To-do managers regulate appointments and tasks

Makagiga

Makagiga [3], a to-do manager for the desktop written in Java, is available under the free Apache 2.0 license. Makagiga comes in three versions for Linux (32- and 64-bit systems, as well as a portable version) and requires a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on the installation system. It does not matter whether you use OpenJDK or Oracle's JRE.

Makagiga's functionality goes far beyond that of a plain vanilla to-do manager: In addition to a pinboard and an appointment calendar with corresponding to-do lists, the software also provides an RSS reader and can be extended with various plugins. The range of plugins extends from simple text-viewer modules for certain formats to a wiki tool for viewing and editing wiki texts, a graphics program, and an electronic topographic map based on OpenStreetMap [15]. You can download plugins from the repository and integrate them into the task folders in Makagiga. Automatic integration with the uniform interface means that there is no need for time-consuming installation work.

The software is available as a 33MB 7z archive, which you unpack and drop into a directory. Then call Makagiga via java -jar makagiga.jar. Since the program directory also comes with icons and a small script called makagiga.sh, which creates a starter, it integrates into a menu structure without any problems. After the call, Makagiga starts surprisingly quickly, showing a program window with an empty pinboard (Figure 7).

Figure 7: The heavyweight among personal GTD managers: Makagiga.

When you create a new folder or tab via New (top left), it appears on the right in the pinboard, where Makagiga has already preconfigured a to-do list and widgets. You can stick your notepads (widgets) to the pinboard, and add a second page to the bulletin board by clicking on 2 below the tabs. The content of the tabs on the right varies, depending on the folders on the left in the tree view.

When you enter content in your virtual desktop, you do not have to save it separately. When you quit, Makagiga automatically stores all the content before closing and shows you the same tabs and folders when you restart so that you can continue working seamlessly.

In order to provide topic- or task-specific news quickly and clearly, many websites offer their own RSS feeds. Makagiga provides a built-in RSS reader.

Setting up a new feed is very easy: Copy the feed address to the clipboard and paste it into the Makagiga setup dialog. You can do this via New | Add RSS Feed. After inserting the link, click on the Preview button at the window's bottom right. Makagiga now loads the latest feed message and displays it in the Preview area. If you use the Create button bottom right, the link appears on the left side of the program window in the RSS Feeds section (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Makagiga's functionality goes beyond the simple to-do list. Among other things, the software integrates RSS feeds.

At startup, the software updates the feeds and tells you how many messages it received for each feed since the last startup. Clicking on the feed shows the titles of the latest messages in a list view.

Clicking on a message opens it on the right in a new tab; you can navigate between the messages with the help of the arrow keys (Figure 9).

Figure 9: RSS feeds keep you up to date on specific topics.

Makagiga lets you extend the virtual desktop with plugins [16] (Figure 10). For an overview of the available plugins, click on Plugins | Tools in the Tools menu. A list of the available plugins now opens on the virtual desktop, some of which are already installed (Installed) or permanently implemented (Built-In).

Figure 10: Makagiga even replaces maps with an OpenStreetMap plugin.

Clicking on Get More Plugins above the list opens an additional dialog that lists further plugins hosted on SourceForge. To add one of the plugins, click on it and then on the Install button in the dialog's lower left corner. A pop-up window shows brief information about the extension; reclicking on Install downloads the plugin and integrates it into Makagiga.

At the same time, the routine displays a short note on how to call the plugin. You can also remove an existing extension from the plugin list by clicking on the red X icon to the right of the plugin and confirming the uninstall in another dialog.

Makagiga implements time management in the form of to-do lists and, a calendar. You can activate both via the Tools menu; they then appear as separate tabs on the right of the virtual desktop. The Add Task: input line lets you enter tasks in to-do lists and expects a short description of the task. Clicking on the + symbol to the right of the line adds the new task to the overview.

You can open the calendar via the Set Date/Time link right in the overview line. Select the desired date and time for completing the task. After you click on OK, the data is placed in the to-do list. In the Priority column, specify the priority with which Makagiga should handle a task. In the Tools menu, also define the alarm functions for the individual tasks in Settings. Color gradients are available in the to-do list or messages in the system tray when a time limit is reached.

RedNotebook

Developers have been working continuously on the GPLv2 software RedNotebook [4] for several years now. RedNotebook is available in the software repositories of most major Linux distributions. The software comes with a clear-cut user interface that requires practically no training. RedNotebook is designed as a journal application and therefore has an extended range of functions compared to plain vanilla task planners: The program also includes a calendar with a small word processor that provides basic formatting options and various export options for the finished texts.

After you start the application, you will find yourself in a window divided into four parts. A horizontal menubar appears at the top and a buttonbar is below it. In the program window's left-hand area, there is a vertically arranged calendar and below it a word cloud (Figure 11). To the right is a large section for text input and editing.

Figure 11: RedNotebook organizes tasks using a word cloud (left).

The buttonbar controls the calendar and the display area separately. A special feature of RedNotebook is the word cloud: Certain words appear from the text that you have keyworded with the help of hashtags. The words appear in different sizes, depending on how frequently they occur.

If you click on one of the words, the software searches for it in the text body to the right of the picture and then displays it with a yellow background.

Since the software has good online documentation, you can easily familiarize yourself with the two operating modes, Edit and Preview, which you can select on the buttonbar.

After startup, I recommend that you first delete the sample text in the editing area. To do so, enable the editor in the buttonbar by clicking on the Edit button. On first use, changing from the Edit to the Preview button is somewhat confusing, because the software is actually in edit mode and not in display mode. The previously grayed out Template, Insert, and Format buttons are now enabled, together with options.

When entering text, select important words that you want to index for the word cloud by prepending a hashtag. Your selections appear immediately in red letters in the text to attract attention. When you save the journal and exit the program, the word cloud updates. The keywords appear in the word cloud the next time you start the software.

By the way, you do not necessarily have to use the Save dialog via the Journal | Save or Journal | Save as menu, because RedNotebook automatically saves the newly generated content. The more often keywords appear in the text, the larger they are in the word cloud. The same applies to the selections: RedNotebook displays frequently selected words in a larger typeface (Figure 12).

Figure 12: Important words are indexed in RedNotebook.

In order to quickly find entries with certain keywords in a well-filled calendar, use the highlighting function. For this purpose, there is an input field on the left of the program window between the calendar and the keyword and selection lists. Type the search term into this input field; the display disappears while typing and a small list view with the results of the search term appears in its place. The list has only two columns with the date of the entry and the location where the search term appears in the text.

Clicking on one of the entries immediately changes the calendar view and shows the month and year of the entry. RedNotebook also shows the entry on the window's right side. Thus, you do not have to flip through the calendar view with the arrow keys to jump to an entry with the search word.

RedNotebook users format texts in edit mode; only a few formatting options are appropriate for the program's purpose. To select a formatting option, click on the Format button in the program window's upper right corner and select the desired format from the context menu.

You cannot enter fonts or special formatting options, such as tables, indents, or footnotes, but you can draw lines, insert manual line breaks, or optionally insert images and links via the Insert button. The list function lets you create lists with partially indented contents. You can also transfer files to the editor page by first selecting them from a file manager via Insert | File and then dropping them into the editor window as direct links.

Finally, in display mode, you can access files using distribution-specific third-party programs, such as image viewers. The Template button takes you to some examples that allow you to quickly create and format text. This is where you will find templates for a phone memo, a report, or a travel report. You also can add your own templates.

If you select Create New Template from the Template menu, a help page listing the template's various formatting options will open after you enter a name. Once you have designed your template, click on the Save button to add it to the list. After restarting the software, your new template will appear in the list.

RedNotebook can export your journal to various file formats and is thus cross-application and even cross-platform capable. In addition to LaTeX and simple text, HTML and PDF are also available as export formats. In a separate export dialog – accessible via Journal | Export – the software exports entries from a freely selectable period to the desired target format in five steps.

You can specify filter criteria to exclude certain keywords from the export; you can also decide whether to use plain text or keep the markup in the target format. Finally, choose a target path for the backup. The software creates the target file after displaying an overview, which includes the formatting, but not the additional headers or footers with page numbers.

RedNotebook also lets you back up the data via Journal | Backup. After specifying a target path, the program creates a zip archive where the filename consists of the current date. The zip archive contains plain text documents with special tags. If you want to edit the documents later, you cannot use a conventional text editor.

Task Coach

Task Coach [5] is one of the standard task managers under Linux, thanks to years of development and maintenance. The software appears in the repositories of almost all the major distributions. The latest version and the source code are also available from the project site [5]. The program, released under the GNU GPLv3, offers many functions of a professional task management tool, and learning to use it does not take long.

Before using Task Coach for the first time, it is a good idea to complete the basic configuration in the Settings dialog. Select Edit | Settings. In the configuration window, the Task Appointments and Task Reminders tabs are especially relevant. You can define various options for the reminder function and time intervals (Figure 13).

Figure 13: The Task Coach settings dialog is very extensive.

To use Task Coach effectively, I recommend that you first create individual categories. Then assign the tasks to be created at a later date to each category. The dialog for creating a category lets you enter free text as a description and also link attachments. Once you have created a category, assign the corresponding tasks to it in the next step.

The task dialog is far more complex than the category dialog. Press the New task button directly above the task pane in the program window. The interface is similar to the category dialog: In the Description tab, assign a name for the task and, if necessary, a description as free text. You can also assign priorities.

In the Dates tab, define the start date, the planned due date, and the actual closing date. You can also configure a reminder time.

In the Prerequisites tab, you define subtasks that Task Coach lets you enter in a similarly designed dialog. Subtasks need to be processed first as a prerequisite for the main task. The Progress tab lets you enable a progress bar, and the Categories tab assigns categories to tasks. Task Coach displays the categories that have already been entered.

In the Budget tab, enter a working time quota, as well as an hourly rate or a fixed budget. The time-tracking features make Task Coach suitable for freelancers and service providers who implement customer projects and therefore require precise scheduling and invoicing. The Effort tab collects the associated work data. The Notes and Attachments tabs let you add user-defined texts and integrate files. Clicking on the Close button terminates task entry and transfers the results to the main window (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Tasks can be scheduled in great detail in Task Coach.

When you launch the program later on, the software automatically checks the individual categories and tasks for deadlines. When it identifies due dates, Task Coach displays a small window that reminds the user of the appointment. Task Coach offers the option of marking this task as completed, to avoid the software reminding you again later. Click on the Mark task completed button (Figure 15). In response, Task Coach places a checkmark to the left of the task in the main window and highlights the task in green. Task Coach marks overdue appointments in red if they have not been marked as completed.

Figure 15: Task Coach also has a reminder function.

The buttonbar with its quick functions, located directly above the two list areas for tasks and categories, also lets you mark a task as inactive. In such cases, the reminder function is automatically deactivated. It is also possible to hide inactive and completed tasks (i.e., remove them from the lists).

If you want to assign new dates to several similar tasks, you can also define an existing task as a template.

Task Coach also lets you import and export data. The software supports CSV or plain text format for importing to-do lists. Task Coach is more flexible when it comes to exporting: You can choose between HTML, CSV, text, or iCalendar data formats. This ensures good compatibility with other appointment management systems, as numerous applications support the iCalendar format [17].

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