All my eggs in one Basket

Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Nov 10, 2009 GMT
Bruce Byfield

One application I am always looking for is a better desktop wiki. Not for collaboration, but for dumping various pieces of information into as I research and organize them. For a time, I used Basket Note Pads, but I drifted away when it didn't run on KDE 4.x and the original maintainer quit. Happily, the project has overcome both those setbacks and is moving slowly towards a new major release.

Basket is one of those applications that you can navigate at a glance. The left pane serves as a table of contents, showing a hierarchical structure of baskets -- containers for various bits of information. On the right is a detailed view of the basket currently highlighted in the left pane. To add a basket, you go to the Basket -> New in the menu, while to add content to the current basket, you can go the Insert or context menu in the right pane.

If you choose, you can simply start typing a note in the basket. But you can also add as needed pictures, snippets of text, URLs, screen captures, or application launchers from the KDE menu. From the Basket menu, you can also import from a number of different applications, including KJots and Tomboy, as well as plain text files.

The one draw back to importing material into Basket is that, currently, pictures cannot be imported directly into a basket. Instead, you have to drag and drop them from a file manager. Nor can you edit graphics directly, although a note when you try announces that an upcoming release will have a built-in graphics editor.

Formatting and ordering

Once you have added content, Basket offers some basic options for formatting text, and adding background colors to both baskets' contents and their names in the left pane. With a little thought on your part, you can quickly add color-coding as a way of organizing your material. Just as easily, you can add color-coded tags to help you search for and filter the display of content, or identify the contents of a note by the icon that accompanies it.

All these features are standard in desktop wikis. But what separates Basket from similar programs like Zim is two simple features: You can set a basket to arrange information in 1-3 columns or opt for a free-form structure, and drag material around as you please. With these two features, you can re-position material so that it is closer to related objects, or, if you are taking notes prior to writing, drag material around as you grapple with the order in which you plan to mention points.

By contrast, Zim confines you to a single column which is far less useful if you are unsure of the structure. You can, of course, organize separate baskets for each sub-topic, but that is less convenient than having all your material together.

When you are finished adding material, you do not need to save -- all your baskets are saved automatically. However, you do have the options in the Basket menu of backing up your baskets or of exporting them to HTML format to share or publish them.

Basket also features extensive configuration options. You can set the dimensions of a basket, and elect to have it display either plain text or HTML. You can also rearrange the positions of panes and taskbars in the editing window, protect baskets with a password, and set the applications that Basket calls on -- for example, by default it uses Kolourpaint for editing graphics.

Signs of age

The main drawback to Basket is that the current version is becoming dated. Unlike Zim, it lacks features such as a built-in calendar and to-do list or abilities such as adding and viewing attachments. Personally, I would also like to see Basket add more advanced outlining tools within a bucket.
However, the biggest drawback to Basket right now is that it no longer integrates easily into Kontact, where it would give users easy access to contacts, feeds, and notes. This integration is undoubtedly one of the priorities in producing a version of Basket for KDE 4.x, but for now it handicaps Bucket more than anything else.
Still, even without Kontact or KDE 4 integration, Basket remains a highly practical application, better for organizing than Zim and more versatile than Tomboy or Gnote. If it can add even half the features that have been suggested for it and catch up with the rest of KDE, users would have very little left to ask for.

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More