The best GTD app is your .txt, period

I actually wanted to write this post long time ago—since I started using the .txt as a to-do & GTD application and that’s about a 6 good months ago. If you know me though, you know that I’m a “professional procrastinator” so you shouldn’t be like “WTF?! 6 months ago? That even was 2010 dude!” But let’s stick to the point, shouldn’t we?

You’ve tried Things; you’ve tried Remember the Milk; you’ve tried Omnifocus; you’ve tried your Moleskine with plain pen and paper. You’ve tried a dozen other apps, especially iOS ones on GTD. I’ve tried them too. But my opinion is they are all shit. Except maybe the Moleskine part because my Moleskine is the notebook I like the most. Or at least to say it better, they didn’t work out for me.

All of these apps seem so different, yet they share some core things (of failure):

  • complicated UIs (yet, they’re advertised as the most easy-to-learn UIs)
  • too much clutter when adding an event, note, to-do
  • too much hassle to add one (lot’s of clicks, plus the previous point)
  • can’t sync correctly (only OTA between the same app at best)
  • proprietary support of devices & connectivity

What you need from a to-do / GTD app?

  • add things on the fly
  • sync between the whole universe
  • overall KISS-ness

After long philosophical thoughts I figured out that the only solution that satisfies these three core needs is an app that every computer whether it’s Mac, Linux or Windows (meh) has. *Drumroll* yeah, it’s the plain —fucking— .txt editor. (I know, goose bumps all over your body now, lol).

.Txt enhanced

In a so “meta” world we live in i.e. you can sync content simultaneously in between all your machines, plain ol’ .txt is not enough. But hold on! There’s an app for that. (I’m so meta using these cliches.) I can describe this, my current to-do / GTD setup, and recommend it to people as “.txt on steroids”.

The app that transforms .txt into “.txt 2.0” is called PlainText. And it’s free—fuck yeah. However it’s not only the app that makes it awesome, it’s the whole setup.

The Setup

If you don’t already use DropBox (seriously, WTF if you don’t), start by clicking here. Download and install the client.

Download PlainText from your local AppStore on your iOS device. Link PlainText with your DropBox account, create a folder “PlainText” in your DropBox folder and delete the 2 default files of PlainText if you want (all these from within the PlainText app).

Create a new file with PlainText and name it “todo”—the .txt will be appended automatically. Go to your computer and see that the todo.txt appears instantly in your /Dropbox/PlainText folder.

Mac tip: pin the todo.txt file on your dock like this (you can do that with a kind of “hack” in Windows 7 too, I think).

Now, every time you type and click save (from your computer) or stop typing (it autosaves) from PlainText the todo.txt is automatically synced via DropBox. DropBox even holds file revisions and backups automatically for you through its system, in case you do BS sometime.

If-you-don’t-have-an-iOS-device tip: you can sync the todo.txt between your computers by simply installing DropBox to your other machines. By itself, DropBox will download all of your files in the /DropBox folder to every new computer. Don’t forget to pin the file!

Final words

I don’t know if you’re excited with this, but I am. This setup worked perfectly for me since —not even day one— but second one. It’s like magic, it’s like what you ever wanted. If you give it a try you’ll remember me for the rest of your life. Word.

posted: March 24, 2011
under: How To's, Productivity, Software

8 Responses

  1. Gerasimos says:

    Have u tried Evernote?

    For me it’s a “not looking back ever” app.

  2. Apostolos says:

    Oh, yes! Just forgot to include it though. As I said, none of the apps did work out for me for better or for worse.

  3. Andrew says:

    Have you tried wunderlist? It is really simple, has a web interface, a mac app, a windows app, an iPhone app, an iPad app and an Android app and they all sync. Plus its FREE! and to enter a note all you need to do is type in a text entry field and hit return… simple. And, If you do ever need more options yo can add notes or star items or give them due dates.

  4. Apostolos says:

    Actually, I am trying it right now, just subscribed for the beta. I think though that the simplicity through plain txt and dropbox is unbeatable. All the rest it’s too much clutter.

  5. Sotiris says:

    Going next to a great app like Dropbox is imperative if you want to keep things simple. Dropbox takes care of all the cloud and sync staff. It also scales up allright. Reinventing the wheel is not needed indeed. Simple is beautiful.

  6. gerasini says:

    Ένα app που ικανοποιεί τα τρία πράγματα που χρειάζεσαι στο μέγιστο χωρίς τίποτα περιττό (απλότητα) είναι το Dropkick.

    Δεν ξέρω όμως αν αυτά τα τρία είναι αυτό ακριβώς που χρειάζεσαι…

  7. Apostolos says:

    Από τότε που γράφτηκε το post, άλλαξαν πολλά, με πρώτο και καλύτερο ότι πλέον δεν χρησιμοποιώ το .txt αλλά το Wunderlist. Θα σου πρότεινα να το κοιτάξεις, είναι πραγματικά to the point χωρίς περιττά features, infos κλπ. Και κυρίως, εντελώς δωρεάν για Mac + iOS.

  8. Kay says:

    I know I’m late to the party here, but I keep wondering:
    You write you use .txt as a “GTD” tool. So, how does your system handle ‘Projects’ ans ‘Contexts’, ‘Next Actions’ etc. (I think we can agree on that those are the core elements of what differentiates GTD from a simple To-Do-List)?