Text Simple Planner, Managing Tasks With Text Files

No fancy apps, plain and simple, just a text based planner.

This post is for those that love the utter simplicity and flexibility of text files (.txt), the following are some advantages you might have heard of :

  1. You can open text files literally anywhere (your phone, your tablet, your desktop computer …etc) and they are supported by every operating system I know of (talk about cross-platform).
  2. You don’t need any special software to open text-files (no calendar, planning apps …etc. none of that nonsense), hell you can even use a browser (not that you would particularly want to do that).
  3. Completely open format.
  4. No vendor lock-in. (thanks to bullet points 1, 2 and 3) This is extremely important: i.e. do you want to be forced to purchase a copy of your favorite planning software just to be able to open your notes? or do you want to be monitored 24×7 to be served with “better ads”? better ads, for who? Nah. (Here is more info on the benefits of open formats/technology)
  5. Dead simple interface. What you see is what you get, and it ain’t pretty, no fancy colors or multiple fonts or … you get the point. I personally don’t care too much about these except when you have to send it to other people and they complain (so you have to put a nice ribbon around it).

So a while ago (a couple of years ago) I started to use text files to handle my day to day planning, it was a bit rough at the beginning but over the years the system has evolved and has gotten more efficient, to the point where it might actually be useful to others (though nowhere as developed as Todo.txt or other applications).

Here is the default directory setup with folders and text files, plus spreadsheet and drawing files (I know, I know, I cheated but sometimes these are useful for formulas, tables, block diagrams …etc, plus they are open tools):

notes_templates
├── ideas_projects
│   └── person_ideas_projects.txt
├── inkpad
│   └── person_inkpad.xoj
├── license
├── quotes
│   └── person_quotes.txt
├── readme.md
├── spreadsheet
│   └── person_spreadsheet.ods
├── textpad
│   └── person_textpad.txt
└── todo
    ├── person_calendar_todo.txt
    ├── person_pending_todo.txt
    └── person_recurrent_todo.txt

and here is my personal setup in use (note that I keep a reference of old files simply by appending a date at the end, current files are undated):

notes
├── ideas_projects
│   └── camilo_ideas_projects.txt
├── inkpad
│   └── camilo_inkpad.xoj
├── quotes
│   ├── camilo_quotes_2014.txt
│   ├── camilo_quotes_2015.txt
│   └── camilo_quotes.txt
├── spreadsheet
│   ├── camilo_spreadsheet_2015.ods
│   └── camilo_spreadsheet.ods
├── textpad
│   ├── camilo_textpad_2014.txt
│   ├── camilo_textpad_2015.txt
│   └── camilo_textpad.txt
└── todo
    ├── camilo_calendar_todo_2014.txt
    ├── camilo_calendar_todo_2015.txt
    ├── camilo_calendar_todo.txt
    ├── camilo_pending_todo.txt
    └── camilo_recurrent_todo.txt

And I just keep a simple text editor open to edit the files directly (I am using Geany).

notes_workspace

Finally here is a brief snippet illustrating how each one of these text files looks like (I loosely use Markdown for the syntax, just for aesthetics) and how I use them in my real day to day planning (If you haven’t done so, go on and download the template setup from my Github account, otherwise the next paragraphs might not make much sense, you have been warned, hey).

camilo_ideas_projects.txt

*****************************
# Camilo Ideas and Projects #
*****************************

***********************
## Quick Guidelines. ##
***********************
Only project ideas and ongoing projects should be here, 
the rest should be moved out and stored in our textpad 
for reference.  

**********************
## Current Projects ##
**********************

----
### Assorted book summaries (part-time).
----
Ongoing transcription of book summaries from finished 
common books.
[...]

*********************
## Future Projects ##
*********************

----
### Search Notes Script - Add support for ODF formats.
----
It can search in all text files as well as open 
spreadsheets and other open office documents.
[...]

camilo_quotes.txt

*****************
# Camilo Quotes #
-----------------
##    2016     ##
*****************

Perfection is impossible. Improvement is our goal.

Listen attentively and ask questions. Always give 
others the benefit of doubt.

Have a general intuitive understanding of physics, 
and a deep understanding of a single specific area 
of research. 

While proprietary technology will probably continue 
to be our standard for product development, our 
efforts to grow open technology as a viable 
alternative will plant the seed that will inspire 
future generations to bring about change.
[...]

camilo_textpad.txt

******************
# Camilo Textpad #
------------------
##     2016      #
******************

----
### C and C++, a couple of notes.
----
C is designed to model how the hardware processes the 
information (forcing the programmer to understand the 
hardware details) C++ is designed to model how the 
programmer/user thinks when designing complex 
applications (while still allowing those 
interested/curious to peak under the hood.)

#### Practical usage.
[...]

----
### KiCad Libraries
----
It's actually not bad, KiCad actually has more 
flexibility than any other CAD software package 
(don't all open source programs always do :)). You 
just have to keep in mind what official libraries 
are (in Altium, KiCad, Eagle or any other PCB Cad 
package) and what they will always be: a starting 
point. Never a personal manufacturing-ready library. 
You can always use the official libraries as a 
starting point (and having good official libraries 
- github is a great move in this direction - 
streamlines the process because you can copy and 
paste good components) but you should always make 
sure you build your own personal libraries with 
only the components you need. 
[...]

camilo_calendar_todo.txt

************************
# Camilo Calendar Todo #
------------------------
##        2016        ##
************************

[...]

----------------------
### Wed 03/16/2016 ###
----------------------
* Transcribe your quotes 
    Took a while, let's clear them more often.
    > Done.

* See if we can finish the notes templates blog post
    Lots of info, will take a while...
    > Done.
[...]

----------------------
### Thu 03/17/2016 ###
----------------------
* Solidify cat RCL spreadsheet for KiCad.
    Based on IPC standards.

camilo_pending_todo.txt

***********************
# Camilo Pending Todo #
***********************

[...]

-------------------------
### Unscheduled Tasks ###
-------------------------
* Fix music mp3 tags.

* Do taxes.

[...]

camilo_recurrent_todo.txt

*************************
# Camilo Recurrent Todo #
*************************

--------------------
### Monthly Todo ###
--------------------
* Unison Synchronization of all devices.

* Transcribe your personal quotes.
[...]

------------------
### Daily Todo ###
------------------
* Work on book summary.

* Learn about KiCad (tasks in order).

* Practice accordion.
[...]

--------------------
### Sundays Todo ###
--------------------
* Do Laundry.

* Clean/organize Room.

[...]

As an added bonus, I also have been working on a couple of scripts to help me manipulate these text files (e.g. find text, create new annual calendar …etc).

Let me know what y’all think, hope it helps some lost soul somewhere out there.

enjoy and share with others 🙂

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