Managing your tasks at the command line with TaskBook

Taskmaster

Article from Issue 227/2019
Author(s):

Boost your productivity from the Linux command line with the TaskBook task manager and note board.

How do you keep track of what you need to do? Chances are, that involves a calendar, a to-do list, or some arcane and complex mix of software. Although that's one way to do the deed effectively, it might not be the most efficient way to proceed.

Instead, you can manage all your tasks under one roof, or, in this case, from a single terminal window, and you can do it with a touch of visual panache. In this article, I take a look at a simple task management system called TaskBook, which can help anyone get and stay organized quickly and easily.

Why the Command Line?

Working from the command line goes beyond merely grabbing an opportunity to embrace your inner geek. Using the terminal to organize yourself has several advantages over the use of desktop applications.

The command line stays out of your way until you need it. A terminal window is usually small and unobtrusive and doesn't block out windows with your other work. Once you get into the flow of using the command line, you'll find a keyboard is faster than using a mouse.

Working in the terminal doesn't eat up system resource like many graphical applications, which is important for those of us who run Linux on older hardware that doesn't have the memory and processing power that modern systems pack.

With no notifications and alerts constantly flashing and blaring at you, the terminal represents the ultimate in calm technology, encouraging you to be more mindful and regular in checking what you're supposed to be doing to make sure you're on top of it all.

TaskBook [1] gives you all of that, and a bit more.

Getting Started

To begin, check your Linux distribution's package manager to see whether you can install TaskBook there. If TaskBook is not available, you can use that same package manager to install a piece of software called npm that enables you to install software and libraries written with Node.js (an environment for running JavaScript code outside of a web browser). NPM (Node Package Manager) not only puts TaskBook on your computer, it also installs the various bits and pieces that TaskBook needs to run.

With NPM installed, crack open a terminal window and run the command:

sudo npm install taskbook

The installation process should only take a few seconds. Once that's out of the way, you're ready to go.

Configuring TaskBook

This next step is optional. To configure TaskBook, you can edit a JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file, which is a data format that both people and computers can easily read. The file in question is called .taskbook.json, and you can find it at the top of your /home directory to edit in your favorite text editor.

The file has only three options (Figure 1). The first is taskbookDirectory, which indicates the path to the folder that contains your task list. The default is the folder .taskbook at the top of your /home directory. If you prefer, for example, to save your task in a shared folder or sync your tasks with an instance of a file-sharing application like Nextcloud, change the first entry to the path to the file (e.g., ~/Nextcloud/).

Figure 1: Editing TaskBook's configuration file.

The second option is displayCompleteTasks, which controls whether TaskBook includes tasks you've finished in your list of tasks (Figure 2). Change this to false if you find that completed tasks clutter up the view.

Figure 2: Completed tasks in TaskBook.

The third option is displayProgressOverview, which controls whether TaskBook shows how many tasks are completed or are in progress at the bottom of your list (Figure 3). Again, change this to false if you want to hide that information.

Figure 3: The progress indicator in TaskBook.

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