CALCURSE - text-based organizer
AbstractThis manual describes
calcursefunctionnalities, and how to use them. The installation from source is first described, together with the available command line arguments. The user interface is then presented, with all of the customizable options that change
calcursebehavior. Last, bug reporting procedure is explained, as well as the way one can contribute to
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Overview
- 3. Installation
- 5. Options
- 6. Known bugs
- 7. Reporting bugs and feedback
- 8. How to contribute?
- 9. Links
- 10. Thanks
calcurse is a text-based calendar and scheduling application. It helps
keeping track of events, appointments and everyday tasks.
A configurable notification system reminds user of upcoming deadlines,
and the curses based interface can be customized to suit user needs.
All of the commands are documented within an online help system.
I started thinking about this project when I was finishing my Ph.D. in Astrophysics... It started to be a little hard to organize myself, and I really needed a good tool to help me in that difficult task ;)
I like programs which use Text User Interfaces, because they
are simple, fast, portable and efficient, so I thought about
working on coding a simple calendar using such an interface.
Moreover, I wanted to go on learning the
language, which I only used for a while during my undergraduate
studies. So I thought that would be the good project to start
in order to get organized and to learn about a few
C things !
Unfortunately, I finished my Ph.D. before finishing
but anyway, I still wanted to work on it, hoping it would
be helpful to other people. So here it is...
But why 'calcurse' anyway ? Well, it is simply the concatenation of 'CALendar' and 'nCURSEs', the name of the library used to build the user interface.
Calcurse is multi-platform and intended to be
lightweight, fast and reliable. It is to be used inside a
console or terminal, locally or on a distant machine within
an ssh (or similar) connection.
Calcurse can be run in two different modes :
interactive or non-interactive mode. The first mode allows
oneself to view its own personal organizer almost everywhere,
thanks to the text-based interface.
The second mode permits to easily build reminders just by adding
calcurse with appropriate command line arguments
inside a cron tab or within a shell init script.
calcurse was created with the end-user
in mind, and tends to be as friendly as possible. This means
a complete on-line help system, together with having all of
the possible actions displayed at any time inside a status bar.
The user interface is also configurable, and one can choose
between several color and layout combinations.
Last, a configurable notification system reminds user of upcoming
Calcurse requires only a
C compiler, such as
gcc, and the
It would be very surprising not to have a valid
library already installed on your computer, but if not, you can
find it at the following url :
calcurse supports internationalization
(i18n hereafter) through the
utilities. This means
calcurse can produce
multi-lingual messages if compiled with native language
support (i.e. NLS).
optionnal and if you do not want to have support for
multi-lingual messages, you can disable this feature. This is
done by giving the
--disable-nls option to
configure (see section Install process).
To check if the
gettext utilities are
installed on your system, you can search for the
libintl.h header file for instance:
If this header file is not found, then you can obtain the
gettext sources at the following url :
libintl.h is found on your
system, it can be wise to specify its location during the install process, by using the
--with-libintl-prefix option with
configure. Indeed, the
could fail to locate this library if installed in an uncommon
First you need to gunzip and untar the source archive:
tar zxvf calcurse-2.0.tar.gz
Once you meet the requirements and have extracted the archive, the install process is quite simple, and follows the standard three steps process:
make install(may require root privilege)
./configure --help to obtain a list of
calcurse takes the following options from the
command line (both short and long options are supported):
Print the appointments and events for the current day and exit.
Note: the calendar from which to read the appointments can be specified using the '-c' flag.
-c <file>, --calendar <file>
Specify the calendar file to use.
The default calendar is
-d <date|num>, --day <date|num>
Print the appointments for the given date or for the
given number of upcoming days, depending on the argument
format. Two possible formats are supported:
- a date of the form 'mm/dd/yyyy'.
- a number 'n'.
calcurse -d 3will display your appointments for today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.
Note: as for the '-a' flag, the calendar from which to read the appointments can be specified using the '-c' flag.
- Print a short help text describing the supported command-line options, and exit.
Print the next appointment within upcoming 24 hours and exit.
The indicated time is the number of hours and minutes left
before this appointment.
Note: the calendar from which to read the appointments can be specified using the '-c' flag.
Print the 'todo' list and exit. If the optional number
numis given, then only todos having a priority equal to
numwill be returned.
Note: proprity number must be between 1 (highest) and 9 (lowest).
calcurseversion and exit.
Export user data to iCalendar format. Events, appointments and
todos are converted and echoed to stdout.
Note: redirect standard output to export data to a file, by issuing a command such as:
$ calcurse --export > my_data.ics
calcurse can be compiled with native language
library). Thus, if you wish to have messages displayed
into your native language, first make sure it is available by
looking at the
This file indicates the set of available languages by showing
the two-letters corresponding code (for exemple,
stands for french). If you do not find your language, it
would be greatly appreciated if you could help translating
calcurse (see the How to
If your language is available, run
calcurse with the following command:
where fr_FR is the locale name in this exemple, but should be replaced by the locale corresponding to the desired language.
You should also specify the charset to be used, because in some
cases the accents and such are not displayed correctly.
This charset is indicated at the beginning of the po file
corresponding to the desired language. For instance, you can see
in the fr.po file that it uses the iso-8859-1 charset, so you
calcurse using the following command:
The following environment variables affect the way
- Specifies the external editor to use for writing notes.
- If the
VISUALenvironment variable is not set, then
EDITORwill be used as the default external editor. If none of those variables are set, then
/usr/bin/viis used instead.
- Specifies the default viewer to be used for reading notes.
If this variable is not set, then
When called with at least one of the following arguments:
calcurse is started in non-interactive mode.
This means the desired information will be displayed, and
calcurse simply quits and you are
driven back to the shell prompt.
That way, one can add a line such as
'calcurse --todo --appointment'
in its init config file to display at logon the list of tasks
and appointments scheduled for the current day.
When called without any argument or only with the
calcurse is started in
interactive mode. In this mode, you are shown an interface
containing three different panels which you can browse using
the 'TAB' key, plus a notification bar and a status bar
(see figure below).
appointment panel---. .---calendar panel | | v v +------------------------------------++----------------------------+ | Appointments || Calendar | |------------------------------------||----------------------------| | (|) April 6, 2006 || April 2006 | | ||Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun | | || 1 2 | | || 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 | | || 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 | | || 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 | | || 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 | | || | | |+----------------------------+ | |+----------------------------+ | || ToDo | todo | ||----------------------------| panel | || | | | || | | | || |<--. | || | +------------------------------------++----------------------------+ |---[ Mon 2006-11-22 | 10:11:43 ]---(apts)----> 01:20 :: lunch <---|<--. +------------------------------------------------------------------+ notify-bar | ? Help R Redraw H/L -/+1 Day G GoTo C Config | | Q Quit S Save J/K -/+1 Week Tab Chg View |<-. +------------------------------------------------------------------+ | | status bar
The first panel represents a calendar which allows to highlight a particular day, the second one contains the list of the events and appointments on that day, and the last one contains a list of tasks to do but which are not assigned to any specific day.
In the appointment panel, one can notice the '(|)' sign just in front of the date. This indicates the current phase of the moon. Depending on which is the current phase, the following signs can be seen:
- first quarter
- full moon
- last quarter
- new moon
- no sign:
- phase of the moon does not correspond to any of the above ones
At the very bottom of the screen there is a status bar, which indicates the possible actions and the corresponding keystrokes.
Just above this status bar is the notify-bar, which indicates from left to right : the current date, the current time, the calendar file currently in use (apts on the above example, which is the default calendar file, see the following section), and the next appointment within the upcoming 24 hours. Here it says that it will be lunch time in one hour and twenty minutes.
Note: Some actions, such as editing or adding an item, require to type in some text. This is done with the help of the built-in input line editor.
Within this editor, if a line is longer than the screen width, a '>', '*', or '<' character is displayed in the last column indicating that there are more character after, before and after, or before the current position, respectively. The line is scrolled horizontally as necessary.
Moreover, some editing commands are bound to particular control characters. Hereafter are indicated the available editing commands ('^' stands for the control key):
- moves the cursor to the beginning of the input line
- moves the cursor backward
- deletes one character forward
- moves the cursor to the end of the input line
- moves the cursor forward
- deletes one character backward
- deletes the input from the cursor to the end of the line
- cancels the editing
The following structure is created in your
directory the first time
calcurse is run :
$HOME/.calcurse/ |___notes/ |___conf |___apts |___todo
- this subdirectory contains descriptions of the notes which are attached to appointments, events or todos. One text file is created per note, whose name is built using mkstemp(3) and should be unique, but with no relation with the corresponding item's description.
- this file contains the user configuration
- this file contains all of the events and user's appointments
- this file contains the todo list
At any time, the built-in help system can be invoked by pressing the '?' key. Once viewing the help screens, informations on a specific command can be accessed by pressing the keystroke corresponding to that command.
All of the
calcurse parameters are configurable from the
Configuration menu available when pressing 'C'. You are then
driven to a submenu with four possible choices : pressing 'C'
again will lead you to the Color scheme configuration,
pressing 'L' allows you to choose the layout of the main
calcurse screen (in other words, where to put the three
different panels on screen), pressing 'G' permits you to choose between
different general options, and last you can modify the notify-bar
settings by pressing 'N'.
These options control
calcurse general behavior,
as described below:
- This option allows to automatically save the user's data
(if set to yes) when quitting.
warning: No data will be automatically saved if
auto_saveis set to no. This means the user must press 'S' (for saving) in order to retrieve its modifications.
- If set to yes, confirmation is required before
quitting, otherwise pressing 'Q' will cause
calcurseto quit without prompting for user confirmation.
- If this option is set to yes, pressing 'D' for deleting an item (either a todo, appointment, or event), will lead to a prompt asking for user confirmation before removing the selected item from the list. Otherwise, no confirmation will be needed before deleting the item.
- Setting this option to yes will result in skipping the system dialogs related to the saving and loading of data. This can be useful to speed up the input/output processes.
- If set to yes, this will cause the disappearing of the
progress bar which is usually shown when saving data to file.
If set to no, this bar will be displayed, together with
the name of the file being saved
- One can choose between Monday and Sunday as the first day of the
week. If the option
week_begins_on_mondayis set to yes, Monday will be first in the calendar view. Else if the option is set to no, then Sunday will be the first day of the week.
calcurse color theme can be customized to suit user's
needs. To change the default theme, the configuration page
displays possible choices for foreground and background colors.
Using arrows or calcurse displacement keys to move, and 'X' or space
to select a color, user can preview the theme which will be applied.
It is possible to keep the terminal's default colors by selecting the
corresponding choice in the list.
The chosen color theme will then be applied to the panel borders, to the titles, to the keystrokes, and to general informations displayed inside status bar. A black and white theme is also available, in order to support non-color terminals.
Depending on your terminal type and on the value of the
$TERM environnement variable, color could or
could not be supported. An error message will appear if you
try to change colors whereas your terminal does not support
If you do know your terminal supports colors but could
calcurse to display them, try to set your
$TERM variable to another value (such as
xterm-xfree86 for instance).
The layout corresponds to the position of the panels inside
calcurse screen. The default layout makes the
calendar panel to be displayed on the top-right corner of the
terminal, the todo panel on the bottom-right corner, while the
appointment panel is displayed on the left hand-side of the
screen (see the figure in section
for an exemple of the default layout).
By choosing another layout in the configuration screen, user
calcurse appearence to best suit
his needs by placing the different panels where needed.
The following options are used to modify the notify-bar behavior:
- This option indicates if you want the notify-bar to be displayed or not.
notify-bar_date(default: %a %F)
- With this option, you can specify the format to be used to
display the current date inside the notification bar. You can
see all of the possible formats by typing
man 3 strftimeinside a terminal.
- With this option, you can specify the format to be used to
display the current time inside the notification bar. You can
see all of the possible formats by typing
man 3 strftimeinside a terminal.
- When there is an appointment which is flagged as 'important'
within the next 'notify-bar_warning'
seconds, the display of that appointment inside the notify-bar
starts to blink.
Moreover, the command defined by the
notify-bar_commandoption will be launched. That way, the user is warned and knows there will be soon an upcoming appointment.
notify-bar_command(default: printf '\a')
- This option indicates which command is to be launched when there is an
upcoming appointment flagged as 'important'. This command will be
passed to the user's shell which will interpret it. To know what shell
must be used, the content of the
$SHELLenvironment variable is used. If this variable is not set,
/bin/shis used instead.
Example: Say the
calcurse --next | mail -s "[calcurse] upcoming appointment!" email@example.com
Incorrect highlighting of items appear when using calcurse
black and white theme together with a
variable set to xterm-color.
To fix this bug, and as advised by Thomas E. Dickey
xterm maintainer), xterm-xfree86
should be used instead of xterm-color to set
"The xterm-color value for $TERM is a bad choice for XFree86 xterm because it is commonly used for a terminfo entry which happens to not support bce. Use the xterm-xfree86 entry which is distributed with XFree86 xterm (or the similar one distributed with ncurses)."
Please send bug reports and feedback to:
calcurse .at. culot .dot. org
or to the author:
frederic .at. culot .dot. org
If you would like to contribute to the project,
you can first send your feedback on what you like or dislike,
and if there are features you miss in
For now on, possible contributions concern the translation
calcurse messages and documentation.
any help in getting
internationalized would be very welcomed, but before
contributing, send a mail to
calcurse-i18n .at. culot .dot. org to know if someone
already started the translation process into your language.
The doc/ directory of the source package already
contains translated version of
manual. However, if the manual is not yet available into your
native language, it would be appreciated if you could help
To do so, just copy one of the existing manual
manual_XX.html, where XX
identifies your language. Then translate this newly created
file and send it to the author (see Reporting
bugs and feeback), so that it can be included in the
As already mentioned,
gettext utilities are used
calcurse to produce multi-lingual
messages. This section provides informations about how to
translate those messages into your native language. However,
this howto is deliberately incomplete, focusing on working
specifically. For more comprehensive informations or to grasp
the Big Picture of Native Language Support, you should refer
GNU gettext manual at:
Basically, three different people get involved in the translation chain: coders, language coordinator, and translators. After a quick overview of how things work, the translator tasks will be described hereafter.
To be able to display texts in the native language of the user, two steps are required: internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n).
i18n is about making
calcurse support multiple languages. It is
performed by coders, who will mark translatable texts and
provide a way to display them translated at runtime.
about making the i18n'ed
calcurse adapt to the
specific language of the user, ie translating the strings
previously marked by the developers, and setting the
environment correctly for
calcurse to use the
result of this translation.
So, translatable strings are first marked by the coders within
C source files, then gathered in a template
file (calcurse.pot - the pot extension
meaning portable object template). The content of
this template file is then merged with the translation files
for each language (fr.po for french, for instance -
with po standing for portable object, ie
meant to be read and edited by humans). A given translation
team will take this file, translate its strings, and send it
back to the developers. At compilation time, a binary version
of this file (for efficiency reasons) will be produced
(fr.mo - mo stands for
object, ie meant to be read by programs), and then
calcurse will use this file at
runtime, translating the strings according to the locale
settings of the user.
Suppose someone wants to initiate the translation of a new language. Here are the steps to follow:
- First, find out what the locale name is. For instance, for
french, it is 'fr_FR', or simply 'fr'. This is the value the
user will have to put in his
LC_ALLenvironment variable for software to be translated (see Environment variable for i18n).
- Then, go into the po/ directory, and create a new po-file
from the template file using the following command:
'msginit -i calcurse.pot -o fr.po -l fr --no-translator'If you do not have
msginitinstalled on your system, simply copy the calcurse.pot file to fr.po and edit the header by hand.
Now, having this fr.po file, the translator is ready to begin.
The format of the po-files is quite simple. Indeed, po-files are made of four things:
- location lines: tells you where the strings can be seen (name of file and line number), in case you need to see a bit of context.
- msgid lines: the strings to translate.
- msgstr lines: the translated strings.
- lines prefixed with '#': comments (some with a special meaning, as we will see below).
Basically, all you have to do is fill the msgstr lines with the translation of the above msgid line.
A few notes:
- Fuzzy strings
- You will meet strings marked with a
calcursewon't use the translations of such strings until you do something about them. A string being fuzzy means either that the string has already been translated but has since been changed in the sources of the program, or that this is a new string for which
gettextmade a 'wild guess' for the translation, based on other strings in the file. It means you have to review the translation. Sometimes, the original string has changed just because a typo has been fixed. In this case, you won't have to change anything. But sometimes, the translation will no longer be accurate and needs to be changed. Once you are done and happy with the translation, just remove the
"#, fuzzy"line, and the translation will be used again in
- c-format strings and special sequences
- Some strings have the following comment:
"#, c-format". This tells that parts of the string to translate have a special meaning for the program, and that you should leave them alone. For instance, %-sequences, like
"%s". These means that
calcursewill replace them with another string. So it is important it remains. There are also \-sequences, like
\t. Leave them, too. The former represents an end of line, the latter a tabulation.
- Translations can be wrapped
- If lines are too long, you can just break them like this:
msgid "" "some very long line" "another line"
- po-file header
- At the very beginning of the po-file, the first string form a
header, where various kind of information has to be filled
in. Most important one is the charset. It should resemble
"Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8\n"You should also fill in the Last-Translator field, so that potential contributors can contact you if they want to join you in the translation team, or have remarks/typo fixes to give about the translations. You can either just give your name/nick, or add an email address, for exemple:
"Last-Translator: Frederic Culot <firstname.lastname@example.org>\n"
- Adding comments (lines begining with the '#' character) can be a good way to point out problems or translation difficulties to proofreaders or other members of your team.
- Strings size
calcurseis a curses/console program, thus it can be heavily dependant on the terminal size (number of columns). You should think about this when translating. Often, a string must fit into a single line (standard length is 80 characters). Don't translate blindly, try to look where your string will be displayed to adapt your translation.
- A few useful tools
- The po-file format is very simple, and the file can be edited with a standard text editor. But if you prefer, there are few specialized tools you may find convenient for translating:
- And finally
- I hope you'll have fun contributing to a more internationalized world. :) If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to contact me at frederic .at. culot .dot. org.
This section contains links and references that may be of interest to you.
calcurse homepage can be found at
If you are interested in the project and want to be warned
when a new release comes out, you can subscribe to the
calcurse announce list. In doing so, you will
receive an email as soon as a new feature appears in
To subscribe to this list, send a message to calcurse-announce .at. culot .dot. org with "subscribe" in the subject field.
Another possibility to get warned when new releases come out is to follow the RSS feed at:
This RSS feed is updated each time a new version of calcurse is available, describing newly added features.
Its time now to thank other people without whom this program would not exist! So here is a list of contributing persons I would like to thank :
- Alex for its patches, help and advices with
- Gwen for testing and general discussions about how to
- Herbert for packaging
- Zul for packaging
- Wain, Steffen and Ronald for packaging
- Kevin, Ryan, and fEnIo for packaging
calcursefor Debian and Ubuntu
- Pascal for packaging
- Alexandre and Markus for packaging
calcursefor Mac OsX and Darwin
- Igor for packaging
calcursefor ALT Linux
- Joel for its calendar script which inspired
- Michael Schulz and Chris M. for the german translation of
calcurseand its manual
- Jose Lopez for the spanish translation of
calcurseand its manual
- Neil Williams for the english translation
- Tony for its patch which helped improving the recur_item_inday() function
- Jeremy Roon for the dutch translation
- people who write softwares I like and which inspired me,
vimfor the displacement keys
aptitudefor the text user interface
And last, many many thanks to all of the
users who sent me their feedback.