Using Nextcloud as a Personal Hub

22 June, 2020

A few months ago, I finally realized that too much of what I did was spread across a few too many services and applications. Jumping around to review things like my calendar and task list was a bit of a distraction. I figured there had to be a better way of doing that.

I didn’t have to look far. Nextcloud came to my rescue. While I’ve been using Nextcloud for several years, it was only recently that started thinking about using it as a personal hub. Yeah, sometimes it takes me a while …

The great thing about Nextcloud is that it’s easy to set up as a hub, with many of the tools that you need to do what you need to do. So, let’s take a quick peek at how to turn Nextcloud into a personal hub.

Getting Going

You’ll need an instance of Nextcloud. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can set up your own server. You can also buy a device that has Nextcloud and all its plumbing installed, or you can run it on a Raspberry Pi.

But what if you have few, if any, technical skills? All’s not lost. You can also get an account with a company that hosts Nextcloud. I do that. And while I might, one day, host my own instance of Nextcloud, shelling out a couple or three dollars a month is a worthwhile investment.

Deciding How to Use Nextcloud

While Nextcloud is probably most widely used as a file storage and syncing tool (that’s what I’ve been primarily using it as), it can do a lot more. That’s thanks to apps that you can install. It can be easy to go a overboard and install every app that catches your attention. Do that and you’ll wind up with a bunch of tools that you rarely, if ever, use.

Instead, focus on the apps that you will use. When I set up my instance of Nextcloud, I decided to use these apps:

Of course, I also use Nextcloud to sync and share files across my devices and to share files with friends, family, and collaborators.

I could have also decided to use Nextcloud for managing my contacts, writing and storing notes, and doing collaborative writing. I might do that in the future. But for now, the five tasks I’ve listed above are more than enough.

Getting Set Up

Let’s assume you have a Nextcloud instance. Before you do anything else, take a look at the available apps and pick the ones that you’d like to use.

Once you’ve done that, click on your avatar in the top-right corner of the screen and select Apps.

Accessing your apps in Nextcloud

Nextcloud comes with several apps already installed. If you’re self hosting, you might need to install others before they appear in the list of apps. If you’re using a hosted instance, you might only get a limited number of apps. In the latter case, you can try getting in touch with your provider to see if they can make apps that aren’t in the list available to you.

Find the apps you want to use and click Enable. Icons for the apps appear in the toolbar.

App icons in Nextcloud

Using Your Hub

You’re set up. Now what? Time to start using your hub.

There’s nothing complex that you need to do. I keep a browser tab pointing to my Nextcloud instance open while I’m working. Usually, it’s focused on my calendar or task lists. A couple of times during the day, I’ll hop over to the RSS feed reader to see what’s happening there.

When I need to, I create chat sessions for talks with family, friends, and collaborators. I’ll also add interesting bookmarks and events and tasks as needed.

An example of my calendar in Nextcloud

Connecting to Your Phone and Desktop

You might not always be at your computer. If you are, you might not always want to be logged into Nextcloud. That’s OK. You won’t be lost. There are mobile apps that you can use to work with Nextcloud — here’s a list of open source Android apps.

You’ll notice that mobile calendar and task apps are missing from that list. You’re not without options, though. If you use Android, you can install an app called DAVx5 on your device. Use that to synchronize your Nextcloud calendar with the one on your phone. And you can use OpenTasks to synchronize your todo list.

If you use a Linux distribution with the GNOME desktop, you can hook your desktop calendar and the GNOME To Do application into Nextcloud. In Ubuntu, for example, go to Settings and click Online Accounts. Then, click Nextcloud. Enter the address of your instance of Nextcloud, your user name, and your password. Then, click Connect. You can choose to synchronize your calendar, contacts, documents, or files.

Integrating Nextcloud with the Ubuntu desktop

You can even read your Nextcloud RSS feeds from the command line with Newsboat.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t take very long to set Nextcloud up as your personal information hub. Once it is set up, you’ll find that having everything (or most everything) within a mouse click can help you save time and boost your productivity.

Scott Nesbitt