GoodTask 4.5: Checking All the Boxes

Over the course of the last year, I had transitioned away from GoodTask to Things, then Todoist, then back to Things. I might have even missed a quick affair with OmniFocus as well. But I digress.

GoodTask has been my long-time favorite Reminders client. From the surprise the first time I started really using it to now, it has made improvement after improvement in both functionality and appearance settings (love me those themes) on all platforms – iOS, macOS, and the Apple Watch. I was inclined to go back to GoodTask when the Apple Watch app was updated, so I moved everything over there in the beta. I had mentioned to the developer that there were a couple features which I was missing from Things, but I was very happy with the improvements to the apps. Those suggestions plus others were carefully considered, because they are now in the version 4.5 update of the app.

Tag Sorting

GoodTask 4.5 brings with it the ability to sort a List or Smart List based on tags. Tags are a clever implementation in GoodTask, which puts a #tag into the note of a reminder. GoodTask can parse this as a tag, and allow you to use that information within the note as a tag, much like the other information the developer uses to implement sub tasks. You can use all of your tags or specific tags per list, which is great for customizing how you view your different lists.

With the new tag options, I’m able to now recreate some of the features that Things provided which gives me a better view of my tasks in different views. It all stems from the ability to sort lists and smart lists using Tags first, then due dates, etc.

I absolutely love the headings feature of Things. When I have a specific project, having the breakout of different subsections is better for my brain. And with the tag sorting, I can re-create this now in GoodTask. For example, I can take all of the tasks in my Nerd Life1, apply the tags, and have the list sorted on them. While it may not be quite as pretty as the Things implementation, the capability in GoodTask allows me to break it down to key areas just the same.

Another key feature of Things that I adore is the Today view. Having your tasks along with the calendar is a fantastic singular view of what is ahead of me. Having a separate ‘today’ and ‘evening’ section has been critical for me to quickly view and clarify what needs to be done. Now with the tag sorting, I can recreate this view in GoodTask. I created a Smart List which includes my calendar, tasks scheduled for today, and any overdue tasks. This list is sorted by Tag then Due Date, and I also have my calendar events sorted on top, listed under the order section. I created a quick action to apply a #Today and #Evening tag as a toggle, so that I can quickly tag tasks which show up in the view. Again, this might not be as visually appealing as the Things view, but it provides me what I need while keeping the native Reminders service integration.

Completing Tasks

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to see more improvements to Reminders, but lately I’ve been wanting improved support within Shortcuts. When I think of what I want Shortcuts to ultimately be, I can’t help but want certain features added: for Reminders, having the ability to check off a task would be beneficial for certain shortcuts. So while we wait Shortcuts.app to catch up, GoodTask has added a Siri Shortcut to complete a task (and do so in the background). You’ll need to go to Settings → Siri Shortcuts → Add Complete Task to get the Siri Shortcut and/or add it to Shortcuts.app.

I’m getting old, so I take vitamins. I use a reminder to trigger this, so I don’t forget. I took this one step further and created a shortcut to run on my iPhone which logs the vitamin intake – including all the breakdown of the various types of vitamins – into the Health app, as well as mark it in Streaks as complete to help me keep track of when I’ve taken it. I always thought it would be nice to complete the reminder as well, but I the lack of the feature has prevented it. But now, I can copy the exact title of the task (and it must be exact) for my vitamins, add a text block and some clipboard actions to save and retrieve,2 then add the GoodTask Complete Task action block; I also turned off the “Show When Run” option so that it runs seamlessly in the background.

I use the native Reminders notifications due to the fact that they remain on the lock screen, but actions like the one outlined above have me rethinking that approach. GoodTask allows users to run a URL from the notification, which means I could run the shortcut straight from the notification and complete it all in one go. I’ll likely look to play around with this as time goes on.3

The full list of improvements can be found on the forums. Having been away for a while, I can see that there is a lot more to offer now with GoodTask than ever before. The developer is listening to suggestions, is adding features at a manageable pace, and I can really appreciate the level of continued development for the app.


  1. This is my own affectionate name for these things. 
  2. I wish they would fix this so that I can just use text and not have the extra blocks. Sigh. 
  3. Perhaps with iOS 13 around the corner Reminders will be improved, or third-party app notifications will be given the ability to perform in the same manner as Reminders. But I won’t hold my breath for either one. 

Drafts 5.6

Last week, Drafts released version 5.6. While it is not as big as some of the other releases before it, it does bring some important enhancements to the app.

Adding Shortcuts

It is now easier than ever to add a specific shortcut to run in Drafts. A new interface is presented when adding a shortcut, as you can see by installing this example shortcut and selecting a shortcut to add. It prompts you for a few different items for running the shortcut, and is a better way of implementing them via the URL scheme. I feel that this method is a bit more user-friendly now that a shortcut has been written to quickly add them, and requires no formal coding knowledge.

Workspace Changes

Workspaces have been available since version 5.0 dropped back in April 2018. It is the single biggest improvement to Drafts, providing users with an infinite number of filtered views of the draft list. Extending it further, you can apply action groups and extended keyboards to a workspace and have what I coined as a module. In Drafts 5.2, the script and capability of automatically making this possible was implemented. In this new version, it is now more accessible to the non-scripting user.

Within the Workspaces menu, you can choose to load in action group or extended keyboard for each of the different workspaces you create. This does sync across devices, so for most users, this is a better way to load module with a single tap without having to know JavaScript. You can also now load a workspace to a specific tab, saving a few taps if needed. However, I personally won’t be using this as my setup involves loading workspaces differently based on the device type (as I laid out in my earlier Drafts piece).

Post and File Management Improvements

Drafts uses CloudKit to sync data to the cloud. There are more aspects of the drafts which are stored there, like location, tags, etc. which don’t tie in nicely to syncing to an iCloud Drive folder. You can, however, use different actions to save specific drafts to other services like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive. Previously in Drafts, the idea of keeping things in the app was not always something you would want to do: you might want to save it to Apple Notes via a share action, or send it to one of a handful of other services as a plain text file or Markdown file.

For the most part, I keep all of my writing in Drafts. Over the past year, I have more in that module than I would like to admit. And I feel some stress of keeping all of these posts in the draft list. With the new features, I have several different ways of handling this. First, I could simply mark the drafts which I’m actively working on and load the writing module to the flagged tab; this is easy enough to do in the workspace settings, and would quickly satisfy the need. But the file management capabilities are something else that I wanted to explore.

What I ended up arriving at was this: I can keep one or two active drafts in the list, and save the rest to a specific folder in iCloud Drive. Once I’m ready to work on another one, I can run an action and be presented with a list of titles to choose from; the action would then load the contents of the draft into my draft list with a specific tag, and I can start writing on it again. When I’m ready to publish, I take that final draft and move it in to my posted folder to file it away. This is all possible thanks to the FileManager script object methods.

I first borrowed from some of my previous scripts to ensure that I was saving things with the correct title. To save the file with that name, I used a file action step, set the folder location to /Draft Posts/ and set the content as [[draft]]. Once this action is run, the draft is then deleted from my draft list to keep it uncluttered.

The next action was much more difficult to create. Within the updated objects, I can pull out the path locations to files located in a specified folder. With a little script magic, I can turn those file paths into readable display names to choose from in a prompt; this will work with all of the files in the directory. Once I have the selected name, I can load that file into Drafts, tag it with my writing tag which automatically places the file into my Writing module, and I can start writing; I also used an “Include Action” step to load my Writing module to bring up my entire writing environment with one tap.

The last action is for publishing my post. I modified my existing standard and linked publishing actions – which I first introduced on MacStories for Drafts 5.4 – to save the file in a new way. First, I use the scripting to save the file one last time to the /Draft Posts/ folder location where I keep the draft posts, then move it to the /Posts/ folder where I keep my final posts as .md files. This happens at the end of the action after everything is posted. Why do this? It allows me to take the one true copy that I finally saved in my draft posts and then move it into the final location. I don’t have to keep the files in multiple places and wonder which one is correct; instead, I just moved out the finished product.

I have also updated the HTML Preview step in my Post to WordPress actions above to include the new rendering options. With this update, Drafts allows the user to specify the rendering of text. Previously, only Markdown was supported in this fashion. But now, you can specify MultiMarkdown or Github–flavored Markdown, saving a bunch of script steps in the process. I updated WordPress actions with %%multimarkdown|text%% for the HTML preview, as well as improved the scripting to commit the Critic Markup changes to pass MultiMarkdown to WordPress, which you can find at the links above. And speaking of Critic Markup, a new highlight syntax color has been added. It provides a bit more visual difference when looking at all of your credit markup notations.

I’m really enjoying this update, as it’s helping me reduce my mental stress by allowing me to manage my files in a better way. Rather than keep all of these possible post ideas within my draft list and cause me more stress. And if you’re reading this and follow some of my other work, you know already how much I hate clutter…

Short Hiatus

Why hello there. It’s been a while. The summer time is normally hard for most people, with big events, family vacations, and the extra daylight to spend all your time outside.

Except this summer hasn’t been that for me. It’s probably the busiest, craziest summer I’ve ever had (at least that I can recall). It’s been full of ups and downs, and non-stop action every day. I can’t remember the last time I had some true down time.

So what’s been going on? Well, there’s been a lot of personal stuff – too personal to get into on a public site. I’ve extensively journaled about it, which has been great. Personal life has influenced the vacations I took this summer – a grand total of zero. Kids have been active this summer, there’s a ton to do around the house, and things slip through the cracks. It happens. I’m originally from east of Cleveland, so I know what it means to have it not be your year.

Work has been hellacious, but in a multitude of great ways. It’s been busy with so much going on, but I’m managing more than ever. There’s a shift in the perception of who I am and what I can bring, which has been fantastic. I’ve even switch to a single task manager rather than having two. Even though I enjoyed the bifurcation, this has been better for me this summer with everything going on. For now – and you know it is always subject to change – I’ve settled on Todoist. A huge reason why is the addition of the Todoist script objects in Drafts and the speed at which I can enter everything in. But more on that at a different time.

I have spent the summer doing a few things to take care of me. For too many years, I let certain things go. But in the spring, I came to the realization that I put off me too much, and I needed to reclaim some of it. So I’ve been working out regularly – three to five times a week. I’m making sure to complete those goals not for the gamification, but because I know the end result will be a healthier me. I’m going to bed at a reasonable time, and waking up at 5am every morning to get this done, but it’s been better.

All this to say: all of this has made it so that I haven’t been writing as much. I had planned on writing more on some aspects of Drafts after I wrote the review. I still have those plans. And I will do them. Life often just finds a way to get the way of some personal life stuff. But I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made in reclaiming some “me” time. I’m working on a better balance, and a better me. A short hiatus every once in a while is a wonderful thing.

Homescreen Update (July 2018)

People often post about their homescreens. I’ve shared one of mine in the Club MacStories newsletter, but I thought it might be time to give an update.

A great homescreen starts with the wallpaper. I generally like a dark background for visual deference to the icons, and I like to have the same wallpaper on both. This means I need a high-resolution option. And with WWDC happening, I turned to 512 Pixels for my even-darker Mojave wallpaper.

My second pages on both devices are nothing but folders. This allows me to group apps that I search for via Spotlight search or don’t regularly use into like categories. There are a bunch of apps on both devices on the second screen, too many to cover here.

The main focus for homescreen layout should always be around the dock.

The iPad Dock

When iOS 11 was introduced and the iPad dock was changed to be different than a larger iPhone dock, my homescreen immediately changed. I needed to move most apps into the dock to facilitate multitasking with apps in layouts. The usefulness of dragging an icon out of the dock and into a split view or as the slide-over app was a fundamental shift in the way I was using my device.

With using an external keyboard – first the Logitech Create, then the Smart Keyboard – it became apparent that I could use the shortcut of ⌘space to pull up Spotlight search from anywhere, and it meant that unless the app was in the dock, I didn’t need to have it on the main homescreen. All I have to is search for the app I want, and then I can either tap to open or drag it into one of the app slots on my screen.

The apps I use the most are in my dock. The three center icons of my dock are similar to what I have on my iPhone. I like having those central in both places. Surrounding them are apps that frequently use during the day and/or in a split-screen setup. I have folders on either side of the dock: on the left is a folder of the “creative” apps that I use to generate podcasts or images for my site; on the right is a folder of reference apps.

Here’s a list of the apps that are in my dock:

The iPhone Dock

I tried a new setup a while back after seeing the homescreen master do it for his iPhone X. I thought that it would be great for using a larger variety of wallpapers, and allow me to break from my typical black and white image to something with some color. At first, I was hesitant to do this: it seemed more cumbersome and inefficient. But then I remembered my iPad homescreen, and thought that I should give it a try.

While the mechanics of the screens between the iPhone and iPad are different – largely due to the multitasking abilities of the iPad – the end result of this path has been the same: my most important apps in the dock, and other apps grouped into folders. I’m a proponent of the three-icon dock, and that has remained unchanged for a while. So for me, I needed to put the folder in the center for balance, with Drafts and Things 3 flanking either side. In the folder are my most-used apps: it is a mix of apps that change from time to time, but are all vital to my daily workflow. The folder contains (from top left to bottom right): Calendar, Music, Safari, Mail, Castro, Workflow, Slack, Twitterrific, and Messages.2

And the rest of the rows are blank. Which, as I said, seems to be very odd when you first see it. But, there are a few benefits. First off, I don’t have the temptation: no tapping all the icons on the homescreen, no badges on the screen to pull my attention, reduced stress. I don’t feel compelled to dive into Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube to look through content. It’s clean, it’s focused, and it helps me not sit and waste idle time. The other nice benefit is that I have a giant area to pull down on the homescreen, allowing me to quickly access Spotlight search. I’m actually faster at opening my apps now because I just pull down, type a few characters, and I’m there.

One of the biggest enablers for me was the new update of Drafts, and the subsequent updates after it was released. It has replaced so much for me that I find myself not using other apps and figuring out new ways to use Drafts in my daily workflows.

I’ve tried going back to icons in other rows. But it fills me with more anxiety, mental overhead, and makes me feel like I’m serving my apps instead of my apps serving me. Maybe one day I’ll go back to it, especially with Screen Time, but for now, this is what I need and I love using it this way.


Homescreens are very personal. I often change my mind about them, but this is the first time in recent memory where the layout had remained the same. The apps in certain spots may change, but for the most part, the layout has remained the same for months now. I’m happy with it. I’m sure this will change when I get a new device, but for now, I’m happy to have it figured out and have less stress facing me in my daily life as a result.

  1. Soon to be Shortcuts.
  2. I’m right handed, so Drafts is on the right for better access when I’m using my phone in one hand. I also have the folder set up to be more accessible while using my right hand as well.