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Ask Slashdot: Life Organization With Free Software? 133

Posted by timothy
from the new-year's-resolution dept.
BigZee writes "For many years, I've used a page-a-day diary as both a planner and a method for taking notes. While not perfect, it's proven to be an approach that's worked fairly well for me. Conscious of the limitations, I want this to become more electronic. In principle, I want to be able to use my Nexus 7 for this function. There are some limitations: My workplace uses MS Outlook. However, I am not able to use Evernote (or similar) on my workplace machine. This limits possible integration along the lines proposed with GTD. What I want is to be able to take notes that are organized by date as well as being integrated to a calendar (preferably Google). Additionally, I want to be able to prioritize my work along lines similar to GTD. I'm not averse to spending money for the right software but prefer to use free software where possible. Can anyone suggest what could be used?" The above-linked Wikipedia page lists some relevant Free software as well as closed-source options. If you use such organizing software, though, how do you use it, and how well do you find it works?
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Ask Slashdot: Life Organization With Free Software?

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  • ActiveInbox (Score:5, Informative)

    by hawkinspeter (831501) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:20PM (#45830961) [] works with GMail to bring GTD into your email. It works really well, but if you're stuck on outlook then it might not be suitable for you. You can use it for free or pay for more features.
  • OneNote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:22PM (#45830979)

    Why do you need the source code?

    Just slap Microsoft OneNote [] to your Nexus 7 and be done with it. For your work PC, it comes bundled in MS Office.

    • Re:OneNote (Score:5, Informative)

      by SQLGuru (980662) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:38PM (#45831153) Journal

      Yes. If your company already runs Microsoft products, One Note will work, can sync to SkyDrive, has Apple and Android clients, can be viewed and edited on the web (via SkyDrive). There are arguments of Evernote vs OneNote, but both are considered best of breed. Since your company limits you to OneNote, the choice is made for you, but it's a good product.

    • Re:OneNote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wiggles (30088) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:51PM (#45831261)

      Whoever modded you a troll should be chastised for misuse of mod points. OneNote is exactly what he needs, and will work with his office software.

      Open Source is great, preferred in many situations, but nothing else will satisfy the poster's compatibility requirements. End of story.

    • Re: OneNote (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ModernGeek (601932) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:03PM (#45831373) Homepage
      The parallels here are so obvious it is laughable. He is trying to take control of his life and you're saying that the control should be handled over to a corporation known to abandon support for it's products as people are still making use of them. All due to a broken business model. GNU/Linux and vi should be enough to get such a simple job done.
      • Re: OneNote (Score:4, Insightful)

        by geminidomino (614729) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @04:11PM (#45831965) Journal

        Yeah, because no FLOSS projects people can come to rely on are [] ever [] abandoned [].

        Open source absolutely has a lot of advantages over proprietary software, but let's not pretend that it's not subject to most of the same software engineering concerns. A five-year-old source dump isn't a whole lot of use when it relies on a long-deprecated version of a library (also open source) that's not backward compatible, and so on.

        Yes, with FLOSS, you have the option to become/commission a new maintainer for an entire toolchain, but if you're being practical rather than idealistic, you'd spend so much time and money doing so, you'd never have the opportunity to use it. And gods help you if a second of your beloved applications was abandoned.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:23PM (#45830995) Homepage

    I know this goes contrary to what a lot of people here will think, because it ignores the technology aspects we're all so obsessed with.

    Me, I still use the same black lab-books for persistent note-taking I've been using for 20 years.

    I've got a stack of them, numbered and with dated pages. Every time I've looked at an alternative, I've found it cumbersome and less useful, and sooner or later you discover whatever technology du jour you're using has gone away, and you're left finding yet another alternative.

    By all means, apply technology as you see fit. But for some things, many of us have found that old fashioned pen and paper is still superior. Everything else is a temporary solution which will eventually fail on you or go away completely.

    • by vrillusions (794844) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:30PM (#45831075) Homepage

      By all means, apply technology as you see fit. But for some things, many of us have found that old fashioned pen and paper is still superior. Everything else is a temporary solution which will eventually fail on you or go away completely.

      I good middle ground is when the page is full take a picture and put it on evernote which will do OCR (so long as you don't write too bad) and then you have an index of all your notes somewhere.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:38PM (#45831159) Homepage

        I good middle ground is when the page is full take a picture and put it on evernote which will do OCR (so long as you don't write too bad) and then you have an index of all your notes somewhere.

        I've found that over the years I've know people who have tried variations on that.

        Eventually it becomes something they deem too cumbersome, or the technology just doesn't work, or any number of things.

        Me, I just keep using old-school lab books. Unless I lose them in a fire, I can usually track down something quickly enough to not bother with anything fancier. It also allows me to have my notes be fairly unstructured, include diagrams, and lots of other things I don't always find a good analog for in digital things.

        Then again, I'm too damned old and cranky to be too much of a slave to technology when I can avoid it. Eventually, with a lot of technology I find it simply more work than going with pen and paper.

      • by buybuydandavis (644487) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @05:30AM (#45835629)

        How about you enter it in evernote or onenote, and then print it out if you want hardcopy?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:31PM (#45831087)

      you discover whatever technology du jour you're using has gone away

      Hence the desire for open standards/software.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:33PM (#45831103)

      One word: Livescribe
      Totally awesome analogue meets digital tech.

    • by Necron69 (35644) <jscott.farrow@ g m a> on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:41PM (#45831177)

      I'm likewise still using lab notebooks for taking notes at work.

      As a bonus, said notebooks are resistant to all known forms of remote NSA eves dropping. For extra security, encrypt it with the 'cursive' algorithm. The kids these days will be completely baffled. :)


    • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:52PM (#45831287)

      I use legal pads.

      Rare is the meting or conversation that requires more than one page of notes, and very rarely more than two or three. I write the date and a reasonable "title" of whatever is going on at the top of the page.

      Works surprisingly well - thoughts and sketches go on there freeform, any way I want them to, in ways that rarely work well on any screen. I can reorganize my notations in a flash too, if the meeting or my thoughts take a different tack.

      It's easy enough to find stuff later if I want to (though it's surprising how often I don't end up wanting or needing to ... ).

      Between this low tech stuff and my highly searchable email, most of my office needs are covered well.

    • Me, I still use the same black lab-books for persistent note-taking I've been using for 20 years.

      You know, if you've found something great, a bit of specific information would help share that. Brand? Supplier? Buler?

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:25PM (#45831573) Homepage

        You know, if you've found something great, a bit of specific information would help share that. Brand? Supplier? Buler?

        The vast majority of the ones I have are just the standard Blueline hard-cover black lab books you can buy at any Staples or even Wal-Mart.

        Occasionally I'm stuck and can't find one of those, and end up using the store brand, there's not a whole lot of difference. You can stick those little Post-It tabs onto pages you need to find quickly.

        Just a hard-cover, notebook with ruled pages and a 3/4" or so margin at the top and a ruled margin on the left. Not the ones with the perforated pages to be torn out or the coiled binding, the ones with the fully bound pages which are meant to stay put and a pressboard/cardboard cover. Most of them seem to be around 192 pages or so, and are about 9 1/4"x7 1/4" (23.5cmx18.4cm).

        Draw a line from the previous day, write today's date, and get on with it. Always keep a few extra ones on hand for when you reach the end of the one you're working on.

        Slap a label on the spine, put 'em up on your shelf. It really is about as low tech as you can get, but it's been how I've kept notes for a very long time.

        I've heard them called engineering notebooks, lab books, scientific notebooks. They're pretty common and easy to find, and several different companies make more or less the exact same thing.

        • Thanks. I was hoping you would turn me on to a specific brand to watch out for. I already use them, as does my wife (she's a research chemist). Years ago I used to use composition books, and between the two I have a shelf of them that I've filled over the years. Plus boxes and expanding folders full of index cards for projects where they work as tools.

        • by BigZee (769371) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @07:45AM (#45844357)
          Thanks to all who suggested to stick with notebooks. I've been doing the same for many years but found it more useful to use the page-a-day diary as it has some relatively intuitive indexing built in. It's possibly because of this advance that I would like to move to something electronic. I can certainly appreciate the benefits to the traditional approach, it has worked well for me and clearly works well for many others. However, I do feel that my notes would become more useful to me, particularly as I want to try and use GTD, if I can use electronic mechanisms to integrate them into a number of different tools.
      • by Fencepost (107992) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:32PM (#45831623) Journal
        Needs vary hugely, so you may have to find your own.

        For small notebooks, Field Notes ( is the nice trendy option these days and offers some options including dot grid layouts as well as lined and graph paper. They also do special editions regularly, and are made in the USA.

        For multiple sizes (including small) there are the standard Moleskine products including both their books and their "cahiers" which are basically the same thing Field Notes has. The nice thing there is that they have larger-size books, the downsides for me are that they're made in China, they're expensive(-ish, same as Field Notes), and that on the cahiers the pocket is simply a glued flap in the back which just hasn't held up for me. Their hard- and soft-cover book formats are more sturdy and the pocket is completely different.

        Not as common in the US but slightly available are the Whitelines products ( The ones I have are a few years old and are all based on the international paper sizes (up to A4). These are printed in light grey with white lines, and in practice will probably work out much like a light dot grid.

        Beyond that, there's a whole world of notebook enthusiasts that would be happy to discuss this with you ad nauseam, and of course there's a whole world of lab notebooks - maybe check out your local university bookstore to see what's available in those.
        • Heh. I'm one of those notebook enthusiasts. I use fountain pens on notebooks in a customized zippered case, plus an index book. My wife is a research scientist and uses lab notebooks. We both enjoy sniffing around office supply stores and both carry small notebooks on us at all times.

          I was looking for a brand name to see if there was something new to poke at. Thanks for the lineup, and I'll agree with pretty much most of what you said (I could get into hyper details, but not in a casual thread like this).

          Just in case somebody else is reading this thread, you left off the Leuchtturm1917 series of notebooks, which are similar, but a touch nicer than the Moleskine brand moleskines.

          Now as for pens... *that's* a crazy group of enthusiasts. They buy the really expensive stuff. Seldom do we notebook hounds go after anything over $100.

        • by rjstanford (69735) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @11:40PM (#45904163) Homepage Journal

          For small notebooks, Field Notes ( is the nice trendy option these days and offers some options including dot grid layouts as well as lined and graph paper. They also do special editions regularly, and are made in the USA.

          Very trendy, to the point that after your comment while I went to their website idly thinking that I might pick one up to check it out (but its late here and I don't feel like making a special point of remembering to do this later), I gave up after a minute or two. I really do think that some people lose track of the fact that they actually do create and sell things to people for money.

          • by Fencepost (107992) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @11:08AM (#45906451) Journal
            Did you go to the actual site that I named? Both the "1. Shop" link at the top and the "3-packs (picture) only 9.95" at the top right go straight to their shop page.....

            Their shop page is perhaps a little wordy, but mostly because they actually do come out with new "editions" several times a year and part of their business is selling subscriptions to those.
    • by D1G1T (1136467) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:18PM (#45831519)
      I used to try to keep organized using electronic tools, from the old Newton 120 to Ecco Pro to One Note. I found myself fiddling with software way too much. Now I use black lab books (as above) for work tasks, and pocketable moleskine-style books for personal stuff. If I get really busy with multiple tasks, I keep them in a stack of paper on my desk, and sort by priority every morning. If you need more than this, you might be spending too much time on the process of "keeping organized".
    • by sdlowrey (3021967) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:43PM (#45831723)

      Lab notebooks are great. I love them (and pens, and pencils, and, well... just geeking out at office supply stores).

      But I switched to cloud-based documents for a few reasons: full text search, access from any (networked) computer, and I can type a lot faster than I can write. I am also able to keep a semi-useful GTD thing going just by using folders and documents on Google Drive. I recently discovered that drawing inside a Google doc isn't too bad and LucidChart is pretty cool too.

      There are downsides from the perspectives of security and accessibility, for sure. And there's a tactile immediacy to writing on paper. So there will always be a place for paper and pencil in my world. But for storing and accessing the stuff that has left my scattered brain, it's hard to beat online technology.

    • by AugustFalcon (165801) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @04:01PM (#45831871)

      Steno Pads, Goldfibre, 120 pages, Gregg Ruled. Write your original stuff on the right side of the page, follow ups on the left. Day and date across the full page at the start of each day, highlighted in Yellow.

      Been working for me since 1976.

    • by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @04:41PM (#45832203) Homepage Journal

      Me too. I've been using a week-at-a-glance calendar for 40 years.

      I started with store-bought calendars, then when I was working in an art department I made up pages customized to my use, copied them, bound them into a book, and made my own calendar.

      I've been trying for 40 years to replace it with a paperless system, but I've tried several and so far nothing works. I'm sure it can be done.

      That T-square and Rapidograph pen had a long run.

    • by rotenberry (3487) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:35PM (#45833093)

      Note taking on paper has a number of advantages, but one disadvantage is that the information is indexed only one way: by date. I prefer bound, numbered laboratory notebooks, but unless you have a pretty good idea when you wrote it down it is difficult to find the information you want.

      Retrieving information is the reason you write it down, isn't it?

      Of course, I learned in a lecture by Jack Kilby that the only reason he was granted the patent on the integrated circuit (and, later, his Nobel Prize) was because he had the bound notebooks he used periodically signed and dated by his manager and then notarized.

      • by bigpat (158134) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @02:20PM (#45838141)
        Good point about dating notes and limited disclosure for patent purposes. Although perhaps printing your relevant notes periodically, having them bound, signed and notorized would be the equivalent best practice while keeping the originals in electronic form for ease of search and ability to incorporate CAD drawings and other data.
  • by MikeDartt (15021) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:26PM (#45831029)

    I'm able to use Evernote through the website without having to do any configuration. Other web clients, such as Spotify's, have choked on my work network's proxy settings, but Evernote does just fine.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:26PM (#45831031)

    Your planner and notebook dont run out of batteries, work when (mostly) wet, are readable in sunlight, and offer many advantages over electronic forms. Analog is sometimes better than digital.

  • by jpmahala (181937) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:27PM (#45831037) [] looks promising, but for now is iOS only.

  • Try Google Keep (Score:5, Informative)

    by beenThereBefore (2602207) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:32PM (#45831101)
    I have been using Google Keep. [] While not great it is adequate. Integrates with google account, although better integration with calendar would be cool. Works with google drive. Posting because some organizations are more open to letting you use google apps. Google keep is relatively new and seems not a lot of people have found it. Here is a pretty good review of Google Keep. []
    • Re:Try Google Keep (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chemisor (97276) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:01PM (#45831357)

      I don't know about you, but I have no intention of letting google know what I'm doing on a day to day basis. So no, I won't try Google Keep.

    • Re:Try Google Keep (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:02PM (#45831369)

      Not a good idea; it'll probably be taken down by Google sometime in the near future. I've never heard of Keep, and I've noticed that Google frequently discontinues products I haven't heard of, so I expect to see an announcement any day now, now that I've heard of it thanks to you, that Google Keep is being shut down as it wasn't popular enough.

      Relying on any Google product for long-term use is a bad idea for this reason alone, unless it's one of their extremely core products (search, mail, maps).

  • by sundarvenkata (1214396) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:34PM (#45831115) Homepage
    If you want to get things done, I don't think you will give a hoot about shelling a few bucks for proprietary software. I recently achieved task list Nirvana with 2DoApp ( with Toodledo Synchronization. You can use your keyboard legerdemain for all the task gymnastics in the Toodledo online app and you can sync the tasks with your smartphone for availability. Best of both worlds!
  • by redmid17 (1217076) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:38PM (#45831149)
    I don't even think I've used the desktop or phone app. That said, I don't know why you'd want to use Evernote as a calendar/organizer. It's great for taking notes but worthless as a calendar as far as I can tell. Is there some type of integration app I'm unaware of?
  • by mlts (1038732) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:39PM (#45831161)

    I wonder about using XenDesktop and Citrix Receiver on the Nexus 7. This isn't as good as a dedicated application, but it is good enough to allow one to use work related stuff, but still have some data separation between the company machines and a BYOD tablet.

  • Org-Mode in Emacs (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheNarrator (200498) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:45PM (#45831215)

    It's really a "geek only" tool but emacs org-mode [] is great for me for organizing my work. The big plus is that the format is plain text so you can use version control to manage it. I use drop box and leave the files on there. I usually use one per project and then a master file.

    Here's a specific guide to using it with GTD: []

  • by sam the lurker (209655) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:46PM (#45831229)
  • by seifried (12921) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:54PM (#45831297) Homepage
    Is pretty much exactly what you want, it's not great but it's not bad. I do wish it had offline capabilities. []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @02:58PM (#45831329)

    Free software people have a life?

  • by robbo (4388) <slashdot@si m r a . n et> on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:00PM (#45831337)

    If you're using Outlook I assume you've got Onenote too. Create a daily meeting in outlook titled diary or whatever, and when you want to take notes open the meeting for today and use the meeting notes feature to take notes. The only issue I see with this is that it might not organize the daily notes by date in Onenote, but there are decent features for moving pages around and reorganizing them. Plus everything is searchable and if you want you can save the whole notebook in skydrive and open them from your phone. Say what you will about MS, in my day-to-day work OneNote is the best thing since sliced bread.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:00PM (#45831347)

    If you really can't use Evernote on the work PC, for policy reasons, then use it on your Nexus 7 at work.

  • by Pascal Sartoretti (454385) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:03PM (#45831371)
    For the "note taking" aspect of your question, I use the SimpleNote [] service, which works with all my tools :

    - Windows PC at work, using the Resoph Notes [] client
    - iPhone in my pocket with the official SimpleNote app.

    - Mac at home with the client []

    All these tools and the service are free for basic usage. nvAlt is open source; the other clients are probably not, but as long as my data is in a format which is not application-dependant, that's enough for me.

  • by Dave Marney (2977859) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:04PM (#45831383)
    Zim is a great FOSS note taking app. Saves to text files, so can be read on any device.
  • Tiddlywiki (Score:4, Interesting)

    by curril (42335) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:06PM (#45831399)

    TiddlyWiki [] is a self-contained app stored in an HTML file that you can store on a USB, Dropbox, or elsewhere. People have written GTD add-ons for it and it is easy to write your own customizations. There is an Android app to help run it on Android systems and the new version uses HTML 5 with option to use node.js to make it even more powerful.

    • by RyuMaou (162745) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:32PM (#45831621) Homepage

      TiddlyWiki is useful in all sorts of ways! But, there may be some difficulty editing it from his Android tablet. Unless things have changed since I tried it last, there weren't any great solutions to that. (However, if I'm wrong, please, school me! I LOVE TiddlyWiki and would be happy to be wrong about editing it via an Android device!)

    • by Herve5 (879674) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:56AM (#45835827)

      Last time I checked, TiddlyWiki was the best out of three "single-file-based" I found. The other two were Lively, [] and Stick Wiki (from "you'll have it on an USB stick"), []
      I think only Tiddly has an efficient search function, for instance.
      Then if you want "serious notetaking that scales up", I fear you'll have to abandon the single-filers.
      But then there are many other wikis still -search in the related "lists" on Wikipedia for instance, only avoiding the ones that didn't evolve recently...

    • by progman32 (1944018) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:04AM (#45836047)

      A plug for DokuWiki, which was easy to set up on my personal server. No database, everything is in a collection of text files. The markup is simple and readable. Plugins exist for export to things like PDF, or I can dump the entire thing as plain HTML. This all adds up to a clean exit strategy when required. Mobile editing is an issue (UI usability), but my use case doesn't call for much of that. There is a theme available for mobile viewing. I pair my setup with HTTP auth and HTTPS, so I'm fairly confident in the security as well.

      I use the wiki for more structured notes or things that change often. Paper is for more ephemeral stuff. I haven't had much reason to crosslink the two, but I'm still working on the system.

  • by hduff (570443) <> on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:07PM (#45831405) Homepage Journal

    I use the Zim Desktop Wiki [] plus Dropbox.

    Zim is a graphical text editor used to maintain a collection of wiki pages. Each page can contain links to other pages, simple formatting and images. Pages are stored in a folder structure, like in an outliner, and can have attachments. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a nonexistent page. All data is stored in plain text files with wiki formatting. Various plugins provide additional functionality, like a task list manager, an equation editor, a tray icon, and support for version control.
    If you need version control, Zim supports Bazaar, Git, and Mercurial as backends.

    Zim is not network aware, so I just keep its ~/Notes files in my Dropbox folder, install that and the desktop Linux/Windows/OSX Zim client as needed and I'm good to go.

    Unfortunately, there is no smartphone version of Zim, but I have little need for a smartpone app of this sort. I do email myself info as needed to integrate into Zim later.

  • by quarrelinastraw (771952) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:07PM (#45831409)

    I have tried several solutions and find org-mode to be the most useful one. I have it set up in essentially a GTD structure, with TODO items in one big list, a separate list of active projects, and a third list of potential future projects.

    org-mode is extremely configurable, which is a definite plus for software you intend to organize your life. I recommend the following add-ons as well:

    • org-caldav [] to synchronize appointments and scheduled TODO tasks with Google calendar. (two-way sync that is!)
    • MobileOrg [] for Android, which will let your Nexus 7 work with your org-files.

    Now you just take text notes in emacs and org-mode does the rest. I happen to write LaTeX and some code, and org-mode also supports literal programming. This is an extremely useful feature since I can write rich outlines of all my projects in org-mode and have the TODO items be placed naturally where they would have gone in my hand-written notes.

    For a simple example of how this might work, suppose I'm drafting a research paper and don't remember some detail I don't care about currently. I might write, "Smith first published this theory in the 80s * TODO Look up the year for Smith". org-mode will find these todo items and tell me about them when I look at my todo list. Then when I find the appropriate date and want to insert it, it will take me directly to where I put the TODO item so I can insert it into the draft with minimal effort. In this way, outlines naturally progress toward finished projects, just as GTD wants them to.

  • by matbury (3458347) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:12PM (#45831457) Homepage is free and open source software (PHP) that you can install on your server or shared hosting account. It's compatible with a lot of calendar formats and web browser based. I've synced Thunderbird with it (very easy) and it's supposed to work with Outlook, Google, Apple, etc. It's also recently introduced basic support for OpenOffice/LibreOffice document editing, it plays audio and video files online, and is great for secure file sharing.

    They also have links to companies that provide hosted/managed versions for organisations and individuals. Would that work for you?

    BTW, I have no affiliation with them, I just like the software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:18PM (#45831515)

    Recutils ( as a flat file database with foreign key support and orgmode together make a perfect mix of flexibility and automation.

  • by rdnetto (955205) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:28PM (#45831587)

    I'm currently in the process of setting up something like this.
    Kolab [] is a FOSS groupware server that can synchronize emails, to do lists, calenders, notes, etc. across multiple devices. You can access it from the included web interface (roundcube []), the recommended client (Kontact), or via Outlook with the connector installed. Android support is available via ActiveSync, and I believe Kontact Touch will be ported to Android now that Qt 5 supports it.)

    If you're not interested in running your own server, there're also sites like this [] which sell accounts.

    Here are some notes on my experiences setting it up, for anyone interested:

    • Make sure you read the documentation first, because Kolab is too complex to just jump right in and hit the ground running. In particular, make sure you have a FQDN []
    • Kolab pulls in a bunch of different daemons, including apache2, cyrus, mysql, postfix, slapd, clamav. It's a fairly heavy-weight solution, since it was developed with enterprise users in mind.
    • Multiple users can use a single installation. Users can be added/removed from a web interface.
    • By default, nothing uses SSL. This is undesirable if you're planning on connecting to it over the internet. The LDAP server uses a different SSL stack to the rest of the daemons (NSS), and you'll definitely want to run it over SSL because it sends passwords in plaintext. The easiest solution I found was to create a CA cert with certutil, use that to create the certificate for use with LDAP, then export that certificate to PEM format and use it for everything else. LDAP needs to be configured online [], but all the other daemons just have configuration files with entries for the path to the certificates.
    • On some distros, Kontact may not be compiled with Kolab support. (e.g. Sabayon)
    • RSS syncing is currently the only feature in Kontact that doesn't sync with Kolab (AFAIK), although you can embed tt-rss in the web interface.
    • by Fencepost (107992) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:48PM (#45831769) Journal
      Depending on your number of users, it may be VERY IMPORTANT to increase the number of file descriptors available to the LDAP server. I believe it defaults to 1024, but the server actually uses somewhere around 1500 for intra-process IPv6 connections with ~80 users. If you find errors in your logs about "too many fds open" this is almost certainly your problem.

      Instructions for doing these increases are available online, there are several locations that need to be modified.

      I haven't dug into whether I have something misconfigured that's causing this IPv6 socket usage, so if you read this and say "that idiot!" please share any more-appropriate fixes.
  • by jdanilso (128963) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:34PM (#45831645)

    250 page, college ruled, spiral bound notebook. $5.00 per year.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:45PM (#45831743)

    This freebie is an absolute gem. It can synchronize your Android device (calendar, notes, to do list, contacts/calls/texts if applicable) with its own built-in PIM software, Outlook or Thunderbird/Lightning via USB/ADB, wifi or Bluetooth. It includes a notes and to do list app.

    I've only used it with phones, but I can't see any reason it shouldn't work on a tablet. []

  • by Eric Coleman (833730) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @03:56PM (#45831839)

    I use a wiki. Specifically, I use OpenWikiNG, [] , however, any wiki software would work. My reason for using OpenWikiNG is that I largely use windows and the software is ASP based and can work with a simple Access database. The way I have it setup, and in hindsight, I would do this differently now, is that I use the personal web server that comes with Windows on my personal home desktop. With the access database, I don't have to worry about some heavy database engine. Since I'm the only user, this has been a very stable setup and trivially easy to migrate to a new machine when needed. Another reason I use OpenWikiNG is that it's open source, very simple, and somewhat easy to hack. It works for me, and that's all I care about.

    With wake on LAN capability, I can VPN into my home network and wake my machine if I need remote access. And since this is a wiki, I don't have to install any software on any other device. All I need is a web browser.

    In terms of usage, I have my wiki start page as my browser's home page. I have links to site I visit often, some RSS feeds, my daily schedule, even some emails and phone numbers. I use the wiki as sort of a second brain. I have pages where I put my ideas, pages where I put things that are important, things I might need, and all sorts of other resources from computers to food. My personal wiki is a much better bookmarking system than what any browser could ever come up with. I can easily annotate information that I add, and most importantly, I can search.

    To give the benefit of my hindsight, I would probably want to use a dedicated LAMP server on my home network. And I would consider something with better file and image management, as OpenWikiNG really sucks at that. To really find something that would suit one's personal taste, I suggest looking at [] to compare them. I have a lot of stuff in my personal wiki, and converting it to some other format really seems like a hassle. So, if you do this, pick a wiki you're comfortable with. The more time you spend using it, the more you lock yourself in.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @04:03PM (#45831893)

      My reason for using OpenWikiNG is that I largely use windows and the software is ASP based and can work with a simple Access database

      Do you also like to poke yourself in the eye with sharp sticks?

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @04:00PM (#45831869)

    Time-stamped text files in Markdown format, synched through Dropbox work adequately for me. Advantage of being greppable, and viewable on my phone and tablet from anywhere in a pinch. The free versioning you get with Dropbox is a nice bonus (and a real lifesaver)

  • by xeno (2667) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:01PM (#45832375)

    It's funny to see comments praising OneNote as the best thing since sliced bread...

    Don't get me wrong, I like OneNote, and use it at work. But in a moment of snark I dug up a copy of Lotus Organizer 6 (from 1999) and installed it on my Win8 work machine. Lo and behold, I can keep notes in a multi-tabbed interface. I can format them all kinds of ways, add pictures, embed doc and ppt files, share the org file with other users, and generally do anything OneNote can do. I can keep a full calendar, manage contacts, track tasks, and keep linked notes. .. And then there are the things Organizer does that OneNote couldn't do... until v2013. In OneNote 2010, if you pasted in a table, you couldn't even select a column to format it -- OneNote mishandles it as line text. Track changes (which Organizer doesn't have at all) broke all the time in 2010 and doesn't survive more than a couple users in 2013; OneNote still totally trashes style data from other Office products, so you can't roundtrip text from a mildly complex word doc back into that doc without hosing the final. Embedding a ppt or xls table into OneNote would consistently get corrupted from editing collisions on a shared .one file. But Organizer would defer to the linked file and survive multi-user editing. Hah, funny.

    Everything old is new again, with Redmond's fresh coat of pastels and waaaaay too much whitespace in the UI. Then again, these products are sinkholes for data -- from the latest .ONE file format back to the decade-plus-old .ORG-.OR6 file formats -- it's difficult to extract your stuff in usable ways when the format dies. Not that Microsoft, Google, IBM/Lotus, or other big companies would do that. Repeatedly. Predictably. Dependably. (E.g. Microsoft Office has trouble importing ... Microsoft Office files from 15 years ago, produced while working *at* Microsoft, FFS.) Tho it's much more limited to notes, Zim is really attractive in that regard: everything is saved in an open/documented non-binary format that'll be readable/recoverable when there's time to dig thru this crap when I'm old/near death.

    Meanwhile in the real world, for just making notes and getting crap done quickly and effectively, the ubiquitous lab/moleskine/black notebook is the way to go.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:32PM (#45832631)

    has client for any device/software I use
    is a text file
    has a syntax I like

  • by GrumpyGeek (38444) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:37PM (#45832677)
    Have you considered using a personal Kanban board? I tried a number of personal organization system including GTD before I finally settled into a personal Kanban board (it is even simpler than GTD in my opinion). You can user whatever you like to implement it, I set up a board using and it has been good so far but you could easily use a notebook and post-its to do the same thing. The book 'Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life' - [] helped me get started, and so far it is working for me but your mileage may vary.
  • by snadrus (930168) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @05:57PM (#45832867) Homepage Journal

    I recommend any of the impressive tools that round-trips text nicely (Sublime, Notepad2, gedit). Just plain text with minor format annotations.
    It's easy to lay out simple graphs which I use for financial summaries that I will be able to access for years.
    Text is a massively-entrenched standard format with universal comprehension rules (unlike other standards like HTML). Just be sure your editor makes sense of either line ending. You can use many tools including those that can write directly to a RAID0 device, an FTP server, etc for safety.

    Integration has some positive factors to consider:
      - Copy-paste of text into a calendar works great.
      - Filesystem tree layout is handy for archival purposes (and is also deeply entrenched).
      - Naming in year-month-day-subject.txt consistently will allow filesystem search to find the note you want, and dates are retained despite the copy tool used.

  • Conspicuously absent (Score:4, Interesting)

    by skids (119237) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:40PM (#45833131) Homepage

    The first time I got an Android, I was utterly appalled that there was no note editing app in the base install.

    I went looking for combined note/voice-note/picture/calander organizing apps. Most had too many strings attached (specific cloud-service sync options, or whatnot.) All of them lacked the ability to quickly procrastinate a task. You'd think that would be an obvious feature, but no. I went back to just remembering stuff with wetware. By the time my wetware starts to wear out, hopefully there will be something suitable.

  • by Cludge (981852) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @08:18PM (#45833719) Homepage

    If you're willing to consider alternatives to freeware, I recommend taking a look at NoteTaker [] ($24.99). I've been using it for about five years and I find it meets my note keeping needs. NoteTaker's design is essentially a lab book, but being electronic, it permits a wider range of media in addition to text, including jpegs, pdfs, audio, and video. And of course it's searchable.

    Each 'book' can be organized into sections and subsections, and there are tabs for easy access to each section. You enter notes as snippets ('entries') which can be one-liners or multiple lines with a figure, etc. You can customize fonts, colors, and some aspects of layout. Also, you can export books to PDF.

    Aquaminds offers a free notebook reader (NoteShare), so you can share your notebooks without forcing others to pay for the software. And there's a 30-day free trial version.

    I know I may get modded down for suggesting payware, but given the positive comments about lab books, I decided to throw it out there. And it's not expensive. I use NoteTaker to keep track of academic research projects and work I'm doing for clients (I'm a bio-statistician). I'm pretty satisfied with it, so I hope the company doesn't disappear any time soon! But if it does I can convert my existing notebooks to PDFs, which makes me feel less vulnerable.

  • by uxorious53 (2884635) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @08:35PM (#45833825)
    I use GTD and have found Thinking Rock's free version ( to be very useful. WRT to not being able to use Evernote on your desktop, if you use Linux, you can use Everpad ( to sync with your tablet Evernote app. If you just need a good application to journal and tie ideas to dates, I don't think it gets any better than the RedNotebook (
  • by mcshicks (1139509) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @09:44PM (#45834205)
    I've used outlook, onenote, evernote, played around with google keep and a bunch of other programs over the years for GTD capture/process systems. OrgMode works much better in my opinion than any of these. There is a mobile client for Android and IOS, but I simply use ssh and a 256 color terminal and a small bluetooth keyboard.
  • by salesgeek (263995) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:53AM (#45836433) Homepage

    If you like GTD, the best organizer ever is Emacs Org Mode. Because Org Mode uses plain text files for storage, you can use git for storage and have very meaningful history tracking and sync across devices. There are even tools for syncing to third party calendars (i.e. Google) and devices.

  • by przemekklosowski (448666) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:03PM (#45842013)
    Trello is an interesting cloud-based system: basically you create boards with pages that contain detailed items organized into lists and such. You can check off work as it progresses, and retire pages and boards that are done.
  • by Joey Vegetables (686525) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @02:32PM (#45848061) Journal
    I have a similar need and have found nothing FOSS that qualifies. Everything either has insane library dependencies, or opaque storage formats I can't customize or back up, or is limited to an insufficient number of platforms, or can't handle repeating appointments or tasks well. So, for now, I still use an ancient Palm as my master calendar, and remote into my home PC to store to-do lists of various kinds. But what I'm hoping to do is to write my own simple but flexible PIM, primarily Web-based, with no dependencies on the client side and none on the server except Python and Sqlite. Milestone 1: easy and flexible storage and searching of contact information and notes/memos. Milestone 2: Ability to create appointments and tasks, including repeating ones, with a reasonable degree of flexibility as to scheduling (e.g., "every Monday," or "last Sunday of the month," or "the next Saturday after the previous instance was completed." Milestone 3: Creating a text- and voice-friendly interface, so that it can parse and handle things like, "Doctor appointment for Eric on Friday, February 30 at 9pm" or "Remind me to clean the fridge every week starting tomorrow at 5." Milestone 4: Add ability to notify by e-mail or text, also to process e-mailed notifications. Milestone 5: Secure it enough that I can actually use it. Milestone 6: Add sufficient interoperability with other tools my family uses (probably GMail, Yahoo mail and calendar, iOS, Android, and for now at least (yuck) Palm). I cannot say for sure that the tool I come up with, even if I manage to finish it, will be of general usefulness to others, but I'll probably throw it out onto Sourceforge or Github anway, and people can decide that for themselves.
  • by belg4mit (152620) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @08:34PM (#45867825) Homepage is a freemium task tracking service with an IMAP interface available.
    It's pretty nifty, and means many criteria, although I no longer use it because I found
    myself spending too much time managing task relationships. That's more a manner
    of how I was using it though, I think...

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