Back to text

Some months ago I wrote a review of IQTELL which I used for organizing my life. Then, 2 weeks ago a collauge asked me if I still use orgmode for GTD and I told him that I’m on IQTELL now. He said that orgmode also had improved a lot since I was using it, so I had another look at orgmode. And yes, I felt the spirit again and moved back to orgmode. Here is why I decided to manage my life in plain text again. Its not that IQTELL is a bad application, its the best of the fancy GUI applications that I used so far. But still, I was missing some things that were on my wishlist but not implemented so far.

The most disturbing issue is „control of your data“. IQTELL is a nice web app, but you are not able to get everything that you entered back to files that you control. Its a sort of relational database and export functionality is very limited to sort of „todo“ lists with limited fields. In Orgmode all your data is just plain text and so you are in control of the files and not somebody else. Its not that I don’t trust the IQTELL guys and I’m not afraid that NSA is interested in my daily todo list (especially since I don’t manage my bombings there, grin) but sometimes you really want to get „all“ of your data go make some statistics out of it, and at this point its impossible with IQTELL.

The second annoyance in IQTELL is structure. Unfortunately its just a database of records and you can make a simple structure by assigning actions to projects, but its not like the outline view in orgmode. Orgmode give me a much more structured approach to my thoughts and since its all just a matter of text files I can easily setup new projects in new files.

The next thing is viewing your data. IQTELL is just a list view and if you have recurring tasks then when ever you finish that task its marked as done and a new task is created with the same data and the next occurence date. In orgmode all „done“ entries are filed under that recurring task, so you have a nice view of when you did it the last time. This is very useful and orgmode is using this to track your habits. One of my habits is that I want to practice guitar daily or at least every 3 days. In IQTELL I made a recurring task for every sunday that said „Did you practice at least one hour last week?“. In Orgmode I use habit tracking to do this and I see how good I’m fulfilling this habit. And, if I miss to update my data file one day its not a tragedy, since everything is there in plain text I can add the information also on the next day once I understood the file format.

The other very nice thing on orgmode is the agenda view. IQTELL offers some saved searches for this purpose, but unfortunately that is not as good as the agenda view. In agenda view you can really see your schedule for this week and what you need to do and so on. And, since you can really easily customize your views I can use a customized view on my PC at the office that shows me only work related things and another customzied agenda at home that shows me what I need to do for the family and myself.

Next important issue for me is logging progress. At work you really need to implement a „cover your ass“ strategy, so I have the habit to record all small steps that I do during a project. Whenever someone puts the blame on me I have enough hard data to show that I did my job and don’t need to be blamed. IQTELL has the option to file activity for your tasks, but its so damned far away (measured in mouseclicks) from the action so that its at the moment a pain in the ass to use. In Orgmode my logging is in a drawer called „LOGBOOK“ that I can easily access in the Editor. And orgmode itself is capable to log transitions from e.g. „TODO“ to „WAITING“ there by itself. So I have a good logbook for every Task that I manage with orgmode.

Where IQTELL is really advanced is the mobile app. IQTELL for Android is much better than MobileOrg, but on the other hand if I think how many times I really needed to use the mobile app, then its not that painful if the mobile app is just a better „task viewer“ instead of a task editor.

So I decided to switch back to orgmode again and manage my life in plain text. Its 4 years ago since I wrote a tutorial in German for the web magazine „Freies Magazin“ and its still linked on the tutorials page of orgmode.

Last, but not least another advantage of orgmode is that it is Open Source. So in the worst case I can contribute real code and improvements instead of writing a wishlist and hoping that it gets implemented sooner or later.

So for me its time to say farewell to IQTELL, especially since I’m of that old grumpy generation that is not afraid to use text modes. If you are in favor of GUIs and Web apps, then IQTELL is still the best app in town. But remembering „in the beginning there was the command line“ tells me that there are things that you can do much easier with a text based interface than you can do with a GUI. This seems to also apply for this case.


Ein Gedanke zu „Back to text

  1. (I ‚ll just post this here also)
    Brave step, sometimes you have to take 1 step back to take 2 forward.
    I also recently made the switch back to text. Only using .txt files and Nvalt to organise it.
    Made a couple of scripts to help me with tagging.
    I feel more in control of the data, and alot more in control what I want to do with it. This morning for instance I made a little script that prints out all my daily activities!

    Good luck with your new-old habit!

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