Collecting my attempts to improve at tech, art, and life

Taskwarrior Custom Reports

Tags: taskwarrior tools

Series: Taskwarrior Babysteps

output of my custom task top report

It happened again. I have a couple dozen great ideas for the blog. Loads of other things I need to get at as well. So yeah. I got myself a little overwhelmed, and I need to stop and get a solid idea of the top tasks: the ones I want to be working on now or soon.

I’ve been dutifully adding everything to Taskwarrior, assigning priorities as I go.

In case you forgot, or haven’t been following from the beginning, I use Taskwarrior’s Priority field to show how soon I want to work on a task. Priority:M? I want to work on it soon. Priority:H? Either I am working on it right now or I really want to be.

[!NOTE] Yeah I know Taskwarrior lets you assign due dates and dependencies. Tasks that are due or that block something else get higher Urgency, and bubble to the top of reports. For some folks, that works great.

For me? They mostly lead to heartbreak and self-recrimination. I refer you to these words of wisdom from a greater mind:

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

— Douglas Adams

I get more done quicker by flagging a few tasks as important, a few more tasks as less important, and the rest as “whatever.”

I still use [[active-tasks-in-taskwarrior|start]] to remember what I’m doing right now though. I’m not completely weird.

Time for me to figure out or in Taskwarrior.

Filtering with or

Filters already have an implied and. It looks like this.

How many active tasks do I have?

$ task +PENDING count

How many active tasks do I want to work on soon?

$ task +PENDING priority:M count

That’s filtering tasks to those for which +PENDING and priority:M are true.

How many active tasks do I want to be working on now?

$ task +PENDING priority:H count

That’s a bit much. It should be more like four or five.

How many active tasks do I want to work on now or soon? That is, which tasks are +PENDING and have either priority:M or priority:H?

We can use or to join two filters. If either of them is true for the task, that task is included. Use parentheses to build more complex filters.

$ task +PENDING (priority:H or priority:M) count
zsh: unknown file attribute: i

Tada — oops. Hang on. This stuff goes through the shell before it reaches Taskwarrior. Let’s put the filter in a string.

$ task '+PENDING (priority:H or priority:M)' count


Okay, it works, but I just know there will be more typos using this filter from memory. How can I avoid typing it in every time?

Use a context

I could add that priority filter to my “focused” context, used when I need to ignore distracting ideas.


context.focused=-idea -shelved (priority:H or priority:M)

Now every report skips low priority tasks.

$ task context focused
Context 'focused' set. Use 'task context none' to remove.
$ task +PENDING count

This is great, but I want to know my top tasks even when I’m not in focused context.

Plus it’s easy to forget which context you’re in. I once spent 15 minutes trying to find a +work task before remembering I was still in offwork context. Which reminds me — 

$ task context blog

Use a shell alias

Part of Taskwarrior’s charm is the fact that we use task from the command line. I could take advantage of that with a shell alias for task using the preface filter.


alias ttop='task +PENDING "(priority:H or priority:M)"'

This gives me sort of an on-the-fly context.

$ ttop count

I could use ttop with any Taskwarrior command, so ttop next would be a fine way to look at my important tasks.

But I’d kind of like to have a custom report for reviewing tasks I’ve set as important. Something with a little more information than task minimal but a bit less than task next.

Use a custom report

Might be easier to show than tell. For more of a “tell” approach, check the “REPORTS” section of man taskrc. Here’s my custom “top” report, loosely based on Taskwarrior’s minimal report.


# Almost-minimal view of tasks I want to work on most,priority,project,tags,description.count'Minimal details of tasks' (priority:H or priority:M),Pri,Project,Tags,Description,project-,description+ 

And here’s what my top report looks like.

$ task top
ID  Pri Project    Tags              Description
 28 H   Site       blog taskwarrior  custom reports [1]
194 H   Site       blog              describe workflow
193 H   Site       ops               use content UUID in RSS feed
192 H   Site       blog              walk through setting up and bridgy
184 H   Make.yarn  knitting personal hemmed edge hat for diedre
185 H              ops               persist xrandr fix

170 M   VimWiki    ops               back up current wiki pages
 76 M   Site.Notes site              note pics do not need zoom link
 70 M   Site       ops               Evaluate new permalink templates
188 M   Site       ops               blogroll of indieweb folks I mentioned
114 M   Site       blog ops          clean up hard drive
198 M   Site       layout            consolidate content format
148 M   Site       ops               cron job to fetch site logs
181 M   Site       learn ops         pamac for manjaro
191 M   Site       ops               permanent local server for site
196 M   Site       blog ops          sending webmentions
 20 M   Site       layout            store link on every page
167 M   Site       ops               task to list posts via `hugo list`
147 M   Site       blog taskwarrior  taskwarrior aliases
143 M   Site       blog              testing a static website
146 M   Site       blog              update taskwarrior notes script post to show usage
197 M   OrgConfig  ops               add awesomewm settings
 30 M   Artbiz     research          coloring book options
 39 M   Artbiz     art inventory     redo Voodoo Vince for dbh
 46 M   Artbiz     art learn         udemy affinity designer course [1]
 99 M              dev readlist      Art of PostgreSQL
186 M              emacs ops         Try telega for emacs
178 M              ops               add windows option to manjaro boot
179 M              ops               folding at home fah-config
176 M              ops               get task count in status
187 M              ops               get wsl xorg emacs autostart in windows
 50 M              javascript learn  node-tap Node TAP testing library
145 M              ops               refactor sync cronjob to script
 16 M              tools             try out newsboat news reader
34 tasks
Filter: ( status = pending and ( priority = H or priority = M ) )

I can apply additional filters just like with any other report.

$  rgb-hugo (master) task project:OrgConfig top
ID  Pri Project   Tags Description
197 M   OrgConfig ops  add awesomewm settings
1 task
Filter: ( status = pending and ( priority = H or priority = M ) ) and ( project = OrgConfig )

So that’s pretty handy. But clearly I need to clean this up a bit. Some of those aren’t really things I want to work on soon. But at least now I have one less priority:H task.

You can see Taskwarrior’s settings for the minimal report, or any other, with show report.NAME:

$ task show report.minimal

Config Variable            Value
report.minimal.columns     id,project,tags.count,description.count
report.minimal.description Minimal details of tasks
report.minimal.filter      status:pending or status:waiting
report.minimal.labels      ID,Project,Tags,Description
report.minimal.sort        project+/,description+

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Added to vault 2024-01-15. Updated on 2024-02-18