Scheduling tools for Linux

Get Organized

© Lead Image © Rachata Teyparsit,

© Lead Image © Rachata Teyparsit,

Article from Issue 279/2024

If you need help staying organized, Linux does not let you down with its large collection of organization and scheduling tools.

Planning tools for the desktop have long since replaced the diary-style organizers that were often given away as promos in the past. These electronic organizers offer several advantages over their paper counterparts. They can't be misplaced, illegible entries are a thing of the past, and thanks to reminder functions you'll never miss an appointment or deadline.

Users are spoiled for choice: There are numerous graphical appointment calendars, some of which are preinstalled on desktop environments. Their feature sets differ considerably, potentially consuming your storage media. This article examines some of the leading free graphical schedulers for individual workstations. Not considered in this roundup are cloud-based personal information managers (PIMs), groupware calendars, and schedulers integrated into email clients.


The basic functions of an appointment scheduler include a daily, weekly, and monthly overview, where you can enter important dates. It should also be possible to set the time and duration of the event if needed. In addition, most organizers include some kind of reminder function that draws your attention to upcoming appointments.

The tools in this review are also capable of organizing individual events in freely definable categories to distinguish between private and business appointments. To let you transfer appointment data to other applications, including project management tools, the software needs export options with standard formats and import routines to match.

BORG Calendar

The BORG Calendar [1] desktop calendar solution is written in Java, making it platform-independent. Two variants of BORG are available for Linux: a DEB package for 64-bit systems and a ZIP archive. The ZIP archive does not contain a Java runtime environment, so you'll need Java in place on your Linux system. The output from the java -version command in a terminal window will tell you if this is the case. If no detailed version information appears, you first need to add a Java runtime to the system using your distribution's package manager.

Download the BORG ZIP package from the project page on GitHub and unzip it. Next, change to the newly created application directory and either run the ./ script at the prompt or launch the application by typing

java -jar borg.jar

After a short wait, the software opens a window where you can see a monthly calendar based off the current week. Above the calendar is a small buttonbar and a large menubar (Figure 1).

Figure 1: In BORG Calendar the buttonbar and menubar demonstrate its feature scope.

You can use the buttonbar to switch between the different views. There are separate buttons for the daily, weekly, and yearly views. Each of these opens a new tab while the previously opened tabs remain active, allowing you to jump back and forth between views. To the right of the buttons that display the calendar views you'll find a group of buttons for an addressbook, a to-do list, tasks, notes, and checklists. Tasks can be defined in the scope of projects, which can consist of several sub-projects (in a tree view). All of the dialog boxes appear in separate tabs, and the tab structure extends to two lines if there are many active lists.

On the left side of the menubar, the Action item reflects the functions of the buttonbar. This is followed by the Options dialog for settings. Categories lets you assign the appointments to different groups to improve the calendar views' clarity. Individual categories can be shown or hidden. The Import/Export button (to the right of the category dialog) can be used to integrate or transfer data from other calendar applications. BORG Calendar uses XML as its file format. Sync lets you synchronize files with different services. You can choose between CalDAV, ICS, vCard, and Google.

Go to the configuration dialog below Options | Edit Preferences to customize BORG. Popup Reminders lets you specify the intervals at which the calendar displays appointment reminders on the desktop.

Startup Views lets you decide which tab to open automatically when you launch the program. Miscellaneous is for the system tray settings and other items. BORG Calendar disappears into the desktop's system tray, remaining active when the actual program window is closed. You also define backups and logging behavior.

The Email Parameters dialog includes settings for configuring automatic email notifications.

Once you complete the configuration, you can enter some initial appointments. To do this, right-click on the desired date and time in the daily, weekly, or monthly view and select Add New from the context menu. Then enter a description in the description field below Subject in the Appointment Text area. Under the Appointment Time section, the No Specific Time box is initially checked; this disables the time selection. You can uncheck to set a specific time. The Properties section also relies on checkmarks. You can use them to assign the appointment to one of the predefined categories: Holiday, Private, Vacation, Half Day, or To Do. Your own categories are listed in the Category field.

In the Popup Reminders section you can press Change and then check the desired reminder options to specify how often and at what intervals you want BORG Calendar to remind you of the appointment. Then, in the Recurrence section, you can use Frequency to define whether the appointment is a one-time event or takes place on multiple days. If you want to link external files to the entry, for example, to have important documents at hand during a phone call, use the Link file button in the Links area and select the file in question in the file browser. If needed, you can link several files to the task. The files then appear in the window segment and can be opened at any time using the external applications available on your system. Finally, save the new entry by pressing Save or Save & Close. The application then closes the settings window (Figure 2) and displays the appointment in the primary window's calendar.

Figure 2: The settings options for appointments are extensive.

Sometimes an appointment cannot be precisely scheduled and does not require additional configuration such as setting up reminders. In this case, you can right-click on the daily display and select the Appointment Quick Entry option to open a small window that only prompts you for the name of the event. OK confirms the new entry, which the application then adds to the calendar. While conventional appointments are assigned a time, a red dot appears to the left of appointments for which no further details exist. BORG Calendar displays today's events in a mixed order. Double-clicking on an entry without additional details takes you to the detailed configuration dialog for conventional appointments.

If you want to delete an appointment, just right-click it, declare the task done, and delete it. Entries marked as done that have not been removed are displayed in a strikethrough font.

In a busy calendar, it's easy to lose track of things. You can use the binoculars icon in the buttonbar to search for appointments. If necessary, you can narrow down the matches by also defining what type of event it is and whether it belongs to one of the categories you specified. After clicking Search, the application shows a list of all the events that match the search criteria.

The software summarizes the appointments for a single day in the Appointment List column in the settings dialog. Below this are buttons that you can use to delete or manage entries in the list. Repeat appointments can be duplicated using Copy Appointment. After that, you only need to change the date in a separate window and the duplicated entry with all its settings is added to the open calendar overview.

Gnome Calendar

Gnome Calendar [2] is a software component of the Gnome graphical desktop environment. However, the GTK-based application runs just as well on other desktops. When you launch the program, a three-panel window appears. A view of the current month is on the right, with a reduced overview of the month at top left and a free area with today's appointments below it (Figure 3).

Figure 3: The Gnome Calendar interface looks very neat.

Gnome Calendar is based on the Gnome desktop, so it does not have a buttonbar or a conventional menubar. Instead, the few controls are located in the titlebar. Use the titlebar to switch the monthly view to a daily or weekly view using the buttons in the center. Unlike most Gnome applications, Calendar does not have a settings menu. To configure the program, click the hamburger menu in the titlebar. You are then taken to a spartan dialog where your only option to decide is whether the application should show you the weather in the daily display based on the automatic location finder that is also enabled. Beyond that, the settings menu only contains an overview of the preset keyboard shortcuts and an info window for the program itself. The Online accounts option takes you nowhere and is probably still under development.

To enter appointments, click on the plus sign in the titlebar to open a dialog. You can edit the individual text fields by clicking on each field and entering the title and location. Under Schedule, you can enter start and end dates for your task. If you want to mark the event as All Day, use the slider to the right of it. The Repeat input area lets you define whether and when the task will repeat. You cannot create custom settings, only select from fixed intervals and days.

If you want to receive a reminder, Reminders offers several options. Gnome Calendar then outputs an audible warning signal reminding you of the upcoming appointment. Notes is where you can store notes about the appointment. The free text input field offers the option of transferring data from the clipboard or a file to the note field (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The entry dialog for new appointments in Gnome Calendar is quite spartan.

The green Done button finishes the configuration and adds the appointment, which now appears bottom left in the main program window's free panel. The day of the appointment is also marked by a blue circle in the scaled-down monthly view. The application visualizes appointments extending over several days on the right with a continuous gray line in the large monthly overview (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Filling out the schedule improves the task overview.

To delete an appointment, left-click on it and choose Edit. You are then taken to the conventional edit window, which shows a Delete appointment button bottom right.

Gnome Calendar minimizes and disappears into the system tray by default; it is shown there whenever the computer is rebooted. Reminders appear as pop-ups on the desktop, while a mouse click on the calendar icon in the system tray displays a separate window with a list of reminders reflecting your configuration. Right-clicking on the icon opens a small settings window that helps you customize the icon functions.

The main program window cannot be dragged from the system tray to the desktop. If you have closed the window, it can only be called up again using the desktop menu.

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