CALCURSE - text-based organizer

Table of Contents


calcurse is a text-based personal organizer which helps keeping track of events and everyday tasks. It contains a calendar, a 'todo' list, and puts your appointments in order. The user interface is configurable, and one can choose between different color schemes and layouts. All of the commands are documented within an online help system.


Creation history

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 C 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 calcurse, 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.

Important features

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.
Moreover, 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.



ncurses library

Calcurse requires only a C compiler, such as cc or gcc, and the ncurses library. It would be very surprising not to have a valid ncurses library already installed on your computer, but if not, you can find it at the following url :

gettext library

calcurse supports internationalization (i18n hereafter) through the gettext utilities. This means calcurse can produce multi-lingual messages if compiled with native language support (i.e. NLS). However, NLS is 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:

                locate libintl.h
If this header file is not found, then you can obtain the gettext sources at the following url :
Note: Even if 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 configure could fail to locate this library if installed in an uncommon place.

Install process

First you need to gunzip and untar the source archive:

	tar zxvf calcurse-1.4.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:
  1. ./configure
  2. make
  3. make install (may require root privilege)
Use ./configure --help to obtain a list of possible options.

calcurse basics


Command line arguments

calcurse takes the following options from the command line:

Print the appointments for the current day and exit.
Note: the calendar from which to read the appointments can be specified using the '-c' flag.

Specify the calendar file to use.
The default calendar is ~/.calcurse/apts (see section calcurse files).

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: In the first case, the appointment list for the specified date will be returned, while in the second case the appointment list for the 'n' upcoming days will be returned.
As an example, typing calcurse -d 3 will 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 'todo' list and exit.

Display calcurse version and exit.

Environment variable for i18n

calcurse can be compiled with native language support (see gettext library). Thus, if you wish to have messages displayed into your native language, first make sure it is available by looking at the po/LINGUAS file. This file indicates the set of available languages by showing the two-letters corresponding code (for exemple, fr 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 contribute? section).
If your language is available, run calcurse with the following command:

                LC_ALL=fr_FR calcurse
where fr_FR is the locale name in this exemple, but should be replaced by the locale corresponding to the desired language.

User interface

Non-interactive mode

When called with at least one of the following arguments:
-a, -d, -t, -h, -v
calcurse is started in non-interactive mode. This means the desired information will be displayed, and after that, calcurse simply quits and you are driven back to the shell prompt.
That way, one can add a line such as 'calcurse -ta' in its init config file to display at logon the list of tasks and appointments scheduled for the current day.

Interactive mode

When called without any argument or only with the -c option, 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 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
 |                                    ||                            |   |
 |                                    ||                            |   |
 |                                    ||                            |<--.
 |                                    ||                            |
 |                                    ||                            |
 |                                    ||                            |
 | ? 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 highligth 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 bottom line of the screen there is a status bar, which indicates the possible actions and the corresponding keystrokes.

calcurse files

The following structure is created in your $HOME directory the first time calcurse is run :

The conf file contains the user configuration.
The apts file contains all of the events and user's appointments.
The todo file contains the todo list.

Online help

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 three 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), and last you can choose between different general options by pressing 'G'.

General options

These options control calcurse general behavior, as described below:

Color themes

calcurse color theme is configurable and is to be chosen by typing the number corresponding to the desired theme. This color 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.

Layout configuration

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 Interactive mode for an exemple of the default layout).
By choosing another layout in the configuration screen, user can customize calcurse appearence to best suit his needs by placing the different panels where needed.

Known bugs

Incorrect highlighting of items appear when using calcurse black and white theme together with a $TERM 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 $TERM variable:

"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)."

Reporting bugs and feedback

Please send bug reports and feedback to:
or to the author:

How to contribute?

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 calcurse. For now on, possible contributions concern the translation of calcurse messages and documentation.

Note: Any help in getting calcurse internationalized would be very welcomed, but before contributing, send a mail to to know if someone already started the translation process into your language.

Translating documentation

The doc/ directory of the source package already contains translated version of calcurse manual. However, if the manual is not yet available into your native language, it would be appreciated if you could help translating it.
To do so, just copy one of the existing manual file to 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 next calcurse release.

calcurse i18n

As already mentioned, gettext utilities are used by 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 with gettext for calcurse specifically. For more comprehensive informations or to grasp the Big Picture of Native Language Support, you should refer to the 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. l10n is 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 the 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 ( - mo stands for machine object, ie meant to be read by programs), and then installed. Then calcurse will use this file at runtime, translating the strings according to the locale settings of the user.

Translator tasks

Suppose someone wants to initiate the translation of a new language. Here are the steps to follow:


The format of the po-files is quite simple. Indeed, po-files are made of four things:

  1. 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.
  2. msgid lines: the strings to translate.
  3. msgstr lines: the translated strings.
  4. 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:


This section contains links and references that may be of interest to you.

calcurse homepage

The calcurse homepage can be found at

calcurse announce list

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 calcurse.
To subscribe to this list, send a message to with "subscribe" in the subject field.


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 :

And last, many many thanks to all of the calcurse users who sent me their feedback.
Copyright (c) 2004-2006 Frédéric Culot
Calcurse version 1.4 - Last change: May 07, 2006