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Custom Database Tracks Todos

Custom Database Tracks ToDo's

Do you have more ToDo's than you know what to do with? Check out this user's customized ToDo Database.

By Al Harrington

I have a very hectic life that includes work, school, a scouting group, singing, and a very active 9-month-old baby. I also like to spend some time with my wife once in a while. I have personal and business appointments to track, phone calls to make, meetings to attend, projects to manage, and lots of little miscellaneous things I have to follow up on.

The Appointment Book on the HP 100/200LX is a great tool for organizing day-to-day events. However, I find its ToDo capabilities a little lacking, especially in light of all the projects and events I have to manage. After much discussion in the HP HAND forum on CompuServe I decided to create a database to manage ToDo's.

The Database application on the HP 100/200LX is flexible and easy to use, so I chose it instead of a third party database program, to create my ToDo Database. I have been using this database for several months and have found it to be very useful. My ToDo Database (TODO.GDB <Available ON DISK>) comes with several pre-defined subsets, a custom DataCard (200LX only). A set of macros (TODO.MAC <Available ON DISK>) helps manage the database. The following sections describe each of these components.

Database Structure

The All Items and individual Data Items views of my ToDo Database are shown to the right. Defining a new database on the 100/ 200LX is easy. Go into the Database application and press (MENU) File Define New Database... and fill out the Add Field screen. (For more on defining or modifying a database structure, see "database, defining new," in the index or your HP 100LX or 200LX User's Guide.)

The structure of my database is quite simple.

Item -The name of the ToDo.

Category -This field is used to organize the different types of ToDo's I have. The basic set includes:

  • Appointment -is used to view or schedule specific appointments within the database.
  • Business -indicates work related items
  • Call -is used to organize phone calls.
  • Meetings -is used to track, view and schedule meetings.
  • Personal -is used for non-work related items.
  • Project -is used for simple project tracking.
  • Reminder -is the "string around the finger" for reminders that don't fit elsewhere.



Multiple categories can be selected. For example, if I need to set up a ToDo for a business meeting, I can select Business and Meeting under the category field. To do this from the Data Item view, press (ALT)-(T) to go to the Category field. Select the first category (Business), press (<Spacebar>) (not (ENTER)), select the second category (Meeting) and press (ENTER).

Another ToDo Database: Graphic

Data Item View of ToDo Database: Graphic

 You can use the subsets described later to display all ToDo's of the same category. In the example above, the Meeting subset would display the ToDo because it had Meeting in the category field, and the Business subset would display the ToDo because it also had Business in the category field.

Priority -contains a number to designate the importance of the ToDo. I stayed with the "standard" numbering scheme (1 = most important, 10 or higher = least important). If you plan on using another scheme, i.e. maybe A1-Z10, you will need to change the "priority" subsets (described later).

Start -The date to start the ToDo.

End -The expected completion date for the ToDo.

Completed -A check box to mark the ToDo as completed.

Notes -Used for storing various bits of information relating to the ToDo. Also used to schedule appointments and meetings (see Macros section).

Subsets Organize ToDo's

Subsets let you organize and look at a smaller portion of the ToDo Database. Define a Subset from the list view by pressing (F6) (F2) to display the Define Subset screen.

Define Subsets Screen: Graphic

 Define the subset, press (F10) and give the subset a name, and press (F10) again. Select a subset in the View Subset screen by highlighting it and pressing (F10).

My subsets were created using the Palmtops' Subset Selection Language (SSL), which lets you create more complex selection criteria for your Subsets. From the Define Subset screen, press (F2) and enter the SSL Statement in the General Subset Entry screen. Press (F10) when finished.

General Subset Entry Screen: Graphic

 For example, I created a Business subset to display uncompleted business-related items. In the General Subset Entry screen I entered the following statement:


This statement tells Subset to list all ToDo's with "Business" in the Category field (Category#"Business") and (&) with the Completed box unchecked (!Completed). (See "subset definitions" or "SSL" in the index of your HP 100LX or 200LX User's Guide for more on this subject.)

The HP 100/200LX lets you define the Sort order of items displayed in a particular subset. After selecting a particular Subset, from the All Items view press (F7) (Sort) and define the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd sort fields. Press (F10) when finished. Whenever you display that Subset, it will be displayed in the order you selected. Listed below are the Subsets I use with my ToDo Database:

All Database Items -This is the standard subset that lists all ToDo's. Items are sorted by Priority, Category then Start.

Meetings -This lists all items containing Meeting in the category field. Items are sorted by Priority, Start date then Item.

Business -This lists all items containing Business in the category field. Items are sorted by Priority, Start date then Item.

Reminders -This lists all items containing Reminder in the category field. Items are sorted by Priority, Start date then Item.

Urgent -Items with 1 in the Priority field. Items are sorted by Start, Category then Item.

Custom DataCard

The DataCard is a great 200LX feature. The DataCard is displayed in the All Database Items list and is enabled by default on the HP 200LX. Press (CTRL)(D) to toggle the DataCard display on or off. The DataCard adds a more "graphical" view of the data displayed in each subset.

Data Card View of Custom ToDo Item: Graphic

 At the top of each DataCard is the name of the ToDo. Below this is displayed the Category, Priority, Start, and Notes. The DataCard can be changed to display the data fields you wish, however there is a 10-line limit to the data that can be displayed. See "data card" in the index of your HP 200LX User's Guide for information on modifying the DataCard.

I have included a custom icon for the ToDo DataCard (TODO.ICN <Available ON DISK>). This icon file must be in the same directory as the ToDo Database (TODO.GDB <Available ON DISK>).


Function key macros are used on the HP Palmtops to automate repetitive key strokes. I use them in conjunction with my ToDo Database to automate certain tasks. I have the following macros in TODO.MAC <Available ON DISK>:

F1 -Archive Completed ToDo's -This macro selects all completed ToDo's, archives them into a file using today's date as the name (i.e. 081094.GDB).

{F6}{Home}c{Enter}{Menu}ea{Menu}fe {Date}{Left}{Left}{BackSp}{Left} {Left}{BackSp}{Enter}{Del}{Enter} {F6}{Home}{Enter}

To view the old ToDo's, you can load the extracted database (081094.GDB in the example above) into the ToDo Database. If for some reason you need to put the archived ToDo's back into the database, use the Merge function (press (MENU) File Merge). This will incorporate the ToDo's back into the database, which can then be viewed via the "Completed ToDo's" subset.

NOTE: after archiving it would be best to either move or copy the archive file to another directory. This will prevent accidental overwriting (in case you press (Fn)-(F1) by accident).

F2 -Marking A ToDo As Complete -This macro marks the current item as completed.


F3 -Setup A Call ToDo -To use this macro, enter the name of the person you wish to call in the Item field then press (Fn)(F3).

{Shift+Home}{Ctrl+C}{Phone}{F4} {Ctrl+V} {Enter}{Enter}{Tab}{Ctrl+C} {F10}{More} b{Tab}Call{Enter}{F3} {Ctrl+V}{F10}

The macro will switch to the Phone Book, copy the person's business phone number to the clipboard, go back to the ToDo Database and insert it into the Notes field of the ToDo item. It will also put Call in the Category field.

F4 -Schedule Meeting / Appointment -This macro is designed so you can enter meetings or appointments into the ToDo Database and then automatically schedule them in your Appointment Book.

{Alt+I}{Ctrl+C}{More}a{F2}{Ctrl+V} {More}b{Alt+N}{Home}{Ctrl+Right} {Ctrl+Right}{Left}{Shift+Home} {Ctrl+C}{More} a{Alt+T}{Ctrl+V}{More} b{Ctrl+Right}{Ctrl+Right}{Shift+End} {Ctrl+C}{More}a{ Alt+I}{Ctrl+V}{More} b{Alt+S}{Ctrl+C}{More}a{Alt+D} {Ctrl+V}{F10}{More}b{F10}

In order for this macro to work properly, enter the following in the ToDo Database fields:

  • Item -Name of the event.
  • Category -Appointment or Meeting.
  • Priority -The priority (used only in the database).
  • Start -The date of the event.
  • Notes -The starting time and ending time using the following format: start-end (i.e. 10:00am-12:00pm).



It is important that the times be entered as shown, with no spaces. The macro does a lot of switching between Appt and the ToDo Database. When the macro finishes, the current ToDo is closed and you are returned to the subset view. The macro does not close Appt when finished.

F5 -Add Selected Item To ToDo DB -This is used from Memo, NoteTaker, or another application when you wish to create a ToDo based on something you just keyed in.


For example, you are typing the following note in Memo: "I will call Joe tomorrow." You realize after typing this in that you need to add "call Joe" to your ToDo Database. To do this with this macro, first highlight "call Joe" (move cursor to the "c" in "call" and press (<Shift>)(<RightArrow>) several times until the phrase is highlighted). Then press (Fn)-(5) and the macro copies the phrase to the clipboard, switches to the ToDo Database, inserts "call Joe" in the Item field, and moves the cursor to the Category field, waiting for you to enter the category.

Using the ToDo Database

A tool is only effective if it is used. There were a couple of occasions where I stopped using the ToDo Database on a daily basis. I found that I would neglect and forget about things that I needed to do. I finally got in the habit of loading the database every morning when I get to work to review the tasks for the day. Several times during the day I review the urgent tasks and if I happen to have a "slow" period I review non-urgent tasks.

Before I start a particular activity (for example, before a class begins) I select the subset for the activity and review the items. I have found out that it is sometimes useful to do this well in advance of the activity. For example, before I head off to a meeting I load the "Meetings" subset to see if there is anything I need to bring to the meeting.

This database is a basic tool that can be used with a variety of time management systems. By modifying the subsets and categories you can customize the ToDo Database to tailor your particular method of time management.

Backup to Prevent Data Loss

The database application on the HP 100/200LX is not perfect. Occasionally I've received a "Record not found" message. This may occur with any database that is used heavily. I've had this happen to me on a couple of occasions with the ToDo Database. Here are a few things you can do to prevent data loss.

First, keep backups of your data! This is a good general practice for any computer user. To backup your ToDo Database you could use FILER to make a copy of the TODO.GDB file in another directory. Give the copy a different name (e.g. BACKUP .GDB) so you don't confuse the two. You could also use the Database File Extract option. In the All Items list, press (<Shift>)-(<Spacebar>) to tag all the database items. Then press (MENU) File Extract, give the backup file a name (e.g. BACKUP.GDB) and save by pressing (ENTER).

If you do happen to get a "Record not found" message, you can restore your backup copy. From the Database application, press (MENU) File Open, select BACKUP.GDB and press (F10). Make sure everything looks fine, then delete the old TODO.GDB and rename BACKUP.GDB to TODO .GDB. I have used this method successfully with the ToDo Database.

[Editor's Note: The "Record not found" message can often be fixed by running the database repair program GARLIC , found on the 94/95 Subscriber PowerDisk.]

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