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Feature: Tools & Utilities

Taking note of Basket

By Bruce Byfield on June 04, 2008 (7:00:00 PM)

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Note-taking applications are far from scarce on GNU/Linux desktops. If your needs are simple, you can use KNotes in KDE or Sticky Notes in GNOME. If you want integration with address books and email, you may prefer Evolution's built-in Memos pane. For those who need more than basic notes, the increasingly sophisticated Tomboy may be a solution, assuming they have no objection to running an application built using Mono. However, by far the most versatile note-taking application is KDE's Basket, a tool so flexible and complete that you might prefer to think of it as a personal wiki, a producer of scrapbooks, or even a creator of temporary desktops. The future of Basket as a project is uncertain at the moment, but that doesn't mean that you can't take advantage of its power.

As the name suggests, Basket has taken the concept of the note and expanded it into a temporary container for information of all sorts, including text, links, images, and application launchers. At the most basic level, you can use a basket as a dumping ground for random thoughts, or, with a little organization or ingenuity, you can use baskets for memos, To Do Lists, or even somewhat rough and ready contact lists.

Although Basket's handbook in the KDE help file is largely incomplete, you can learn most of what you need to know from the basket entitled Welcome within the application, or from a self-guided tour of the menus and a quick examination of the interface.

To start using Basket, right-click on the basket tree in the left pane. You can start with a completely new basket, or create a sub-hierarchy of baskets below an existing one. Either way, you need to name the new basket and choose whether it will use a one, two, or three columns or a free-form layout in which you can drag the contents anywhere you want. You may also choose the background color for the basket.

For a more elaborate setup, you can left-click on a basket in the pane to open its Properties dialog. From there, you can give the basket a background image rather than a color, choose a layout with more than three columns, and configure keyboard shortcuts to open or switch to the basket. You can also select Basket -> Password from the menu to password-protect the basket, or Settings -> Configure Basket Note Pads to adjust the applications used to open various types of files to which a basket links. However, all these choices are optional -- to start, all you need is a name for a basket and a column layout.

After these preliminaries, you can start adding objects to the basket. To add a text note, click on some point in the basket and start typing. You can add basic font weights and text alignment if you choose. You can add other objects by selecting the type from the right-click menu in the basket and entering their paths, or by dragging and dropping them from the desktop.

Another option is to import information from other note applications or a text file. The list of applications from which you can export is somewhat KDE-centric -- for instance, you can import from Tomboy, but not from Evolution.

Using a bar that appears at the left of an object when the mouse cursor touches it (why not just use a title bar, I wonder?), you can drag objects in a basket around inside the current basket, drop them into another basket in the left pane, or open them with a viewer or editor.

Beside the bar you will also find a small down arrow that you can click to add a variety of tags. For a To Do List, you can use Done or Not Done as tags, or a progress bar divided into quarters, and you can set priorities on a three-point scale. You can use other tags, such as Work or Personal, to change what displays when you use a filter from Edit -> Filter, or, for even greater control, create your own tags.

When you finish with a basket, the application gives you the option of saving or archiving it, backing it up, or exporting it to a file as HTML.

These operations are simple to learn, but versatile enough to make Basket a popular tool. You can gauge its popularity by the fact that developers have created an online version of Basket called Webasket to simplify the sharing of baskets between computers and collaborators. You can also add a SuperKaramba app that adds any baskets tagged as "Desktop" to a small panel on your desktop. Supposedly, too, you should be able to add Basket as a plugin to Kontact, although that feature is currently broken -- and, in fact, having Basket installed causes Kontact to crash, although some users are reporting successfully workarounds.

Sadly, for all its popularity, Basket's future is in limbo. Sébastien Laoût, the original developer, announced that he no longer has time for the project, and, despite the existence of a Basket Usability Project, a roadmap for future development, and talk of Laoût staying on as a project manager, progress on Basket seems temporarily halted. That means no immediate fixing of the Kontact bug, let alone a KDE 4 version or any new features.

Being free software, Basket is unlikely to disappear. Still, the longer the uncertainty remains, the greater the chance that Basket will temporarily stop functioning. It would be unfortunate if this were to occur, because Basket is an elegant program, outclassing other notes applications to such an extent that it quickly becomes indispensable. Let's hope the project finds new leadership and direction as soon as possible.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on Taking note of Basket

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Try Luminotes too

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.208.60.27] on June 04, 2008 09:31 PM
Basket looks pretty cool. (I haven't tried it myself.) Another Linux (web-based) note-taking application is Luminotes, a personal wiki. Check it out at http://luminotes.com/

Also, there was a recent Linux.com review of Luminotes: http://www.linux.com/feature/132297

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And Google Notebook

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.28.75.220] on June 05, 2008 01:46 PM
Another web based note taking/sharing project is Google Notebook ( http://notebook.google.com ).

There's a google notebook browser extension available to make note capture/editing even easier.

It's unfortunate, though, that konqueror isn't yet a supported browser.

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.84.182.9] on June 05, 2008 01:21 AM
If only basket had dated notes, notes that get a record of the time they were created, then it would be the perfect application for me. Ability to modify the date would be even better...

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Kontact integration for Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.136.5.43] on June 05, 2008 10:14 AM
The integration of Basket in Kontact was fixed months ago. It's been working fine on my desktop (OpenSuse 10.3) since Basket was updated to 1.02. KDE version back then probably was 3.5.7 or 3.5.8 (can't remember exactly). It's now on 3.5.9 and it's still working fine. I've never had to do anything special to get it going.
Basket is very a useful tool, for collecting different kinds of data belonging together (documents, images, links to web pages etc.). Brilliant.

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.8.16.64] on June 05, 2008 01:06 PM
well well, if only the .pdf thumbnails would show and not only the adobe icon for it.
unfortunately for me a reason not to use basket

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.28.75.220] on June 05, 2008 01:20 PM
I'm a happy user of KnowIt but I really like the eye candy of Basket.

The on again/off again development status is a little frustrating (but that seems to be common with this genre of apps; KnowIt development seems to be on permanent hiatus).

One thing that Basket really needs is a community forum; a place to go to ask questions and share tips and tricks. Even with future development questionable, there are enough current users (and reviewers drawing new users) to make a forum viable and useful.

My wishlist of things for Basket
- a hotkey to insert the time and date (like the old F5 key in KnowIt)
- search functionality (there's no way to search a basket to locate, in the basket, a given search term); yes, there is filter functionality but that only indicates that the basket has a given filter term, not where in the basket the term is located.
- ability to search basket meta information (time of creation/time of update)

Hopefully, development will pick up again. Basket is useful and usable now but it could be so much better

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Re: Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 132.68.18.2] on June 08, 2008 09:43 AM
I am sorry that I switched from KnowIt to Basket. Don't.

KnowIt was simple to use, and had great keyboard shortcuts. In basket, on cannot simply create a new note and then type in it. One must create a new basket, and then a note inside that basket, and then select that note, and then start typing or pasting. Even iwth the mouse, one cannot simply middle click into and existing basket / note without selecting it first.

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.190.168.98] on June 05, 2008 04:42 PM
As of 5/20/08, according to the Basket news page (http://basket.kde.org/news.php), a KDE4 integration is underway and the app is going to be currently maintained.

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Re: Taking note of Basket

Posted by: nanday on June 05, 2008 06:11 PM
Looks like I just missed the announcement by a couple of days when I was writing.

Thanks for the update,

Bruce Byfield ("nanday")

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.225.49.111] on June 06, 2008 02:20 PM
For Gnome users the Zim note application should be considered. It has the date features as wished above and saves notes in simple text files. It has a bunch of cool features and I use it every day. Just "sudo apt-get install zim" and test for yourself...

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 158.125.34.142] on June 06, 2008 03:18 PM
it seems that you read the last edition of Linux Format, because they have the same kind of article :)), anyway is a nice application.

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Re: Taking note of Basket

Posted by: nanday on June 06, 2008 06:16 PM
I'm glad for that smiley. Accusations of plagiarism tend to make writers nervous.

So, for the record: I rarely read Linux Format, and didn't see its Basket article. The inspiration was the reaction to another Linux.com article on Tomboy. One of the comments suggested Basket as an alternative, and I decided it was worth writing about.

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Re(1): Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.7.25.181] on June 07, 2008 05:33 PM
it was a joke, I am sorry

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 208.71.158.250] on June 06, 2008 11:45 PM
The best tool for GTD (and note taking) I could find on linux would be by far org-mode, (which is an emacs mode). http://orgmode.org/

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Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.188.37.47] on June 08, 2008 08:32 AM
The best tool for GTD (and note taking)

http://www.firefox-download-free.com

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Re: Taking note of Basket

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 132.68.18.2] on June 08, 2008 09:45 AM
Parent is offtopic spam.

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