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Command-line application to show the next action to work on from a todo.txt file

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Determine the next action to work on from a list of actions in a todo.txt file. Next-action is currently beta-stage so, although it should work pretty well, it may be a bit rough around the edges.

Don't know what Todo.txt is? See for the Todo.txt specification.

Next-action is not a tool for editing todo.txt files, see for available options.

Table of contents




Next-action requires Python 3.6 or newer.

pip install next-action


$ next-action --help
usage: next-action [-h] [--version] [-c [<config.cfg>] | -w] [-f <todo.txt> ...] [-r <ref>] [-s [<style>]] [-a
| -n <number>] [-d [<due date>] | -o] [-p [<priority>]] [<context|project> ...]

Show the next action in your todo.txt. The next action is selected from the tasks in the todo.txt file based
on task properties such as priority, due date, and creation date. Limit the tasks from which the next action
is selected by specifying contexts the tasks must have and/or projects the tasks must belong to.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --version             show program's version number and exit

configuration options:
  -c [<config.cfg>], --config-file [<config.cfg>]
                        filename of configuration file to read (default: ~/.next-action.cfg); omit filename
                        to not read any configuration file
  -w, --write-config-file
                        generate a sample configuration file and exit

input options:
  -f <todo.txt>, --file <todo.txt>
                        filename of todo.txt file to read; can be '-' to read from standard input; argument
                        can be repeated to read tasks from multiple todo.txt files (default: ~/todo.txt)

output options:
  -r {always,never,multiple}, --reference {always,never,multiple}
                        reference next actions with the name of their todo.txt file (default: when reading
                        multiple todo.txt files)
  -s [<style>], --style [<style>]
                        colorize the output; available styles: abap, algol, algol_nu, arduino, autumn,
                        borland, bw, colorful, default, emacs, friendly, fruity, igor, lovelace, manni,
                        monokai, murphy, native, paraiso-dark, paraiso-light, pastie, perldoc, rainbow_dash,
                        rrt, tango, trac, vim, vs, xcode (default: None)

show multiple next actions:
  -a, --all             show all next actions
  -n <number>, --number <number>
                        number of next actions to show (default: 1)

limit the tasks from which the next actions are selected:
  -d [<due date>], --due [<due date>]
                        show only next actions with a due date; if a date is given, show only next actions
                        due on or before that date
  -o, --overdue         show only overdue next actions
  -p [<priority>], --priority [<priority>]
                        minimum priority (A-Z) of next actions to show (default: None)
  @<context> ...        contexts the next action must have
  +<project> ...        projects the next action must be part of; if repeated the next action must be part
                        of at least one of the projects
  -@<context> ...       contexts the next action must not have
  -+<project> ...       projects the next action must not be part of

Assuming your todo.txt file is your home folder, running Next-action without arguments will show the next action you should do. Given this todo.txt, calling mom would be the next action:

$ next-action
(A) Call mom @phone

The next action is determined using priority. Due date is considered after priority, with tasks due earlier getting precedence over tasks due later. Creation date is considered after due date, with older tasks getting precedence over newer tasks. FInally, tasks that belong to more projects get precedence over tasks that belong to fewer projects.

Completed tasks (x This is a completed task) and tasks with a creation date in the future (9999-01-01 Start preparing for five-digit years) are not considered when determining the next action.

Limiting the tasks from which next actions are selected

By contexts and/or projects

You can limit the tasks from which Next-action picks the next action by passing contexts and/or projects:

$ next-action @work
(C) Finish proposal for important client @work
$ next-action +DogHouse
(G) Buy wood for new +DogHouse @store
$ next-action +DogHouse @home
Get rid of old +DogHouse @home

When you supply multiple contexts and/or projects, the next action belongs to all of the contexts and at least one of the projects:

$ next-action +DogHouse +PaintHouse @store @weekend
(B) Buy paint to +PaintHouse @store @weekend

It is also possible to exclude contexts, which means the next action will not have the specified contexts:

$ next-action +PaintHouse -@store
Borrow ladder from the neighbors +PaintHouse @home

And of course, in a similar vein, projects can be excluded:

$ next-action -+PaintHouse @store
(G) Buy wood for new +DogHouse @store

By due date

To limit the the tasks from which the next action is selected to actions with a due date, use the --due option:

$ next-action @home --due
(K) Pay July invoice @home due:2018-07-28

Add a due date to select a next action from tasks due on or before that date:

$ next-action @home --due "june 2018"
(L) Pay June invoice @home due:2018-06-28

To make sure you have no overdue actions, or work on overdue actions first, limit the tasks from which the next action is selected to overdue actions:

$ next-action --overdue
Buy flowers due:2018-02-14

By priority

To make sure you work on important tasks rather than urgent tasks, you can make sure the tasks from which the next action is selected have at least a minimum priority:

$ next-action @work --priority C
(C) Finish proposal for important client @work

Showing more than one next action

To show more than one next action, supply the number you think you can handle:

$ next-action --number 3
(A) Call mom @phone
(B) Buy paint to +PaintHouse @store @weekend
(C) Finish proposal for important client @work

Or show all next actions, e.g. for a specific context:

$ next-action --all @store
(B) Buy paint to +PaintHouse @store @weekend
(G) Buy wood for new +DogHouse @store

Note again that completed tasks and task with a future creation date are never shown since they can't be a next action.

Output options

By default, Next-action references the todo.txt file from which actions were read if you read tasks from multiple todo.txt files. The --reference option controls this:

$ next-action --reference always
(A) Call mom @phone [docs/todo.txt]

Use --reference never to turn off this behavior. To permantently change this, configure the option in the configuration file. See the section below on how to configure Next-action.

The next actions can be colorized using the --style argument. Run next-action --help to see the list of possible styles.

When you've decided on a style you prefer, it makes sense to configure the style in the configuration file. See the section below on how to configure Next-action.

Not passing an argument to --style cancels the style that is configured in the configuration file, if any.

Configuring Next-action

In addition to specifying options on the command-line, you can also configure options in a configuration file. By default, Next-action tries to read a file called .next-action.cfg in your home folder.

To get started, you can tell Next-action to generate a configuration file with the default options:

$ next-action --write-config-file
# Configuration file for Next-action. Edit the settings below as you like.
file: ~/todo.txt
number: 1
reference: multiple
style: default

To make this the configuration that Next-action reads by default, redirect the output to ~/.next-action.cfg like this: next-action --write-config-file > ~/.next-action.cfg.

If you want to use a configuration file that is not in the default location (~/.next-action.cfg), you'll need to explicitly specify its location:

$ next-action --config-file docs/.next-action.cfg
(A) Call mom @phone

To skip reading the default configuration file, and also not read an alternative configuration file, use the --config-file option without arguments.

The configuration file format is YAML. The options currently supported are which todo.txt files must be read, how many next actions should be shown, and the styling.

Configuring a default todo.txt

A default todo.txt file to use can be specified like this:

file: ~/Dropbox/todo.txt

Multiple todo.txt files can be listed, if needed:

  - personal-todo.txt
  - work-todo.txt
  - big-project/tasks.txt

Configuring the number of next actions to show

The number of next actions to show can be specified like this:

number: 3

Or you can have Next-action show all next actions:

all: True

Configuring the minimum priority to show

The minimum priority of next action to show can be specified as well:

priority: Z

This could be useful if you, for example, keep a backlog of ideas without priority in your todo.txt file and prioritize only the tasks that are actionable.

Specifying a value on the command line overrides the priority in the configuration file, e.g. next-action --priority C. To override the priority set in the configuration but not set another minimum priority, use the priority option without argument: next-action --priority.

Configuring the output

Whether the next actions should have a reference to the todo.txt file from which they were read can be configured using the reference keyword:

reference: always

Possible values are always, never, or multiple. The latter means that the filename is only added when you read tasks from multiple todo.txt files. The default value is multiple.

The output style can be configured using the style keyword:

style: colorful

Run next-action --help to see the list of possible styles.

Precedence of options

Options in the configuration file override the default options. Command-line options in turn override options in the configuration file.

If you have a configuration file with default options that you occasionally want to ignore, you can skip reading the configuration file entirely with the --no-config-file option.

Recent changes

See the change log.


Clone the repository, create a virtual environment, install the dependencies with pip install -r requirements-dev.txt -r requirements.txt, and install Next-action in development mode using python develop.

To run the unit tests:

$ python -m unittest
Ran 163 tests in 0.614s


Running python test should give the same results.

To create the unit test coverage report run the unit tests under coverage with coverage run --branch -m unittest; coverage html --fail-under=100 --directory=build/htmlcov.

Quality checks can be run with pylint next_action and pycodestyle next_action.

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