managing todo lists

I keep lists of things to do, but they’ve often been spread all over the place. I’ve used a text file for some items, a blog with several entries for a few lists and another blog with draft entries. I decided to combine those lists and began transferring them all over to Backpack, a slick web application that lets you create todo lists. It’s like a Wiki on steroids.

However, I ran into a problem. They want you to pay if you want more than 5 pages, and though I wanted 5 pages, I didn’t want to pay $60/year to do it. I decided to install my own wiki and use that instead. It’s not as slick, but it has no limit of pages and it’s fast enough for what I need. I looked at the Wiki comparison table on Wikipedia, and thought about using MediaWiki (the one they use at Wikipedia) but I didn’t want to mess with MySQL just to keep track of my lists. I then tried DokuWiki, but after installing it the pages loaded rather slowly, possibly due to all the Perl regular expression errors it showed. I didn’t want to spend time troubleshooting that, so I found QwikiWiki and gave it a try.

I found it on the C2 Wiki Choice Tree, which was nice because it allowed me to select a wiki engine based on features (like using plain text files for the backend instead of a database). I’m very pleased with it so far. It’s quick, very simple to configure (it took about 2 minutes to get to the point where I could create a new page) and it even has a few styles to choose from.

I’ve converted all of my lists over, although I’m still using Backpack for my very short term to do items because I like being able to check them off as I finish them instead of just removing them from the page.

Now that I have all that taken care of, I can get to work on completing the tasks on all the lists.

Update: After using QwikiWiki for several months, I became frustrated with the markup rules they used. It was too much of a hassle to have to change my writing (for instance, it automatically turned two words with capital letters into a header, so it was very frustrating when entering book titles or people’s names in an address list) just to get it to look right. I decided to sacrifice complexity of installation to get ease of use when editing and installed MediaWiki. Now that it’s installed (it wasn’t all that bad in the end) I love it.


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  1. Interesting that you chose wikis to perform the tasks, I honestly haven’t thought of doing that. I personally looked for specific to-do list applications and installed them.

    Comment by Teja on August 8, 2005 @ 7:18 pm
  2. You may also want to point to this page. I always like to see the application in action before I go and install it. OpenSourceCMS rocks.

    Comment by Teja on August 8, 2005 @ 7:23 pm
  3. Thanks for the link. I didn’t realize OpenSourceCMS had Wiki installations as well.

    Comment by dan on August 9, 2005 @ 7:14 am
  4. “Todo list” — wouldn’t it be “to-do list” — ? I’m honestly not sure. Did you look it up, or is that just the way it’s generally written? Maybe this is an item for my own todo/to-do list: look up todo v. to-do.

    On another note, are you familiar with Apple’s Stickies program? I have a PowerBook and use Stickies — which are just like electronic Post-it notes on the desktop — to jot down my todo/to-do lists. Not as fancy as all this Wiki stuff, but simple and, really, that’s more my pace.

    Comment by Karalyn on August 9, 2005 @ 2:02 pm
  5. I’ve always written it as todo, but now that you mention it, I don’t think todo or to-do is correct. According to, to-do is, “A commotion or stir” and todo isn’t a word. I should probably use “to do” from now on.

    I have used sticky notes and they’re great for short lists that you want to keep on one computer, but I use multiple computers, so I wanted something on a server so I could access it from anywhere. I also have about 20 lists. They’re not all to do lists (notice I didn’t use todo, which I just realized might be pronounced toe-doe, like dodo), some are ideas or lists of web sites, but managing 20 sticky notes on multiple machines would be too cumbersome.

    The Wiki really was quite easy to install, although I realize it wasn’t as simple as running the stickies application.

    Comment by dan on August 9, 2005 @ 3:14 pm
  6. Yeah . . . hmm. I disagree. I still think it’s “to-do list” — To-Do List Magazine agrees with me, for whatever that’s worth. But I also write “thank-you card.” There’s some rule about hyphentaing compound noun modifiers to make them, effectively, adjectives (like 3-year-old boy, or blue-haired granny), but I can’t remember what it is, exactly. Eh, whatever. In the scheme of things, I suppose it’s of little import. You say to do, I say to-do, big diff.

    And yikes about all your to-do lists — gads, that’s a lot to keep track of! I guess my life is fairly uncomplicated in that respect — Stickies is sufficient for my list-keeping needs. Good luck with all your lists, though.

    Comment by Karalyn on August 9, 2005 @ 4:54 pm
  7. I compared results on Google for “to-do list” and “todo list“. The results were highly in favor of the hyphenated version (3,090,000 to 614,000), so I guess To-Do List Magazine was spot on.

    I’ve found that things don’t seem as daunting when I write them down. When I try to keep everything in my head, I feel overwhelmed, so I’ve gotten in the habit of making lists so I can stop thinking about something. The result is a scad of lists.

    Comment by dan on August 9, 2005 @ 5:09 pm
  8. I guess it’s rather been decided, but I’d also vote for hyphenation as a preceding compound modifier — which means/implies that the two words work together and are essential to each other and to your intended meaning: like we wouldn’t need to hyphenate a big, brown dog, but we would hyphenate a four-legged dog.

    Comment by DavidH on August 10, 2005 @ 3:15 pm

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