Using Calcurse to keep track of appointments and tasks

Points of View

Article from Issue 163/2014

Calcurse combines a calendar with appointments management and a task list, so you can use a terminal to keep track of the day's events at a glance.

Console tools enjoy an excellent reputation in the Linux community: They consume very little in terms of resources, work really fast, and often perform their tasks with just a few keystrokes [1]. The Calcurse program [2] is a typical example. It combines a calendar with schedule management and a task list. You have the option of using the application either at the command line or in an ncurses-based user interface.

The program's name combines the two words "Calendar" and "ncurses." Its author, Frederic Culot, developed the software in 2004. Although Calcurse was developed originally only for his own use, it was later released under a free BSD license.

Calcurse is currently available as a stable package for several distributions: Fedora, Debian, and Ubuntu, as well as FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. The project supports the i386, AMD64, and Sparc platforms, among others. This article was based on the 2.9.2 and 3.1.2 versions of the package on Debian and Xubuntu, respectively.

Target Group

Calcurse is designed for individuals – not for teams or workgroups: Apart from its import and export functions, it does not contain any functions for exchanging and syncing calendar and appointment entries.

The program is aimed primarily at users who prefer working at the keyboard. Its frugal resource requirements make it possible to use the software on less powerful devices. The operating concept may at times seem unusual, but it is extremely efficient. Even users who are not used to working at the keyboard will still be able to work quickly.

Calcurse can be addressed either via its ncurses interface or via the command line. In the documentation, the author describes these approaches as interactive and non-interactive modes. The latter is used for searching in most cases. When you call the program with the appropriate switches, Calcurse scours its database and outputs requested data line by line on the terminal.

Interactive Mode

In interactive mode, you run the program by calling it without additional options. The main view shows a number of subwindows: the calendar with the day view (left), an overview of the month (top right), the ToDo list of tasks (bottom right), and a status bar at the bottom. The bar shows you the current date and the time remaining until your next appointment (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The default view of Calcurse provides an overview of the month as well as the todo list for the day.

Below this, Calcurse shows you the key assignments. Users of the Vim text editor will immediately feel at home because Calcurse uses similar key mappings. The keys H, J, K, and L are the left, down, up, and right motion keys, and the program complements these with other keys, depending on the pane in which you are working. Pressing a lets you add entries, whereas d lets you delete them, and e lets you make changes.

Ctrl+G takes you to a date of your choice. Pressing Ctrl+L scrolls one day forward, and Ctrl+H one day back. You can scroll one week forward by pressing Ctrl+J, and Ctrl+K takes you one week back.

The Tab key toggles between the day and month overviews, as well as the ToDo list. The software highlights the current window; in Figure 1, this is the monthly summary, top right. You can press v to see details of the selected entry in the day view (Figure 2).

Figure 2: If necessary, the program saves various data for an appointment.

Calcurse stores and manages notes for day entries. Pressing N or > lets you add a new note and edit an existing one. To do this, the program opens the text editor configured for this action – typically Vim – to edit the note. Calcurse creates a file for this in the background below ~/.calcurse/notes/; it links the file with the corresponding entry in the appointment list.

The monthly view breaks down the days into a weekly overview. Today, and all other days of the month on which you have already entered appointments, are highlighted. Additionally, you can press the 0 and Shift+4 keys to go to the beginning or end of the week.

ToDo List

Calcurse organizes the task list by priority. The smallest value, 1, is the highest priority; the highest value, 9, is assigned to the least important tasks. The task with the lowest priority appears at the top. To increase or decrease the priority press + and -. If the order changes, Calcurse re-sorts the list of tasks. Press d to delete a selected task.

If the details of a task do not completely fit in the window, the software abbreviates the title for the entry. Pressing v shows you the complete entry – which then appears in a separate window (similar to Figure 2) .

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