New Nozbe syntax - intelligent Nozbe understands natural language!

Nozbe’s mantra (and headline) is: “Simply Get Things Done!” – which means we want to provide you with a simple way to get stuff done as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

As we’re closing towards showing you the long awaited new user interface we’ve got cooking, I was revising many places where we could make things yet more… simple.

And one of them was Nozbe syntax for quickly adding actions. Until today it was pretty complex, to add a task that would happen on Friday, take you 30 minutes and belong to the project “test project”, in the context “internet” and that would recur “every week” and be your next action you’d have to write this:

My sample action (P test project) (@ Internet) (T 30 min) (D Friday) (N)

Pretty neat, right? But isn’t that too many brackets and parameters? How about like this:

My sample action on Friday @internet #test project %30 min every week !

Isn’t that cool?

Introducing new Nozbe syntax

The new syntax is short, smart and sharp:

  • DATES just write the date in the task name like “on Friday”, “tomorrow”, “next week”, “on Feb 28” and Nozbe will understand it! (dates need to have “on” or “at” before, and tomorrow and next week don’t need that)
  • CONTEXTS – just use the @ (at) sign and put your context name (no space required)
  • PROJECTS – just use the # sign and put your project name, like “#my project”
  • TIME NEEDED – just use the % sign and put the time you need
  • REPEAT ACTIONS – just write “every ….” to mark the action should repeat every day, week…
  • NEXT ACTION – just use the ! exclamation mark and that’s it – it will be one of your next actions!

I know, there are still some signs to learn, but they are all optional. If no project is specified, the action goes to your first one. The most important thing is that there are not brackets and Nozbe understands the dates! Tomek, our talented developer worked really hard to make Nozbe this intelligent and he’s done a great job!

Here – some real life examples:

Read GTD by David Allen #private @home

Download new app @computer %15 min !

Pay landlord on Monday @bank every month

... and the list goes on and the next coolest thing is that:

This new syntax WORKS EVERYWHERE

This is true, this new syntax works in:

  • “quick action” dialog in Nozbe
  • any other place to add actions in Nozbe
  • if you send direct messages via Twitter
  • if you send tasks via Email
  • if you input stuff any other way to Nozbe

Try it for yourself and play with it and let me know what you think!

One more thing – we’ve added a great new way to email stuff to Nozbe – again Nozbe will be way more intelligent than before… I’ll blog about it in a bit.

So is Nozbe intelligent or what? :-)


Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tim Spivey
Jan 30, 2012 14:46

Michael, you guys are really going aggressive on development right now…and I love that. Keep up the good work. 2 wishes – this fix (now done), and cosmetic UI improvements for web and Nozbeweb for Mac. Great job.

Jun 30, 2011 23:53

Lucretia – All dates require “at” or “ON” such as:

  • Sample task1 @call on today %60min !

Gary Mark
Jun 26, 2011 15:51

It would be nice if Nozbe could record task completion and project close out dates. Very useful when doing AARs or recording accomplishments for the boss.

Kevin Cork
Apr 4, 2011 19:16

so this does not allow us to create new projects, just add to existing ones?

Feb 2, 2011 10:04

Any way to add time due on top of the date?

Justin Lugbill
Aug 25, 2010 19:15

The only issue I see though, is that each user has a different e-mail address…so is it currently possible to just have someone enter in your specific nozbe email address with the project already in there (as the e-mail address you are sending to).

The problem with this though, is that you then can’t assign the person, in one e-mail, tasks that span across multiple projects. In addition, you can’t just do one e-mail, and give tasks to multiple people…

Those two reasons are the main reasons that we need an actual syntax like that @ sign for contexts…

Justin Lugbill
Aug 25, 2010 19:09

Yes, I second Kito’s request. It would be extremely helpful if we could delegate tasks to specific people via e-mail. Any chance of this getting implemented soon? Seems like you could just use something like “Delegate to [name] on the line, and that would work.

Kito Mann
Aug 11, 2010 16:19

I’d love to be able to assign tasks using this feature as well. Right now I can send an e-mail to the person who should do the task, but they don’t get assigned the task.

Lucretia Holcomb
Jul 11, 2010 17:41

I have been working with this for several days and it doesn’t work.

  • Sample task1 @call today %60min !
  • Email task2 @web today %15min !

The date today was not added, the time 60 min was not added, the context was not added and the they way the action was entered looked just like the syntax.

Tony Grout
Jul 1, 2010 08:51

Nice if the API accepted this for new actions

Ofra Yechiel
May 6, 2010 10:33


I would like to suggest an alternate syntax for the time a task will take. In my opinion, the tilde sign is more natural in this case, since you’re anyway probably estimating how long it will take. So writing something like

Do laundry @home ~15 min !

seems a bit more natural and intuitive to me.

Julian Elve
Dec 1, 2009 10:12

This seems to be working strangely for me in that the basic setting up a task works, but the @context seems to be ignired. I’ve tried putting it in (), leaving a space between the @ and the context name (or not), playing with case, but nothing seems to work. Help please!

Apr 1, 2009 10:06

We’ve fixed the due date problem.

Due dates

In order to have something happen on a due date, you need to write “on” or “at”


Review mail from 25 April

will not add due date.

Review Mail on 25 April

will add a due date.

Recurring dates

No need for the ^ trigger anymore, just write:

every week, every other week, etc.

and it will work!

mark swartwout
Mar 2, 2009 16:22

Is there a way to include a date in the action without it being seen as a Due Date? if I enter “read Carlo’s email of 2/25” Nozbe assumes this is due on Feb 25.

Mar 2, 2009 15:29

Guys, really sorry for this bug with the natural language feature. We believe we’ve fixed all the bugs with this feature but please let me know if there is something we haven’t found.

Again, really sorry we’ve spoiled your Nozbe experience… we actually wanted to make it better thanks to this feature… :-(

John Kendrick
Feb 27, 2009 13:59

@Paul – I am in a similar situation having been the the hospital for 10 days. When I returned to work this week, I had a lot of catching up to do and at first was very concerned about the issue until someone pointed out it was the natural language feature.

@Michael – My suggestion would be to add a switch in account settings to turn the feature on if desired. It should be off as a default as it greatly intrudes on entering tasks, truncating some, adding unexpected dates, etc. and will most likely confuse new users.

Paul Campbell
Feb 26, 2009 09:20

Such a shame that this is ruining the whole Nozbe experience. I’ve now been bitten by the embedded “on” a few times. And being just back from 3 weeks holidays I have a ton of processing to do! Please fix or switch this functionality off? Thanks.

Gary M
Feb 25, 2009 00:37

Do you guys know that this feature is BROKEN??? It will truncate ANYTHING that is after an “on” whether “on” is a part of another word or not, and whether what follows “on” is successfully understood as a date of not.

I’m surprised this bug is still live — it has been discussed in the forums since it was launched.

My suggestion: truncate ONLY the successfully understood “date words” that follows an “on” word, and don’t even try to understand an “on” date if “on” appears in another sentence (e.g. “automation sucks if broken” where “on” appears in “automatiON”).

Otherwise, we still love and use the product heavily. thanks…

Andy Smout
Feb 24, 2009 14:40

This is currently very buggy. Please turn it off! Half the time I try and enter a task it gets truncated and I have to edit it.

Try entering any task that starts with the word “Get” and has a word with “on” as a suffix (such as “get estimation agreed”) and weep.

I hate it

Sviataslau Svirydau
Feb 22, 2009 18:47

That is nice! I wonder if nozbe API will also support this? (it does not currently).
In my ubiquity commands for Nozbe I have some things done for adding new task – providing project and context in natural language (this is feature of ubiquity), but I don’t have other things like time, repeated and next actions implemented. If this feature works in Nozbe API, it would be very great!

Feb 22, 2009 12:25

These are my experiences: I write “Buy the milk tomorrow”. Nozbe automatically puts the date of this task to tomorrow. One day later: The task is still “Buy the milk tomorrow”. But I have to buy it today! Why cant Nozbe remember the milk correctly?

Adam Masur
Feb 20, 2009 13:11

Sounds great. Most of the time, I use other services to just get things into my Nozbe inbox. Then, I organize those things in my daily and weekly reviews. So, this is perfect, I don’t have to do all those parentheses when I’m tweeting or emailing things on my phone (where getting to the parentheses is a drag).

Also, good to see you’re still supporting the old format so that template I made still works for big imports, like switching from other services to Nozbe. If anyone needs a simple spreadsheet converter for tasks,×58ea.

Keep up the good work.

Feb 20, 2009 02:19

OK, P is now #, T is now %. That sounds less intelligent because P=Project and T=Time was easier to remember.

Fredrik Heintz
Feb 19, 2009 12:29

Great! A very useful improvement would be “completion”. Instead of writing %30 min it should be enough with %30. The same with projects if I have projects Aaaaaaaaaa, Abbbbbbbb, Accccccc it should be enough to write #Aa to refer to the first project.
Thank you!

Paul Campbell
Feb 19, 2009 09:41

Great stuff Michael! Just one suggestion, if the ^ symbol is all about “every” something why not just lose the word “every” from the new syntax? – means less typing… so ^day or ^week or ^month, etc.

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