If you’re anything like me, you probably find it quite easy to entirely forget things that you’re supposed to do in a day — particularly if your obligations take place in real life, and you’re using the computer. Perhaps you have a dentist’s appointment this afternoon, and just as you’re heading out the door to your doom, you decide to check your email one last time. Now it turns out one of your friends sent you a link to icanhascheezburger.com, and, whether intentionally or by accidental mouse reflexes, you click it. A little later you look at the clock — and realize you’ve just spent two hours looking at pictures of cute cats with hilarious captions, and completely missed your appointment. Considering the nature of the appointment, you might not be too chagrined; but another such incident could be disastrous.
Something must be done about this. You need some way to automatically remind yourself when things need to be done. And KAlarm fills the bill nicely.
KAlarm is a simple program, whose primary purpose is to inform you about various things (namely, whatever you want to be reminded of) at specific times and dates. It can do a few other things besides, but that’s mainly what it’s made to do, and it does it quite well.
Before it can be used, though, it necessarily needs to be installed. The program’s website offers Debian packages and Slackware packages (the latter for older versions only) of KAlarm, as well as the sources, to compile yourself. It depends on the
kdelibs development packages, in addition to
bison. KMix and KTTSD are optional assets, providing volume control for audio notifications, and speech synthesis, to have your reminders read aloud.
The first time KAlarm is run, an introductory window will explain to you the purpose of the smiley and frowny faces that appear at the upper right of the whatever window is currently active. Basically, these are feedback buttons — click on one of them to send a message to the developers, telling them what you like or dislike about the program’s features. You can also send such a message by going to Help -> Send a Comment to Developers in the menu, so you may wish to disable the feedback buttons. To do so, click on one of them, press Alt-W, and click Save Setting. Then you can press Cancel, or, better yet, tell the developers what you think of KAlarm.
Though, quite likely, you haven’t seen enough yet to form an opinion. It’s time to take a look at what KAlarm actually does!
KAlarm consists of a small main window, which will show your list of upcoming notifications, if you have any. It also has an icon in the system tray, so you can hide it when not in use, but still keep it running so it can remind of things. KAlarm is a KDE application, and consequently has KDE-style documentation, available in the Help menu. Unfortunately, when compiled from source, at least, the KAlarm Handbook is installed to /usr/share/doc/HTML instead of /usr/share/doc/kde/HTML, where it ought to be. However, this is easily fixed by moving the files in question.
There are three types of notification that KAlarm can give you: Display Alarm, Command Alarm, and Email Alarm. To choose one, and remind yourself of something, click the New button on the toolbar, and select the desired alarm type from the dropdown list.
A Display Alarm is the type you’ll likely use the most. When its time has arrived, it will pop a window up on whichever of your multiple desktops you’re currently using, displaying the message on a vibrantly-colored background. To further get your attention, you can make KAlarm sound a beep at the same time, or, if you want, play an audio file or read your message with a synthesized voice. The color of both the background and the text can be changed, as can the font. And besides entering the text by hand, it is possible to display the contents of a file or the output of a command (or script), instead!
But if you’re into scheduling commands, you may prefer to choose a Command Alarm. If you don’t really care to see a command’s output, or would rather it were save to a file instead of displayed, but still want to run a program of some sort, this is the sort of notification to run. The possibilities of Command Alarms are just about endless. Anything that a bash script can do, it can do. You can use it to run OpenOffice with what you’ve got so far of that report you were supposed to write, to start up your IRC client just in time for that developer’s meeting you’re having tomorrow, or even to download and compile the latest snapshot of your favorite open-source program!
And then there’s Email Alarms. If you want to remind other people, not yourself, of what they need to be doing, then these’ll come in handy. Just type in the message you want to send and the address of the person you’re sending it to, and KAlarm will automatically tell them whatever you think they ought to be told, at the specified time. It has to use either KMail or sendmail to send the message, though, so you need to have either KMail or a sendmail compatible mail transport agent installed for use.
Being on time is quite important, so there’s a number of different options you can change to make certain the alarm goes off when you need it to. Alarms can be set to any date in the future, with or without a specific time of day (without which it’ll notify you as soon as you turn on your computer). Or, if you want, you can set an alarm to go off a certain time from now, rather than a set o’clock. You can set the time-zone of the alarm, as well, if you are, for example, coordinating something with someone who lives in another part of the world. You can also ask to be reminded in advance about something, so that you’re in the proper state of mind when the actual alarm goes off. And, as if all that weren’t enough, you can also set your alarms to recur, as often or as rarely as you like!
If you use multiple computers, you may want to synchronize your notifications between them. This is also possible. Merely click the Show Resources button on the toolbar, click the Add button in the panel that appears, and choose Alarms in Remote File. Then you can choose a folder on another computer in your network from which to download alarm data.
And in addition to all this, KAlarm can import birthdays from your KDE address book, save templates for alarms that you tend to use over and over, undo and redo your actions, and even allow you to schedule alarms from the command line! For those who are schedully-challenged, KAlarm is a great way to help keep you in time with the rest of the world.