Maintain Color-Coded TODO Lists in Vim

Many Vim enthusiasts use Vim for pretty much all text manipulation in their daily lives. However, the plain text nature of this fantastic and powerful editor sometimes leaves a little left to be desired. For example, it would be nice to have your editor color code certain items in your TODO list for you, e.g. one color for items that are done in your list, another (hopefully a more provocative one) for those that aren’t done. I recently discovered a trick how to kind of make that happen in Vim, and I am sharing that here.

The first thing you need is some type of a marker in front of your rows that you want highlighted, so that Vim has a way of doing a RegEx matching against them. E.g.

[TODO] Write a blog post
[DONE] Goof off
[Nice to Have] Read a book

Here I have marked my rows with [TODO], [DONE], and [Nice to Have]

Next up, you need to invoke the following command in the command line mode:

:highlight MyGroupTodo ctermbg=red guibg=red
:let m1 = matchadd(“MyGroupTodo”, “^\[TODO.*”)
:highlight MyGroupDone ctermbg=green guibg=green ctermfg=black guifg=black
:let m2 = matchadd(“MyGroupDone”, “^\[DONE.*”)
:highlight MyGroupNTH ctermbg=cyan guibg=cyan ctermfg=black guifg=black
:let m3 = matchadd(“MyGroupNTH”, “^\[Nice to Have.*”)

Here is a screen capture of what it looks like in my current color scheme. Keep in mind that the appearance might be different based on what color scheme you currently have enabled, and you might have to change the colors of the matches to better suit your tastes and your color scheme. Furthermore, you can put these highlight and match commands in your .vimrc so that you don’t have to keep doing it over and over.

Being a visual person I appreciate colors and the ease of distinction that they provide. If that’s you, and you use Vim, then this is how you can do it. Look up :h match inside Vim for more detail. Notice that, in contrast to the example in the Vim help, I have used more specific regular expressions so that the entire line is highlighted – you might or might not want that.

Panoply: Console-based TODO list manager

That’s right, yet another todo list manager. I am calling it Panoply, for no other reason than the fact that I like that word. Well, it is a learning project. I wanted something that does not depend on having an Internet connection all the time (e.g. Wunderlist and Teux Deux) (it is possible that those awesome products have offline modes, but still), and something that is free (unlike Things). More importantly, I wanted to check the feasibility of Python for building, testing and maintaining a relatively larger project. It certainly doesn’t have the graphical finesse of the apps mentioned above, but if I ever decide to go in that direction with it, it will be yet another learning adventure. As it stands right now though, Panoply remains a CLI app.

It’s still very much in a pre-alpha stage, but I have something running and working that I can now keep tweaking and enhancing. I am trying to follow Test Driven Development in this project as faithfully as I can (though I guess I could be better). The goal is essentially to write a command line tool in Python that helps with deadlines and in managing personal tasks. It is supposed to be an app that automatically adjusts itself somehow, based on current deadlines, future deadlines, and past overdue deadlines, so that it is better than a plain text todo list. I am the sole developer, user experience designer, user interaction designer and the tester of all things for now. I am hoping that that would change at some point. The data model that Panoply is currently using consists of simple CSV files. This aspect of the project might very well change in the future if I feel the need for a better data structure.

My idea is to keep the scope minimal, and enhance it one feature at a time. As it stands right now, if you were to test the app as of the day of writing this blog entry, it lets you start a task collection, add a task to the collection with a user name, and let you save and load the entire list of tasks. I am currently also supporting the functionality to selectively check off items so that you can mark them as ‘done’ and they no longer show in the list when you view it. Last but not least, I support the ability to scan the list of tasks and tasks collections and prompt the user that they need to hustle if they have a task listed that has a deadline past the current date (termed ‘overdue’ in the Panoply universe).

I am having a lot of fun with this project, trying to hack on it for 10 minutes every other day. My full time job and other obligations don’t allow for more at this point, but Panoply will certainly grow with time.