Saturday, April 12, 2008

Todoist Sidebar - Firefox Add-On

Note: please see the latest update.

I recently switched from Google Notebook to Todoist for my to-do lists. I'd searched a while for a list manager that could do hierarchical tasks, and Todoist looks like the only one that does, at least for free. It does hierarchical projects too, in fact.

One hack I saw on their site described a way to load Todoist into Firefox's sidebar, basically by bookmarking a simplified view of the site and checking "Load this bookmark in the sidebar." Nice!

My joy soon soured though, when I noticed that adding a task has the side-effect of loading the Todoist website into the main browser window, browsing over whatever site you already have in the current tab. Not so nice.

Plus, I don't like the fact the button to open the sidebar (really just a bookmark) doesn't toggle -- to close the sidebar, you have to mouse all the way over to the sidebar's close button! Ridiculous! And though you can define a keyword for the bookmark which allows easy access through the address bar, there's no way to define a keyboard shortcut to hide the sidebar.

So, I put together a Firefox add-on which solves these problems, which I have creatively christened Todoist Sidebar.

Some perhaps non-obvious things to note:

  • Left-click the toolbar button to toggle the Todoist sidebar.
  • Middle-click the toolbar button to open Todoist in a new tab.
  • The default keyboard shortcut is Alt+Shift+2 on Windows and Linux, and Cmd+Shift+2 on the Mac.
  • The keyboard shortcut can be customized by modifying the string values
    todoist-sidebar.key and todoist-sidebar.modifiers in about:config, according to Mozilla's XUL:key specification. A Firefox restart is required for the changes to take effect. Setting either of these values to blank disables the keyboard shortcut.

All of this will probably be moot once Google continues their world conquest by rolling out their Calendar tasks implementation. But hey, it will be fun while it lasts...

Right now the add-on is hosted in the Firefox add-on sandbox.

10/15/08 update: Okay, Amir, the creator of Todoist, contacted me a bit ago all the way from Denmark to collaborate on the Todoist Sidebar, and he has updated it and now maintains it on the Todoist website! He blogged about it at Please go there to install. Woohoo!

5/15/08 update: Hm, it seems to still exhibit the naughty toggle behavior described in the comments on initial install. Restarting Firefox makes the problem go away. I'll look into this at some point. Lame!

4/28/08 update: Version 1.0.2 fixes the previously mentioned bug where any key press triggers the sidebar. Also the default key accelerator is now Alt+Shift+2 for Windows and Linux, and Cmd+Shift+2 for the Mac.

4/26/08 update: Please note that currently there is a bug with the default installation where every key press toggles the sidebar (see comments). This is due to my incorrectly implementing the default shortcut key. Also, the intended default is a bit problematic because it tends to interfere with the Tools menu accelerator.

I plan to change the default to Alt+Shift+2 (Cmd+Shift+2 on the Mac) when I get the chance. In the meantime, you can do this yourself by setting todoist-sidebar.key to "2" and todoist-sidebar.modifiers to "alt shift" for Windows/Linux or "accel shift" for the Mac in about:config.

4/24/08 update: Please note that some users are experiencing behavior where every key they type (or some subset) toggles the sidebar (see comments). This may possibly be remedied by fiddling with the todoist-sidebar.modifiers setting in about:config. Please be patient and I'll look into this shortly.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Move to Trash from the Mac Command Line

I was about to make a lengthy comment to a post on Life Hacker and decided to put most of it here instead. That site is seriously starting to take over my life.

A while back I wrote this shell function to be able to move files to the trash from the command line on my Mac, rather than condemning them to oblivion with no chance of return. This is in my .profile.

It's a little hairy looking but it does the job. Note that it attempts to append names with a date stamp if a file/directory with that name already exists in the trash, just as the Finder does.
function del() {
while [ -n "$1" ]; do
if [ ! -e "$1" ]; then
echo "'$1' not found; exiting"

local file=`basename -- "$1"`

# Chop trailing '/' if there

local destination=''

if [ -e "$HOME/.Trash/$file" ]; then
# Extract file and extension
local ext=`expr "$file" : ".*\(\.[^\.]*\)$"`
local base=${file%$ext}

# Add a space between base and timestamp
test -n "$base" && base="$base "

destination="/$base`date +%H-%M-%S`_$RANDOM$ext"

echo "Moving '$1' to '$HOME/.Trash$destination'"
\mv -i -- "$1" "$HOME/.Trash$destination" || return

alias rm='del'
An interesting side-effect is that
rm <directory>
works as well, which is a little uncanny because ordinarily either rmdir <directory> (for an empty directory) or rm -rf is required.

2/23/10 update: Handle case where rm options are mistakenly specified.

7/4/08 update: Fixed problem when removing file names containing spaces.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Sorry, I can't get enough of reading my own type (and corrections). I replied to SonOfPethuel's blog.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Create Firefox Multiple-Item Packages -

I have a (growing) list of Firefox add-ons that I use all the time, so whenever I am customizing a clean machine, it's a tedious process browsing to each add-on's page and going through the installation procedure repeatedly.

I learned that the Mozilla framework supports Multiple-Item Packages -- multiple add-ons and/or themes grouped together in a single file. I've written a Python script which takes a list of add-ons and themes in any format I could think of and generates a multiple-item package for you --, for "multiple add-on." You can pass to it:

  • local .xpi/jar files
  • directories of .xpi/jar files
  • text files, with each line containing a .xpi/jar file
  • remote URLs
  • websites which will get scraped for .xpi/jar files

I use the text file VicsAddons.txt to generate my personal add-on favorites:
# Download Statusbar
# Google Browser Sync
# CustomizeGoogle
# Better Gmail 2
# Better GCal
# Better GReader
# Adblock
# dragdropupload
# Firebug
# Google Gears
# PicLens

Running it produces the following output:
$ VicsAddons.txt
Parsing 'VicsAddons.txt'
Parsing ''
Scanning page...
Downloading ''
Adding 'download_statusbar-'
Parsing ''
Scanning page...
Downloading ''

Created 'VicsAddons.xpi' with the following files:

I can then drag VicsAddons.xpi to a Firefox window, and all add-ons and themes are installed in one fell swoop (restarting Firefox still required, unfortunately).

Note that since Firebug has both its current and beta versions on the same web page, adds them both, which could be problematic. I could reference the exact desired .xpi version, but this loses the benefit of retrieving the latest version when run. Ah, trade-offs.

Here is the help.

usage: [options] <file_or_directory> [...]

Create a multiple-item XPI. The <file_or_directory> argument(s) can be any of the following:

.(xpi|jar) file - added directly to bundle
URL, .webloc file
- if ends with '.(xpi|jar)', will be downloaded and add to bundle;
otherwise, the web page is scanned for links ending with '.(xpi|jar)'
directory - scanned for files satisfying any of the above requirements
text file - each line is scanned as if it were given as a parameter. Lines beginning
with '"', '#', '!', or ':' are considered comments