot really “do” a Waiting For action, so if you focus one of those you actually mean something other than doing it. It is a different kind/color of focus, you might say.

But I am fine with virtually any kind of solution, and I am definitely not an artist. It is a great feature. This is just fine-tuning.

Comment by James

Glad you like the colors. No one has commented on them yet, so we were wondering. I’d love to hear what other people think. Darker color? All the way across the whole line? Get rid of them and use icons instead? What do you all think?

1 Like

My personal take on color coding is that colors should be assigned to Areas of Focus/Responsability, while if we need to visually distinguish items in a project as wating, someday, important etc, we should use different shades of the color assigned to the AOF for that particular project.
This way I can see an unified list (sorry i still talk in Nirvana terms since I am a long time user but I am very eager to jump out asap) and visually see how many work items I have left to do, how many hobby-related and how many personal items and so on.

I think there are various ways that people like color coding. You could color code for Area of Responsibility, Priority, State (Active, Waiting, Scheduled, Someday), Context (@Computer, @Work, etc), Due Date (red for overdue, pink for due tomorrow, etc), Project and on and on.

I know that some people really likes color coding for “priority” purposes (those tasks that he always wants to review when reviewing his next actions list). I too think this is a good use of color.

If there were sorting capabilities within the Next Actions, Focus, and Project lists that group the actions based on their “state” then I wouldn’t necessarily need color to denote this. However I do think it’s interesting concept.

Perhaps different sections of the action item row could be colored for different purposes: Far left side would be colored for Priority while the far right hand side of the row colored based on State

I wouldn’t need Context colored as I don’t think I would find this a useful need as I do not scan my tasks lists to see which tasks I can do in a given context, I sort the list to do this.

For the same reason, I wouldn’t need tags color coded either.

I think priority and due date are the top two in my opinion, along with “in process”. I know that some people will disagree with me on this, but I like to be able to see which actions have been started but not finished yet vs tasks that I haven’t yet begun. There are a lot of things that I start but don’t complete right away for a number of reasons (some good / some bad). I guess I could rename my tasks to denote them in smaller increments and then not have this problem. But if I did that then I would be creating and processing more tasks which = more time focused on managing tasks vs completing them. So I really need to know which tasks are “in process” vs which haven’t been started.

I agree with many of the thoughts here about color. I love color as a way to make significant things easily visible. But more on that later.

First of all I’d like to yet again agree with the OP (@hntopper): The fact that GTDNext has implemented a visualization of the different main lists (Next, Waiting, Someday, Scheduled) is a great move! Yes, the colors are a bit difficult to see at the moment, but that can be fixed. It will be very useful to see this distinction very clearly both in the All Projects view (the action hierarchy) and on the Focus list. Kudos for having implemented this! As I said in the “embedded” old comment in the OP I think the background color around the Focus exclamation mark is one viable and attractive alternative for showing which list category the task belongs to. Bert there will be many ways that are good.

As for other task properties that can or could be color coded, I am sure we all have our wishes. One question for the developers, obviously, will be to consider which things will be implemented as separate features in their own right, and what kinds of things will be implementable by the user using a more generic, but sufficiently powerful, built-in tagging/defaulting/coloring/filtering/grouping/sorting system.

Let me give you an example: Say someone wants to characterize their tasks by how much Energy is required, and think three levels like Low, Medium and High would be perfect. Should Energy then be a separate built-in feature or should it be something a user can implement as a customized set of tags? And should they have colors or not? I would be inclined to think that a generic tagging feature, with optional colors, and an appropriate work-conserving approach to default non-tagging, and some decent positioning options, is a safe bet. People will always have their individual wishes, and tags will then be a commonly used “workaround” for features that are not built in. And there will always be things that are not built in.

I actually believe color as such is the least of the worries we should have with generic color coding of “task properties”. I assume it must be doable to color tags (text/background) or color just about anything. A more complicated aspect, I believe, is the position on the line, the total size and how to deal with “omitted” tags (defaults). In the list, if you have tags for Energy, you will want all your Energy blobs to be in a perfectly straight vertical line of equal width, no matter how long words you use for those “tags”, or whether a tag was even specified - you probably do not want to have to apply a tag for Medium Energy, as you would want this to be the default.

I am sure all this solvable, too. For example, there could be a number of fixed “graphical elements” available for customization on the task line (e.g. background, checkbox, focus marker, left vertical bar, some other bar, task text, path text and so on). Each of these fixed elements could be available for the user to apply conditional coloring to in their user preferences (e.g “if @Errand then blue” etc). But as you can see it is more complicated than just color.

Then we have have other aspects like grouping and sorting and filtering and defaults that will also affect whether a given task characteristic needs a built-in feature.

As for me, I want to see my review priorities in color in a fixed position - either as a built-in feature or as a custom tag based characteristic based on a good enough tagging feature. I may eventually use colored tags for more and more things over time. Having colors can be the quickest way to spot things on the list, so I would certainly play with it a lot and take as much advantage of it as I can.

in v 1.3.7 a red underline was introduced in the task edit pane - this is a great help. Thanks! Makes it a lot easier to see which option you have chosen. But it would still be nice to see the categories clearer in the list itself, without clicking on the task. (The other icons are very clear - Focus, Green/Gray, and Info)

Another thing, a suggestion regarding the terminology used for this switch, and I think this is quite important for the simplicity of the app, to avoid confusion:
I suggest the term Active is changed to Next: All the other options (Inbox, Waiting Scheduled, Someday) are names of the “currently active” lists in the left menu, and the task setting tells you which of these “active” lists the item is either already on or will be on once it turns green (from gray).

Yet another thing, a mere question (I have no answer or opinion myself yet):
Is it possible that Info should be seen as an alternative to Next, Waiting etc rather than as a separate parameter? This is probably not very important, but the reason why I am even bringing it up is it struck me as surprising that I can have Waiting Info, Someday Info etc, and it then occurred to me that maybe there is some potential for streamlining the UI somehow - but I don’t know if there is much to gain.

In 1.3.10 the colored background was made stronger towards the right. Neat! Now it is easy to see what Type each task is. :slight_smile:

The colors for Someday and Scheduled are a bit too similar, maybe, but it works.

Would be very useful to have this color feature on the Focus page, too, where there can be actions of mixed Type.

(And why not on single-type pages, too, e.g. Next and Waiting, to make it super easy to know what page you are on, and for general consistency? But not necessary, of course.)