Formatting Is Fantastic
Posted by: Steve Weiss
A few weeks ago, I was growing frustrated with our project management software, Asana. The way Asana works is by creating a list of tasks, divided up into sections. Each of these sections represents one user story and all of its associated information. You can attach images and files, leave comments, tag other users, reference other tasks, it's great. It's a powerful and intuitive app, but lacked customization in one key area. Text formatting in descriptions.
Possibly the most important section in all of Asana is the task description. This is where you will get all of the key information you need. Sometimes descriptions can get long and complex, and in these cases, paragraph formatting won't do. We hacked away at it, adding dashes and double spaces to create our own lists, but this is just a bit too janky to rely on.
I emailed Asana, and to their credit they promptly responded, but with the standard "Thank you for your suggestion but we have no plans to implement rich formatting".
A few days later, like a lightning bolt from the organizational software deities, a developer sent over this link:
Rich text formatting! We now have access to numbered and unordered lists, underlining, and bold text. It's the standard palette of text formatting options, and I couldn't be happier. Expect to see my descriptions looking super fantastic from now on.
They're all accessible by keyboard shortcuts, which are one of the most underrated productivity tools of all time. If you added up the seconds I've saved with keyboard shortcuts over all the software I've ever used, it's probably enough time to read several novels...slowly.
I'm most excited about the unordered list, the greatest of all sans number lists. It's a simple delineation of the tasks at hand, giving you an accurate idea of what needs to happen, but let's you choose what happens when. How great is that? It's like the equivalent of sliced bread, a paragraph of things you need to do being the loaf...I think that's a solid metaphor.
Triviality aside, formatting is incredibly important. Displaying tasks in a clearly defined manner reduces the possibility for errors. Our brains are used to seeing tasks divided up by bullets or numbers. On a finished site, we wouldn't have unformatted text. It's harder to read, and simply doesn't look good. Why shouldn't the same rules apply here?