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Show HN: TaskTXT, plain text task-timing notepad (tasktxt.com)
129 points by trafnar on Sept 20, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 83 comments
I built TaskTXT.com based on my experience timing my tasks. I found that committing to a task before I start helps with my focus, and guessing how long it will take, then timing it prevents me from wanting to give in to distractions because I'm "on the clock".

Video Overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOYO0c_D6w0

There's also a Mac app which you can download here: https://dl.todesktop.com/22080519n9z1jew/mac

Video overview of the Mac app: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMs-V5v5gZY

But I didn't want the tool to be distracting, so its based on plain text. That means the UI is very familiar and you can use it for generic notes in any structure you like. When you work in TaskTXT you are working directly on its data format, I made a video about this concept here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZdBgVZn5NI

I think this tool is uniquely suited for programmers, so I'd be interested to hear any feedback about the product, or its viability as a business.

I get the paid tier; I do... although i really hate that "dark mode" is ever considered a paid option by any application what-so-ever.

As someone who has very sensitive eyes (even when on HN I use a user script to turn everything dark) and works in low-light environments most of my day the sheer amount of applications I will not use due to the fact they will not give the option to enable dark mode is astounding.

Cool concept, i don't really like the double lining after each task but it's nothing more than a slight annoyance; i just really hate that what is essentially an accessibility feature being paid only is something on principle i'm not going to pay for, as i shouldn't owe you money to save my vision.

I'm not trying to complain too much; I think this is a really cool concept and the rest of the application seems to make sense. I like the simplicity etc.

I completely agree. I wonder if it was Unity who started that trend.

By your logic, eye medicine should be free, because you shouldn’t owe pharma companies money to save your vision.

Food should be free, because you shouldn’t owe farmers, distributors and retailers money to make the food available to you.

But i get, why it might feel stingy. To each their own.

No; because that comes at cost.

I have glasses, they are expensive, I understand that. I have sensitive eyes and overtime they fatigue much quicker then they should.

No one owes you anything, especially at cost. However when it comes to a dark mode option, it doesn't cost the developer anything, it's a theme change.

The other options are great enough for a sub that it's worth it with or without dark mode; the mobile editor and cloud storage are good enough reason. I only felt it was even acceptable to state dark mode should be free because for a good portion of people it's necessity and there are other good reasons to buy a sub. I usually won't test a free application unless it has dark mode by default because it's that hard for me and I know from others that they experience this as well.

With or without dark mode, if you use something like this daily, you will end up caving and paying. Without dark mode, there are people like me who can't even test it out properly (it's physically painful to look at a white screen for too long).

Even though I was convinced and changed the site to make dark mode free already, I'll say, it's not free. Maintaining a dark mode is a huge pain for me. I don't ever use dark mode, so it feels even more unpleasant. I obsess over the typography and colors, having to do it all twice is more work. That's one of the reasons I initially made it a paid feature.

Interesting; it is a rather good looking, very easy on the eyes, application, so your efforts are not in vain. I do understand though where you are coming from, and i do appreciate it.

Although I'm so far on the other end of the spectrum it's not even something that came to mind in my initial criticism. I'm the programmer that mostly works on old/outdated legacy systems that will never look "good" to anyone, and even then I rarely deal with the front-facing UI, usually spend most of my time working on low-level and background stuff that the user never sees. So I didn't even think about the relationship between light/dark when it comes down to unifying the two experiences with a "core" experience. If i were working on something like that I would want to change as little as possible between the two, though in that design consideration, then every element added to the program would have to be "compatible" with the core design, and the user's experience in both would have to be similar. So with that consideration, I could see why it would not be simple to implement/maintain.

Ok i get it now. Ignore my comment, sorry.

no worries; it's worth discussing :)

There's also a version for Firefox.

Thanks, I'll have to try it out.

Update: I've made dark mode free, and I added a theme switcher in the bottom left.

Awesome, because you were so quick with the change and I really appreciate it (not just for myself but everyone else who has the same needs). I picked up a year sub just to support you, and once i saw how sexy the dark mode was I realized your app is something i will use often.

Consider it thanks for listening instead of disregarding. You are the first dev who has ever made this specific change on request and it's really thoughtful of you. (i've asked several devs for dark mode and they just ghost me)

I launched the webapp today and noticed it was dark (my system is dark mode, but I like my webpages light), so I knew you added the theming to the free version.

I don't need any of the features in the Pro version but I picked up a yearly sub as well because it makes me happy to see feedback so quickly integrated !

My bucket list of features now : - <i> or <Enter> button in Command mode to enter Edit mode - Maybe a search feature to easily find a task in all Pages - More a "me" feature than a "you" feature but I'd love to find a way to be able to export the current running task name and timer and add it to my top bar (on Linux, with polybar). I have looked a bit at the application but didn't find an API endpoint I could hit or something like that so I might have to find a more hacky solution. To have something like this https://i.imgur.com/OUcyTyQ.png in the top-right bar

Thank you !

Imba looks awesome as well !

I added both "i" and "enter" to go back to editing mode.

Wow thanks so much!

Likewise! I've been using it consistently over the last few hours and it definitely does what it says on the tin; integrates really well and keeps my mind in the zone for much longer.

It's solid for sure, I'll get plenty of use out of it.

Thanks for the feedback, I'll consider a change there for sure.

I was all ready to be like "yeah, but org-mode can already..." and then I watched the video. You know what? This is actually a great idea. I love the timer. The graphics are very clean and nice. This is a great simple little idea.

Of course, now I'm like .... "huh, how could i get that functionality in org-mode?" but... ;)

for those of you not using org-mode... watch the really short vid and see if it's something that'd work for your brain.

[edit: yup. org-mode has something similar, just not a running timer visible _in_ your doc]

Many people have made comparisons to org-mode, and org-mode seems really cool. As someone who hasn't used emacs, its hard to get into, but I'd like to explore it more as I'm sure there are many ideas that would serve as inspiration for TaskTXT.

It's worth getting in to emacs! It can replace every piece of software you likely use ;)

I first stumbled upon TaskTXT, and your really quite excellent YouTube channel, a few weeks ago. I’m a fan so far.

I really appreciate the attention to detail in the app. You asked about its viability as a business - I have no idea but I really hope there is a market for small design-focused indie apps like this.

One thing I’ve found a little contradictory. In one of your videos you mentioned that TaskTXT is not for long-term notes and todos, just a space for what you’re focusing on at the moment, and not be too concerned about losing data for example. To me the use of a plain-text format suggests the opposite, that this is something that is very easy to archive, search, backup, keep in a git repo, etc. And the opposite; if the purpose is not to plan out a long list of tasks with descriptions and notes before you start, then maybe there would be another design that makes it feel more like a quick throwaway timer that’s useful only for about as long as it’s running.

I think it’s a very clever design though so I would encourage you to think about how to support planning for slightly longer time horizons as well.

Yeah, I've been thinking along these lines too. I think it could evolve into something more substantial with a few additions to the UI. I've found myself wanting to store more and more notes in it, but then I run up against lack of page organization. I don't want it to get bogged down in folders and tags and such, but I have some ideas to strike the right balance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

The distraction free workflow with timer motivation is a really killer feature. I wonder if you could handle the longer term PKM / organize / retrieve kinds of use cases by integrating really nicely with tools that focus on that, like Obsidian?

Popup as soon as I go to the web site ==> Close tab.

Sorry. Life is short.

In this case, it worked for me because it had a youtube video, and I think the quick hook of 2:57 to explain what it is....

In this case, it worked for me because I read it worked for you ;)

(I decided to come back for the video)

I used this modal UI because I think it's less annoying than a traditional homepage. Most web apps have a homepage that requires you to sign in before you can use the app. I wanted to send people straight to the app and allow you to see and even try the app without signing in.

I actually made a whole video about this : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjKxpks13Zw

I think having a small "Dismiss" link or "X" button could feel a little less coercive. I do appreciate being able to click outside the modal to do this, but it wasn't immediately clear at first.

Clicking outside of the modal doesn't really dismiss it? It just puts it at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for that hint! I was already prepared to close the tab because I didn't realize I could dismiss the popup. I guess the main reason for that is because it's early in the morning where I live, but also, nowadays when you get a popup like that (e.g. on Twitter or on paywalled sites) and it doesn't have a "close" button, it really means "log in, sign up or §$%& off"...

I've added a close button

True, I'll add it.


This comment seems uncalled for.

Yes, I don't disagree, but the popup is quite agressive and unpleasant; also unexpected on an HN story.

I was worried the popup would be perceived this way, but the typical entry point to an app like this is a traditional homepage which completely blocks your view of the app. Maybe that would be better just due to people's expectations, but I wanted them to see the app right away.

Sorry about my face!

The app sounds really cool, but the videos are what stood out to me.

Everything you need to know about the app is conveyed clearly and succinctly (and persuasively!). It’s high quality but not overdone.

If I want to promote a side project, these videos are what I’m aiming for.

Well done!

It’s cool that you’ve launched a native app for TaskTXT. I think the UI concept is terrific, as it let’s me see and manipulate my plain data, but then also dynamically amends it with useful extra information and functionality.

Is the video that demonstrates the Mac app linked from your website? I’d personally prefer if the link in the navigation of your website was “Mac App”, which would take me to a separate page with more infos/screenshots/videos, instead of downloading it right away. That way I could get an impression of the app first, without having to “blindly” install.

Despite the subscription vs. one-time payment question being an old story, I’m not sure I’d be willing to subscribe and pay recurringly. What would happen with an installed Mac App when the subscription expires?

Another question, just out of curiosity: is there a more detailed write-up or specification of the underlying file format?

Good point, I'll do that.

There isn't a writeup, but this older video introducing the beta of TaskTXT shows a little more detail about the format (timestamp link): https://youtu.be/gbGawb728xA?t=191

I added the page you suggested: https://tasktxt.com/download-mac-app

Congrats on getting this far, your time tracking tool looks slick and marketable! I also like keeping text with tasks and time-tacking. My approach is to use a vim plugin and markdown files. Keyboard shortcuts let me start a timer, and calculate totals. There is also two scripts to export to JSON or CSV, I then use those to generate invoices. The result looks like this https://github.com/mozey/vim-timetracker#example My plan with using markdown files was to have some kind of UI to display the time sheets, but I never got that far.

Looks cool! I did a quick skim of the website and privacy policy. It was quick, so maybe I missed it, but where are the notes stored? How are they protected? Are the contents of the notes considered Personal Data as relates to the privacy policy?

The data is stored in Firebase, they are protected by https encryption in transit and firebase encrypts them at rest. Like most cloud services, I can access the notes but it is my policy never to do so and I never have.

I'm hoping to implement a full offline mode and end to end encryption in the future.

> Like most cloud services, I can access the notes but it is my policy never to do so and I never have.

I'd be more than happy to pay and even disable sync -- it seems like it should be trivial to offer a version that doesn't sync at all or uses E2EE.

Frankly your product looks exceptionally nice, and I really like it. I just can't justify using it because it's too risky, from a data use standpoint, to allow other people into my mind. I hope you'll consider at least a fully offline / no sync mode.

Completely agree. I would pay $10-30 as a one-time cost for this. I don't want cloud sync with your servers, neither do any of the places that I would like to use this. I have never found a good time-tracking app that is useful for me, but this seems pretty good. I'd love to tie it to Gitlab so I can specify an issue and track time on it with a click.

How is the data stored? Per page?


I like a few things:

1) A task is a block of text. The tools I'm using kind can do something similar, using indents, but it doesn't work that well at all.

2) I love the estimate. It's exactly what I do when for example planning my day.

3) The timer is a very well thought out thin.

While I wouldn't use this as my main or side driver, I'm def. gonna try it out during days where I work exactly like that.. When I have a ton of things to do, I estimate each thing, and want to make some good progress

Awesome tool. I love its simplicity, and also the vim-like command mode. Right off the bat, here are a few improvements I would suggest for the command mode:

  - (i or Enter): Go back to edit mode
  - (dd): Delete the task
  - (u/r): Undo/Redo
Another suggestion would be to spin up some sort of issue-tracker (github, discourse, canny...) where feedback can be given in an organized way.

I've added all these commands

I'll add these!

Oh and feel free to email hello at wedeserveless.com if you want to share other feedback.

Nice concise video showing off the features. I love that it's plain text. Very cool UI. I'd like to use it, but as long as:

- there's no local-only version (although I'm now seeing from another of your comments that you plan to do a full offline mode - hooray!)

- there's a requirement to sign in (even before using any paid features)

I'd rather not use it.

Also, a better name might be TaskTimer, but I imagine that's taken.

You can try all the features before signing in, just click outside the modal or press escape.

I am doing serious investigation/prototyping for a real offline mode, I want it as much as anyone

Is there a roadmap? I don't want a cloud service, but a roadmap with features planned as long as there's support is something that would get me to pay (or a one-time purchase.)

Just vague ideas in my head :)

Really like the timer function, but not enough to justify $5/mo. Having a one-time purchase option might convince me to switch from my current solution.

For now I'll stick with FromScratch: https://fromscratch.rocks

I hope I can offer that in the future.

Great video. I've been thinking about something similar in particular because of the distractions. What happens a lot for me is that in order to achieve one task ("analyze churn rate") i get into a bunch of other tasks "find a software to visualize the chart" > "try apache superset" > "update docker desktop" on Windows" which in term of effort are way out of proportion to what I was willing to spend on the first task.

I'm eager to try how this tools handles the stacking/sub-tasks.

Also the hardest bit is the change in behavior and really write down all the little things before actually doing them.

Eager to try.

Yes, that is exactly what happens to me, I find writing the task down and starting the timer makes me less likely to jump to that next task, instead I just write it down.

With a normal to-do list, you can write down your task, but you don't feel as committed to an "active" one.

You mentioned feedback, I don't have anything on the site for that but feel free to email hello at wedeserveless.com

Some feedback:

* i find it irritating if i can not leave feedback directly on the site, at least I didn't find a way * the little icon for "start a task" looks like an expand/collapse arrow, not like a (usually filled) triangle for "play" * I'd love to have subtasks * After deleting the tutorial there is no way to get it back

Also when in navigation mode, pressing Enter should allow me to edit the current task again.

Cool concept. I use the integrated timer in ClickUp to achieve something similar. Starting the timer acts like a mini psychological commitment that prevents me from diverting my attention until the task is done.

It could be worth considering how your concept could be integrated with existing task management tools, as task management is notoriously personal and everyone seems to already have a favourite software tool for doing it.

I've used many note taking apps (VS Code extensions for todo lists, Trello, plain text files, OneNote, etc) and this is nice, a few thoughts:

1) Was there a keyboard shortcut for starting/stopping a timer and marking a task done? 2) Note the 'forgot password' link doesn't work from the subscribe popup 3) Storing the notes locally by reading from a .txt file that's synced to a personal drive would be great


Thanks, I'll fix that link.

If you press escape, you enter a command mode where you can use the following shortcuts:

j: Move down to the next task k: Move up to the previous task s: Start or stop the timer for the selected task d: Mark the selected task as done n: Create a new task

I fixed the link, thanks again.

Love this! I use Horo[0] to set timers for myself, but this fits the use-case I have far better. Just picked up the yearly plan.

I would love to see the current timer in my mac status bar to see time remaining at a glance.

Congrats on the launch!

[0] https://apps.apple.com/us/app/horo-timer-for-menu-bar/id1437...

Much appreciated! I have a half-finished branch with the mac status bar timer, but there were issues getting it to look just the way I wanted. Hope to get that in eventually.

Horo looks like a nice one too.

Does Horo even work on Monterey on an M1? I tried launching it and nothing happened. No menu bar / menu extra icon, no dock icon, nothing.

Related - I’ve been using Toggl Track to track how much time I spend on various projects, and it’s one of the most useful tech tools in my workflow, plus it has Mac and iOS apps.


What’s the concept around New page? I don’t see a search so does your work allow you to forget about remaining tasks? Or do you use another task manager and this is what you want to achieve each day?

Is this more a sticky note approach rather than a full outstanding list right?

Yes, I use it much more like a sticky note for work I'm actively engaging in. I create new pages throughout the day. Sometimes I feel bad like I'm going to forget about the previous tasks, but I rarely actually go back to look at them. I put important things that I can't forget elsewhere.

Interesting tool. I like the simplicity. In some ways, it reminds me of a (now defunct) web app called Daystack. And thanks for taking that time to make TaskTXT responsive. It works well on a phone.

Will you be implementing a way to export/download tasks?

Yeah, I plan to eventually, for now you can at least copy/paste the text out of TaskTXT. You get all the same data that way, except maybe 'created at' and 'updated at' timestamps :)

Great. Also like the advice about using TaskTXT more as a transient space for your tasks -- what you need to do now or in the short term, rather than it being a long-term storage location for tasks that you might never get to.

I really like the idea that is not meant as long-term to-do list, but for tasks that you are currently working on. I am pretty sure everybody already has some kind to to-do list, so your app complements that perfectly :)

I like the tool a lot but it has an infuriating bug at the moment.

If you create more than one page, the tasks from pages that are not in-use shows up and covers the tasks on the page we are currently editing.

Apart from this, TaskTXT is perfect

I'd like to fix this, can you send me a screenshot or something? hello at wedeserveless.com

I like it. Will you support nested tasks?

I sometimes use a text editor just because the indenting works well.

This allows me to break down the tasks into sub tasks. Would be useful to sum the time for each branch.

What tech stack did you use front/back end?

Nested tasks are something I'd like to add. I'd like to first replace the text editor library with a code-editor like codemirror, which would allow me to more easily handle things like indentation level.

I got stuck trying to implement codemirror in a way that works, but I'll try it again when I have time.

The app is written in Imba (https://www.imba.io) and the back end is Firebase.

Nice. I’ve done this manually a couple of times. So I like the format. What have you the idea to build it? What was the most challenging part of building it?

The idea came from doing it manually, fiddling with timers or calculating time passed was a pain, so I wouldn't actually use the technique often, but when I did, it was very helpful.

One of the hardest parts for me has been dealing with parsing the text to extract the data from it, and to do syntax highlighting. It's not that hard to do in a naive way, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out more robust ways of doing it. I'm still feeling stuck in that area, send help!

I've been using TaskTXT for a few weeks and it's a highly polished and very useful bit of software. Nice!

Amazing software. Will use it daily!

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