Open Source Musings


Have you heard of TiddlyWiki? It's a portable wiki that you can use on your desktop or put on to a flash drive or mobile device and carry around with you.

TiddlyWiki is essentially a giant HTML file, with a lot of JavaScript and CSS mixed in to enable that file to function as a wiki. But TiddlyWiki is kind of big, too. The starter file weighs in at 2+ MB, and only gets larger as you add to it.

That bulk inspired a web developer named Robbie Antenesse to create a lighter analogue to TiddlyWiki called Feather Wiki. Coming in at just over 63 KB (that's not a typo!), Feather Wiki boasts the basic features of TiddlyWiki while staying fast and lean.

Let's take a look at it.


There are more than a few free and open source task management applications out there. They run at the command line, on your desktop, and even on the web. They are, as you might expect, of varying quality, and with a varying number of functions. But there's pretty much a task management tool for just about everyone's needs.

Since early 2020, I've been trying to use Nextcloud as my personal hub. One app I've been experimenting with (again) is Tasks. Which, as the name implies, is Nextcloud's todo list manager.

Let's take a quick look at how to use it.


There are a myriad of note taking tools out there. And those tools cater to a variety of needs and to a variety of user bases. It isn't a stretch to say that there's a note taking application for just about everyone.

If you use Nextcloud, you have a more-than-serviceable option in the form of (wait for it!) Notes. It's worth a look if your note taking needs are simple and you want to work in plain text.

Let's take that look, shall we?


(Note: This post was first published, in a slightly different form, at and appears here via a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.)

Even though I'm not their most enthusiastic user, I do realize that spreadsheets can be very useful. And they're not just tools for people working in finance or in data science. Anyone can use spreadsheet to keep track of their personal finances, to catalogue a personal library, and more.

Desktop spreadsheet editors have their limitations. The biggest is that you need to be at your computer to use one. On top of that, if you need to share a spreadsheet, it can quickly become a messy affair.

Enter EtherCalc, an open source, web-based spreadsheet. While not as fully featured as a desktop spreadsheet, EtherCalc packs enough features for most people.

Let's take a look at how to get started using it.


As someone who writes for a living, I tend to take a lot of notes. Once upon a time, I used a desktop application called Tomboy to do that. Tomboy was a nifty little app, but it ran a bit slowly for my tastes. And I found that it could be more than just a little unstable at times.

On top of that, Tomboy needed something called Mono in order to run. To say that Mono has something of a controversial rep in the Linux world is like saying a monsoon is a little bit of rain. I'm not a zealot, but having Mono on my laptop to run a single application seemed like overkill to me. So, it was bye-bye Tomboy and Mono.

While I now use Standard Notes to take notes, my road to it took me through several other applications, both on the web and on the Linux desktop. With the latter, one that I tried and liked was Gnote — a rewrite of Tomboy in the C++ programming language.

Recently, I decided to give Gnote another look. Here's what I found (and recalled).


Ah, the mouse ... It made computing so much easier for so many people. Why memorize a bunch of arcane commands when you can point and click?

There are times, though, when a mouse just gets in your way.

Some people, believe it or not, work better with just their keyboards. Using combinations of keystrokes and navigation keys makes them more efficient and more productive, even in a graphical environment.

One task that lends itself quite well to being keyboard driven is note taking. Let's take a quick look at two note taking applications for the Linux desktop that work better with just a keyboard.


(Note: This post, in a different form, was first published at The Plain Text Project and appears here via a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.)

Ever have a moment in which an idea or thought or quote or whatever suddenly popped into your head. A moment when you needed to get that idea or quote or whatever down before you forgot? Yeah, me too.

Once upon a time, people did that with pen and paper using something called a scratchpad. Actually, they still do. Using a paper scratchpad works, but why scramble for analog tools when you can go digital? And why use something complex when you can use plain text?

Why a Scratchpad?

You could, as I just mentioned, have a thought or idea. Something that you need to do or someone whom you want to contact. A scratchpad can be an extension of your short-term memory. Use one to put down whatever’s popped into your head before it fades away.


Once upon a time, carrying your todo list with you mean keeping a sheet of paper or a notebook in your pocket or bag or somewhere else within easy reach. Nowadays, it's a lot easier thanks to smartphones.

There are more than a couple of todo list managers for Android. Some of them are even open source. I've tried several over the years and they've either been bare bones or they've packed every bell and whistle imaginable. One of the better ones that I've tried is Tasks, which is based on the late, lamented Astrid todo list app.

Tasks lies in the middle ground between the simple and the (sometimes overly) complex mobile todo list apps out there — it does a lot, but doesn't (and doesn't try to) overwhelm you.

Let's take a look at it.


How do people take notes on the Linux desktop? Let us count the ways ...

Actually, let's not. There are just too darned many ways to do that deed.

Into that mix comes Notes-Up, a simple yet flexible app for taking, editing, and organizing notes on the elementary OS desktop. Let's take a closer look at Notes-Up why don't we?


(Note: This post was originally published at an appears here via a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.)

Do you need complex, feature-packed graphical or web applications to get and stay organized? I don't think so. The right command line tool can do the job and do it well.

Of course, uttering the words command and line together can strike fear into the hearts of some Linux users. The command line, to them, is terra incognita.

Organizing yourself at the command line is easy with Calcurse. Calcurse brings a graphical look and feel to a text-based interface. You get the simplicity and focus of the command line married to ease of use and navigation.

Let's take a closer look at Calcurse.