A command-line task manager

Sticky Notes

During my basement cleanup, I discovered some old novels that Aunt Dorothy lent me. I need to make a note of this somehow as a reminder. Dstask lets you attach as many notes to a task as you like. To create a reminder for Aunt Dorothy's books, use the command from line 1 of Listing 3. The number stands for the task ID. In the example, dstask then pins a note reading return novels to Aunt Dorothy onto the clean up basement task.

Listing 3

Pinning Notes

01 $ dstask note 1 return novels to Aunt Dorothy
02 $ dstask add clean up basement +basement P2 / return novels to Aunt Dorothy

Using the same principle, you can create as many additional notes as you like. Markdown experts can also use tags, but dstask 0.23.2 is not currently capable of evaluating or visually rendering Markdown tags. You can also tell dstask to directly add a note when you add a task (Figure 2). To do this, simply append a slash followed by the note (Listing 3, line 2).

Figure 2: Dstask lists notes at the end. Notes are also useful for checklists, where each note reflects an individual sub-task.

Project Work

While you're cleaning up the basement, you might as well tackle the garage and declutter the shoe closet. All three cleaning tasks could be grouped together to create a spring cleaning project.

Dstask lets you add individual tasks to a project by adding another parameter when you create a task. The tasks in lines 1 and 2 of Listing 4 are part of the spring cleaning project specified after the project: parameter. (Note again that dstask is not case sensitive.)

Listing 4

Organizing Tasks in Projects

01 $ dstask add clean up garage +private P3 project:spring cleaning
02 $ dstask add declutter shoe closet +Private P1 project:Spring Cleaning
03 $ dstask modify 1 -Private +Books P1 project:Spring cleaning

As shown in Figure 3, a call to dstask reveals that the original task clean up basement does not yet belong to any project. To change this, you can quickly modify the information by typing

dstask modify 1 project:Spring cleaning
Figure 3: When you call dstask, you see a list of pending tasks. Dstask displays any existing notes in light gray in the Summary column.

The number again stands for the corresponding task ID (where 1 is the basement cleanup task). You can use modify to adjust the priority, keywords, and the project itself; a minus sign removes the tag in question (Listing 4, line 3).

Targeted Intervention

Use the dstask edit 1 command to make a correction in a note. Dstask then opens all the details of the specified task in a text editor (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The editor shows you how dstask stores the task under the hood: a text file in YAML format.

The editor that opens is defined by the $EDITOR environment variable. This is often nano, but it could also be Vim or another editor. Some distributions, such as Ubuntu 20.04 and later, do not set a text editor. Instead, you have to set the environment variable explicitly with the commands shown in Listing 5. When editing a task, make sure that you only adjust the values to the right of the colons. As shown in Figure 3, modify the project name to the right of the project: parameter. When you are done, save your adjustments and exit the editor (in nano, press Ctrl+O followed by Ctrl+X).

Listing 5

Setting the Environment Variable

$ echo "export EDITOR=nano" > ~/.bash_profile
$ source ~/.bash_profile

While I was removing the sneakers from the shoe closet, I also dumped the waste paper in the recycling bin. To retroactively log this completed task, dstask has a log action. It works exactly like add, but immediately sets the project to resolved (Listing 6).

Listing 6

Logging Tasks

$ dstask log waste paper dumped +Private P3 project:spring cleaning

In the meantime, quite a few spring cleaning tasks have accumulated. The most urgent are revealed by typing dstask or dstask next. The task manager sorts the list by the priority and the age of the task, placing your next task at the top of the list. To see all the tasks that you have started but not yet finished, enter:

dstask show-active

To see all paused tasks, enter:

dstask show-paused

Dstask supports some further display formats (see Table 1). If dstask does not find any matching tasks or data for an action, it just stubbornly provides a command overview.

Table 1

Display Formats and Commands




List of major tasks


List of all projects including the resolved tasks


List of all assigned tags


List of all started tasks


List of all tasks that were started and then paused


List of all tasks not yet finished


List of all completed tasks


List of all templates


List of all tasks that do not have a tag or are not assigned to a project

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