Personal organiser software

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Once upon a time (back in the early 1990s) I used a product called Above and Beyond which was the perfect what-to-be-doing-next manager. It considered durations, urgency and importance and fitted things in accordingly. Then that seemed to evolve into something less effective and it is Windows-only and it is no longer shareware but a commercial product at about £64 ($99). Also, Lotus Organizer is getting very hard to keep working on large screen Linux systems.

I want something to tell me what I should be getting on with today. Somewhere to put small To Do items, most of which do not have to be done at any particular time.

I like the importance / urgency model of task management whereby one does what is urgent and important, then what is important, and never get round to that which is not important, despite its urgency.

I also like big life-changing tasks to be included—which means they must be broken down into elephant burgers. That means a multi-level hierarchy of tasks is a requirement.

A preferred facility I have not seen in any software for decades is for recurring items to have a period of time between each instance based upon when it was last done rather then relative to the first instance. This kind of functionality only seems to exist in very expensive work management & engineering scheduling systems or sophisticated tools such as Hydra. That is, if I want to do a weekly backup, I want to be reminded a week after I last did it so that if I do it two days late, I get told to do it again seven days later, not five. If the car is supposed to have a three month service, but I can't afford it for a month, it doesn't need another service after just another two months. So, a recurring appointment must have the option of the recurrence being scheduled based upon the previous instance of it being done. However, some recurring items do have fixed deadlines, such as the car's MOT or tax disc or insurance, which must not be missed.

It also needs to handle appointments with a fixed date / date & time, although I have few of these. These may also be recurring.

My requirements:

  • → runs on Linux
  • → free
  • → recurring reminders
  • → alerts (without having to go and check)
  • → GUI front-end
  • → data stored locally, not online
  • → can flag actions completed
  • → record of completed tasks
  • hide completed items
  • the ability to categorise items
  • the ability to prioritise items (i.e. importance)
  • be able to have a hierarchy (nested) tasks (tasks, sub-tasks, sub-sub-taske, etc.)
  • standardised file format (e.g. .ics / .vcs).

I am not interested in a calendar view as I have so few appointments.

Wikipedia has information on paper personal organisers, electronic organisers, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and personal information manager software

osalt recommends nothing helpful.

★★★☆☆ ★★★☆☆  ★★★★☆  ✔ ✘
  • Nitro - too simple and seems to have been abandoned
  • Task Coach
  • Tasque
  • treesheets

Product Ubuntu software centre URL Features Conclusion
BasKet Note Pads Yes ★★★★☆ Chandler BasKet Note Pads on "a KDE program for organizing, sharing, and taking notes including to-do lists." At a quick play, it is primarily a powerful note-taking tool. To-Dos are merely a list of notes.

Conclusion: not powerful enough.

Calendar (korganizer-mobile 4:4.13.3-0ubuntu0.1) Yes ★★★÷☆ KDE PIM homepage "a calendar and personal organizer applications which has been specially designed for use on mobile devices." Crashed on startup.

Conclusion: Won't run.

Chandler No Chandler homepage

Wikipedia info

"an open source Note-to-Self Organizer featuring calendaring, task and note management and consisting of desktop application, web application and a free sharing and back-up service called Chandler Hub." Blah - untested.

Conclusion: Blah - untested.

KDE PIM KOrganizer Yes ★★★★☆ text for the link "a calendar and scheduling program aiming to be a complete program for organizing appointments, contacts, projects, etc. Part of the KDE PIM module." I used this for a couple of few years until it got its knickers in a twist. Now I cannot get it to work without crashing and losing data. When it goes wrong, because the data is hidden in a database somewhere - even if you tell is to use a .ics file - there does not seem any way to recover what is left of the data. Also, how do you back it up, share it or transport it? Because of losing a few years' data I am looking for an alternative.

Conclusion: Powerful, flaky and unreliable crap.

Orage Calendar v4.10.0-1 Standard Xubuntu, ★★★☆☆ xfce home page

Wikipedia info

"an integrated calendar for the Xfce4 desktop environment. It is highly configurable and supports alerts based on dates. If you are looking for a good graphical calendar, you will probably want to try out orage."

"A simple calendar application with reminders."

Comes with Xubuntu ✔. Does not display To Do items that have no date attached ✘ which is not a problem for itself as it forces all To Dos to have a date ✘, but means it it ignores imported items ✘. How does one mark items 'done'? ✘ How does one see completed items? Has a nice selection of alerts ✔. One can enter categories and priorities against items but they are not shown in the list views nor available for sorting ✘. No hierarchy of items ✘.

Conclusion: Nearly there, but not right for me.

Task Coach Yes ★★★★★ Task Coach "a friendly open source todo manager to manage personal tasks and todo lists. It supports composite tasks (tasks within tasks). Allows you to categorize your tasks. Offers effort tracking, categories, notes and more." Very customisable ✔. Has alerts ✔. Multi-level hierarchy ✔. Can mark items completed ✔. Can hide completed tasks ✔. Has priorities ✔. Has categories ✔. Has reminders ✔ with snooze function ✔. Creates backup files ✔. Although the stored file seems to be in a unique format ✘, it is a readable xml file ✔.

Conclusion: Looks about 95% right for me.

TaskUnifier No TaskUnifier on Source Forge "task management software based on the well-known GTD (Getting things done) methodology. It will help you manage your tasks and therefore your time." "As of 2015-01-31, this project is no longer under active development."

Conclusion: Moribund or dead.

TaskWarrior Yes ★★★★☆ TaskWarrior home page "software that manages your TODO list from your command line. It is flexible, fast, efficient, and unobtrusive." Conclusion: I don't want a command line application.
Thunderbird + Lightning v3.3.1 add-on N/A ★★★☆☆ Lightning "Organize your schedule and life's important events in a calendar that's fully integrated with your Thunderbird email. Manage multiple calendars, create your daily to do list, invite friends to events, and subscribe to public calendars." Not tried it because the reviews are so bad regarding bugs in it and bugs in other add-ons upon which it relies.

Conclusion: looks unreliable.

Thunderbird v31.3.0 + xul-ext-lightning calendar extension for Thunderbird v1:31.3.0+build1-0ubuntu0.14.04.1 package Yes ★★★★☆ [url text] "the Mozilla Calendar extension for Thunderbird, based on Sunbird - the Mozilla Standalone Calendar application. It is tightly integrated with Thunderbird, allowing it to easily perform email-related calendaring tasks." Holds its own calendar but can also open .ICS and .VCS files too and show them all at the same time as one combined task list ✔. One can very easily search for text in To Dos which it calls 'tasks' ✔. Whereas KOrganizer had priorities 1 to 9, this has priorities too albeit just High, Medium or Low. Categories of task are permitted including multiple categories per task ✔. Does not handle sub-tasks ✘.

Conclusion: very nearly as good as KOrganizer.

Tracks v2.3.3 No Get On Tracks home page "a web-based application to help you implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ methodology. Comes with a built-in web server so that you can run it on your own computer as well as any platform on which Ruby can be installed, including Linux. Open source, free and licensed under the GNU GPL." Blah - untested.

Conclusion: blah - untested.

Zanshin v0.2.1-1 Yes ★★★☆☆ Zanshin on "an application for managing day-to-day actions and notes." Opened the .ics file KOrganizer created as an export (which KOrganizer won't read!) ✔. Tasks under projects ✔ with categories against each ✔ and whether or not it is done ✔. Handles sub-tasks by using the project view ✔. No priorities ✘. No reminders ✘. Cannot hide completed items ✘. Very simple to use, but does nothing a spreadsheet can't do.

Conclusion: too weak.