Ability to search on Open Tasks

Agenda Team,

First, I have nothing but positive things to say about Agenda and what you have created here. I think it is really unique in the note taking space. That said, I will need to hang up my Agenda usage until you have the time to add a search for open tasks, similar to the Bear @todo search. What it comes down to is if I am not using Reminders for everything (which I can’t do as Agenda doesn’t support undated reminders), I need to trust Agenda to keep track of them for me. In the current scenario that means I need to review all notes, or rely on a manual step of adding a tag to the note indicating that it has open threads. That manual process generates enough friction that I can’t trust that I have everything covered.

I will continue to watch this community, and look forward to the day that I can return to using Agenda. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, it really is a great product.

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We do have plans for search/filter improvements that would allow showing notes with unchecked tasks, which is I think what you want. But it is a major project. Not sure when we will get to it exactly.

For me personally, it probably wouldn’t help much. I have so many open projects, many which may never finish, that seeing all those unfinished lists would not help. What I use extensively is the “on-the-agenda” feature, which is similar to the tag idea you present. I have the notes that are relevant to my work this week on-the-agenda. I manually add and remove to that as time goes by, to keep it down to 10 or less notes. Works great for me.

I used to use OmniFocus, but again, I just end up with so many incomplete projects — by design — that showing all unchecked tasks is not much use.

But we are certainly planning to improve the power of search/filtering to enable this approach in future. Thanks for the feedback!

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  1. You only have 10 relevant notes OTA for an entire week? I find that surprising.
  2. What do you do to focus on specific notes? Like you’ve got the 10 OTA, but now you need to look at only 1 or 2.

I ask because I am looking for an effective way to indicate notes as “relevant this week”, “relevant today”, and “relevant right now.” Which may simply be tags for #week and #today with OTA for “now.” Or a dated tag might work.

I personally struggle a LOT when there’s visual noise unrelated to what I’m working on. So while I really appreciate the bigger picture views I get from Agenda, when I get down to work I need to get everything else out of the way.

I understand people’s desire for collecting unchecked items. For me personally, by far the biggest improvement will be filtering out notes that are marked as Done. I am in a similar boat to others in feeling that I don’t have a good overview of open loops, unless I explicitly tag them as such. I do make extensive use of the Done status to indicate that I’ve processed the note for any actionable material and that I’m only keeping it around for reference.

I believe that filtering Done notes is on the roadmap… I am hoping that a simple solution comes soon, and it’s not being rolled into a major search / filtering improvement effort.

I usually have a number of ongoing sub-projects. These usually consist of maybe 10-30 tasks in a task list. So the 10 notes are pretty dense.

Even 10 is a bit too much. I try to keep it to less, otherwise the multitasking aspect becomes overwhelming and I am much less productive.

How do I go to what is relevant today? I just scroll. Once I am there, Agenda will keep it there as I switch projects and come back.

I’m sadly finding myself in this same situation after using Agenda as my exclusive notes app for over a year. The date-focused notes concept is brilliant and the implementation and integration with Reminders is nearly flawless.

The one issue I have is the inability to identify open tasks without manually working through individual notes and hunting them down. My working environment is one where I can collect dozens of tasks/to-dos daily. Some are delegated, others I own. All are important and need to be addressed according to priority. None can be ignored.

I had high hopes for Agenda to support note taking with inline tasks — which it has largely enabled, however using tags to flag tasks requires work … and the saved search results for tagged tasks are marginalized because searching for the tag returns the entire note instead of just the sentence/paragraph/task with the tag. This also requires added work to hunt down the task embedded in the notes.

I was also thrilled when Reminders integration was added. It eliminated the need to add a task tag; but the inability to identify incomplete tasks without manually going through notes to find them is tedious. After months of using reminders I have tons of open reminders/tasks scattered over dozens of notes. To identify these tasks I need to devote hours to scouring through notes to find them.

I purchased a subscription to Agenda because I believe in the inspired concept, and appreciate the excellent and responsive support. However, after months of banging my head against the wall to find an effective way to manage tasks in Agenda, I’m extremely disappointed and on the verge of throwing in the towel due to frustration that Agenda does not allow a search for open tasks.

And, no I do not need a dedicated task manager — I need a note taking app that supports inline, embedded tasks. This is exactly what Agenda is and does better than every other app I’ve found and tried. However, I’m perplexed that it does not allow me to easily find all open tasks across all notes without requiring me to dig through each note to find the embedded task.

Very disappointed.

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Thanks for the feedback. We certainly want to do this, but it is a major change to the app, and will take time. Changing search so that it shows note summaries (eg unchecked items) is a major internal change. It also raises a heap of questions about editing: can you edit? what happens if you try to add a new paragraph in a filtered note? etc. All solvable, but it will take a big project to do this. It’s in the roadmap though, because we also see it will make Agenda a lot more powerful.

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Not to throw a wrench in things, but my key concern with the idea of checklist-items-as-tasks is that they don’t necessarily contain the context. If you look in major task managers (Reminders, Things, OmniFocus, I’m sure others), all of the tasks have a “note” field where you can add context.

I say this because as of today, it’s possible to add context to a checklist item by adding a nested list underneath it – but that context is related spacially, as opposed to structurally. In a task manager, the task itself and the note represent a single “chunk”, whereas in Agenda they are multiple lines. It’s possible to cut the “task” name, but leave behind any of the related context.

I’m curious to see how (or if) you’ll address that.

Thanks for the follow-up @drewmccormack. I appreciate the complexity of changing search to return notes summaries; however is it possible to contain this complexity by defining a new “task search” vs modifying the existing “notes search”?

For example, what if we defined “task search” as follows:

  1. Only retrieve a list of the embedded tasks/reminders (not the containing notes) that match the search criteria (open tasks, closed tasks, and free form task text)

  2. Only allow toggling task state (complete/uncomplete) on the returned list of tasks

That’s it. That simplified implementation would enable general, open and closed task search and completely address the functionality gap.

@Pat_Maddox, this implementation would give you the choice of just searching for and returning tasks. You would continue to use the existing notes search if you wanted to see the task in context.

@drewmccormack, this could be incorporated into the existing ui by either (A) adding a “Search Tasks” option in addition to the existing “Search All” option or (B) adding the option to select “Notes” or “Tasks” to the current search ui.

Thoughts?

Thanks for considering these suggestions — I know this is much harder to do than it appears. :pray:t3:

Yes, we could certainly do that, but I’m not sure it would be that much more simple than our planned search overhaul. And when you do such ad hoc feature additions, they often come back and bite you. Eg. If we later did do a full overhaul of search, we may lose some functions, or have to change how they work, and that is when people start getting angry that their favorite thing changed or disappeared.

It’s better not to rush features in in our experience. I know that is frustrating sometimes for all involved, but it leads to the best solution in the end. And an overhaul of search is quite high on our list of projects. It has a high priority.

Kind regards,
Drew

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@drewmccormack, thanks for the considered response. I’ve always appreciated the diligence and discipline of the Agenda team and it shows in the quality of the application. I also appreciate your thoughtfulness and willingness to listen to users and consider our input as in this case. I agree with your comment about the risks associated with ad hoc feature additions and the issues that may result from them.

Respectfully, I will press this conversation further because I am up against a wall with Agenda’s limited task search capability and the thought of abandoning it after investing a year in adopting it as my exclusive note taking and task management resource breaks my heart.

This is because (a) Agenda is an excellent tool that is 100% aligned with my requirement for an integrated note taking and task management tool, and (b) I believe what I’m requesting is also completely within the scope of Agenda as an integrated notes and task management tool — so it’s only a matter of time before it is accommodated. However, the indefinite timeline for addressing this critical gap through search overhaul is problematic for me because I am accruing risk as I continue to use Agenda — adding 10+ tasks each day.

The issue is simply that Agenda’s task search is a byproduct of its general notes search feature and as such, does not accommodate task-specific search considerations, such as searching for open tasks, and returning just the list of tasks instead of all of the notes containing the tasks. If search overhaul allows this, then problem solved.

The problem is that search overhaul is a major undertaking with no timeframe for completion. However, if these limited features can be accommodated relatively soon with minimal effort, I would welcome them and would be ok with any changes to how they operate when search overhaul is completed as long as the core utility is preserved — which I’m sure would be the case.

Thanks again Drew, for investing the life energy required to create such an excellent, user friendly and useful app, and for considering this request.

Kindest regards,

Donovan

Donovan, I to would love this feature! As a workaround I’m trying out the Time Sector method with Agenda and Reminders. I think it’s promising. The Time Sector Method (If only Agenda allowed creation of undated Reminders!)

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@trebso thanks for the vote and Time Sector Method suggestion. Your summary of Time Sector Method alignment with Agenda in the other thread is spot on, and your ideas for integrating Agenda with Reminders to implement it is well thought out. And I agree with your assessment that it is a promising workaround.

So far, your suggestion is the best (and perhaps the most reliable) workaround I’ve seen because it (1) leverages Reminders integration which is hopefully less likely to break with future changes to either Agenda or Reminders, and (2) implements a comprehensive task management philosophy. So, thanks again for thinking it through and sharing your approach.

The only drawback for me is that it introduces another app into the workflow, simply to work around two gaps in Agenda’s core functionality (searching for open tasks, and returning just the list of tasks instead of all of the notes containing the tasks). However, integrating another app into my workflow is preferable to abandoning Agenda and forfeiting its excellent features, user experience, amazing support and over a year of investment with nearly 100 projects, hundreds of notes and tasks and their associated historical perspective. So I’m willing to give your considered suggestion a try.

Have you implemented it yet? If so, how is it working?

Donovan

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To give a bit more context within this (really great!) discussion, the solution we have in the plans actually consists of two parts. One is to make search much more powerful (ie show notes with open tasks and many other search wishes), but also secondly to allow for showing only partial content of notes (which would then allow you to only show the open tasks and hide the completed ones.

These are two separate (rather large) projects so will take time as we’re only two, but the good news is that it’s getting to the top of the list now that version 10 (and the upcoming 10.1) are out of the way.

Having said all this, as @drewmccormack pointed out, we prefer to take the time to do it well rather than rushing to halfway solutions. Hope that gives some more insights in the thought process.

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@mekentosj, thanks for the context, prioritization and sense of timing. It is really helpful. The approach you outlined sounds very good as it will allow the option of only showing the open task — which would eliminate the need to wade through a note to find the task of interest. Thank you :pray:t4:.

One additional item for your consideration is my rationale for wanting this feature (I suspect it may be similar for @trebso, @learned and others but I don’t want to presume):

  1. I need an efficient way to pull a list all open tasks across all notes/projects
  2. I need an efficient way to update one or more of the open tasks shown on that list — directly on the returned open task list instead of having to go into the associated notes and completing the tasks one note at a time

I trust you and Drew to figure out the best way to implement the features, but wanted to share some additional perspective on the why for your consideration. I hope you find it helpful.

Thanks again for the gift of Agenda and your gracious consideration of our ideas and suggestions.

Donovan

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Ask me again at the end of the week! Only fully migrated over the weekend.

So, @trebso, how’s it going? Any results to share? Is it working as expected? Any surprises?

@mekentosj and @drewmccormack, I’ve spent some more time exploring interim solutions for identifying and managing open tasks across Agenda notes and wanted to share some observations and get your thoughts on an idea for an interim (user-implemented) work-around.

Observations:

  1. Checkboxes are not Reminders — I’m truly ashamed that I only discovered this after more than a year of notes with checklists that I use to track to-dos.
  2. Reminders can be easily created from checklist items
  3. The Reminders app can provide a single view of all Reminders across all notes if the reminders are added to the same Reminders list
  4. Completing a reminder (either in Agenda or Reminders) toggles the associated checkbox
  5. Completing/Closing a checkbox in Agenda does not complete a Reminder

Idea for user-implemented workaround:

  1. It appears that Agenda supports my desired single-view for viewing and completing open tasks (Checklist items)— if those tasks are used to create Reminders
  2. If I had been adding Reminders to my Checklist items from the start this would largely be a non issue for me
  3. If there’s a way to bulk-create Reminders from Checklist items I might be able to retroactively add Reminders for all of my checklist items

Question: Is it possible to use Shortcuts to iterate through Agenda notes and create Reminders from Checklist items?

Working rather well!

I’m managing to dos in GoodTask, rather than Reminders, beause it provides clickable links back to Agenda notes, and I find the interface much better. (GoodTask works with Apple Reminders in the background). And I’d already bought it for iOS. On Mac I use Reminders if I need to, don’t think I’ll spend on GoodTask for Mac as I tend to do my daily review in ipad or iPhone.

It looks a bit clunky written down, but my morning routine is:

  1. Review to dos in GoodTasks, mark those I plan to work on as Due Today
  2. In Fantastical, drag the Due Today tasks to the time I want to work on them. (I could allocate times in GoodTasks or Reminders, but it’s easier and more visual to do it Fantastical. Not sure if you can do the same in other calendar apps)

The rest of the day Agenda is my hub: I have my notes and I have the calendar pane showing meetings and my tasks for the day. I check off the tasks in the Agenda calendar window.

I create Reminders in Agenda, related to the note I’m working on, often minuting a meeting. I also create reminders my dictating to Siri when I’m out walking etc.

There’s some weirdness with links to Agenda notes that I’ve not had a chance to explore. Something to do with GoodTask and Reminders handling URLs differently I suspect.

@drewmccormack it would be really useful for the Time Sector method if we could create undated, untimed Reminders in Agenda.

This is a must!

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@drewmccormack it would be really useful for the Time Sector method if we could create undated, untimed Reminders in Agenda.

The problem is not the ability to create undated, untimed reminders, the problem is that after creating them there would be literally nowhere in the UI of Agenda where these would appear. I don’t think this makes it a good idea as it means you have no way to give any feedback to the user that the reminder was actually created.