Tag Archives: task

ol: One last editor and outliner

A long time ago, I used to keep notes and lists with a normal, everyday text editor, and just draw up a outline format if I needed to show some sort of structure or to-do checkboxes.

Sometime around 2008 or 2009, I found two new applications that quickly took over those roles — one was vimwiki, which I may only need for another day or two, and hnb. hnb was on my system, in spite of its age, for a long five years until I found tudu last summer.

hnb and tudu (and the emacs and vim plugins that do much the same thing) are not the only hierarchical note-takers available. You can add ol to that list, with my endorsement … whatever that’s worth. πŸ™„


ol stands for “Outliner Lighto,” if the home page is to be believed. And what you see in that image is probably the best snapshot of what it does and how it works.

Arrow keys will navigate through a tree, and leaf nodes expand when you navigate through them. Press “d” to delete a note and all its children, Enter to edit a note, “t” to convert it to a checkbox for to-do lists, “x” to mark a task as done, and so forth. The empty file startup screen will give you help and instructions, if you need it.

Probably one of my favorite things about ol is the cut-and-paste action, or better called the “grab” function. Press “g” and you carry a note with you through the tree, allowing you to arrange and rearrange to your heart’s desire.

Since the display effectively updates as you navigate, it’s a lot easier to organize and visualize than the traditional cut-and-paste model. I like that a lot more than tudu’s way, which borrows yank-and-paste style of vim. And you know how I feel about vim. πŸ‘Ώ

ol is also colorful, even going so far as to assign colors to note depths, which is another wise evolution. hnb and tudu haven’t picked up that idea yet, and it’s one that is probably worth adopting.

I see that ol is written in pascal, which strikes me as unusual, but also completely irrelevant to using the program. As an added bonus, if you’re an hnb user and decide to use this moment to emigrate, there’s a utility that will convert hnb’s text format to a style ol can use.

ol doesn’t have some of the more detailed functions of tudu — like displaying a percentage complete for to-do lists, or allowing extended notes, deadlines and schedule dates. ol probably won’t dethrone tudu for me, for those reasons. I find with tudu that I can rely less on wyrd now too.

That alone is no reason to deny ol the gold star it deserves — for a clean interface, plenty of startup help, easy controls and a few innovative ideas for hierarchical list tools. Don’t spend it all in one place: ⭐ Enjoy! πŸ™‚

note: A noteworthy application

Note-taking tools are in abundance at the console, and some of them are so simple as to be almost rudimentary. Even I am guilty of stashing a few oddball commands in a flat text file called “tricks,” and just grepping through it when I need to find something.

The irony of that is that there are many other applications that would do much the same thing, and have internal tools that would save me time and trouble. note, for example, has a clean and easy to manage format, and an interactive mode to boot.


You can kick note into action with just the note command and a flag or two, or you can access its primary functions through the captive interface, like above. Add a note or edit a note, and you drop into your $EDITOR … and I always like it when note-taking tools do that.

Afterward, you can delete notes or even search through them, and you don’t have to rely on shell commands or external programs, unless you want to.

note also supports a “hierarchical” structure that it calls “topics.” If the first line of your note shows a topic path — like “/Wash/dog/” — note will arrange it and list it in topical sequence. This isn’t quite as elaborate as what hnb or tudu can do, but it’s a nice feature.

note has a few other configurations worth mentioning, and the man page is there to walk you through most of them. I was able to install and start using note in a matter of minutes, so unless you need very explicit and esoteric features, it should have replaced your flat-file-plus-grep in very short time.

I don’t see any features on prioritizing, check-box to-do lists, or advanced sorting and management. It may be that those features are better implemented in other tools.

What else should I say … ? In AUR. In Debian. And I’m almost embarrassed it took me this long to find it. 😐

snb: In promising directions

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ll know I was a long-time, die-hard fan of hnb, a note-taking application with a branching structure. It is a very old program — probably second-only to sc, among dated applications that I still used on a daily basis — but never failed to build or do the job.

So I have fond memories. And I’m intrigued that there’s a redrafting of hnb available, running under the name of snb.


And it has a lot of the allure of the original, with a few additions. As I understand it, the biggest draw might be the availability of Unicode characters, provided of course that your terminal supports them.

snb also handles checklists or to-do lists after a fashion, allowing you to tick off an entry with the “d” key. Movement is primarily vi-ish, with the shifted HJKL keys dragging entries up, down, in and out of branches. Most of the other keys you can find in the default page for snb, which will open if you don’t give it a file at startup.

If I understand the startup pages, any configuration is going to require editing the source files and recompiling. That’s probably not a huge inconvenience, and looking over the user.h file, it’s not so terribly different that you might have trouble.

I like snb and if I had found it about six months ago, before I came across tudu, I might have jumped ship in that direction instead. As luck would have it, I’ve gotten used to some features that tudu offers, and stepping away from those isn’t appealing.

snb is a good project though, and I’m curious to see how it evolves.

sncli: For cloud-based to-do lists, and more

About a month ago, Eric sent me a note about sncli, which works as a command-line interface to Simplenote. I’d never used the site before, and I have some reservations about using cloud services for all but the most mundane of data, but I’ll try anything once. Especially if it has this much color:

2014-08-23-6m47421-sncli-01 2014-08-23-6m47421-sncli-02

And true to form, sncli kept the online version up-to-date with my changes. Quite quickly too, I might add. Simplenote had my changes from sncli online before I had clicked on the tab.


And no, I don’t really wash the fish. The fish washes himself, constantly. πŸ˜‰

As I can see it, from what I’ve learned about Simplenote and from working with sncli, the real value in this is the ability to access to-do lists and reminders from devices other than your old 133Mhz Pentium laptop. I don’t have a smartphone (only dumbphones) but if I did, it would be nice to see those lists update between sncli and the web interface and the mobile phone.

sncli itself has more to love than just the color scheme. Off the bat it’s easy to see how it works, and if you’re a fan of the vi-ish control scheme, navigation will appeal to you immediately. You can add a note with “C”, edit one in your $EDITOR with “e”, sync with your online account with “S”, and so forth. Easy to use and remember.

Provided you have a Simplenote account, you can configure sncli with little more than your account name and password. Add those to .snclirc and you’re ready to go … keeping in mind that those are stored in plain text.

That would be only one of my very few suggestions for sncli at this point: Find a way to manage an encrypted password, perhaps along the lines of how gcalcli handles it. Considering gpg is available on just about every system out there, it should be an easy dependency to fulfill.

My only other observation is that the command to view a note in a pager jumps straight to less, while my $PAGER is set to most. Perhaps that could be an option. Oh, and maybe add arrow keys for navigation. Some people will expect that. πŸ˜‰

I like sncli a lot — particularly for the easy setup, good use of color, excellent use of screen real estate, near-immediate synchronizing with the online service, intuitive commands and onboard help. … Oh heck, what’s not to like? Well done. Have a K.Mandla gold star: ⭐ πŸ˜‰ Enjoy!

when: A sleeper hit for the median demographic

I wasn’t really enthused about when when I first looked into it. I’ve seen a lot of calendar tools and a lot more to-do list managers, and I didn’t see a whole lot that stood out at first glance.


And actually, maybe that’s good. A program that has quite a few strong points but is easily overlooked doesn’t create nearly the empty-headed flap as a shallow program with lots of fanboys. And yes, betty, I’m looking at you. 😑

I don’t mean that I wish obscurity on when, only that it deserves to be digested at a decent pace.

when makes a nicely formatted list out of a very simple arrangement. Follow the brief setup scheme, and from then on every instance of when e puts you in your $EDITOR. The data arrangement is very easy to follow: Just separate the date from the note with a couple of spaces and a comma.

Leave your editor, and every time you enter when, you’ll get a list of upcoming events. Simple.

But when can handle some fundamental date tests, and this is where when really kicks it into gear.

when can sift out specific dates annually, so regular holidays, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day are easy to add. when can also filter for observed events too — so holidays or events that fall on a weekend can appear on regular weekdays. Now you can handle the complexity of scheduling Golden Week.

Arranging simple date tests is a breeze too, and you can pluck out the traditional Father’s Day — as the third Sunday in June — with no more than m=jun & w=sun & a=3. And believe it or not, when has provisions for dates that precede the end of the month too, and the man page claims it can handle things like moveable feasts. That’s impressive.

For a long time I was a strong proponent of the one-two knockout punch of wyrd and remind. But short of complex and detailed minute-by-minute calendars, wyrd/remind is overkill.

On the other hand, calcurse does a decent job handling very simple calendar requirements, and its visual arrangement is a great asset.

If I had to, I’d put when somewhere in between those two poles, and possibly even closer to the high-end wyrd/remind combination. I’m confident it can do some of the more challenging schedules that I would otherwise relegate to wyrd/remind, and it might even do them more quickly and gracefully.

A small warning: I noticed that some more complex and lengthy calendar lists cause a slight pause when displaying. It should probably go without saying that complex tests and date calculations will take a while to display. If you’re on very old hardware, that might trigger a lag.

Then again, if you have long, complicated scheduling requirements, you might be better off devoting a little more power to it than just your old leftover K6-2. :\

vit: That full-screen interface I promised

It seems like a long time, but it was only a month ago when we saw taskwarrior, the to-do list organizer with a considerable level of detail and complexity. At the time I promised to show the “official” (?) full-screen interface for it, and that time is now. πŸ˜‰

2014-06-18-6m47421-vit-01 2014-06-18-6m47421-vit-02 2014-06-18-6m47421-vit-03

vit is a cooling balm for people like me, who need a certain degree of spatial flair to make their lives complete. I know how ironic that sounds, considering the context is console applications. πŸ™„

But I see a certain congruity. vit comes through on just about all the points I like in a full-screen console application — color, onboard help, good use of space, intuitive layout, and so forth.

vit’s navigation is a near-duplicate of the vi/vim coalition, and if you like that arrangement, it will no doubt be an easy trick to learn how to work vit. And if it doesn’t fall immediately into place for you, entering the time-honored command :help gives you a scrollable list of keypresses and their definitions.

I have no major complaints about vit; it does make the transition to taskwarrior a lot more appealing to me. taskwarrior on its own was not my favorite, but vit makes a good catalyst.

Of course, now we need to have a celebrity smackdown between vit and the usurper, tasknc. May the best full-screen-vi-like-curses-interface-to-taskwarrior win. πŸ˜‰

tudu: The hnb-killer

There have been a lot of task organizers in this section, which is no surprise. There have been few that work as a full-screen console application though, which is a surprise.

True, we did just see tina, which could double as a task organizer, but isn’t really intended to work that way.

And there was tasknc, which converts taskwarrior‘s infrastructure into something more graphical. I could split hairs here though, and say taskwarrior is doing all the work, and tasknc is just pushing it around the screen.

But tudu is an honest-to-goodness, dyed-in-the-wool, born-and-bred full-screen task organizer and to-do list manager. And it starts with the letter T.


By now you’re probably thinking this something a lot like hnb. I’m a big hnb fan, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. There are a couple of things here that are questioning my faith in my long-standing favorite.

First of all, tudu seems to match hnb, almost feature-for-feature. It’s intended as a hierarchical list manager. It employs color. It allows quick, one-key navigation through a task tree, and can tag entries as completed. All of those things are well within the reach of hnb too.

But here’s what stands out for tudu:

  1. Optional vi-like navigation, which will appeal to some and repulse others πŸ˜‰ ;
  2. Extra details (what tudu calls “long descriptions”) for an entry;
  3. Tasks can be assigned
    • a category,
    • a scheduled date,
    • a deadline, and
    • a priority;
  4. Completing a sub-task shows a percent completion for its parent task;
  5. A search function; and
  6. A locking mechanism, to prevent two separate instances of tudu from mangling the same data file.

To be fair, hnb can handle some of those things, and what it doesn’t manage natively, you can jury-rig by adding text to your entry … which is a bit barbaric. And it’s true that there are some features that hnb can do, like building calendars as task entries, that I don’t see in tudu.

But this is really challenging my viewpoint. Some of that list — especially the extended details and search functions — I’ve been pining after for literally years. Seeing them at work in tudu is testing my allegiances.

And there’s one more small, trivial point that is working in the back of my mind: hnb is more than a decade without an update. At some point, it’s just not going to build. I’ve seen it a thousand times in other software: Time just makes the code obsolete, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Maybe I’ll get lucky, like I am with sc, and it’ll run forever. But probably not. 😦

tudu seems to cover most of hnb’s features, adds on many more, and saw updates within the past year. Even if I decide not to jump ship, I have the reassurance that if hnb ever finally croaks, tudu can definitely pick up the slack.

A definite winner of a much-ballyhooed K.Mandla gold star: ⭐ πŸ˜‰