Workflow: Using Tags in Silo 1.0.5 as Contexts for a Simple GTD System

If you have used OmniFocus, you're probably used to the concept of having contexts to your actions. If you're not familiar with the concept of contexts in a typical Getting Things Done system, you might want to read Sven Fechner's article on contexts.

I really like the concept of projects and contexts in a GTD system. And, I tend to choose simple list apps, such as Clear or Silo to keep any types of lists I have, including to-do lists. If you've been searching for a simple (lightweight) GTD system that might fit your need, you might like the new features in Silo 1.0.5.

You can define more than one tags for each entry, and filter with more than one tags when you search them.

What's New in Silo 1.0.5

Released over the weekend, the new update to Silo includes two features that have made it possible for me to use it as a simple GTD system. First, you can add tags to an entry by using the # prefix. You can then filter the entries inside a list using these tags.

The second feature is the ability to append multiple entries into an existing list, using Silo's URL Scheme. Previously, adding a comma-separated list of items through URL Scheme forces you to create a new list. Now, the same URL that's being used to add a single entry can also be used to add comma-separated list of items:

silo://x-callback-url/note/add?text=[item-text]&[x-callback parameters]

Even though I won't be using the comma-separated list option in today's post, I have been using it to append multiple entries at the same time from Drafts to Silo. I find it very useful.

Drafts is the perfect and natural tool for dumping your brain quickly and effortlessly.

Lists as Projects, and Tags as Contexts

Before the introduction of tags in Silo, I've been using the lists in Silo as my GTD projects. Because it's difficult to move an entry from one list to another, I decided not to have an "Inbox" list. Instead, I'd write each entry after I navigate to the appropriate list (project). Obviously this is not an ideal situation when you're trying to focus on dumping your brain.

The ideal situation for me would be to brain dump everything as a new post in Drafts. Then, I'd add each line as a new entry in the appropriate project in Silo. If you're not familiar with Silo, each time you're trying to add a new entry via its URL Scheme, Silo will prompt you to choose the list where you want the new entry to be added. You can even create a new list and add the new entry into it. Because Silo supports x-callback-url, you can immediately return to Drafts to process the next line.

With the new tags in Silo 1.0.5, I can add one or more tags to each entry as I write them in Drafts. I see these tags as contexts. In Silo, I can filter these tags from within each list. The developer has planned for a global tag filtering that would make processing tags (contexts) in Silo even easier.

Typically you would just create this as a recursive action that will process all these lines automatically. But, there's an exception to this workflow. Even though Silo always prompts you to select the list for each new entry, you don't get to see what the entry is. Thus, if your brain dumping process yields many lines in Drafts, you'd not be able to remember the lines beyond the first.

I decided to create a recursive action that waits for a manual trigger, instead of automatically process the next line. Using this action, you need to invoke the Add Task to Silo and Wait action each time there's one or more lines to process in Drafts. All you need to do is to remember what the first line is, before you send trigger the action.

Open this link if you want it installed on your iOS device automatically.

Using this approach, I can freely dump my brain into Drafts without having to worry which projects each task will go into. With the tags support in Silo, I can add one or more contexts to each of these tasks. And when I'm ready to process them into the projects in Silo, I only need to remember what the first task is, and figure out which project I'd put that in. When it returns to Drafts, the subsequent task will be shown as the first line. I can choose to continue this process until there's no more task in Drafts.


If you have been looking for a simple (lightweight) alternative to OmniFocus, you might want to give Silo a try. By performing the brain dump process in Drafts, adding contexts as tags, and process them into projects in Silo one task at a time, you have yourself a simple and working GTD system. I'm looking forward to the next Silo update which will hopefully bring the global tag filtering feature to make processing contexts even easier.