A command-line task manager

Best Laid Plans

© Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

© Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Article from Issue 246/2021

The dstask personal tracker lets you manage your to-do list from the command line. Dstask uses Git version control to store tasks, letting you synchronize your to-do list across multiple devices.

After finding a much-needed network cable under a pile of junk in the basement, I decided it was time to add cleaning up the basement to my to-do list. To manage personal tasks (even unpleasant ones like this), the dstask personal tracker can help you prioritize tasks and track completion.

Unlike many other task managers, dstask exclusively runs on the command line. With a short and succinct command, you can add a new task or mark off a completed one. On request, dstask provides a list of all pending tasks, sorted by urgency. Filters help you stay on track in the task jungle. As an added benefit, you can use your task list to show customers or your boss your completed work.

Under the hood, dstask stores the pending tasks in the Git version management system, letting you sync tasks across all your devices. However, unlike dstask's other features, synchronization requires some Git know-how.


To get dstask up and running, first install Git using your package manager. To install Git on Ubuntu, type:

sudo apt install git

Next, go to the dstask project page on GitHub [1] and click on the current version number on the right below Releases. Under Assets, download the version for Linux, dstask-darwin-amd64.

Rename the resulting program dstask and make it executable. To do this, run:

chrmod +x dstask

You do not have to actually install dstask, but the developer does recommend storing dstask in /usr/local/bin, which lets all of the system's users call the program directly by typing dstask.

After that, you still have to create the Git repository where dstask stores all the tasks and become acquainted with Git (Listing 1). Replace editorial@linux-user.en and Tim Sch¸rmann with your own email address and full name. Without this information, you will always get error messages when working with dstask.

Listing 1

Creating a Git Repository

$ mkdir ~/.dstask && git -C ~/.dstask init
$ git config --global user.email "editorial@linux-user.en"
$ git config --global user.name "Tim Sch¸rmann"

Come On In

To add the basement cleanup task to dstask, use the call shown in line 1 of Listing 2. The add command tells the program to create a new task, which is described in the following brief summary (clean up basement).

Listing 2

Adding Tasks

01 $ dstask add clean up basement +basement +private P2
02 $ dstask add +private basement +clean up basement P2

Dstask adds all words that follow a plus sign (+) to the task as keywords (i.e., basement and private in Listing 2). These tags will help you later on when searching for a specific task. You can also add the tags to the summary, as shown in line 2 of Listing 2.

In addition, you can set the task priority, which is shown by the number following P. Dstask supports priority levels P3 to P0, with P0 for urgent tasks and P2 for normal priority tasks. In Listing 2, I've set my basement cleanup task to P2, since it's not time critical. Dstask automatically defaults to P2 if you don't include the priority level.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

To see what dstask has on your to-do list, just call dstask. The program assigns a consecutive ID to each task. Entering dstask 1 shows detailed information about the task (Figure 1). Dstask ignores case sensitivity in the tags.

Figure 1: Dstask removes the tags from the task name. To see an individual task's detailed information (including tags), enter dstask followed by the task number (1). (You can ignore the messages in light gray from Git.)

The detailed information also shows the task status. Immediately after creation, the task will be shown as pending. When you head down to the basement and pick up the first box, call

dstask start clean up basement

to change the status. This switches the task to the active state, signifying that the task is in progress. If you take a break, stop processing with

dstask stop clean up basement

which toggles the task back to the pending state.

Once the basement is finally clean, mark the task as done by entering

dstask done clean up basement

Even though dstask is done reminding you about this task, it will still store the task, thereby creating a record of your completed tasks for your boss or client.

To get a report on all completed tasks, enter

dstask show-resolved

Dstask automatically sorts the tasks by weeks. If you want to remove a task from the dstask repository, use the following command:

dstask remove clean up basement

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