To-do managers regulate appointments and tasks

Organizational Talent

© Lead Image © Javarman, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © Javarman, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 208/2018
Author(s):

Busy people often keep busy calendars full of appointments and tasks. In order to keep an eye on things, Linux to-do-managers help manage the clutter in a controlled way.

Yellow sticky notes on your desk are becoming a thing of the past. Word has spread that computers manage appointments and projects far more flexibly and reliably. Instead of relying on a jumble of little notes, you can refer to a carefully managed digital to-do list. However, time-management applications vary considerably, so we decide to take a closer look at BasKet [1], Getting Things Gnome (GTG) [2], Makagiga [3], RedNotebook [4], and Task Coach [5].

Basic Information

Large project management systems are often based on a client-server architecture. Small Getting Things Done (GTD) managers usually only run on the desktop. The option to map out larger projects and integrate external resources is usually missing. However, to-do managers also need to manage different task groups, some of which consist of individual tasks.

Time management applications also need to make it possible to integrate external sources, such as documents that you need to complete a task. An easy-to-understand interface and the option to create backups are important features for any viable task management solution. I have picked five candidates out of the very extensive pool of GTD software (see the "Not Considered" box) and tested them for practicality.

Not Considered

Under Linux, there are additional task managers available. I have left out some of these – even quite well-known ones – due to lack of updates or free licenses. Tasque [6] has long been one of Gnome's standard applications. However, apart from a small improvement in Romanian localization, there has been no further software development for years. Tracks [7], a web-based GTD manager with a built-in web server, was last updated more than two years ago.

ThinkingRock [8], a very extensive Java program, doesn't offer a free license for the current 3.X versions, and there is only one commercial version.

The iKog [9] command-line task manager consists of a Python script. The last files offered for download are from 2011. My guess is that this software is no longer maintained.

BasKet

The BasKet [1] task management system, optimized for the KDE desktop, is included in the software repositories of most major Linux distributions. The application uses baskets to manage tasks and appointments; the program primarily acts as a digital notepad or index card box. When first launched, the main window appears somewhat cluttered due to the short descriptions in the large display segment on the window's right side.

On the window's left side, there are already several baskets with sample data, which show that BasKet integrates unstructured data very flexibly into the baskets: images as well as links (Figure 1). Users can edit images with third-party programs. The individual elements form a frame in the display area and can be grouped freely.

Figure 1: BasKet can be very flexible with different source documents.

For a to-do list, define a new basket in the left window area by clicking on New (far left). Then in the dialog box, assign a name and define the layout. A single-column display in the right-hand pane is suitable for to-do lists. If the job consists of several tasks, you can click on the basket and define subtasks via New | New Sub-Basket. In the right pane, enter the individual data by clicking in the free area and selecting the Text option from the context menu. For example, BasKet records the appointment including the corresponding activities.

Once you have created an appointment, click on Tags in the menubar and choose To do!!!. A small box with a blue border appears to the left of the appointment entry; you can click on this as soon as you have completed the task (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Completed tasks can be checked off by clicking; they are then shown scored through.

BasKet does not offer automatic reminders or automatic deletion of completed tasks. You therefore have to keep an eye on the baskets. In order to track the progress of task elements, click on the small triangle to the left of the task description and on the Progress option in the context menu. An empty progress bar appears in the line, which is filled in 25 percent increments by clicking on it. This shows at a glance how much of the task has been completed. You can assign priorities to tasks using the same approach.

If several users work on one computer system, you can password protect baskets to prevent other users from accessing them. To assign a password to a basket, use the dialog in the Basket | Password menu, which also provides password protection for subordinate task lists.

BasKet also allows you to back up and restore your personal data via the Basket | Backup & Restore menu option. Select the appropriate directories in a clearly arranged window according to your wishes and then create a basket (Figure 3).

Figure 3: BasKet also offers to back up your personal data.

In order to use the existing data for other purposes or to import into BasKet from third-party applications, the program offers some format converters. The data import can be called up via the Basket | Import menu option; the converter handles Tomboy [10], KNotes [11], TuxCards [12], and Sticky Notes [13] formats. The export possibilities are less extensive: The software only exports personal datasets to simple HTML or the program's own archive format.

GTG

The GTG [2] to-do application was originally developed for the Gnome desktop, but it also runs in other work environments. It is included in most software repositories and can therefore be easily installed using the package manager. The software is partly written in Python and partly in JavaScript. GTG also has an add-on for Firefox and Thunderbird, which enables additional scheduling in a web browser. Unfortunately, there are no ports for other platforms.

GTG starts with an inconspicuous list view that presents tutorials as tasks. A click on one of the entries opens the actual task window, which provides an initial overview of the GTG functions (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The GTG user interface is very simple.

The actual program window consists of a menubar with four buttons and an input field, which allows for a quick selection of functions and provides an input line.

To create a new task, select New Task in the Tasks menu or click on the New Task icon top left. In the subsequent pop-up window, enter all relevant data as free text and select the task's start date by clicking on the drop-down menu to the right of the Starting on input field to access a calendar. In the Due for field, determine the task's completion date.

After you click on the drop-down menu to the right of the date field, a calendar is available. The entry automatically lands in the main window's list area, it appears with a Start date and Due on date.

You can display a task with several steps via Tasks | New Subtask. The data you enter is indented below the main task. If several subtasks are defined for a primary task, the entire list is opened by clicking on the small minus symbol to the left of the main task and can be removed at any time using the plus symbol. This gives you a better overview of extensive task lists.

Remove tasks from the list by clicking on the Select as completed button at the top of the program window in the buttonbar. You can view these tasks again later by selecting View | Closed Tasks Pane (Figure 5).

Figure 5: GTG displays completed and pending tasks in the same window.

Right-clicking on an entry and selecting the Delete option from the context menu deletes primary and secondary tasks. The second icon from the right side of the buttonbar marks a task as "not to be completed." It then disappears from the task list and appears at the bottom of the checked tasks list.

GTG synchronizes its data with Gnote [14] or Tomboy [10]. synchronize, select the data in Tomboy or Gnote and then transfer to GTG. You can access the sync function in GTG via Edit | Synchronization Services.

GTG has a modular structure and can integrate plugins. The Edit | Plugins menu option calls plugins that are already integrated. A separate pop-up window lists existing extensions; you can enable them by checking the boxes to the left of the plugins. After restarting the software, you will find additional entries in the menubar and the buttonbar to match the plugin functions (Figure 6).

Figure 6: GTG is expandable with plugins.

Because GTG is a very compact desktop application, the program is not capable of exchanging data with other schedulers or project managers. A freely configurable reminder function with acoustic or optical signals is also missing.

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