Using Calcurse to keep track of appointments and tasks

Adaptable

If the program does not suit your needs, you can configure it in different ways: In addition to the color scheme, you can vary the layout of the components and set the options for notifications and key mappings.

The software offers two approaches for doing this: You can launch your favorite editor and modify the configuration file directly, or you can use the program's interactive configure mode.

This mode is launched by pressing C. Next, you can select G for general options, L for layout, S to adjust the sidebar, C for the color scheme, N to set the notifications, or K for the key assignments. Figure 3 shows the options for the layout, with the classic color combination of green on black in this case.

Figure 3: You can enter interactive mode, if needed, to change the layout of the calendar panes.

Alternatives

If you do not enjoy working with Calcurse or if it does not offer you enough in terms of features, just check out what else your preferred distribution has in stock. The choice of calendars and appointment managers is usually huge. Besides Mical [5], in particular, a combination of Wyrd [6] and Remind [7] is very popular.

Wyrd also builds on ncurses but uses Remind as its back end, which is a powerful piece of software with alarm and reminder functions. If you only need a view of the current month, the veterans cal and ncal [8] will do the trick (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Ncal showing the overview for February 2014, supplemented by a calendar for the week.

PCAL, which I mentioned previously, generates a calendar as a PostScript file. It does not require an X Window system for this; instead, you use it completely at the command line. The pcal package includes two tools – pcal for creating monthly calendars and lcal for annual overviews. Lcal is the abbreviation for "lunar calendar," and it gives you a view that matches the phases of the moon.

Conclusions

Calcurse's approach works. It is characterized by clarity, ease of use at the keyboard, and compactness. It offers all the features you need as an individual user in everyday life and requires very little in terms of storage space. The options for the interface and the command line make input and output easy.

The documentation is not short, but it is understandable and is easily accessible in-line through the man page [9]. Additionally, the program has been localized in various languages. This feature should be a matter of course – and other tools might do well to look to Calcurse as their role model here.

Acknowledgements

The author sincerely thanks Werner Heuser for his tips and advice on this article.

The Author

Frank Hofmann studied computer science at the Technical University of Chemnitz. He currently works with Berlin's Büro 2.0, an open source expert network as a service provider specializing in printing and prepress. He is a co-founder of the training company Wizards of FOSS. Since 2008 he has also coordinated the regional meeting of the Berlin-Brandenburg region Linux usergroups.

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