Tracks: Ruby on Rails Meets GTD

I love it when two of my interests collide, and when it’s two fresh new interests that’s even better. The theme for this entire week as been Getting Things Done, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time collecting and organizing the things I need to do. I’ve also been curious about Ruby On Rails, a cool new tool for web development.

It turns out that there’s a GTD tool written using Rails called Tracks that does a great job of tracking projects, next actions and contexts. It’s free and it runs on my PowerBook, both big plusses as well.

Tracks was written to do GTD, which it does really well. Adding a new Next Action item (say “call to order a gate for the fence”) is as easy as clicking on the “Add the next action” link and typing it. Optionally you can add more details about that Next Action: you can attach a longer note to it, give it a due date, assign it to a project (Pool Fence Project), or give the action a context where it can be done (“next time I’m at the phone”). It’s easy to edit all three GTD pieces: Next Actions, Projects and Contexts, and to check off items as they’re completed. And it’s easy to print out the current state of things, so you can carry your To Do list in your pocket and leave the computer at home.

I’ve been keeping Tracks open in a browser tab, so it’s quick to switch to it and keep my To Do list up to date. So far Tracks has been trouble-free, and it’s way more fun to use than the Palm Desktop software (which was replaced by Tracks after just one day of using it to do GTD).

The downside of Tracks is that it’s still pretty geeky to set up, as you need use Terminal and set up a mySQL database. There was also a conflict between Tracks and Instiki (which also uses Rails), but I found a quick fix for that little problem.

It’s interesting that I’m relying more and more on browser-based tools like Instiki and Tracks to keep track of my life. They run on my machine and I don’t have to be connected to the net to use them.

*Update Oct 6*
Woke up way too early this morning and decided Tracks was running too slow as a CGI under Apache, so I installed Lighttpd and FastCGI per These instructions, but it barfed on the @sudo gem install fastcgi@ step, til I ran across this solution:

sudo gem install fcgi -- --with-fcgi-include=/opt/local/include --with-fcgi-lib=/opt/local/lib

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