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Tasks - Compound Microformat

Initial draft

This wiki page outlines the overall effort to develop a task microformat. We intend to document current examples of tasks on the web today, their implicit/explicit schemas, and current task/to-do formats, with the intent of deriving a task microformat from that research.


Walter Stevenson


This specification is (C) 2004-2018 by the authors. However, the authors intend to submit (or already have submitted, see details in the spec) this specification to a standards body with a liberal copyright/licensing policy such as the GMPG, IETF, and/or W3C. Anyone wishing to contribute should read their copyright principles, policies and licenses (e.g. the GMPG Principles) and agree to them, including licensing of all contributions under all required licenses (e.g. CC-by 1.0 and later), before contributing.

Semantic XHTML Design Principles

Note: the Semantic XHTML Design Principles were written primarily within the context of developing hCard and hCalendar, thus it may be easier to understand these principles in the context of the hCard design methodology (i.e. read that first). Tantek

XHTML is built on XML, and thus XHTML based formats can be used not only for convenient display presentation, but also for general purpose data exchange. In many ways, XHTML based formats exemplify the best of both HTML and XML worlds. However, when building XHTML based formats, it helps to have a guiding set of principles.

  1. Reuse the schema (names, objects, properties, values, types, hierarchies, constraints) as much as possible from pre-existing, established, well-supported standards by reference. Avoid restating constraints expressed in the source standard. Informative mentions are ok.
    1. For types with multiple components, use nested elements with class names equivalent to the names of the components.
    2. Plural components are made singular, and thus multiple nested elements are used to represent multiple text values that are comma-delimited.
  2. Use the most accurately precise semantic XHTML building block for each object etc.
  3. Otherwise use a generic structural element (e.g. <span> or <div>), or the appropriate contextual element (e.g. an <li> inside a <ul> or <ol>).
  4. Use class names based on names from the original schema, unless the semantic XHTML building block precisely represents that part of the original schema. If names in the source schema are case-insensitive, then use an all lowercase equivalent. Components names implicit in prose (rather than explicit in the defined schema) should also use lowercase equivalents for ease of use. Spaces in component names become dash '-' characters.
  5. Finally, if the format of the data according to the original schema is too long and/or not human-friendly, use <abbr> instead of a generic structural element, and place the literal data into the 'title' attribute (where abbr expansions go), and the more brief and human readable equivalent into the element itself. Further informative explanation of this use of <abbr>: Human vs. ISO8601 dates problem solved


The Challenge: Currently there is no extensible hypertext format for creating, exporting, and sharing project TASKS. Tasks and ToDo items are typically handled by proprietary desktop software clients like mail programs and calendar applications that are not:

The Vision: To create a fully-functional Task Microformat for 1) open use in home-grown clients, widgets and applications and 2) adopted for integration with existing software applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Mac Mail, and other popular programs.


Example Tasks

Task Examples are task formats found in the wild that could benefit from semantic mark-up. This is a growing list of examples from all sorts of places including web-based task management widgets as well as full-blown, proprietary desktop applications. These are the examples which will determine the schema for the task microformat.

Known Task Formats

Task Formats will be a running tab of known formats for publishing tasks.

Eventually, I would like to see a chart of how each value from the implicit schema determined by the task-examples is represented in each format, and what formats have additional properties that do not map between them.

Proposed Task Format

A Proposed Task Format will derive from existing formats, incorporating useful patterns while maintaining semantic, extensible markup.

See Also

task was last modified: Wednesday, March 10th, 2010