LINUX PICKS AND PANS

A Note-Slinging Dynamic Duo

The drawback with using most note-taking applications on any platformis that they are limited in the type of data you can put into them.For instance, simple text editors ignore Internet and content links.Plus, you cannot import graphics. Even word-processing programs, whichovercome the links and graphics deficiencies, lack the tree structurethat makes storing and viewing notes quick and useful.

For typical daily office and personal note-taking tasks, using adatabase application is like using a fumigating spray to kill a flywhen a fly-swatter would do a better and safer job. Basket Note Pads and QToDo Manager offer convenience andreliability as note trackers.

Both of these apps were developed for the KDE Linux desktop. But theyare much different in look and feel. They run fine on Linux distrosthat use the GNOME desktop.

If your note-taking needs are more extensive, give Basket Note Pads atry first. Do not let the name misdirect you into rejecting the app asa sticky-note clone. It is not. Basket Note Pads is a multi-purposenote-taking application with a wide-ranging toolset for collectingany type of data, organizing it, and finding what you need when youneed it.

If you prefer a multiple to-do list manager that lets you set deadlinesand alarms and apply status updates, take a look at QToDo Manager. Ithas a simpler design with powerful features that let you stay focusedon getting things done.

Ideal Replacements

I’ve never been a fan of Microsoft’s OneNote application when I used earlierversions of the Redmond OS. But that program is often mentioned as amust-have that deters people from migrating to Linux. Basket Note Padsis a handy note-taking app that mimics much of what OneNote offers.

Basket Note Pads can easily replace my current choice for note-taking,a proprietary program called “Evernote.” I run the non-Web-based version under Wine.

QToDo Manager also is a strong contender to replace a note-taking appI have used since migrating to Linux three years ago, NoteCaseManager. See my review here.

These two apps are very similar, but QToDo Manager has more features.

Interface Highlights

Basket Note Pads

Basket Note Pads
(click image to enlarge)

Basket Note Pads’ main window shows the hierarchy of baskets and acomplete basket. Notes are positioned freely. This lets you putformatted texts, images, links, files, colors and applicationlaunchers into the same or different notes.

You can assign multiple tags to notes. The drop-down menu offers animpressive list beyond To Do, Important, Idea and Highlight. Forinstance, tags include such things as Progress, Priority, Information,Title, Code, Work and Personal.

QToDo is a Qt4 to-do list manager written in Ruby. Its prettyinterface combines rich-text capability and hierarchical tasks.

The to-do lists — or note topics — display down the left column ofthe program window. The content shows in the right side of the window.

Basket View

The tree in the left window of Basket Note Pads shows all of thebaskets or documents containing your notes. Click on a basket name tomake it actively display the full content in the window on the right.

Extensive use of tags is one of the real strengths of this app. Tagscan change the appearance of notes. It is easy to turn a note into atask manager with multi-state tags that create checkboxes for to-dolists.

I love the access routes to this app. It is always running in thebackground, minimized to a system-tray icon. Adding a new idea is aone-click or one-keyboard-shortcut process.

Even better, just drop things onto the tray icon to quickly appenddata to your baskets. You can also do this with numerous keyboardshortcuts.

QToDo Functionality

The approach is more basic with QToDo Manager. It allows an unlimitednumber of lists or notes. Plus, it is foolproof in keeping your notessafe and lets you preset the number of undo steps to allow.

QToDo

QToDo
(click image to enlarge)

It automatically saves data on exit. Plus, the settings panel lets youconfigure a number of related options that can be indispensable. Forinstance, you can opt to have a tray icon, show the main window atsystem startup, autosave lists at preset time intervals and createbackups.

Look and feel options include color choices, mouse-over display andmenu button options. I especially like being able to set text andborder sizes.

Deadline Pressure

One of the most useful features that QToDo offers is the task-trackingability. This makes a real distinction between typical note-takingprograms and dedicated to-do list apps. QToDo Manager serves bothneeds.

The app does not stop at merely letting me set due dates. It addsrefinements for alarms as well. For example, the settings panel letsme get warnings before deadlines. I can also set the time intervalsbetween warnings.

A powerful feature is the ability to execute a command with a note orto-do list. As part of the warning actions, the app can change theappearance of the tray icon.

Help Moving In

Programmers should spend more time helping users actually migrate tonew programs. An example of this is readily seen in Basket Note Pads.

You do not have to give up your existingnotes and start over again. Instead, you can import notes from manyother note-taking programs.

It also does not matter how you organize your notes. Basket NotePads does not impose a rigid file structure. Do it your way or let theapp automatically layout your notes in columns.

You can gather any type of data into one basket, such as images,documents or links to email addresses and websites. Another option isto organize notes in a hierarchy of baskets by topic or project. Youcan also group notes together or collapse non-important groups.

Safety Rules

Basket Note Pads automatically saves notes as you modify them. Inaddition, you can backup and restore your entire basket collection.

Another security plus is the ability to password-protect some or allof your data. Being able to lock out prying eyes for some basketswhile allowing general access to the rest of the basket collection isa powerful and very useful feature.

To make security even tighter, you can encrypt your data collectionwith public/private keys.

More Nifty Features

Collaboration is crucial in some work environments, so Basket NotePads is tuned into that need to share your data.

You can save a set of baskets to a file for others in your work groupor organization to modify and back to you. The recipients do not needa copy of Basket Note Pads or even be running the Linux OS. Justexport the baskets as an HTML Web page.

I tend to use a multi-purpose note-taking organizer and a to-do listmanager. Perhaps merging both sets of functions into one app wouldcreate the ideal note-taking environment.

Until I find an open source solution that does that for me, I willcontinue to run both. Basket Note Pads and QToDo Manager can be thatnear-perfect app duo.

1 Comment

  • I was using Basket Notes myself, also at work, but in the end I gave up. Without being able to let others work on the same tasks as I do, I find these kind of applications useless. This naturally seems to lead to a web based interface that on the other hand comes along with huge drawbacks in integration with the desktop environment.

    In the meantime I rely on good old plain text.

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