Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Taking Your Plain Text To-Do List Mobile

One of the most common uses of a text file is as a to-do list. I don’t know how many people I know who have a file named todo.txt on one of their computers. And for good reason: a plain text to-do list is easy to maintain and use, and is portable across operating systems and applications. Best of all, you can synchronize your to-do list across multiple computers using a service like Dropbox or ownCloud.

But a plain-text to-do list isn’t so great if you’re using a mobile device. Sure, you can open a text file that you’ve saved in a storage service using a text editor, but that can be a bit of a chore. Why not use a dedicated, plain text to-do app instead?

Let’s take a look at a pair of mobile apps (one for Android and iOS, the other Android only) that let you take your plain text to-do list mobile.

Todo.txt Touch

Todo.txt takes the idea of the plain text to-do file a bit further than simply having a text file on your computer. It consists of a shell script that lets you interactively work with your task list (saved as file named todo.txt). I wrote an introductory article about Todo.txt that you might want to read before proceeding.

While you can synchronize your task list to Dropbox, working with it on a mobile device won’t be as interactive. Unless you use Todo.txt Touch for Android or iOS.

A task list in Todo.txt

Adding a task is easy. Just tap the Add Task button and start typing.

A new task list in Todo.txt

You can also add a priority to your tasks and tag them. With Todo.txt, tags are preceded by an @ symbol and indicate something about the task —for example, when it’s due (@due), a location (@Library), or a type of task (@errand). If you’ve used tags in your task list, you can select them from a list. Otherwise, you need to enter tags manually when you create a task.

And with a tap, you can mark your tasks as complete. Which, as you know, is a great feeling.

If you use Dropbox, you can either automatically or manually sync your list. That means if you use Todo.txt on your computer (or even if you don’t), you have access to your task list wherever you are.


Simpletask is based on Todo.txt, and it shares a number of similarities with Todo.txt Touch. And you can use it to open and edit the same task list file that’s used with Todo.txt.

A task list in Simpletask

Admittedly, the interface isn’t as clean or polished at that of Todo.txt Touch, but Simpletask does the job.

As with Todo.txt Touch, all you need to do is tap the Add Task button to create a new task.

Adding a task to a list in Simpletask

You can add tags to your tasks, and filter them based on those tags. That’s useful if you have a number of tasks and need to zoom in on the ones you need to do in a particular category.

While Simpletask lets you synchronize your task list with Dropbox, there’s also a cloudless version of the app. What does cloudless mean? There’s no synchronization with Dropbox built in. Instead, you can leave your task list on your mobile device. If you decide that you want to copy it elsewhere, you can use the Android Share menu to (for example) send your task list by email or upload it to your favourite storage service.

Using Todo.txt Touch and Simpletask, it’s easy to take your plain text to-do list mobile. You’re never without it, and you can keep it up to date no matter what computer or device you’re using.

Thoughts? Let's start a conversation on Twitter.

Did you enjoy this post or find it useful? Then please consider supporting this blog with a micropayment via PayPal. Thanks!