Colored User-Defined Task Properties in Fixed Positions

This thread puts forward some thoughts presented earlier in different contexts.

Many people, including myself, like to have colored “priorities”. Others may want colored energy markers, or an “in progress” marker. Etc Etc. GTDNext could implement a range of such variables, or could provide some more generic functionality to cater for individual needs.

Tags is one such generic mechanism. Custom color coding of the tags is then a good way to make the important tags more visible, especially if it is the tag’s background, not the text, that is colored. But since there can be any number of tags on the task line, and each tag has variable length, this method is still not fully convenient - a bit “jumpy”, requiring ocular scanning - for those task characterizations that the user depends on very heavily. (Color coded tags will probably always be a nice complement, though.)

For those characterizations that have a major role to play in the user’s workflow a fixed horizontal position for the “tag” is essential, and the name or readability of the tag is not necessarily important at all - these fundamental tags could be represented by virtually any kind of color or shape that sits in a fixed position.

What I suggest is that GTDNext should consider implementing a number of color/shape “visual objects” in fixed positions on the task line, invisible if not used, which the user can associate with values of certain task characteristics such as tags. This will provide the user with a do-it-yourself kit for making his/her own very clear and easily visible custom indicators.

Some possible (example) configurable positions/objects

  • thin vertical bar on the left
  • thin vertical bar on the right
  • a second, third vertical bar on the left/right
  • the checkbox itself
  • background line color (overwritten on the right by the “type” color)
  • text color (not for me, though)

Configuration based on tags

Let’s say someone wants to to use one of the possible visual objects (say a vertical thin bar on the left) for Energy (Low, Med, High). Under Settings the chosen visual object could the be customized as follows:

If TagEnergyHigh is present: Red
If TagEnergyLow is present: Blue
Else: Green (medium energy, default):

Enhancement: Configuration based on “pick 1 of many” (mutually exclusive)

In many cases task characteristics (e.g. Energy requirements) are mutually exclusive. A task simply cannot require both Low and High Energy. Only one value can apply. In some of these cases you may want to change the setting during the liftetime of the task (e.g. Priority). In such cases it would be handy not to have to both add one tag and remove another and verify that you got it all down right - but have this done automatically when you select a new value for this parameter.

I think there are at least a couple of different approaches to how this can be solved:

Alt 1) Under Tags management, be able to define groups of tags and simply drag existing tags into such groups. Henceforth, whenever the user applies a tag that is listed under a group then any already applied tag from that group will be automatically removed.

Alt 2) Instead of basing this feature on tags at all, each of the user-definable visual objects could be given a customizable name (e.g. Energy) and customizable value names (e.g. Low, Medium, High), and be shown in the task edit pane as a separate selection - either as dropdowns similar to the Mode box, the Area box or a Project box, or as “radio buttons” etc

In either case a default value should be optional. The assignment of suitable colors could be done under Settings in essentially the same way as described above.

In my own case, I would use such mutually exclusive properties for “Review Attention” aka Priority (Low, High and Medium, the latter being the default) and “Most Limiting Context” (Person, Out, Reflection, Base, Anywhere and Undefined, the latter being the default).

(I suppose GTDNext could come with a few such properties preconfigured just to show new users the ropes. Just like it also could have a couple of Areas preconfigured and a few tags preconfigured for errands etc)

@James and @sergio

What are your thoughts on this? (No response - have I been too long-winded again?) This suggestion is actually more for your benefit than for mine.

I would personally probably settle for just having a simple priority field like Doit and RTM (Hi-Med-Lo), with Medium as the default, but I also realize that other users (and maybe I myself, too) may have similar requests for many other features that require almost identical software capabilities, for example energy (Hi-Med-Lo), time (Hi-Med-Lo), “in progress”, context etc etc etc (a potentially never ending list of separate “features”), so one way for you to deal with all such requests would be to implement a simple generic do-it-yourself tool for it, as suggested in the initial post. You could even “pre-populate” the app with a few sample such uses, e.g. energy, time and priority.

The key thing here is that even colored tags are not easy enough to see, because they tend to “jump around” on the task line, depending on what other tags the individual task has. A fixed position, and not having to read any text, really is key for those few task characteristics that the individual user depends on all the time, those that the user always wants to see regardless of how the list is filtered or sorted.

One solution to this is to have the above-mentioned predefined “graphical objects” on the task line, have these initially invisible (transparent), but let users “program” them (under Settings) to take on certain colors depending on what tags the task has.

Yes, I understand what you are talking about here and it is an interesting idea. I think we were mostly considering adding separate controls for things like energy/time and priority. However, you make some good points so we will take your suggestions into account as we get closer to implementing those features.