Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Starry starry...

So lets say you have 30 or 40 actions in your "Office" context. You know that there are a handful of them that you should be working on today but because the list of so long you stare at it wondering what you should do next. You pick out one action, do it, then come back to your list, stare at again, scanning up and down to find what you want to do next. As your eyes move up and down the text starts to swim before your eyes and you begin to think of procrastination activities (like coding MonkeyGTD perhaps ;). What you need is a way avoid the repeated scan and mental selection of actions to be done next. You could print our your list and use a highlighter pen. (I've done this). But perhaps there is a better way.

Some discussion recently on the mailing list suggested the addition of an Important flag. I tend to agree it's a practical necessity to help in the above scenario, however I am wary of it since if you concede that you need an Important flag then it's just a small step to conceding a multi-level priority indicator, ie, high/medium/low, or worse, level 1 2 3 4 .. 99 etc, which would the wrong direction for GTD I think. (If really want this it will be easy to add -- stay tuned for upcoming howto -- but it won't be in the default configuration).

So anyway instead of an Important flag, how about gmail-like stars. Go take a look. A star can mean whatever you like. In a project review you might star the projects that need some attention. In the scenario above you might star the actions you need to do right away. You can also star Areas or anything else you like. To see what's starred you click "starred" in the top menu. On the left are your starred actions. On the right are starred other things.

I've been using this now for a little while and so far I think it's pretty handy. To upgrade... er not sure, just fetch everthing.


Blogger schilke said...

That's a really good point (rescanning the long list) and I like the idea of starring very much.
Everything else couldn't satisfy me (e.g. Tom's 1-next-action-per-project, an important flag for actions etc.).
Probably there might be one interesting thing to consider: "staleness" of actions - mentioned some time ago in the GTD TiddlyWiki group ( But this could be just some kind of improvement rather to be a real solution.

And back to starring: I haven't digged completely into the source yet - so this might be a stupid comment: on Win2k in IE(6) and Opera 9.01 the char you used for the "starring" (Unicode 2605) shows up correctly - but Firefox fails - I have a nice questionmark here...

That's a bit weird because I usually don't have such problems. Already doublechecked all Firefox options - I am trying to investigate further...

1:25 AM PST  
Blogger schilke said...

oops - blogger seems to cut off links which aren't in an a tag - so here again the link to my Google groups posting: MonkeyGTD 2.1 alpha: Testing

1:30 AM PST  
Blogger Dixius99 said...

If you do have 30-40 actions (which I'm sure most of us have at least that many) you could always view a section of list filtered to one context or project, and just start at the beginning and work through.

P.S. schilke: in FireFox on my XP machine, the star appears correctly.

3:31 AM PST  
Blogger schilke said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:57 AM PST  
Blogger schilke said...

the problem is, that you easily could have 30-40 actions within one context - I have one or two contexts which would list about 75% of my actions...

re. star(s): to be honest, I don't have any idea left, why Firefox doesn't accept the "\u2605" (like most of the misc symbols within that range). I have carefully reviewed all settings - really weird...
I am going to have a look on FF Linux. But: on Opera and IE I don't have a star - I have a return sign (or however you would call that vertical slash).

Update: ok, it seems that it addresses the original Microsoft "dingbats" font - right? No wonder my box doesn't show it: I have eliminated the two MS funnies "Dingbats" and "Wingdings" LOL
But: if so it may cause problems for Mac and Linux users...

5:02 AM PST  
Blogger schilke said...

...and if you're curious: I've chosen u25CF now - not as nice as a star but it works for me

5:15 AM PST  
Blogger schilke said...

and to make this a complete "schilke-spam comment section" there's something which got pretty lost in that unicode hassle: good work, Simon, especially the speed improvement - even if it was by accident ;-)

5:17 AM PST  
Blogger simon said...

I think I discovered the IE problem could be countered by specifying Arial Unicode MS instead of plain Arial. But actually my IE shows a star (WinXP, IE6) so beats me. See latest update. Star character is now much easier to configure.

5:59 AM PST  
Blogger Daniel said...

Excellent work, Simon! Better starring than staring... :)

And as schilke noticed, there is some kind of speed improvement in this version, which is indeed welcome as I start digging mGTD more and more for every new alpha release.

Two suggestions for additional/alternative use of the starring feature:

1) Filtering by stars. That is, in the same way as how the Realms work. Could be a * symbol next to the Realms selection. If that is selected only starred actions and projects are displayed, whatever dashboard is displayed.

This would give even more flexibility to the Starred feature, instead of having a separate dashboard only for the starred actions and projects. Clicking and unclicking the star would filter the current dashboards to display only starred actions/projects/areas or to display all.

But then again, a dashboard to display both actions (to the left) and projects and areas (to the right) is probably the best way to display starred items.

However, this way there could be one dashboard for starred (or all) next actions (for doing work), and another for starred (or all) projects and areas (for reviewing)

2) Sorting by stars. That is, optionally sort the starred actions/projects at the top (then alphabetically) and the rest below.

That would be a middle step in showing all actions and projects, but more easily spot the important ones.

Just some thoughts...

10:57 AM PST  
Blogger schilke said...

perhaps I am going to earn a price for "most comments on one article"...

Just for completeness: I am missing Arial Unicode MS, too, of course - else the star would show up. But I did not try with IE 7, 5.5 + 6 only and that is definitely a font problem nothing else.
But I wasn't voting for me personally with my "heavy duty customized/optimized" w2k installation (it even doesn't look like Windows anymore LOL) - I just thought that some Mac and Linux users might have trouble with that...

4:06 PM PST  
Blogger simon said...

I think I will try a Wingdings version and see if it works for more people. Stay tuned etc.

8:58 PM PST  
Blogger schilke said...

And now the update: I just played a bit with different chars as an alternative (an action from my "low energy" context...). There's a helpful site which converts different characters from one description system into another or gives lots of information on them: Unicode 5.0 encodes 51,980 graphic characters on the Basic Multilingual Plane.

What I found out is that "22C6" aka "STAR OPERATOR" is the perfect one for me.

Probably the "star section" of my MonkeyGTDPlugin tiddler might a bit helpful for others - so I post it here without comments (also unsorted and unrated...)
Could be pasted after
"config.mGTD = { ... "
and before
"config: {}, // gets populated by populateLists"


star: "\u22C6", // ⋆ STAR OPERATOR
// star: "\u2217", // ∗ ASTERISK OPERATOR
// star: "\u2022", //# • BULLET
// star: "\u25C9", // radio button checked

// star: "\u2730", // ✰ Shadowed white star
// star: "\u272D", // OUTLINED BLACK STAR
// star: "\u27A2", // ➢ Three-D top-lighted rightwards arrowhead
// star: "\u27B2", // ➲ Circled heavy white rightwards arrow
// star: "\u2794", // ➔ Heavy wide-headed rightwards arrow
// star: "\u21E8", // ⇨ Rightwards white arrow
// star: "\u25AD", // ▭ White rectangle Geometric Shapes
// star: "\u25AB", // ▫ White small square
// star: "\u2717", // ✗ Ballot X

// star: "\u25AA", //# ▪ BLACK SMALL SQUARE
// star: "\u25C6", // ◆ Black diamond
// star: "\u007C", //# | VERTICAL LINE
// star: "\u00A4", //# ¤ CURRENCY SIGN
// star: "\u2502", //# │ BOX DRAWINGS LIGHT VERTICAL
// star: "\u2551", //# ║ BOX DRAWINGS DOUBLE VERTICAL
// star: "\u2261", //# ≡ IDENTICAL TO

// star: "\u2192", //# → RIGHTWARDS ARROW
// star: "\u263C", //# ☼ WHITE SUN WITH RAYS
// star: "\u00B7", //# · MIDDLE DOT
// star: "\u0387", //# · GREEK ANO TELEIA
// star: "\u2219", //# ∙ BULLET OPERATOR
// star: "\u2500", //# ─ BOX DRAWINGS LIGHT HORIZONTAL

// star: "\u25D8", //# ◘ INVERSE BULLET
// star: "\u25CF", //# ● BLACK CIRCLE
// star: "\u25B2", //# ▲ BLACK UP-POINTING TRIANGLE
// star: "\u25A0", //# ■ BLACK SQUARE
// star: "\u25D9", //# ◙ INVERSE WHITE CIRCLE
// star: "\u203C", //‼ DOUBLE EXCLAMATION MARK

// star: "\u2605", // the original
// star: "\u2794", //
// star: "\u25A0", //
// star: "\u2730", //

// star: "\u2736", // ✶ Six pointed black star
// star: "\u2734", // ✴ Eight pointed black star
// star: "\u2739", // ✹ Twelve pointed black star
// star: "\u2735", // ✵ Eight pointed pinwheel star
// star: "\u2588", //# █ FULL BLOCK
// star: "\u258C", //# ▌ LEFT HALF BLOCK
// star: "\u2590", //# ▐ RIGHT HALF BLOCK
// star: "\u2591", //# ░ LIGHT SHADE
// star: "\u2592", //# ▒ MEDIUM SHADE
// star: "\u2593", //# ▓ DARK SHADE
// star: "\u002A", //# * ASTERISK

// star: "!", //
// star: "*", // use in case the above doesn't work on your system


Note: if you already can see the symbols in this comment you can also use them on your system ;-)

5:28 AM PST  
Blogger Dancin Forever said...

dude - you're so on the money! starring works much like one is present and not present to something - it's an intuitive feels for what "needs doing" - I'd even go as far to conjecture that what isn't starred probably has some "low energy" items to pick off (things that tend not to be on your "radar") quick thoughts and really excited about the direction you're going in!

2:00 AM PST  
Blogger David Sevilla said...


I am having problems with this: I see the star at work but not at home. And I cannot change the char: I have put: = "*"; // "star operator" my preferred star char

In the existing tiddler "MptwUserConfigPlugin" (I use tiddlyspot), in a new tiddler "zzStarChar" with the systemConfig tag... it has not changed. All this is locally, after saving+reload and everything. Am I doing anything wrong? Is this related to not using the alpha directly but taking it from tiddlyspot?


3:26 AM PDT  
Blogger gpittau said...

At least in my MonkeyGTD 3.0 alpha r103230 the line must be: = "\u22C6";

3:23 AM PST  

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