The Task Manager of my Dreams (and how I get tasks done)

I’ve got a task management problem. It might be a bit different from most people’s, which may be why I’ve looked at everything from OmniFocus to Things to TaskPaper and I can’t find something that meets my needs.

What I need — and what I can’t figure out to do in any of these other applications in a reasonable fashion — is a daily log of what I’ve accomplished, from which I can cherry-pick and summarize into monthly reports, and then again into annual reports.

I can do this in my current system, which has worked pretty well for three years now. I rely on VoodooPad to keep my to-do list. Every day I assemble tomorrow’s to-do list on a page named with the next day’s date. This consists of both uncompleted items from that day’s to-do list, as well as scheduled calendar appointments.

Wanted: online banking feature

I wish that my bank would track separate “buckets” in my savings account.

Think of a bucket as a sort of account-within-an-account. I might pre-allocate certain percentages of deposits, earmarking them for specific purposes: 10% to my scuba diving fund, 20% for car repairs, 5% for computer repair, 15% for vacations, and the remaining half in the rainy-day fund.

When transferring online, the banking site could ask which bucket to transfer from and adjust the totals. I can imagine different strategies for overdrafts, but as long as the account has money it’s not really the bank’s problem.

Yes, I could keep track of all this manually – but this is a perfect job for a computer. I daresay I’d consider opening a separate savings account at a bank with this feature.

Bento: Close enough to taste it…

Continuing to research my wish-list software from my previous post, I gave Filemaker’s Bento a try.

Listing my fields and putting together my form was a snap. Adding data is easy. Printed output is attractive. The Neutrals theme pack is mandatory. But I’ve still got a couple of problems:

  • Text fields appear to be limited to plaintext. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I’d really,r eally like rich text fields: bold, underline, italics, numbered lists, bullet points… I feel like this almost <em>must</em> exist, but the more I look, the less I believe it does.
  • I can’t seem to enable the Mac OS X built-in spellcheck on the text boxes, either. This means I’ll need to review the content in another software package…
  • …but the export options kind of stink. It’s limited to CSV and CSV-like options (e.g., tab-delimited output), with no structured markup choice. This limits my ability to massage the output using third-party tools. I really want XML output, at least as an export option.

I could output to Excel via CSV, if I had some way to pretty-print Excel tables using some sort of form software. But if I had that, I probably wouldn’t need Bento in the first place.

Does anyone know if Filemaker Pro addresses any of these issues, or if there’s something even closer to what I want?

Software that Probably Exists, if only I could find it

Just about all XML editors I’ve seen presume that you’re working in something that looks like a Word document. But what I really want is a bunch of structured fields containing text.

Think of writing 50 manpages: you don’t really want to have each manpage be a new, unstructured document. You want to ensure that all fields are in the correct order and that none are left out, though the content of each field is arbitrary. You probably want some styling for text, to indicate command names and the like.

Shouldn’t there be an XML editor somewhere that presumes you’ve got structured content, and basically lets you build a form and fill it out, a la FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access?

In the past, I’ve used a spreadsheet for this sort of work, but spreadsheets are awful for inputting large blobs of text—worse than database text fields by far.

(Many) extra points if it runs on Linux, Mac, or in a browser.