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

Managing Your Tasks with Nitro

If you’ve read the posts in this space for any amount of time, you know that I live a lot of my life in plain text. Why? Plain text works for me.

For the longest time, one of the tools that I’ve found essential for doing that was Todo.txt. Todo.txt is a command line, plain text utility that lets you efficiently manage my tasks. If you’re interested, I’ve written about Todo.txt here. I realize, though, that the plain text life and a plain text to-do list aren’t everyone’s cup of caffeinated beverage.

Enter Nitro. It’s a middle ground between a plain text to-do list and a more feature-packed graphical tool.

Let’s take a look at it.

Getting Going

The first step, obviously, is to download and install Nitro. To do that, swing by the Nitro website. You can grab installers for Linux and Mac OS. Sorry, there’s nothing for Windows.

There’s also a web version of Nitro, and a Google Chrome app. More on these in a bit.

Using Nitro

Nitro is a very basic tool. That makes it easy to use and easy to maintain your tasks.

Nitro's main window at startup

To add a task, click the Add button. Nitro adds a blank task.

Adding a task

You can type a description of the task, like Write post about Nitro, and add a note about the task – for example, Schedule for publication on January 17. You can also add a due date for the task by clicking Set Due Date.

If you need to change a task, just click it and then click the Edit button. To mark a task as finished, click the check box beside it. Nitro moves completed tasks into what it calls the Logbook, which is just repository of all such tasks. To view the Logbook, click the gear icon in the top-right of the Nitro window.

Working with Lists

Notice that on the left-hand side of the Nitro window is a pane that’s divided into two parts: Focus and Lists. I’ve been ignoring Focus, if only because it seems a bit too GTD for my tastes; as you probably know I’m not a big fan of GTD.

Lists, on the other hand, I find very useful. Why? Well, chances are you have a lot of things to do. And I know that many people let their to do lists get big and unmanageable. Using lists, you can group similar tasks together. I usually use three lists:

  • Writing
  • Personal
  • Blogging

I might occasionally throw in one or two lists that I use for a specific project or a presentation. When I’m done, I get rid of them.

Creating a list

Another nice feature is the improved ability to sort tasks. You can sort them by priority, by date, alphabetically by title, or manually drag and drop tasks. There’s also a magic sort option. It works like … well, magic. At least according to the developers. This option tries to guess which tasks are important to you and puts them at the top of the list. It works fairly well, but I generally stick to sorting my tasks by date.

Using Nitro on the Web

If you like working in your browser (a lot of people do), you can use the web interface. It has the same look and feel as Nitro on the desktop. You can manipulate your tasks, and even sync them with Dropbox —you log in with your credentials for Dropbox.

Using Nitro with Multiple Computers

Thanks to Nitro’s remote storage feature, you can store your tasks in Dropbox. Your tasks are saved as a JSON file.

That means a couple of things. First, you can use Nitro on any computer seamlessly, you can use it over the web using the web interface, or both. All you need to do is sync your tasks they’re right in front of you. The other thing is that if you decide that Nitro isn’t for you, you can move your files to another task management or web-based tool. Assuming that it supports JSON, of course.

In addition to the JSON file, Nitro also creates a plain text file containing your tasks. That file is named todo.txt. That file is useful for quickly checking your tasks when you’re nowhere near a computer running Nitro, or when you’re using a mobile device – Nitro’s web interface isn’t very friendly to a small screen.

Annoyances

There are a couple.

Using the web-based interface for Nitro can be … well, interesting. There’s no way to change the preferences or synchronize your tasks without refreshing your browser window.

While this isn’t a major concern for me (as you know, I ditched my smartphone a while back), there is no mobile client for Nitro. That’s less an annoyance and more of a nice-to-have feature. I’ve heard, though, that there could be a mobile client in the works.

Summing Up

Nitro is simple, easy to use, and effective at helping you keep track of your tasks. It might not pack all of the features that some task management tools possess, but that’s OK. Why? Nitro doesn’t need them. And once it has the promised sync capabilities, it will be a solid choice for anyone who wants to manage their tasks in a fast, attractive, and friendly environment.

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