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Simple task organizer

syctask can be used to create, plan, prioritize and schedule tasks.


The application can be installed with

$ gem install syc-task


syctask provides basic task organizer functions as create, update, list and complete a task. Additional functions are to plan tasks you want to accomplish today. If you are not sure in which sequence to conduct the task you can prioritize them with a pair wise comparisson. You can time tasks with start and stop and you can finally extract tasks from a minutes of meetings file. The schedule task command will print a graphical timeline of the working day assigning the planned tasks to the timeline. Busy times are marked red. Meetings are listed with associated tasks that are assigned to the meetings. With the statistics command you can print statistical evaluation of tasks duration and count.

Create tasks with new

Create a new task in the default task directory ~/.tasks

$ syctask new "My first task"

Provide a description

$ syctask new "My first task" --description "Explanation of my first task"

Schedule a task with a follow-up and due date

$ syctask new "My first task" --follow-up "2013-02-25" --due "2013-03-11"

Set a proirity for a task

$ syctask new "My first task" --prio 3

Prompt for task input

$ syctask new

will prompt for task titles. Ctrl-D will end input.

Except for –description you can also provide short forms for the options.

Create tasks by scanning from files

When writing minutes of meetings tasks that should be followed up in syctask can be annotated so they will be recognized by the scan command. The following structure shows how to annotade tasks

Some text before

Schedule meeting;Invite all developers;2016-09-12;2016-10-12;1
Write letter;Practice writing letters;;;3

Some text after

The above annotation will only scan the next task because of the singular 'task' where the task values are separated with ';'. The line after the annotation '@task' lists the sequence of the fields of the task. It is also possible to list the tasks in a table, e.g. markdown

Some text before


title           |description               |follow_up |due_date  |prio
Schedule meeting|Invite all developers     |2016-09-12|2016-10-12|1
Write letter    |Practice writing letters  |          |          |3

Some text after

Call partner    |Ask for project's progress|2016-09-14|          |1

Even more text

The example above scans all tasks due to the plural 'tasks'. It also scans all tasks that are separated with non-task text and occur after the annotation and confirm to the field structure. Lines that start with '-' will be ignored. So if you want to skip only a few tasks within a task list prepend them with '-'. If you have tasks with different fields then you have to add another annotation with the new field structure.

Possible fields are

title       - the title of the task - mandatory field!
description - the description of the task
follow_up   - the follow-up date of the task in the form yyyy-mm-dd
due_date    - the due-date of the task in the form yyyy-mm-dd
prio        - the priority of the task
tags        - tags the task is annotated with
note        - a note for the task

Note: follow_up and due_date can also be written as Follow-up and Due-Date. Also case is ignored.

As inidcated in the list the title column is mandatory. Without the title column scan will raise an error during a scan.

Fields that are not part of the above list will be ignored.

# | Title                                | Who
- | ------------------------------------ | ---
1 | Schedule meeting with all developers | Me
2 | Write letter to practice writing     | You

In the table only the column Title will be scanned. The '#' and 'Who' column will be ignored during scan. This table is also a table for a minimum scan structure. You need at least to provide a title column so the scan function will recognize the table as a task list.

Scanning tasks from files

$ syctask scan

Plan tasks

The plan command will print tasks and prompts whether to (a)dd or (s)kip the task. If (q)uit is selected the tasks already added will be add to the today's task list. If ©omplete is selected the complete task will be printed and the user will be prompted again for adding the task.

Invoke plan without filter

$ syctask plan
1 - My first task
(a)dd, (c)omplete, (s)kip, (q)uit? a
Duration (1 = 15 minutes, return 30 minutes): 3
--> 1 task(s) planned

Invoke plan with a filter

$ syctask plan --id "1,3,5,8"
1 - My first task
(a)dd, (c)omplete, (s)kip, (q)uit?

Move tasks to another days plan

$ syctask plan today --move tomorrow --id 3,5

This will move the tasks with ID 3 and 5 from the today's plan to the tomorrow's plan. The duration will be set to the remaining processing time but at least to 30 minutes.

Prioritize tasks

Planned tasks can be prioritized in a pair wise comparisson. So each task is compared to all other tasks. The task with the highest priority will bubble on top followed by the task with the next highest priority and so on.

$ syctask prio
 1: My first task
 2: My second task
Task 1 has (h)igher or (l)ower priority, or (q)uit: h
 1: My first task
 2: My third task
Task 1 has (h)igher or (l)ower priority, or (q)uit: l
 1: My third task
 2: My fourth task
Task 1 has (h)igher or (l)ower priority, or (q)uit: h

syctask schedule will then print tasks as follows

0: 10 - My fourth task
1:  7 - My third task
2:  3 - My first task
3:  9 - My second task 

Instead of conducting pairwise comparisson the order of the tasks in the plan can be specified with the -o flag

$ syctask plan -o 7,3,10,9

The plan or schedule command will print the tasks in the specified order

0:  7 - My third task
1:  3 - My first task
2: 10 - My fourth task
3:  9 - My second task

If only a part of the tasks is provided the rest of the tasks is appended to the end of the task plan. If you specify a position flag the prioritized tasks are added at the provided position.

$ syctask plan -o 7,9 -p 2
0:  3 - My first task
1: 10 - My fourth task
2:  7 - My third task
3:  9 - My second task

Create schedule

The schedule command will print a graphical schedule with assigning the tasks selected with plan. When schedule command is invoked the planned tasks are added at or after the current time within the time schedule. Tasks that are done and scheduled in the future are not shown. Tasks done and in the past are shown with the actual processing time.

Create a schedule with working time from 8a.m. to 6p.m. and meetings between 9a.m. and 9.30a.m. and 1p.m. and 2.45p.m.

$ syctask schedule -w "8:00-18:00" -b "9:00-9:30,13:00-14:45"

Add titles to the meetings

$ syctask schedule -m "Project status,Management meeting"

The output will be

A - Project status
B - Management meeting

    A               B
8   9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18

0 - 1: My first task

Adding a task to a meeting

$ syctask schedule -a "A:0"

will print

A - Project status
    1 - My first task
B - Management meeting

    A               B
8   9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18

0: 1 - My first task

A task that is re-scheduled with

$ syctask update 1 -f tomorrow

will be shown as done (green) in the schedule and instead of separator - it shows ~.

0: 1 ~ My first task

A started task will be indicated by *

$ syctask start 1
$ syctask sche
0: 1 * My first task

List tasks

List tasks that are not marked as done in short form

$ syctask list

List all tasks in long form

$ syctask list --all --complete

Search tasks that match a pattern

$ syctask list --id "<10" --follow_up ">2013-02-25" --title "My \w task"

Inspect tasks

Lists each unplanned task and allows to edit, delete, mark as done or plan for today or another day

$ syctask inspect
0016 Create command for inspection
(e)dit, (d)one, de(l)ete, (p)lan, da(t)e, (c)omplete, (s)kip, (b)ack, (q)uit

Edit task

Edit a task with ID 10 in vi

$ syctask edit 10

Update tasks

Except for title and id all values can be updated. Note and tags are not overridden rather supplemented with the update value.

Update task with ID 1 and provide some informative note

$ syctask update 1 --note "Some explanation about the progress on the task"

Complete tasks

Complete the task with ID 1 and provide a final note

$ syctask done 1 --note "Finalize my first task"

Delete tasks

Delete tasks with ID 1,3 and 5 from the default task directory

$ syctask delete --id 1,3,5

Delete tasks with ID 8 and 12 from the planned tasks of today. The tasks are only removed from the planned tasks and not physically deleted.

$ syctask delete --plan today --id 8,12


The settings command allows to define default values for task directory and to create general purpose tasks that can be used for tracking and later statistical evaluation.

Create general purpose tasks for phone and talk

$ syctask setting --general PHONE,TALK

List all settings

$ syctask setting --list


Info searches for the location of a task and lists all task directories

Search for task with id 102

$ syctask info --id 102

List all task directories

$ syctask info --taskdir


Shows statistics for work and meeting times as well as for task processing

Evaluate the complete log file

$ syctask statistics

Evaluate work times, meetings and tasks between 2013-01-01 and 2013-04-14

$ syctask statistics 2013-01-01 2013-04-14

Evaluate yesterday and today

$ syctask statistics yesterday today

Task directory and project directory

The global options –taskdir and –project determine where the command finds or creates the tasks. The default task directory is ~/.tasks, so if no task directory is specified all commands obtain tasks from or create tasks in ~/.tasks. If a project is specified the tasks will be saved to or obtained from the task directories subdirectory specified with the –project flag.

--taskdir  --project   Tasks in
    -           -      default_task_dir
    x           -      task_dir
    -           x      default_task_dir/project
    x           x      task_dir/project

In the table the relation of commands to –taskdir and –project are listed.

Command  --taskdir  --project  Comment
delete        x          x     deletes the tasks in taskdir/project 
done          x          x     marks tasks in taskdir/project as done
help          -          -          
inspect       x          x     lists task to edit, done, delete, plan
list          x          x     lists tasks in taskdir/project
new           x          x     creates tasks in taskdir/project
plan          x          x     retrieves tasks to plan from taskdir/projekt
prio          -          -     input to prio are planned tasks (see plan)
scan          x          x     creates scanned tasks in taskdir/project
schedule      -          -     schedules the planned tasks (see plan)
start         -          -     starts task from planned tasks (see plan)
statistics    -          -     shows statistics of time and count
stop          -          -     stops task from planned task
update        x          x     updates task in taskdir/project


  • ID

id file contains the last issued id.

  • IDS

ids file contains all issued ids.

  • Task files

The tasks are named ID.task where ID is any Integer as 10.task. The files are saved as YAML files and can be edited directly.

  • Planned tasks files

The planned tasks are save to YYYY-MM-DD_planned_tasks in syctask's system directory. Each task is saved with the task's directory and the ID.

  • Schedule files

The schedule is saved to YYYY-MM-DD_time_schedule in the default task directory. The files are saved as YAML files and can be changed manually.

  • Log file

Creating schedule and task processings is logged to tasks.log. For example when a task is started and stopped this is action is saved to tasks.log.

  • Tracked file

A started task is saved to tracked_tasks. A semaphore file is created with ID.track when the task ID is started. When the task is stopped the semaphore file is deleted.

  • General purpose tasks

With syctask setting -g PHONE so called general purpose tasks can be created. These tasks can be used for time tracking and later statistic evaluation to determine the amount of disturbences e.g. by phone. These tasks are saved to default_tasks. The general purpose tasks itself are also saved to the .syc/syctask directory as regular task files.

  • Default task dir

The default task that is used e.g. with list is saved to default_tasks_dir. This can be set with the setting command.

Working with syctask

To work with syctask and get the most out of it there is to follow a certain process.

Creating a schedule

View tasks

In the morning before I start to work I scan my tasks with syctask list or syctask inspect to get an overview of my open tasks.

$ syctask list

Plan tasks

Next I start the planning phase with syctask plan. If I have a specific schedule for the day I will filter for the respective tasks

$ syctask plan

Prioritize tasks (optionally)

If I want to process the tasks in a specific sequence I prioritize the tasks with

$ syctask prio

Create schedule

I create a schedule with my working hours and meetings that have been scheduled with

$ syctask -w "8:00-18:00" -b "9:00-10:00,14:30-16:00" -m "Team,Status"

Create an agenda

I assign the topics I want to discuss in the meetings to the meetings with

syctask schedule -a "A:1,3,6;B:3,5"

Start a task

To begin I start the first task in the schedule with syctask start -p ID (where ID is the ID of the planned (-p) tasks)

$ syctask start -p 10

End a task

To end the task I invoke

$ syctask stop

This will stop the last started task

Re-schedule a task

If I cannot finish a task than I update the task with a new follow-up date

$ syctask update 23 -f tomorrow

The task will be shown in the today's schedule as done.

Complete a task

When the task is done I call

$ syctask done 23


  • E-mails

If an e-mail creates a task I create a new task with syctask new title_of_task. The subject of the e-mail I prepend with the ID and move the e-mail to a open topics directory.

  • Files

If I create files in the course of a task I create a folder in the task directory with the ID and save the files in this directory. If there is an existing directory I link to the file from the ID directory

Supported platform

syc-task has been tested with 1.9.3. It also works in Windows using Cygwin.

Add TAB-completion to syctask

To activate bash's TAB-completion following lines have to be added to ~/.bashrc

complete -F get_syctask_commands syctask

function get_syctask_commands
  if [ -z $2 ] ; then
    COMPREPLY=(`syctask help -c`)
    COMPREPLY=(`syctask help -c $2`)

After ~/.bashrc has been updated the shell session has to be restarted with

$ source ~/.bashrc

Now syctask followed by TAB TAB will print

$ syctask <TAB><TAB>
delete done list plan scan stop _doc help new prio schedule start update

To complete a command we can type

$ syctask sch<TAB>

which will complete to

$ syctask schedule

Output to Printer

To print syctask's output to a printer pipe the command to lpr

$ syctask schedule | lpr

This will print the schedule to the default printer.

To determine all available printer lpstat can be used with the lpstat -a command

$ lpstat -a
Canon-LBP6650-3470 accepting requests since Sat 16 Mar 2013 04:26:15 PM CET
Dell-B1160w-Mono accepting requests since Sat 16 Mar 2013 04:27:45 PM CET

To print to Dell-B1160w-Mono the following command can be used

$ syctask schedule | lpr -P Dell-B1160w-Mono

Release Notes

Version 0.0.1

Implementation of new, update, list and done commands.

Version 0.0.4

  • delete: deleting tasks or remove tasks from a task plan

  • plan: plan tasks and add them to the task plan

  • schedule: create a schedule with work and busy time and assign the tasks from the task plan to the free times

Version 0.0.6

  • start: start a task and track the lead time

  • stop: stop the tracking and print the lead time of the task

  • start, stop: the task is logged in the ~/.tasks/task.log file when added and when stopped

  • prio: prioritize tasks in the task plan, that is specifying the sequence in that the tasks should be conducted

  • plan: –move flag added to move tasks from the specified plan to another days task plan

  • update, new: when a follow-up or a due date is provided the task is added to the provided dates task plan. If both dates are set the task is added to both dates task plans

Version 0.0.7

  • updated rdoc

Version 0.1.15

  • IDs are now unique independent of the task or project directory. After upgrading from a version 0.0.7 or older the user asked whether to re-index the tasks. It is adviced to tar the tasks before re-indexing with

    $ tar cvfz tasks.tar.gz .tasks other_task_directories
  • start will now show a timer in the upper right corner of the screen when started with the -t (–timer) flag.

    $ syctask start 10 -t

    In order to use the task timer ncurses has to be installed as the task timer uses tput from the ncurses library.

  • The schedule has a heading with the schedule's date and the working time

  • Planned tasks are now added at or after the current time if they are not done yet. Done tasks are shown in the past with the actual processing time. Tasks done before the start of the schedule are not shown in the schedule.

  • Meetings that are at the current time are indicated with a *. Active tasks are indicated with a star, re-scheduled tasks are indicated with a ~.

  • Assigning tasks to meetings in a schedule is now done with the task ID

  • Statistics show statistics about work time, meeting times, general purpose tasks and task processing. Total, min, max and average time and count is listed. If you have used version 0.0.7 it is adviced to delete tasks.log that lives in ~/.tasks before upgrading or in ~/.syc/syctask after upgrading. Otherwise the statistic results seem odd.

  • Meeting time in time line now shows correct duration

  • Info command searches for the location of a task and lists all task task directories with the tasks contained.

  • Plan move command sets the duration to the remaining processing time but at least to 15 minutes

  • With the setting command the default task directory can be set and general purpose tasks can be created. A general purpose task can be used for tracking to analyse how much time for phone calls is occupied. setting -l list all general purpose tasks and the default task directory

  • Prio command now takes a position flag together with the order flag to determine where to insert the newly ordered tasks

  • All commands that take an ID as argument (done, edit, start, update) look up the task file associated to the id in the ids file. If it is found the provided task directory is not considered for the task file. If the id is not contained in the ids file the task is looked up in the provided directory

  • Inspect command allows to list each today's unplanned task to edit, delete, mark as done or plan

  • Update command now has a duration flag to set the task's duration

Version 0.2.0

  • Migrated from TestUnit to Minitest

  • Implemented timeleap Gem Version which allows to specify additional time distances to yesterday, today tomorrow. Time distances come in two flavors as long and short forms.

    Examples for long forms are
    - yesterday|today|tomorrow
    - next|previous_monday|tuesday|...|sunday
    - monday|tuesday|...|sunday_in|back_1_week|month|year
    - in|back_10_days|weeks|months|years
    Examples for short forms are
    - y|tod|tom
    - n|pmo|tu|..|su
    - mo|tu|...|sui|b1w|m|y
    - i|b10d|w|m|y

Version 0.2.1

  • Fix a bug in `syctask delete –plan`

  • Add indicator '>' to task list when task contains notes

  • Refactor migration from version 0.0.7 and when user has deleted system files. The user can now specify the directories where the tasks are located and can also define directories to be excluded. This is especially helpful to omit search in large mounted directories, like from NAS servers.

Version 0.3.1

  • Add csv output spearated by ';' to the list command

  • Fix bug when schedule file is empty

  • Add scan command to scan tasks from files

Version 0.3.2

  • Fix bugs of missing class lib/syctask/scanner.rb

Version 0.4.2

  • delete command can take now ranges of ids, e.g. 1,2,4-8,5,20-25

  • inspect can now go back in the task list

  • inspect will now show the updated task after making changes to the task in edit

  • inspect allows to specify a follow_up date

  • scan will ignore columns that are not part of a syctask task

  • scan recognizes 'Follow-up' as well as 'follow_up' now. That is an underscore can be replaced with '-'

  • Fix bug when scanning tables that have spaces between separator and column

  • When tasks.log file is missing `syctask inspect` prints warning with reason why statistics cannot be printed


Pull from Github and then run

$ bundle install

New classes have to be added to 'lib/syctask.rb'

Debugging the interface can be done with GLI_DEBUG:

$ bundle exec env GLI_DEBUG=true bin/syctask

Building and pushing the gemfile to Rubygems

$ gem build syctask.gemspec
$ gem push syc-task-0.2.1.gem


The test files live in the folder test and start with test_.

There is a rake file available to run all tests

$ rake test

The CLI is tested with Cucumber. To run the Cucumber features in verbose mode

$ cucumber

or if you prefer cleaner output run

$ rake features


syc-task is released under the MIT License