Todo Lists, Visualization & XML

I've been looking for some software to help me plan my work tasks for some time. Something in between a todo list and a project plan. Oh, and free too.

I'd spent some time searching for this mythical beast a few months ago and came up empty and then my frustration at trying to plan my work using the outliner in Microsoft Word came to the boil again recently so I had another go at finding something. Well what do you know? I found two things that looked like they might fit the bill. The first is ToDoList. Its a fairly simple hierarchical todo list, but what it does it does very well. The second is Free Mind, which shows a graphical representation of a tree of related ideas.

Well, for me at least Todo List is much better suited to project planning – that's what it was written for and it shows. Free Mind, on the other hand displays information in a way that makes it easy to see the big picture and navigate around. Fortunately for me, both applications store their information in XML files so I bit the bullet and wrote a XSL stylesheet to convert from the ToDoList file format to the Free Mind format. I wanted something that would quickly show me the relative priority of each task (so I could jump on the important things) so I took a lead out of the tag cloud book and used color and size to encode that information. This is the result.

The first image is a todo list in ToDoList:

Todo List 2

The second image is the same project in Free Mind:

FreeMind Project
Here you can see at a glance what is really important to me :).

This ZIP contains four stylesheets. Todo2FreeMind.xsl is the one I used above. When you're in ToDoList choose Tools/Transform Active Tasklist…, select this file as the stylesheet and save the file as something ending in .mm. ToDoList will transform the project and run FreeMind for you.

Todo2FreeMind090.xsl will produce a mind map for FreeMind 0.9.0 – it includes the percentdone property from TodoList as an attribute called complete in the mind map – you can filter the display to show nodes based on this value – i.e. show only the complete tasks.

Versions of TodoList prior to 5.0.0 don't include the comment property when you use the Tools/Transform Active Tasklist... These stylesheets will transform a comment to a FreeMind note if it is present. To get this you have to transform the actual .tdl file using some third-party tool. If you do you will get all the tasks, whether they are complete or not. The remaining two stylesheets can be used to transform just the complete tasks or just the incomplete tasks. Rember for TodoList 5.0.0 and greater, you don't need to use these

The other tool I want to convert these files for is Walrus.

21 Responses to “Todo Lists, Visualization & XML”

  1. .dan.g. Says:

    Hi Judge

    Thanks for the positive write-up!

    One small thing: although the CP url is ‘todolist2.asp’, the app itself is just ‘ToDoList’. I had to add the ’2′ on the end because CP already had an article with the url todolist.asp :(

  2. maurizio Says:

    Hi, I tried your stylesheed but the new file is not working with freemind.

    ToDoList 4.10.7
    freemind 0.8.0

    kind regards

    Maurizio Ridolfo

  3. judge Says:

    @.dan.g: Sure – fixed the name :)

    @maurizio: If you can give me the source to your project, I can probably work it out.

  4. Douglas Says:

    Dear Judge,
    thank you for your effert: I find this xsl very, very useful.
    In this version I’m experiencing the same problem as maurizio.
    If you wish, I can send you a trouble file along with the produced mm. (reply to this so that I can have your email address).

    Thanks again,


  5. judge Says:

    @maurizio, @Douglas: It should work now.

  6. Marc Says:

    great piece of software

    works fine with
    FreeMind 0.8.0
    ToDoList 5.0 Beta (b2)



  7. Michael Says:

    this is really great stuff!
    What I miss is that the ToDoList comment is not transfered into a note of the mindmap.
    But even without it is great!

  8. judge Says:

    @Michael: yes it would be nice to have the comments transfered – however if FreeMind doesn’t seem to provide a good way of handling that information – it appears in the node description on a single line. If you have any ideas, let me know.

  9. Douglas Says:

    Thanks, Judge!

    It works great, and gives me a very useful solution to keep track both “numerically” (in TDL) and visually (in FreeMind).

  10. Michael Says:

    Hi Judge,

    In FreeMind you can attach a notes to each topic. (Menu/Insert/Note)
    In the meantime I was able to do it myself, I just expirianced problems with the TodoList-Transformer in ToDoList which I have to follow-up, but with external XSL processor it works fine.
    If you give me your email I sent the complete updated XSLT to you.


  11. judge Says:

    @Michael: Thanks. I’ve incorporated your changes into the stylesheet and added notes about their use (also fixed a few bugs that had crept in as I made changes). Also I’ve added a version that produces a FreeMind 0.9.0 file which includes the % complete as an ‘attribute’.

  12. Ronen Says:

    Hi Judge,

    I’ve just started to use ToDoList, and now thanks to you also FreeMind, and the combination seems really great. So this is just to say thanks!


  13. pengster Says:

    Hi Judge or anybody,

    How can I do the reverse? I mean transform from freemind –to–> ToDoList?
    I’m not fluent with XSL obviously.
    I’ve used freemind before but now I’ve started using ToDoList. Both are great tools!
    I’m even considering throwing away my Palm (treo 650) to get a PocketPC phone so I can plan my stuff on the train with ToDoList and then show it to my team with freemind. Unless one of you can tell me how to get ToDoList and Palm to work together.

  14. Holger Says:

    Hello Judge,

    First of all I would like to say thank you very much for your useful work. Now the horizon for my work has been fairly enhanced because thanks to you there is a useful combination of two former stand alone tools now.

    As pengster already stated it would be a very good idea for me as well having it also the other way round (importing FreeMind maps into ToDoList) ;-)

    Again, many thanks

  15. martin Says:

    hi judge, hi outside in the web,

    great deal to transform todolists to freemind! as pengster and holger said it would be great to reimport the freeminds after developing and vice versa… aany suggestions?

    nevertheless: thanks for this great work

  16. tayete Says:

    Just a question about your really nice “connector”:
    How can I create the arrows to link two concepts, in TODOLIST, as your example show?
    I know in FreeMind you can create those arrows, but I cannot find any field in TODOLIST that allows your connector to create them. Unless you created them afterwards in Freemind, that is…

    Thanks a lot

  17. judge Says:

    You need to add a task dependency in TODO list. The dependency will be represented as a link arrow.

  18. tayete Says:

    Mmmmm…that didn’t work. I had already tried that, and tested it again. I add a dependency # to a task, so it depends of another one, but when exported, no arrow-links appear.

  19. Johannes Braams Says:

    I had the same problem, but found out that you not only need to add a dependency, you have to list that dependcy as a file link as well. That should then be of the form tdl://

  20. Miguel Gomez Says:

    I really like TodoList tool. But, is there an easy way to customize the html output for a list?

    I mean, I am not a programmer but I would like to build my own transformations without having to learn XML/XSL. Any ideas?


  21. tayete Says:

    Thanks Johannes, that did it!!!

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