Tag Archives: to-do

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. 🙄


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. 👿

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: :star: Enjoy! 🙂

Tagged: manager, note, organizer, task, to-do

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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. 😐

Tagged: editor, manager, note, task, to-do

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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.

Tagged: manager, note, organizer, task, to-do

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memo: Not bad, just average by comparison

About three weeks ago, I got two links for memo from readers, and saw another two sites that mentioned it as a new notes and/or to-do list manager. And judging by the enthusiasm, it seemed to be winning a few fans.

I may be an inherent skeptic, but after a certain level of hype, I begin to doubt an application is “all that.” My skepticism was well-founded earlier this year when betty was suddenly the go-to CLI application, and it turned out to be no better than a ragged list of aliases.

todo.txt is another hotly applauded title that I don’t see as particularly wonderful, but in that case it’s just the Lifehacker endorsement that clues me in. I don’t need my spider-sense for that one.

My spider-sense doesn’t seem to be leading me astray this time though. memo isn’t a bad program, but I have yet to see where it suddenly upends the entire category of text-based note-taking to-do list manager tools.


memo takes flags as functions and strings and dates are added. memo can handle done and undone states, can of course delete tasks, but can also weed out finished tasks. It can show notes within current dates, and mass-set tasks as completed.

You can pipe strings into memo, which makes it fairly flexible as the target of another program. memo can handle plain text and regex searches, and even export its contents to a simple HTML page.

And … that’s about it. The home page offers a few tips and tricks, but I don’t see anything earth-shattering, or anything that couldn’t necessarily be done with another to-do list manager. Sending memo’s (or any other application’s) output through conky is fairly pedestrian, and wiring it through mutt or procmail is probably well within the grasp of … anyone who relies on either mutt or procmail on a regular basis. 🙄

To be clear, I don’t see anything wrong with memo. It has a simple focus that, yes, could be called Unixy. It has predictable output and stores its data in a flat file that is strikingly similar to what you’ll see on screen.

But I don’t get the sense that it’s terrifically innovative, or has a new approach to CLI note-taking. I’ve seen dozens — literally dozens — of text-based to-do list managers in the past six months, and memo doesn’t particularly stand out against the heavyweights (like taskwarrior or the aforementioned todo.txt) in that category.

Tools like sncli, tofu and tudu are far more avant-garde than what memo offers. Even sh-todo can match memo feature-for-feature, then adds proper tagging, and does it only from a shell script. 😐

memo works, I don’t deny it. If you prefer it, you use it with my sincerest blessing. But I think this is another time when a swirl of enthusiasm around a particular application has clouded the fact that it’s comparatively average.

Tagged: list, manager, to-do

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