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[Orgmode] Org-mode versus Taskpaper - now for real

From: Carsten Dominik
Subject: [Orgmode] Org-mode versus Taskpaper - now for real
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 12:28:37 +0200

Dear all,

I hope that you will all forgive me my little joke.  It worked so
well because there is a certain amount of truth in the matter, of
course, and I would like to address this in a more serious

Org-mode has indeed become very feature-rich in the run of the
years.  However, while adding features, more often than not
triggered but lots of truly excellent suggestions on this forum,
I have been using one principle as the overruling requirement for
Org-mode: That the simple stuff should remain simple, that no
part of the complexity is forced on the user.  If you think I
have failed to live up to this, I definitely would like to know
about it.

The important point I would like to make here is that for all
intents and purposes, Org-mode *is* taskpaper!  It is a
zero-setup, totally simple TODO manager that works with plain
files, files that can be edited on pretty much any system out
there, either as plain text in *any* editor, or using Emacs which
runs everywhere.  To follow the taskpaper webpage, open a file
tasks.org and type

    * Project 1
    ** TODO task1
    ** DONE task2

    * Project 2
    ** TODO task 3
    ** TODO task 5

You can add tags by hand, get lists for certain tags as sparse
trees, it really is totally as simple as taskpaper in every way!

Of course, Org-mode allows you to do more, but I would hope in a
non-imposing way!  It has lots of features under the hood that
you can pull in when you are ready, when you find out that there
is something more you'd like to do.

My ideal picture would be that newcomers indeed use Org-mode as a
simple outliner and list manager.  And then, that they find
themselves often in a situation where they think "Gee, I wish I
could to this", they open the manual and, voila, yes, I can!

So the complexity of Org-mode is, as I see it, mostly a problem
of perception rather than a real issue.  How can this be
addressed?  As the author of the manual I see it as my task to
document Org-mode compactly and as completely as possible.  So
the full set of features will hit you when reading the manual.
This is why I have asked, so often, for people to write more
tutorials, describe a simple setup they use on the web, to
re-enforce the notion that Org-mode really the most simple system
out there.  Initially.

It seems to me that Merlin Mann in his review of Taskpaper has
hit the nail on the head (he always does).  What is so great
about taskpaper that it is (so far?) almost fiddle-proof.  It is
a list, and there is no way to fiddle with it.  People who use
fiddling with the TODO system as a way to procrastinate can
clearly benefit from such a system.  I am for sure the biggest
example of a person who uses fiddling in that way.  But: Hey, we
use Emacs *because* it allows us to fiddle, to get things right,
the way *we* want it.

The problem with a program like taskpaper is that you will
eventually be hit by its limitations.  The day comes when you
need to clock the working time on a task, when you wish you
could record a link to that email that triggered the task, when
you would like to put the task list on an internal webpage, and
make it look pretty too.  And then you cannot, you need to get an
external program to do the timing, you need to copy your list
into a web editor to make it look nice, and you need to find that
email back by hand.

What people miss when they are new to Org-mode is this:

Don't try to set up the "final" task managing system from the
start.  Because you have no idea yet what your system should look
like.  Don't set up many TODO states and logging initially,
before you actually have a feeling for what you working flow is.
Don't define a context tag "@computer" just because David Allen
has one, even though you are sitting at a computer all the time
anyway!  Start by creating and managing a small TODO list and
then develop your own system as the needs arises.  I wrote
Org-mode to enable this development process.

Happy April fools day!

- Car

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