Knowledge Base/Support Topics/Release Notes

Release Notes - 2012 December 14 - build 557 (web)

Elbert McLaughlin
posted this on December 14, 2012, 07:33

NEW! Reference Section

  • Create Reference Lists to hold non-actionable reference items
  • For example: create lists of books to read, sites to reference, vacation ideas...
  • Actions and Projects may be converted into Reference Lists via right-click or drag/drop
  • Basic plan limited to 3 reference lists, Plus plan is unlimited

Left Navi overhaul
  • Collapsable sections: click on section headers to show / hide contents
  • Cleanup section (logbook/trash) now bolted to bottom of screen to avoid having to pre-scroll before drag/drop if you have a lot of items in the left navi
  • New controls also placed at bottom for creating Projects, Lists, Context, collecting to Logbook and emptying the Trash 

Right-Click menu enhancements
  • Renamed and adjusted terminology to more accurately reflect what actions you are performing
  • Multi-select assignment options enhanced: assign dates to multiple items, batch move multiple items, via lasso select + right-click on highlighted green region 
  • Actions can now be converted to Projects via right-click 

GTD Nomenclature Alignment 
  • Tasks are now referred to as Actions
  • Tags are now referred to as Contexts

Feature Adjustments
  • Project "inactive" state has been removed as a standard option (can be re-enabled by turning on Later in prefs if desired).   Standard project state options are now Active, Scheduled, Someday.


  • Scheduled and Logbook views now honor Sunday vs Monday calendar week start, such that list groupings of This Week, Last week, Next Week are now aligned with your personal preference
  • Export as .csv now includes a column for whether items are starred in focus or not
  • Cleaned up some inefficient code that was causing performance degradation in select circumstances


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It's a slight adjustment to my workflow, but it's worth it. Keep these updates coming!

December 14, 2012, 08:13
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I like it.

I am sure the reference lists will be very useful for a lot of different things, such as shopping lists etc.. I will try to consolidate my existing shopping lists and many other reference lists into Nirvana now :-)


During my little 2-minute testspin I discovered a little bug: The Convert to Inbox item actually creates a project.

I also discovered a very useful little thing that could be added - an additional option in the right-click menu for "Clone into Next/Focus". I would be using that an awful lot. Every day. It would enable me to reuse tasks over and over and over, in a very handy way in all those cases where the recurrence of a task is not predictable enough to make it practical to have them on a repeating schedule. Then I could instead have a reference checklist that I check each morning and just "clone into focus" those tasks that apply that day.

December 14, 2012, 08:34
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I love the updates!  Keep up the good work!

December 14, 2012, 08:42
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Thanks @elbert and Team.  


If I see a small green Elephant next to the Reference list one day, I would do a double back flip.  ;-)

December 14, 2012, 08:47
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Jeff Lobdell

YES! I've been actually been adding reference items build for awhile now, good call guys

December 14, 2012, 08:57
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Very good.

Some suggestions... Would it be possible:

1/ to create Reference item in the Project?

2/ to assign Reference item to the Project ?

3/ to assign Reference list to the Project ?

4/ move Reference list / Reference item to the Logbook when I need it no more?


Will you add the buttom Reference item at the top as you added Reference list?

December 14, 2012, 09:05
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Thanks for the update.

Me too for the small green Elephant!

December 14, 2012, 09:08
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Jeff Lobdell

I think reference list items should have checkboxes because it's like saying "i read this book" or i "visited this website" 

December 14, 2012, 09:10
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Chris Magnuson

@Jeff, I think David Allen is a little too ambiguous about this in his book but I would assert that if there is an associated action to be taken with a reference list item then it should be in your actions list or have a separate action in your actions list independent of the item in the reference list.

I would say reference lists should not contain books you want to read, that is an action still waiting to be taken and needs to be in your action management system. Instead a reference list should contain something like books you have read in rank order from best to worst. There is no action associated with it but it is still appropriate to have it in a list format.

You might also have a reference list for good books on a specific topic. Say I have a good books for programmers reference list with Code complete, Mythical Man Month, and The Pragmatic Programmer. You may not want to read these yourself as they might be outside your area of interest but you may want to retain this knowledge so that if you have a friend who wants to get into programming you can refer to your reference list to provide them some good books for them to read.

David Allen talks about this briefly in Chapter 7 under the heading Special Categories of "Someday/Maybe" but I feel he leaves things too ambiguous as he includes books to read as something that straddles the line between the someday/maybe action list and a reference list. I would make the distinction more clear, if you actually want to read it, even maybe, then you should add it to your someday maybe actions list but if you just want to keep a list of good books handy, whether you have read them or even want to read them, then a reference list makes sense, and often you will find items listed in both places as they are a book you think is good but you haven't had time to read it yet.

Just my 2cents to try and clarify the purpose of this new feature and the more abstract concepts in GTD.

December 14, 2012, 10:07
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I like the collapsable sections, thanks!  It makes me wonder about COLLECT and Inbox though.  I undertand the consistency of how you have it now, but it would take less space to have a fixed Inbox at the top and no "COLLECT" grouping (unless you plan an additional collect folder in the future, but I doubt that you do). I work on a small laptop screen, so every bit of vertical space helps for me.

Love the reference lists, I had a few of them hidden away in Someday, but this is much better!

December 14, 2012, 10:12
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I agree with @Chris Magnuson on this.

I also think many of the suggestion @Zdeno made already are brilliant.  

@Jeff Lobdell has another great point.  I did not even realize there are no check boxes until I added an item to see for myself.

There are a bunch of smart people in this community.  :-)

December 14, 2012, 11:04
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I use Evernote for reference too...  I'm not sure I undertand what people would want with a "little green elephant' button?  Would that be a link to a specific note in evernote?  

You can already embed a link to a note, so I am not sure how this would work.  Would the benefit be that the elephant icon would be visibile in the task list and you wouldn't have to open the note?

I am in favor of Evernote integration.

December 14, 2012, 11:22
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Any chance - in some future release - to be able to convert Reference lists into Tasks as well? For example, I have Travel checklists that I would like to re-use as tasks, but the individual trips would be a project of its own. Thanks for considering!

December 14, 2012, 16:17
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Elbert McLaughlin

@kai - this might be along the lines of what you're looking for: you can always right-click on a reference list to make a copy, then convert the copy into a project, also via right-click (or drag to Projects).  If you want to convert an individual reference item into a project, it's the same process... make a copy, drag to Projects.   

December 14, 2012, 16:26
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Thanks elbert - I think I found a bug now :-) I create an individual Item in a Reference list, right-click it and "convert to - Standalone Action (Inbox)". If this would work, it would be close to what I am looking for. But it converts the Item into a project in the project list.

So I still see no way to create a reusable *Action* (in my case a packing list a part of a larger Travel Project) 

December 14, 2012, 16:35
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Elbert McLaughlin

Thanks for the bug report re: convert to standalone action (inbox) - will push out a fix in a jif.

December 14, 2012, 17:32
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Роман Акулов

Found a bug: when I convert a task into a reference item, it actually falls to Next list, and appears to be in the project with the name of the reference list... odd. :)

December 15, 2012, 04:12
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Elbert McLaughlin

fixes have been pushed live for:

- convert reference item to standalone action (inbox)
- convert action to reference item > inside reference list

thanks everyone 

December 15, 2012, 08:05
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These are great enhancements. Any idea when we might see any of this reflected in mobile apps. Would love to have a shopping reference list available on my phone. ;-)

December 15, 2012, 11:36
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Michele Toscan

I recognize it could be just me, but I really see no reason NOT to be able to tick items in the reference lists. If you don't use the feature, just leave the checkboxes as they are, but just in case...

I know they're not active tasks/actions but being able to bar the items seems logical to me, even if we're talking about books to read or a grocery list.  

December 15, 2012, 13:15
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I agree with Michele.

And i general, I think the similarity with regular tasks could be increased. For example, why does an item need to be "converted" - why can it not just be dragged into Next (implicitly Standalone) or into a project (implicitly Next)?

Come to think of it, Reference could also have been implemented as just another "state" (Next-Someday-Waiting-Reference), which would have made it possible to keep reference items within projects, but the current solution is also nice because the reference lists are neatly displayed as a separate section in the left navi.

I have not quite worked out all the ways I will use reference lists, but one use, for sure, is as a repository for reusable tasks (template tasks) complete with tags and everything, ready to be copied and moved when I need them.

In order to copy such a template task into Next/Focus, it is now necessary to do the following steps:

- copy the task

- delete the word copy in the task name

- close the task

- move or convert or drag the task to the Inbox

- drag the task to Next

- star the task

It seems this whole procedure could be reduced a lot for increased convenience. It could, in fact, be reduced as far as to just one single action for the whole procedure (clone into Next/Focus), but if at least some partial simplification could be implemented, e.g. into just three steps (clone + star + drag to Next), it would be greatly appreciated.

December 15, 2012, 15:16
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Thanks Elbert, convert to Action works now indeed - this is a good addition for me.

December 16, 2012, 02:42
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Jeff Lobdell

Found a bug: Whenever I try to schedule a tasked that I've assigned to someone, the person's name gets cleared from the task and is removed from "Waiting."

December 16, 2012, 05:31
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Very nice update indeed. Now I can finally scrap the project "NOTES" and put it in the Reference section instead :)!

December 17, 2012, 04:56
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Elbert McLaughlin

@Jeff Lobdell - Yeah, this has been an issue that has bothered us for some time... it's actually by design, but probably a poor one.  Internally, Waiting and Scheduled are discrete action states.  Will try and revisit this soon to see how we might allow for a single action to live in both places.

December 17, 2012, 05:45
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Great update! Thank you!

December 17, 2012, 05:48
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@elbert and @Jeff Lobdell

Probably (perhaps) the best approach to take would be to make the Scheduled "state" something other than a "state" - instead make Scheduled a separate property that can exist with any of the states. This would allow you to schedule Waiting For items - for example, to begin expecting a routine report from someone on the 1st of every month.

As an aside: this "separate property" approach is analogous to the approach probably required for subsequent actions in an automatically progressing  project. A subsequent project action must somehow be recognized as subsequent (i.e. dependent, not currently active, not yet relevant), yet at the same time be marked as predestined for a given state (e.g. Next or Waiting).

Just my 2 cents.

December 17, 2012, 07:57
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Elbert McLaughlin

@folke - Alas, that would defeat the ability to defer an action until a future date, thus removing from Next actions, which is the whole point of Scheduled.  Being able to add an independent  "tickle" date to an action is probably the best approach, but adding this to the UI without causing confusion is the challenge.  

December 17, 2012, 08:03
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@elbert - ??? I must have expressed myself very poorly as happens all too often (or maybe I misunderstood the whole discussion; also quite possible).

The whole very point of this would be to defer and hide until a future date. Defer Next actions, defer Waiting For actions etc. Just as you say.

Scheduled would behave to the user exactly as it does today, except that you could use it for any state (not only Next, but also for Waiting end even Someday) and you would select it not from the "state list" but from some other checkbox etc.

(Technically speaking, it might work something like this internally: If the "Scheduled property" is set for a task it means it should not yet be shown in the list for which it is predestined. That's all. That is how I meant it, anyway.

And that happens to be quite similar in many ways to what is probably needed for sequentialish projects, too, where you do not want to see "Waiting for goods" in the Waiting list until after you have completed "Order the goods". Here, too, a separate "hold-back" property for "still not active" is probably required in the same way.

Strictly speaking, it may be best to bite the bullet and regard Scheduled not as an exclusive state, but as a property that can coexist with any of the other states. And the same probably goes for Subsequent in a project.)

But I'll leave this to you guys to figure out :-)

December 17, 2012, 09:04
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Is there any way to link a Nirvana reference list to an existing project?   I don't need to convert a list to a project - that was explained by Elbert.  

Currently I link a reference file from Evernote to Nirvana, but I'm liking the idea of having all my actions, notes and links in one single program that's all clickable (Nirvana). 

Hopefully this will reduce the amount of input time to setup a reference file in Evernote, copy & paste links, etc.

December 17, 2012, 09:42
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These are some great updates.

The reference list addition is very good since it's a roundabout way to use as a reusable template for checklists that I can copy and reuse (something I have been waiting for before I am willing to upgrade). Unfortunately I don't see references in the mobile app which means I have to be on my computer to copy this into a project and then view on the iPhone and check off as I go.

I would really love it if there was a way to simply copy a project (online AND in the phone apps) to allow them to be reused. I cannot imagine I am the only way that see's this as very important and useful.

I understand it comes in phases yet it's important to realize that so much is done in combination of computer, smartphones and tablets now that we need this functionality in all places to truly accelerate at Getting Things Done.

Thanks for listening.

December 17, 2012, 19:07
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Glad to see some development going on.  The months of silence on the forums when asked directly are not super confidence-inspiring. 

On change - I don't know about most people, but I use contexts much more frequently than I use reference lists. So it would seem that having contexts above reference lists would be much more logical. 

December 17, 2012, 19:17
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Elbert McLaughlin

@Adrian - Yes, it's always a bit of a catch22 with the timing of these things... we'd like to release everything in concert, and yet most of our users are impatient and want whatever they can get asap!!  Human nature I guess.  

Workaround: bookmark on your mobile device... Reference Lists are there while we all wait for Apple to approve the latest iOS submission for the AppStore.

December 17, 2012, 19:18
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Elbert McLaughlin

@ryan - click on Reference to collapse.  Et voila.

December 17, 2012, 19:19
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Hi Elbert - I understand collapse.  I am saying the placement is flawed. Example, I can hide email accounts in MacMail, but I put the one I use at the top, I don't just hide the underutilized one.  So while I am really happy that this feature is in, I am recommending for consideration that the placement is more appropriate under contexts.


Example: I look at my checklist for "pack for a trip" only when I got on a trip, not every day. 


You get it.

December 17, 2012, 19:21
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I tried converting from a task to a reference item. The task shows up in the reference list, but the task doesn't go away.    I don't mind market it as closed, but didn't know if that is the desired behavior.

December 18, 2012, 00:41
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Adam Schaffer

These additions make for a great update.  I echo @diane's question, though.  I can't figure out where the Reference Lists are on the mobile app.  Any helping ideas?

December 18, 2012, 01:20
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Great update. Thank you Elbert and team!

And have a great Holiday!

December 21, 2012, 15:10
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søren friis
Cant ADD ref. Items in Web from iPad because the keyboard does not show (no Way to tap "n")?
December 30, 2012, 05:51
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Thank you Elbert for responding to my comment with the workaround. Since then the newest mobile version with reference lists is available and I am using it. I sent a separate note because it appears there is a bug with reference lists not syncing completely between the browser and mobile apps.

December 30, 2012, 21:37
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A few thoughts/reactions to the update:

- I like the updated terminology.  And contexts seem a lot easier to use now.

- I agree with @ryan about the nav pane order.  Collect, Actions, Projects, and Contexts are all different aspects of organizing the actions you have to do, so those should all be next to eachother.  References is a different beast, so I'd move it below Contexts.  Also I'm not sure why the Logbook is tucked away at the bottom.  So...  I'd order it as Collect, Actions, Projects, Contexts, Reference, Cleanup, and then empty space.  Also the gear icon (which usually indicates settings) at the bottom is not intuitive -- "collect completed items" and "empty trash" would be more intuitive under Cleanup, and "manage contexts" should probably go under contexts.

- I think it's potentially handy (for some people) that you added References, but without evernote integration I doubt that I'll use it.  David Allen recommends having *a* good reference system, but not multiple systems, and personally I can't imagine ditching Evernote.  So I would prefer to have the option to actually disable/hide the Reference feature in Nirvana (to avoid clutter from something I'll never use, and avoid the temptation to start using two competing reference systems).

- Right now under Preferences, you have an On/Off radio for Later.  It might be nice to replace that with a list (call it "Features") of checkboxes to enable/disable features that maybe not everyone will use:  Later and Reference, and maybe also Waiting, Scheduled, Contexts, Area, Time, Energy.  This might take Nirvana closer to the ToodleDo approach but I think it could result in a cleaner UI.  I'd think the enable/disable options could  just show/hide GUI elements without changing the underlying data.

- Like @Proximo, I would love clean Evernote integration (without having to copy and paste URL's).  I'd love it if you could make it so Nirvana Reference Lists are linked to Evernote Notebooks, and Nirvana Reference Items are linked to Evernote Notes.  I would probably want something like:

   - For each area in Nirvana choose an equivalent Notebook stack in Evernote (or to simplify setup, pick some name-mapping, like for area "ABC" the notebook stack must also be named ""ABC" or "Area:ABC" or something like that).

   - When I create (or delete or rename) a notebook under some notebook stack in evernote, it automatically shows up as a reference list (or gets deleted or renamed) in nirvana in the equivalent area

   - When I create (or delete or rename) a reference list in nirvana in some area, it automatically shows up as a notebook  (or gets deleted or renamed) in nirvana, in the notebook-stack for that area.

   - When I create a note in evernote (in some notebook), a nirvana reference item is created (in the reference list corresponding to that notebook).  If I edit, delete, or rename the note, the nirvana reference item is updated, deleted, or renamed.

   - When I create a reference item in nirvana (in some reference list), an equivalent evernote note is created (in the notebook corresponding to that reference list).  If I delete or rename the reference item, the evernote note is updated, deleted, or renamed.

    - It wouldn't matter to me whether under the hood there are two copies of every note/reference (one in evernote and one in nirvana), or if the storage is evernote-only and just aliased in nirvana.

- I agree with your decision *not* to put completed-checkboxes next to reference items.  If someone absolutely needs check boxes, they can put "-" lists inside the reference item, but really these have no place in GTD.

- Is there a way to make action-item notes point to reference items?  Say, several actions need the same piece of reference information (a phone number, an account number, a list of part numbers).  It seems like there should be a way to put this info into a reference item, then have several tasks' "notes" section point to the reference information.  Again there is probably some clunky way of doing this with hyperlinks right now (though I can't find it), but it would be nice to be able to do this more cleanly, without ever seeing a hyperlink.  Say, right click inside a note to have an option to insert a link to a reference item.

- Regarding comments above on the "Scheduled" feature (and a similar thread with @Folke and @Proximo back in May)...  In GTD, there are two similar (but different concepts).  There are truly scheduled actions -- i.e. this is something that I must do next Tuesday (no earlier, no later).  And there are ticklers -- i.e. I don't want to think about this again until next Tuesday, and I'll re-evaulate at that point (though I might choose not to do it then either).  It seems like Nirvana "Scheduled" feature is geared more for scheduled actions, not ticklers (but doesn't do either perfectly).  However, personally I put truly-scheduled items in a separate calendar app (Outlook or google calendar), and I usually just use "Scheduled" in Nirvana as a tickler (unless Due Date = Scheduled Date, in which case the item is then truly scheduled).  In other words, I think Nirvana is putting too much emphasis on the start date and not enough on due dates.  Before an item has actually started, I don't want to see it or think about it and I don't care when it will actually start (and if there is prep work to do, that should be its own action, which should have already started).  And once it's started, I really only care about the due date.  So personally what I would want is something more like:

    - "Scheduled Date" should really be called "Start Date" or "Tickle Date" or, more accurately, "Hide Until".  I agree with @Folke - scheduled should be a separate property than status (Next/Waiting/Someday).  When the Hide-Until date comes around, the item will appear with that specified status.  I'm not sure you need a separate "scheduled" flag though -- if there's no scheduled date, it's not scheduled (i.e. if there's not hide-until date, it's not hidden).

    - Instead of "Scheduled" on the left, I'd like to see a "Due" list, which shows all items that have due dates, sorted by due date.  (I know this is available as a filter, but, just as you've put contexts on the left also, it would be nice to make it easier / more intuitive to look at all due items at a glance).

    - Somewhere there should be a way to see hidden/future tickler items, but this shouldn't be a common thing to do.  This could go in the left navigation pane, or it could be a filter at the top.  In other words, items before the "Hide-Until" date would normally not be shown, unless you toggle a "not-yet-started" filter.

    - To keep current functionality (sort of), perhaps add a "create scheduled action" shortcut -  the user enters a date, then an action is created with Due Date = Hide-Until Date, Status=Next, and Focus=Yes.


That's my three cents.  But just suggestions, not complaints.  Much appreciation for the update!

January 2, 2013, 14:59
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