October 23, 2008

Three to-do list managers for GNU/Linux

Author: Kurt Edelbrock

Never forget an important task again with these great to-do list managers for Linux.


Tasque (pronounced "task") is a to-do manager built with C# and Mono, created as part of Novell's Hackweek v2. The application interface is really simple; in fact, you have to click on the Tasque icon in the system tray to find most of the options. Adding a new task is a breeze -- just type in the name for your to-do in the text box on the top of the interface and click Add. Tasque shows many categories natively, but you can't update or create new categories. (The software is still in beta, and more category functionality is expected in a future release.) You can set due dates and priority ratings (a number between for 1, 2, and 3, or "-" for no rating) by clicking on the corresponding columns in the interface. Notifications for upcoming due dates aren't supported yet, but you can set notes to store more information within the task itself.

The application's real strength comes from support for multiple back ends, such as SQLite, Remember the Milk (RTM), and the Evolution Data Server (part of the Evolution package installed with most distributions). SQLite and Evolution Data Server are both local options, so the to-do lists will reside on your hard drive. This is good if you don't always have an Internet connection when you need your lists or if you don't want to use an online service to manage them.

The SQLite back end provides quick, reliable storage for Tasque, but you should opt to use the Evolution Data Server if you want to use Tasque to sync with the "tasks" feature in Evolution. I prefer to use Remember the Milk as the back end for Tasque so I can view all of my tasks online. This is especially helpful if you have more than one operating system or machine and want to keep everything in sync across different environments. Also, being able to check your to-do lists online via the RTM Web site is helpful when using either an Internet-capable phone or a workplace computer that doesn't allow software installation.

Tasque is not yet included in most package repositories, so you might have to compile it from source. Directions for that process are included on the project Web site. If you're running Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy), you can get Tasque through apt-get by adding the following line to your /etc/apt/sources.list file:

Then run the following to install Tasque and its dependencies:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnome-sharp2 libmono2.0-cil libevolution3.0-cil tasque

You should then be able to open Tasque from the menus in your desktop environment or with the tasque command. If you have GNOME Do (the Quicksilver-like application launcher), you should check out the Tasque plugin; it's the easiest way out there to add a new item to Tasque with only a few keystrokes.


Gto-do is a graphical to-do list manager with many features for dealing with tasks. The interface is not as simple as Tasque's, but Gto-do supports customizable categories to sort tasks. That's helpful when you are working with multiple projects that require more labels than the default set. The application also provides a notification system that reminds you about specified tasks 15 minutes before they are due; all you have to do is enable notifications in the dialog when you create a task. While Gto-do only has a local back end (and therefore won't be able to post tasks to Remember the Milk), you can import and export lists in HTML or the .tasks format, and move them between environments with email or a portable hard drive.

Tasks are a little easier to sort and find in Gto-do than in Tasque because of the customizable interface. You can easily add and remove columns of information, such as the task date and the priority column. Completed events show up as well, and they can be purged automatically after a specified number of days. The application comes with a system tray icon, and when you hover your mouse over it the icon displays a tooltip with all of the items on the current list.

Gto-do is found in the repositories of most distributions. Once it's installed, you can open Gto-do from the menu in GNOME (or KDE or Xfce), or with the gto-do command.


iKog is different from Tasque and Gto-do because it doesn't have a graphical interface, and it's loosely designed to be used with the Getting Things Done (GTD) method of time management. You can create a task with priorities and due dates and assign contexts that are similar to categories in other list applications. It can be hard to type in the same information every time you create a task, so iKog allows you to create abbreviations to act as a shorthand for the context name. You can further group tasks by assigning them to projects. The application supports notes, which can be encrypted with a password to add privacy if the list is being used by other people.

The program consists of a single Python file, and doesn't require much in the way of installation. Download and unpack the file, then run it with the Python interpreter from the command line:

wget http://www.henspace.co.uk/ikog/app/ikog.zip
unzip ikog.zip
chmod 700 ikog.zip
python ikog.py

iKog can be difficult to use at first, so you might want to look at the reference manual by invoking the HELP command. Or, try the documentation at the project Web site or the excellent iKog tutorial written by Dmitri Popov.


With all of these options, you're probably wondering which application is right for your lists. Tasque is really good if you want to sync your data with Remember the Milk online, but the current release lacks the maturity found in Gto-do. iKog is a really powerful task management system, especially if you are familiar with GTD, but it can be hard to get used to because of all of the different commands. If you aren't bothered by text-only applications, you should definitely check it out.

Whichever solution you choose, any one of these programs will be able to store your tasks and help keep you productive and on track.


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