command line kanban

This shell script provides an interactive command line interface for manipulating files with Markdown formatted lists.

Each list item corresponds to a card of a simple kanban system. The three possible list bullets -*+ are used as indicators of status "wait/backlog", "doing", and "done/archived".

The script permits displaying and status changes of the items, addition of new "waiting" items, direct edition of the lists ("kanban" files) and of the configuration file defining kanbans and some script parameters.

In addition, it will display as "doing" each list item of the pattern - ...(MM-DD)... where MM-DD corresponds to the current month and day.


Only the script must be installed somewhere, where it can be executed either directly, or as argument to sh or another reasonable shell. Currently no arguments are processed.

The script currently requires the standard (POSIX conformal) tools sed grep ed cat mktemp cp date for correct function; they should be available on any sane UNIX-like system.


The script will check for a configuration file and if necessary create one (see Configuration further below). It will scan the defined "kanban files" for "doing" items (with preceding '* ') and display them, then wait for input after a prompt.

A help screen is displayed if an empty command is given, and then also the configuration can be displayed by entering c.


In the list above, "N" is a number from the last displayed selection list; if none is given, the script asks for one. The numbers are not attributed to specific "cards" but to the items in the last displayed selection list (i.e the first "doing" and the first "waiting" card both have number 1, and it depends on the selection context, which one is referred to). The commands do/done/wait also accept several number arguments separated by white space.

Be careful with the ek and the ec commands, as the syntax of the corresponding files must be preserved for the script to correctly work. Whitespace in general is no problem, though.

Cards/items do not have any kind of ID number; they are just text, and therefore some strange things may happen if the same entry exists in more than one "kanban file" — in particular, they will all change status (doing/waiting/done) together. No card may contain TAB characters; they are replaced by SPC at entry. Do not add TAB charactes manually through the ek command, as this will probably disturb the script's manipulation of such cards.

The d command will not only display items with a preceding * but also those with a pattern of (MM-DD) anywhere after preceding -*+ characters, with MM being the current month and DD the current day. This permits to use a "kanban file" as a calendar; in that case it should be given as last kanban entry, to prevent filling of the screen with calendar entries when using any of the d w a commands (see also example below). In addition, the d command will sort the output cards according to the configuration variable sortdir (see below).

The ! "shell escape" command will allow you to execute shell commands. If the command begins with a letter and does not match to an internal clikan command, you may even omit the leading ! — so be careful: only type /bin/rm -rf * at the clikan prompt if you absolutely know what you're doing! You've been warned! (Also note commands are of course executed in a subshell, therefore typing cd .. is rather pointless.)


The script expects a configuration file named by the environment variable $CLIKANCONF or (if undefined) $HOME/.clikanconf by default. If there isn't any, the script generates a new one, populated with all possible parameters at reasonable default values, and also creates an item list ("kanban file") with the name $HOME/ containing some dummy entries.

Please see the source or the generated configuration file for information about possible settings!

Note: if $HOME/ already exists, the script will save a backup copy as $HOME/ in case something went wrong with the configuration file.

In addition, it uses the contents of $VISUAL or $EDITOR when needing to launch a text editor, or ed as default. (Because, what else!?)


We assume a first start with no environment variables set.

$ ./
 no config found, generating default config file /home/username/.clikanconf
 and default kanban file /home/username/
 (this should happen only once at first use)

1: learn to use clikan

Default config and kanban files have been generated. Let's see the waiting, the archived/done, and again the "doing" cards:

|< w

1: improve clikan
|< a

1: install clikan
|< d

1: learn to use clikan

Now let's assume we know everything, so card 1 is done:

|< done 1

|< w

1: improve clikan

Obviously there is work waiting, so let's do it:

|< do 1

1: improve clikan

Now we check for the target kanban ...

|< k
1: /home/username/
choice? (default: /home/username/

1: improve clikan

... do a manual editing session on it ...

|< ek
calling /bin/ed /home/username/ ...
# my kanban file

+ learn to use clikan
* improve clikan
+ install clikan

### titles work as comments
# might be a future card you don't yet want in waiting

... change one entry ...

* improve clikan
* test clikan

... and save it, quit, and we're back at our script:

welcome back

Verifying the entry indeed has been changed:

|< d

1: test clikan

Now let's add a new card:

|< n
enter new card for target /home/username/ :
give feedback to clikan developer

1: test clikan

The new card has been added to the waiting/backlog list:

|< w

1: give feedback to clikan developer

We could also have given the card content as direct argument, by typing n give feedback... at the prompt.

Just hitting RETURN at the prompt shows the help/usage page:

./ : command line kanban
configuration file: /home/username/.clikanconf
for help about commands, just hit RETURN
to show configuration, enter 'c'

We want to see the configuration, then quit:

 configfile contents:
    # configuration file for ./
    # (autogenerated at Tue Dec 17 07:18:26 UTC 2019)
    # file name can be defined by env.var CLIKANCONF
    #  prompt is displayed when waiting for command
    prompt |<
    #  maxshow defines the maximum number of cards/lines to be displayed
    maxshow 15
#  sortdir defines order of non-calendar kanban cards
#  and can be one of up, down or none (default)
sortdir none
    #  kanban defines a kanban file, may be given several times
    # kanban /some/path/to/jobkanban.txt
    # kanban /another/path/to/
    kanban /home/username/

1: test clikan
|< q