September 1, 2005

Kontact personal information manager

Author: Rickford Grant

KDE's Kontact personal information manager acts as a centralized viewing and editing interface for email, contacts, to-do list, calendar, and notes. Kontact provides you with a Summary view of all the important information you have stored on computer. It also warns you when birthdays and anniversaries are fast approaching, and can even tell you the weather conditions in as many cities as you set it up to show. It's pretty good-looking to boot.

This article is excerpted from the newly published book Linux Made Easy.

Kontact lets you customize the contents of its Summary View page. To add or remove categories from that page, go to the Settings menu and select Configure Summary View.

The Configure window for the Summary View page consists of two panes: a right pane, which shows the items that can actually appear in the Summary View page, and a left pane, which, when clicked, allows you to configure some of the displayed items. To add an item to the Summary View page, check the box next to the item you want to add. Conversely, you can delete an item from the Summary View page by unchecking the appropriate box.

One of the items, Contacts, may seem a bit bewildering, as it doesn't seem to appear in the actual Summary View page. However, contact information is in fact displayed in that page in the form of Birthdays and Anniversaries, as this information is stored in the Address Book module, from which Contact information is gathered. This is the only information from the Address Book module that is displayed in the Summary View page.

Adjusting summary display settings

If you click the second icon in the left pane of the Summary View Configure window, Address Book Summary, you can adjust some of the basic settings for the Contacts, or Address Book, display module. You have very few options here: whether to show birthdays and/or anniversaries and how many days in advance those events should be displayed.

To adjust the settings for the Schedule module of the Summary View page, click the Schedule icon in the left pane of the Configure window. From the settings that appear in the right pane of the window, you can decide how many days of schedule information should be displayed on the Summary View page, and which Todos, all or just those for today, should be displayed in the Todos section of that page.

If you click the Weather Service icon in the left pane of the Configure window, you can set up the cities you want displayed in the Weather section of your Summary View page. You can do this via the right pane of the window by clicking the various + symbols in the subpane on the left until you reach the location you would like to add. Once you have found that location, click it once to select it, and then click the Add button. You can add as many locations as you want to show up on the Summary View page.

Using the application modules that appear in Kontact

As I mentioned earlier, Kontact is really just a centralized environment from which you can view and edit data in a number of otherwise standalone applications, each of which
can be started on its own via the Launch menu. You can open the Address Book, for example, by selecting Applications > Accessories > Address Book. Because Kontact allows you to conveniently use all of these applications in one place, however, I will focus on using these applications via that framework.

The data in the various application modules in Kontact are all synced with that which you have on your PDA. When you input data into your PDA and then perform a HotSync, the data on your PDA will be copied to the respective application modules in Kontact. Conversely, when you input or edit data in one of Kontact's application modules and then perform a HotSync, the data or changes will be copied to your PDA. All very handy.

This does not mean, however, that you have to have a PDA in order to use Kontact or these modules. You will be happy to know that you can use all of them quite handily without ever joining the handheld fray.

To view, edit, or add data to your address book, click the Contacts icon in the left pane of the Personal Information Manager (Kontact) window.

When the Contacts module appears in the right pane of the window, you will see a list of your contacts; and if you click one of the entries in that list, a summary of the data you have saved for that entry will appear at the right side of the window.

To add a new entry to the address book, click the first icon in the horizontal icon bar below the menu bar, or select New Contact from the File menu. An Edit Contact window will appear in which you can input all the data you have. If you would like to input birthday or anniversary information so that it will appear in the Summary View page, click the Details tab, and then, once in that tab, enter the information in the appropriate boxes. When inputting birthday information, be sure to input the birth date (9-28-1958, for example), rather than the birthday (9-28).

If you would like to edit the information for a contact already in your address book, double-click that contact's name from the list in the main page of the module, and the Edit Contact window for that entry will appear. Whether creating a new contact or editing the information for an existing contact, once you are finished, click the OK button.

Todo List

The Todo List, as its name implies, is a simple list of reminders for things that you need to do. You can open the Todo List module by clicking the Todo List icon in the left pane of the Kontact window. When the module appears in the right pane of the window, you can
add a new Todo item by clicking directly in the box that says Click to add a new Todo in light gray letters. After that, just type your new Todo in that same box, and press Enter when you are finished. The new item will then appear in the list of Todos below.

If you look at the top of your actual Todo List, you will notice that it is divided into categories, such as Summary, Recursive, and Categories. You can do a bit of fine-tuning to your entry by right-clicking that entry below one of these categories and then choosing from the various options in the pop-up menu that appears.

The options listed in the menu will vary according to the category you clicked. To access all of the entries in one go, double-click the entry, and an Edit window for that entry will
appear. If you would like to delete an entry from your Todo List, right-click that entry within the Summary column, and then select Delete in the pop-up menu. You can also add new Todos or even sub-Todos from the same menu.


Tied in with the Todo List to some extent, and sharing the same set of icon buttons in its interface, is the Calendar module, which you can open by clicking the Calendar
icon in the left pane of the Kontact window.

You can view your calendar in one of many views by clicking the various view buttons below the menu bar. The views provided by these buttons are: What's Next, which actually shows the next dated items in your Todo list; List, which shows the times on your schedule in list form; Day, which shows a calendar view for that day; Work Week, which shows your schedule for the entire work week; Week, which shows the view for one calendar week; Next 3 Days, which provides a three-day view of your schedule starting with the current day; Month, which provides a somewhat traditional one-month view of your calendar, starting with the current week; Todo List, which is the same list you dealt with in the previous section; and Journal, in which you can keep a daily journal or just jot down and read notes for any given day.

Adding an event or appointment to your calendar is simple, and there are many ways to go about it. The easiest of these is to switch to one of the multiday views (Month view is always good), and double-click the day for which you want to make an entry.

Upon doing this, a blank Edit Event window will appear, in which you can provide the relevant details for the event. If you want to edit the details (such as the time or date) of an event you've already entered, you can do so by double-clicking that event in the calendar and then making the changes in the Edit Event window for that entry.

If you would like to record your reflections or comments for a particular day, you can do so by creating a journal entry by clicking the Journal view button, then clicking the date for which you want to create an entry in the calendar at the left part of the Calendar module. A blank area will then appear to the right, in which you can type away. If you would like to make entries for multiple, successive days, just highlight the days in question in the calendar on the left, and a corresponding number of blank boxes will appear to the right. You can then make entries into all or some of those boxes.


Clicking the last item, Notes, in the left pane of the Kontact window will bring up the Notes module.

To add a new note to the list, click the icon below the File menu that looks like a pad of yellow Post-its (it's the one at the bottom). In fact, if you run this module as a
standalone application (Launch > Accessories > Popup Notes), these notes will actually appear scattered about your desktop in that Post-it-like form. You can also add a new note directly from the File menu by selecting New Note.

Once you have chosen one of the two ways to create a new note, a small window will appear, in which you can give your note a title. Once you have done that, click OK, and another small window will appear in which you can write the note. Once you click OK in that window, the note will appear in the list within the main Kontact window. To delete a note from the list, just right-click the note you want to remove, and select Delete from the pop-up menu.

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