If you are a frequent reader of this website, you will know by now that I am a fan of productivity applications, such as to do lists and Kanban boards. In recent months I have paid attention to the open source To Do applications named Planner and Super Productivity, both of which I think are superb productivity applications for Linux, with both their own specific qualities. In this new blog post I pay attention to the To Do app from Zenkit, which is an alternative to the once popular but decommissioned Wunderlist app, which is not open source and is only partly free. Although I think open source as a concept is important, I am not a closed source purist. In my opinion the availability of quality closed source applications are of great importance for a wide acceptance and a growing success of Linux on the desktop, because it can attract existing macOS and Windows users who already use these apps and just can switch over to Linux without the need to immediately search for alternatives. In this article I want to share how to use Zenkit To Do on Linux to support your productive life.
About my productive process
People around me are under the impression that I have a very hectic life, because they see that I am doing multiple creative things next to a busy daytime job and the multitude of domestic and caring duties due to my wife’s illness and disability. I do not want to deny that I have a busy life, but it is the way you deal with it whether you experience all of this as hectic. A busy and filled up life doesn’t have to be a hectic life if you handle your tasks, plans and ideas in the right way, so you don’t feel overwhelmed and out of control.
In my article “How I manage my productive life in Linux” that I published earlier this year, I explained how I manage my random thoughts and ideas and how I eventually come from these random thoughts to concrete refined ideas, projects and tasks. And such a standard workflow works well for me, regardless of what idea, task and result it is about.
My personal workflow is heavily inspired by the worldwide known and widely appreciated approach of David Allen, which he describes in his book “Getting Things Done” [<< Affiliate link], also abbreviated as GTD.
I think it is very important to always directly bring over your ideas or thoughts to some kind of physical or digital storage that you alway have with you, so after storing them you can forget about them for the time being, and come back to them later to organize, prioritize and plan these ideas into actionable items. It is very calming to know that you don’t lose your thoughts, because you stored them securely and not have to remember them while doing more critical things. The GTD method supports this via five important steps that can help to set up and master your GTD workflow from idea to result. You can read all about these steps in my aforementioned article, but in summary these steps are:
In the capture step I try to store my unprocessed thoughts, ideas, to do’s, etc. without directly worrying about organization and planning. So I see this first step as a kind of an inbox where I can literally brain dump my thoughts in an unorganized way. The main goal is here to have my ideas safely stored in a secure but always accessible location, so I can use my brains for the things I was actually doing the moment the idea popped into my head.
At the end of each day or couple of days I try to empty my inbox(es) and have all items processed, or Clarified. Not all my original thoughts or ideas turn out to be of value or useful. So in the Clarify step I try to look at the value and function of the items in my inboxes and try to determine if each individual item is of real value.
In this step I put things where they belong. In the previous step I made a distinction between actionable items and items that are valuable but not actionable. I initially put actionable items in a backlog and try to determine if there are any actionable items that can be grouped into a new group or added to an existing group, or if they are incoherent and can be organized in a generic group.
Very important in the Reflect step is to take some distance from what you are doing and have done, and look analytically at where you are now, what the expectations are, or the world around you has changed and influences what you do, or what you have done may also have given new insights and whether what you are doing still has value.
In the Engage step it is all about doing the work, so it is important that you are more focused on deciding what is most important and what is feasible, and based on these outcomes doing the actual work. So here you are picking up activities and for today, for tomorrow or later this week. Finalized activities will get a status Done.
Based on the above 5 step approach I determine which applications can support me most effectively. I need at least some kind of inbox to store my initial thoughts without considering the structure and interdependencies. In general my workflow is mainly based on a Kanban tool for more complex projects with connected activities and a To Do list for simpler activities. And the nice thing is that the developers at Zenkit support both by providing tools that also interact with each other.
What is Zenkit
The developers behind Zenkit started a couple of years ago with providing a Kanban focused software solution comparable with for example the well known applications Trello and MeisterTask, but with more extensive functionality and even a dedicated Linux version. Zenkit offers much more ways of organizing, managing and presenting your task data than just a Kanban board, like a List view, a Table view, Calendar, Mindmap and Team Wiki functionality. This makes Zenkit a really powerful piece of software.
As already mentioned the original Zenkit was initially a stand alone Kanban productivity tool, but with the introduction of the Zenkit To Do application earlier this year and the even more recently introduced Zenchat, the Zenkit developers now offer a productivity suite of applications that integrates very well with what is now called Zenkit Base. All Zenkit products are now part of the complete Zenkit Suite with a common data platform for optimal data and user integration.
What has Zenkit To Do to offer
Zenkit To Do is a simple but powerful To Do application that is available for every important platform, including Linux, but also as a web based app. Zenkit To Do offers a simple organization platform for those situations in which for example the more advanced Kanban, Table or List functionality of Zenkit Base is not required. It enables easy management of your tasks, events, thoughts, notes, and whatever you can think of that needs to be managed in a simple way. Zenkit To Do offers strong planning capabilities, smart time focussing options, reminders, recurring tasks, task assignment commenting and collaboration support.
In this article I want to show how to start using Zenkit To Do on Linux. In a future article I want to focus on Zenkit Base and the strong integration between the two applications. To describe everything that Zenkit To Do has to offer, I want to go through some example scenarios and set up some lists and tasks and see what we can do with them.
When we open the Zenkit To Do the first time on our Linux machine we see something like the following screen:
Let’s go through the different items on this screen and see what they have to offer.
In the top part we see the main menu with File, Edit, View, Navigation and help.
Via File you can open multiple Zenkit windows, Add new tasks, Search, go to the Settings, Logout or Quit. Edit offers the normal options like cut, copy, paste and delete and undo and redo options. View gives you options to zoom in and out and toggle full screen mode. Via Navigation you can move back and forward from the relative current position. Help brings you to documentation, tutorials and connections with other applications via Zapier or API functionality to build a direct integration with your own tools.
In the left area we see options to hide or show that area, and different view options to look at your tasks. When you create new lists, these will be shown in this area as well.
In this section, which I like to call the view area, you can look at your tasks in different ways, like unorganized tasks in your Inbox, Starred tasks, tasks planned for Today or this Week, or just via a complete list of all your tasks. Via Done you can check what you already finished and via Search you can find specific tasks via a keyword.
You can organize your tasks even further via Lists, to differentiate for example between work related tasks and home related tasks. Or create a holiday preparation list or just a simple grocery list.
In the main area we are creating the actual tasks.
In the top part of this area you find an icon for sorting your tasks based on Title, Due Date, Date Created and Assigned To, an icon for Conversations, for Notifications, and an icon to go to your application Settings and your personal settings like your profile, installed products, authentications and integrations.
To guide you through the application I will use the example scenarios “digital decluttering” and “digital optimization”. Let’s first start creating some tasks.
First I make sure I select the Inbox view. Now I create my first task by clicking on Add Task.
Now we can add some tasks by typing the short description of the task and hit Enter to add a new task.
Organizing tasks in Lists
Now we have 7 unorganized tasks in our Inbox. When we look at them these tasks could probably be organized in two or more separate focus areas. So we create two lists by clicking on Create List in the left section of the screen.
In this pop up screen we can enter a name for our list. Here we can also add additional members, but we come to that later.
As you can see I created two new Lists. Now we can just drag and drop our tasks to the list they belong to, or right click on a task to open some extra options for this specific task.
Here we can select Move to List or Copy to List if we want to reuse the structure of an existing task, for example when a task has standard subtasks that you use more than once.
Now that I organized all my tasks by moving them to the correct List we can see the number of tasks in each list next to the name of the list.
When we right click on a List name a pop up will show some list specific options.
Here we can move the tasks to a new folder, open the settings specific for this folder, automatically create a new email with all tasks in the list, print a list with all tasks, make a copy of the complete list in this specific folder, archive the content of this list or delete the list.
When we click on Settings we see the following options related to this specific list.
We first see everything related to the Settings tab. Here we can give a description to this list, change the “Di” abbreviation into an icon, change the icon color and the icon background color. Next we see all the previous mentioned actions and we have the option to carry out some bulk actions on all tasks in the list with respect to the Title, Stage, Notes, Due Date and Assigned to.
When we change from Settings to Access, we can add new members to this list and change the role of the member with respect to this specific list.
When we switch from Access to Archive here you can find all of your archived tasks.
When we switch from Archive to Zenkit Suite here we can connect this list to other products in the Zenkit Suite like Zenkit Base and Zenchat. Any changes in this list will automatically be updated in all connected products immediately. I will go into depth more on this topic in a future article on Zenkit Base.
Via Subscribe you can toggle the subscription option On or Off. Via the Manage Add-Ons we can change the list theme, set up an iCalendar subscription and activate the option to create tasks by sending an email. These options are not part of the free tier of Zenkit To Do.
Working with tasks
When we create tasks we have some nice options to work with. So click on a task to see what is possible.
We see that an extra section opens on the right of the screen dedicated to this specific task. We can change this behavior to click on the three dots in the right top corner and select Show as popup, which is my preference because it makes the focus on the task options more clear.
Here we can add a Due Date, add a Reminder, add Subtasks, add Notes, add Attachments, look at Comments or Activities and add new Comments. It is even possible to add voice messages.
In the top right corner you can click on the star so this task will be in the Starred list for more convenient finding of your most important tasks. When you click on the three dots again we have some additional options.
Here we can, as already mentioned switch between Show as popup and Show as sidepanel. We can share a link to this task with people you want to inform about this task. Further we have some duplication, move and copy options and the option to subscribe, archive and delete.
Now close this menu and click on Due Date. Give the date of tomorrow.
Now click on Reminder and set the date to the same date and the time to 09:00 AM.
Now click on Repeater to set this task as a repeating task. Here you can change the frequency in days, weeks, months and years, set the weekdays and when the sequence must end.
Now let us create some subtasks. You can create subtasks the same way as you created normal tasks by typing the description and hit Enter.
Now click on Notes to add a note to this task. Here you can choose between Plain, HTML or Markdown formatting.
Now click on Attachments. Here we have the options to drop a file, select a file, get a file from Dropbox, Google Drive or Box, or you can add a link.
Further we can add a typed comment or a spoken comment to the task. We can also add files or link other tasks to this task by using the plus sign.
When we close the tasks details pop up screen now, we see that the task has some extra indicators, to have an instant overview of all assigned characteristics.
In the view section we now also see the starred tasks, the tasks planned for Today and the tasks planned for this week. The only thing we did not do yet is actually closing finished tasks. To finish a task you can simply click on the empty circle in front of the task description, so it moves automatically to Done and the Done indicator in the view section is also automatically being updated.
When you select a task with subtasks you can finish a subtask by simply clicking on the empty circle in front of the subtask description. When you look at your task now, you will see the number of finished subtasks updated and the task area is partly green to indicate the percentage of finished subtasks.
Now that I hopefully clarified the basic functionalities and how to work with tasks, subtasks and list, it is time to have a look at some additional functionalities and options.
Select from the main menu File / Settings. This will open the following screen.
In the General tab you can toggle sound on or off, set the way your new tasks are added to the existing list and here you can upgrade from the free tier to a paid tier. In the Upgrade tab you have all information on how to select the proper upgrade path. Under Theme you can select different backgrounds, dark mode and transparent mode. In Notifications you can set how you want to be notified on different events. And in Smart Lists you can set for different views how information is being presented to you.
If you select the blue dot with your initials in the top right corner and next click on your name, the following screen will pop up.
Here you can change settings for your profile, like your name, email, language, date format, time format, etc. And this is the place where you can delete your account or exercise your privacy rights. Further you can check your installed products, set your authentication settings for your password and Two Factor Authentication. And you can set up required integrations and the API key.
How to install Zenkit To Do on Linux
Now that you have an idea about what you can do with Zenkit To Do, you may be eager to download the application and install it on your Linux distribution. Although you can use the complete web based version of Zenkit To Do in your browser, this article is about using the native Linux app. Download and installation is quite easy and you have multiple options that best supports your needs.
Note: You can read more on different installation formats in my article “How to install applications in Linux Mint“, which is focused on Linux Mint, but can be used for other Debian / Ubuntu based distributions as well.
Installation via .deb format
When you use a Linux distribution that is based on Debian/Ubuntu, like Kubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie, Linux Mint, Zorin OS and of course Ubuntu itself, originally it uses software packages in the .deb file format. When you prefer to use the .deb file to install Zenkit To Do you need to follow the next steps:
1) Open your browser and go to https://zenkit.com/en/todo/platforms/
2) Scroll to the Linux section and click on Download.
3) Here you can choose between .deb, .rpm, .tar.gz, and .AppImage. Select .deb.
4) After the .deb file is downloaded double click this file to start the installation.
Installation via .AppImage format
Software distributed as AppImage is probably the most simple solution for the end user as it is not required to actually install the software. You just download an application, convert it to executable, and you can run it from whatever location you like. When you like to use the .AppImage file to install Zenkit To Do you need to do the following:
1) Open your browser and go to https://zenkit.com/en/todo/platforms/
2) Scroll to the Linux section and click on Download.
3) Here you can choose between .deb, .rpm, .tar.gz, and .AppImage. Select .AppImage.
4) After the .deb file is downloaded you can move the file to a location you like to use for your AppImage files. I normally place them in a new Applications folder under my Home folder but you can also use the Desktop.
5) Right click on the .appimage file and select Properties.
6) Click on the tab Permissions.
7) Select Allow executing file as program.
8) Click on Close.
9) Now double click on the .appimage file and Zenkit To Do will start.
Note: To simplify the whole installation and setup process around AppImages you can install the AppImageLauncher application. With AppImageLauncher this all integrates deeply in your system. You can read more about it in step 12 of my article “15 best things to do after installing zorin os 15“.
Installation via Snap format
You can download and install the Zenkit To Do Snap based application via the Snap Store. Follow below steps:
1) Open your browser and go to https://snapcraft.io/zenkit-todo
2) Scroll down to the section “Install Zenkit To Do on your Linux distribution”.
3) Choose your distribution. If not listed go to https://snapcraft.io/docs/installing-snapd
4) Make sure that snap support is enabled by following the explanation in the section “Enable snaps on…”.
5) When you are sure snap support is enabled, open your terminal and type “sudo snap install zenkit-todo”.
Note: Snap is a software package format created by Canonical, the company behind the well known Ubuntu operating system. Software that is packaged as a Snap has bundled its dependent components and libraries, so the software works in theory across most Linux distributions, because it contains everything the application needs to work on its own. You can read more about it in my article “How to use Snap in Linux mint“.
The goal of this article was to show how to use Zenkit To Do on Linux to support your productive life. As already mentioned before I don’t use only a to do application for all my task management. For me personally it is important to distinguish between larger projects with lots of interdependent tasks that go through different statuses for which I need a strong visual overview, versus the simpler and often non related tasks that require simpler organization and only need a status To-Do and Done to keep progress. For the more large scale project based task management I prefer to use a Kanban style workflow and visualization, which is in my case being perfectly supported by Zenkit Base, the powerful big sister of Zenkit To Do. But for a simpler task management workflow an application like Zenkit To Do can perfectly fit my needs. But as you could read in my previous articles on Planner and Super Productivity, there are other really powerful to do applications for Linux available that have their own unique functionalities that Zenkit To Do does not have. Especially the open source app Super Productivity offers much more unique functions that you cannot find in other apps, like health management, productivity optimization, time tracking and reporting. If you don’t want to use two task management tools next to each other like I do and you don’t really need Kanban visualization and workflow support, then I think Super Productivity offers the best of both worlds. But if you like to separate your project management from your simple task management, then using both Zenkit Base and Zenkit To Do is a great combination, especially with the integration possibilities for instant task exchange between these two applications, which I will cover in a future article.