Getting Organized with Planner

9 October, 2023

My needs around staying organized are fairly simple. I use a digital calendar and a paper notebook to keep on top of what I need to do, where I need to be, and the like. That said, I like the idea of a simple, all-in-one tool. One that only packs a few features, but which does those few things well.

Two or three years ago, when I was using elementary OS as my main Linux distribution, I came across an application called Planner. At the time, I thought it wasn’t all that bad a piece of software but it didn’t pique my interest. When I heard a new version had been released, I decided to give it a peek.

I finally got around to doing that in the winter (in the southern hemisphere) of 2023. Let’s jump into Planner and take it for a spin.

Getting Planner

If you use elementary OS, you can install Planner from the AppCenter. It’s also available in the software centres for other distributions. Check yours to see if you can install Planner from there.

Or, if you prefer, you can install Planner as a FlatPak.

Using Planner

When you first start Planner, you choose to save your information on your computer, to hook Planner into service that uses CalDAV (like Nextcloud Tasks), or to link it to a popular to-do list application called Todoist. Here’s what that looks like.

The screen that displays when you first start Planner

Once choose an option, you’re stuck with it. If you want to switch to something else, click on the Settings icon and then select Delete all my app data. This wipes out all your data, and you get a clean slate. Start again from the window above.

In case you’re wondering, for this post I chose to work locally.

To start using Planner, click +. A card displays where you can enter details about a task, as shown below.

Adding a task and scheduling it in Planner

Click Schedule to add start or due date for that task. This is optional, but can come in handy later (as I’ll discuss in a few paragraphs). Once you’ve done that, click Add Task.

Working with Projects

Out of the box, every task you create goes into Planner’s Inbox. If you need to, you can add projects to group tasks around single theme.

To add a project, click + beside the Projects label in the sidebar. In the window that displays, enter a name for the project and optionally choose a colour for it. Here’s an example:

Adding a project in Planner

Here’s a list of projects in Planner’s sidebar:

A list of projects in Planner

To add a task to a project, click +.

Working with Sections

You can also add sections to a project. This helps make your tasks a bit more granular or can reflect stages in your project.

Add a section by going to a project. Then, click and select Add section. Type a name for the section and then press Enter. Add a task to the section by clicking ... to the right of the section’s header and selecting Add task.

Here’s example:

Sections in a project in Planner

Planner and Your Calendar

If have added start or due dates to your tasks, they’ll appear in the Scheduled section. To view them, click Scheduled in sidebar. Once there, you can navigate to the day on which you plan to start one or more tasks, or when they’re due. Here’s an example:

Planner and your calendar

If you have an external calendar synced with your desktop, any events or appointments on that day also display (as shown in the image above).

Sharing Your Tasks

If have an email client installed on your desktop, you can email list of tasks in a project to yourself (or someone else) by clicking , selecting Share, and then selecting Email.

Also on the Share menu is the Markdown option. Selecting that option copies tasks as a Markdown-formatted checklist to your clipboard. From there, you can paste the checklist into a text editor, a dedicated Markdown editor, or any other productivity app that supports Markdown.

Changing Planner’s Settings

Planner’s settings are fairly basic. You can choose:

You can also enable dark mode and which events to sync from a calendar that’s linked to your desktop.

As as I said a paragraph or two ago, Planner’s settings are fairly basic. Realy, what more do you need?

Final Thoughts

Planner is a nice little application that combines your desktop tasks and synced calendars in one place. It might not have all the bells and whistles that hardcore productivity hackers demand from their apps, but so what? Planner isn’t designed for them. It’s designed for the average computer user who wants to get things done.

If I ever decide to go back to using only digital tools to stay organized, I’ll definitely give Planner another look.

Scott Nesbitt