A command line tool for keeping track of what you’re doing and tracking what you’ve done.

A pre-release version of doing 1.0.8 is available by running gem install doing --pre. The updated documentation is on GitHub.

What and why

doing is a basic CLI for adding and listing “what was I doing” reminders in a TaskPaper-formatted text file. It allows for multiple sections/categories and flexible output formatting.

While I’m working, I have hourly reminders to record what I’m working on, and I try to remember to punch in quick notes if I’m unexpectedly called away from a project. I can do this just by typing doing now tracking down the CG bug.

If there’s something I want to look at later but doesn’t need to be added to a task list or tracker, I can type doing later check out the pinboard bookmarks from macdrifter. When I get back to my computer — or just need a refresher after a distraction — I can type doing last to see what the last thing on my plate was. I can also type doing recent (or just doing) to get a list of the last few entries. doing today gives me everything since midnight for the current day, making it easy to see what I’ve accomplished over a sleepless night.

Side note: I actually use the library behind this utility as part of another script that mirrors entries in Day One that have the tag “wwid.” I can use the hourly writing reminders and enter my stuff in the quick entry popup. Someday I’ll get around to cleaning that up and putting it out there.


$ [sudo] gem install doing

To install the latest version, use --pre:

$ [sudo] gem install --pre doing

Only use sudo if your environment requires it. If you’re using the system Ruby on a Mac, for example, it will likely be necessary. If gem install doing fails, then run sudo gem install doing and provide your administrator password.

Run doing config to open your ~/.doingrc file in the editor defined in the $EDITOR environment variable. Set up your doing_file right away (where you want entries to be stored), and cover the rest after you’ve read the docs.

See the support section below for troubleshooting details.

The “doing” file

The file that stores all of your entries is generated the first time you add an entry with doing now (or doing later). By default the file is created in “~/”, but this can be modified in the config file.

The format of the “doing” file is TaskPaper-compatible. You can edit it by hand at any time (in TaskPaper or any text editor), but it uses a specific format for parsing, so be sure to maintain the dates and pipe characters.

Notes are anything in the list without a leading hyphen and date. They belong to the entry directly before them, and they should be indented one level beyond the parent item. When using the now and later commands on the command line, you can start the entry with a quote and hit return, then type the note and close the quote. Anything after the first line will be turned into a TaskPaper-compatible note for the task and can be displayed in templates using %note.

Notes can be prevented from ever appearing in output with the global option --no-notes: doing --no-notes show all.


A basic configuration looks like this:

doing_file: /Users/username/Dropbox/nvALT2.2/?? What was I
current_section: Currently
default_template: '%date: %title%note'
default_date_format: '%Y-%m-%d %H:%M'
    date_format: '%F %_I:%M%P'
    section: Currently
    count: 10
    wrap_width: 0
    template: '%boldblack%date %boldgreen| %boldwhite%title%default%note'
    order: desc
    date_format: '%Y-%m-%d %H:%M'
    template: '%date | %title%note'
    wrap_width: 0
    date_format: '%_I:%M%P'
    template: '%date: %title%odnote'
    wrap_width: 0
    date_format: '%_I:%M%P on %a'
    template: '%title (at %date)%odnote'
    wrap_width: 0
    date_format: '%_I:%M%P'
    template: '%date > %title%odnote'
    wrap_width: 50
:include_notes: true

The config file is stored in “~/.doingrc”, and is created on the first run.

Doing file location

The one thing you’ll probably want to adjust is the file that the notes are stored in. That’s the doing_file key:

doing_file: /Users/username/Dropbox/nvALT2.2/?? What was I

I keep mine in my nvALT folder for quick access and syncing between machines. If desired, you can give it a .taskpaper extension to make it more recognizable to other applications. (If you do that in nvALT, make sure to add taskpaper as a recognized extension in preferences).

“Current actions” section

You can rename the section that holds your current tasks. By default, this is “Currently,” but if you have some other bright idea, feel free:

current_section: Currently

Default editors

The setting editor_app only applies to Mac OS X users. It’s the default application that the command doing open will open your WWID file in. If this is blank, it will be opened by whatever the system default is, or you can use -a app_name or -b bundle_id to override.

In the case of the doing now -e command, your $EDITOR environment variable will be used to complete the entry text and notes. Set it in your ~/.bash_profile or whatever is appropriate for your system:

export EDITOR="mate -w"

The only requirements are that your editor be launchable from the command line and able to “wait.” In the case of Sublime Text and TextMate, just use -w like this: export EDITOR="subl -w".


The config also contains templates for various command outputs. Include placeholders by placing a % before the keyword. The available tokens are:

  • %title: the “what was I doing” entry line
  • %date: the date based on the template’s “date_format” setting
  • %shortdate: a custom date formatter that removes the day/month/year from the entry if they match the current day/month/year
  • %note: Any note in the entry will be included here, a newline and tabs are automatically added.
  • %odnote: The notes with a leading tab removed (outdented note)
  • %hr: a horizontal rule (-) the width of the terminal
  • %hr_under: a horizontal rule (_) the width of the terminal
  • %n: inserts a newline
  • %t: inserts a tab
  • %[color]: color can be black, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan or white
    • you can prefix “bg” to affect background colors (%bgyellow)
    • prefix “bold” and “boldbg” for strong colors (%boldgreen, %boldbgblue)
    • there are some random special combo colors. Use doing colors to see the list
  • %interval: when used with the -t switch on the show command, it will display the time between a timestamp or @start(date) tag and the @done(date) tag, if it exists. Otherwise, it will remain empty.

Date formats are based on Ruby strftime formatting.

My normal template for the recent command looks like this:

  date_format: '%_I:%M%P'
  template: '%date > %title%odnote'
  wrap_width: 88

And it outputs:

$ doing recent 3
 4:30am > Made my `console` script smarter...
    Checks first argument to see if it's a file, if it is, that's the log

    Else, it checks the first argument for a ".log" suffix and does a search in the user
    application logs with `find` for it.

    Otherwise, system.log.

    I also made an awesome Cope wrapper for it...
12:00pm > Working on `doing` again.
12:45pm > I think this thing (doing) is ready to document and distribute

You can get pretty clever and include line breaks and other formatting inside of double quotes. If you want multiline templates, just use “\n” in the template line and after the next run it will be rewritten as proper YAML automatically.

For example, this block:

  date_format: '%_I:%M%P'
  template: "\n%hr\n%date\n > %title%odnote\n%hr_under"
  wrap_width: 100

will rewrite to:

  date_format: '%_I:%M%P'
  template: |2-

     > %title%odnote
  wrap_width: 100

and output my recent entries like this:

$ doing recent 3
 > Made my `console` script smarter...
    Checks first argument to see if it's a file, if it is, that's the log

    Else, it checks the first argument for a ".log" suffix and does a search in the user application
    logs with `find` for it.

    Otherwise, system.log.

    I also made an awesome Cope wrapper for it...

 > Working on `doing` again.

 > I think this thing (doing) is ready to document and distribute


Custom views

You can create your own “views” in the ~/.doingrc file and view them with doing view view_name. Just add a section like this:

    section: Old
    count: 5
    wrap_width: 0
    date_format: '%F %_I:%M%P'
    template: '%date | %title%note'
    order: asc
    tags: done finished cancelled
    tags_bool: ANY

You can add additional custom views, just nest them under the “views” key (indented two spaces from the edge). Multiple views would look like this:

    section: Later
    count: 5
    wrap_width: 60
    date_format: '%F %_I:%M%P'
    template: '%date | %title%note'
    section: Old
    count: 5
    wrap_width: 0
    date_format: '%F %_I:%M%P'
    template: '%date | %title%note' 

The “section” key is the default section to pull entries from. Count and section can be overridden at runtime with the -c and -s flags. Setting section to All will combine all sections in the output.

You can add new sections with doing add_section section_name. You can also create them on the fly by using the -s section_name flag when running doing now. For example, doing now -s Misc just a random side note would create the “just a random side note” entry in a new section called “Misc,” if Misc didn’t already exist.

The tags and tags_bool keys allow you to specify tags that the view is filtered by. You can list multiple tags separated by spaces, and then use tags_bool to specify “ALL,” “ANY,” or “NONE” to determine how it handles the multiple tags.

The order key defines the sort order of the output. This is applied after the tasks are retrieved and cut off at the maximum number specified in count.

Regarding colors, you can use them to create very nice displays if you’re outputting to a color terminal. Example:

  date_format: '%F %_I:%M%P'
  section: Currently
  count: 10
  wrap_width: 0
  template: '%boldblack%date %boldgreen| %boldwhite%title%default%note'



doing [global options] command [command options] [arguments...]

Global options:

--[no-]notes        - Output notes if included in the template (default: enabled)
--version           - Display the program version
--help              - Show help message and usage summary


help           - Shows a list of commands and global options
help [command] - Shows help for any command (`doing help now`)

Adding entries:

now      - Add an entry
later    - Add an item to the Later section
done     - Add a completed item with @done(date). No argument finishes last entry.
meanwhile - Finish any @meanwhile tasks and optionally create a new one

The doing now command can accept -s section_name to send the new entry straight to a non-default section. It also accepts --back AMOUNT to let you specify a start date in the past using “natural language.” For example, doing now --back 25m ENTRY or doing now --back "yesterday 3:30pm" ENTRY.

You can finish the last unfinished task when starting a new one using doing now with the -f switch. It will look for the last task not marked @done and add the @done tag with the start time of the new task (either the current time or what you specified with --back).

doing done is used to add an entry that you’ve already completed. Like now, you can specify a section with -s section_name. You can also skip straight to Archive with -a.

doing done can also backdate entries using natural language with --back 15m or --back "3/15 3pm". That will modify the starting timestamp of the entry. You can also use --took 1h20m or --took 1:20 to set the finish date based on a “natural language” time interval. If --took is used without --back, then the start date is adjusted (--took interval is subtracted) so that the completion date is the current time.

When used with doing done, --back and --took allow time intervals to be accurately counted when entering items after the fact. --took is also available for the doing finish command, but cannot be used in conjunction with --back. (In finish they both set the end date, and neither has priority. --back allows specific days/times, --took uses time intervals.)

All of these commands accept a -e argument. This opens your command line editor as defined in the environment variable $EDITOR. Add your entry, save the temp file and close it, and the new entry will be added. Anything after the first line is included as a note on the entry.

doing meanwhile is a special command for creating and finishing tasks that may have other entries come before they’re complete. When you create an entry with doing meanwhile [entry text], it will automatically complete the last @meanwhile item (dated @done tag) and add the @meanwhile tag to the new item. This allows time tracking on a more general basis, and still lets you keep track of the smaller things you do while working on an overarching project. The meanwhile command accepts --back [time] and will backdate the @done tag and start date of the new task at the same time. Running meanwhile with no arguments will simply complete the last @meanwhile task. See doing help meanwhile for more options.

Modifying entries:

finish      - Mark last X entries as @done
tag         - Tag last entry
note        - Add a note to the last entry

doing finish by itself is the same as doing done by itself. It adds @done(timestamp) to the last entry. It also accepts a numeric argument to complete X number of tasks back in history. Add -a to also archive the affected entries.

doing finish also provides an --auto flag, which you can use to set the end time of any entry to 1 minute before the start time of the next. Running a command such as doing finish --auto 10 will go through the last 10 entries and sequentially update any without a @done tag with one set to the time just before the next entry in the list.

As mentioned above, finish also accepts --back "2 hours" (sets the finish date from time now minus interval) or --took 30m (sets the finish date to time started plus interval) so you can accurately add times to completed tasks, even if you don’t do it in the moment.

tag adds one or more tags to the last entry, or specify a count with -c X. Tags are specified as basic arguments, separated by spaces. For example:

doing tag -c 3 client cancelled

… will mark the last three entries as “@client @cancelled.” Add -r as a switch to remove the listed tags instead.

note lets you append a note to the last entry. You can specify a section to grab the last entry from with -s section_name. -e will open your $EDITOR for typing the note, but you can also just include it on the command line after any flags. You can also pipe a note in on STDIN (echo "fun stuff"|doing note). If you don’t use the -r switch, new notes will be appended to the existing notes, and using the -e switch will let you edit and add to an existing note. The -r switch will remove/replace a note; if there’s new note text passed when using the -r switch, it will replace any existing note. If the -r switch is used alone, any existing note will be removed.

You can also add notes at the time of entry by using the -n or --note flag with doing now, doing later, or doing done. If you pass text to any of the creation commands which has multiple lines, everything after the first line break will become the note.

Displaying entries:

show      - List all entries
recent    - List recent entries
today     - List entries from today
yesterday - List entries from yesterday
last      - Show the last entry
grep      - Show entries matching text or pattern

doing show on its own will list all entries in the “Currently” section. Add a section name as an argument to display that section instead. Use “all” to display all entries from all sections.

You can filter the show command by tags. Simply list them after the section name (or “all”). The boolean defaults to “ANY,” meaning any entry that contains any of the listed tags will be shown. You can use -b ALL or -b NONE to change the filtering behavior: doing show all done cancelled -b NONE will show all tasks from all sections that do not have either “@done” or “@cancelled” tags.

Use -c X to limit the displayed results. Combine it with -a newest or -a oldest to choose which chronological end it trims from. You can also set the sort order of the output with -s asc or -s desc.

The show command can also show the time spent on a task if it has a @done(date) tag with the -t option. This requires that you include a %interval token in template -> default in the config. You can also include @start(date) tags, which override the timestamp when calculating the intervals.

If you have a use for it, you can use --csv on the show or view commands to output the results as a comma-separated CSV to STDOUT. Redirect to a file to save it: doing show all done --csv > ~/Desktop/done.csv.

doing yesterday is great for stand-ups, thanks to Sean Collins for that. Note that you can show yesterday’s activity from an alternate section by using the section name as an argument (e.g. doing yesterday archive).


view     - Display a user-created view
views    - List available custom views

Display any of the custom views you make in ~/.doingrc with the view command. Use doing views to get a list of available views. Any time a section or view is specified on the command line, fuzzy matching will be used to find the closest match. Thus, lat will match Later, etc..


sections    - List sections
choose      - Select a section to display from a menu
add_section - Add a new section to the "doing" file


archive  - Move entries between sections
open     - Open the "doing" file in an editor (OS X)
config   - Edit the default configuration


    -k, --keep=arg - Count to keep (ignored if archiving by tag) (default: 5)
    -t, --to=arg   - Move entries to (default: Archive)
    -b, --bool=arg - Tag boolean (default: AND)

The archive command will move entries from one section (default: Currently) to another section (default: Archive).

doing archive on its own will move all but the most recent 5 entries from currently into the archive.

doing archive other_section will archive from “other_section” to Archive.

doing archive other_section -t alternate will move from “other_section” to “alternate.” You can use the -k flag on any of these to change the number of items to leave behind. To move everything, use -k 0.

You can also use tags to archive. You define the section first, and anything following it is treated as tags. If your first argument starts with “@”, it will assume all sections and assume any following arguments are tags.

By default tag archiving uses an “AND” boolean, meaning all the tags listed must exist on the entry for it to be moved. You can change this behavior with -b OR or -b NONE (“ALL” and “ANY” also work).

Example: Archive all Currently items for @client that are marked @done

doing archive @client @done


Bash completion

See the file doing.completion.bash in the git repository for full bash completion. Thanks to fcrespo82 for getting it started.

Zsh completion

See the file doing.completion.zsh in the git repository for zsh completion.


The previous incarnation of doing had a LaunchBar action that I used frequently. The Day One popup has mostly replaced that for me, but only because I have a system that connects it to my WWID file. However, I’ve still found a place for adding WWID entries without including them in my journal, and LaunchBar is the perfect way to do that for me.

All you need is an AppleScript saved at “~/Library/Application Support/LaunchBar/Actions/Doing.scpt”. It should look like this:

on handle_string(message)
    -- get the input from LaunchBar
    if message is "?" then
        -- if the input is just "?" display the last three entries
        set _doing to do shell script "/usr/bin/doing recent 3"
        tell application "LaunchBar" to display in large type _doing
        -- otherwise, create a new entry using the input
        do shell script "/usr/bin/doing now " & quoted form of message
    end if
end handle_string

Evan Lovely has converted this to an Alfred workflow as well.


Errors after “Successfully installed…”

If you get errors in the terminal immediately after a message like:

Successfully installed doing-x.x.x
2 gems installed

…it may just be documentation related. If running doing works, you can ignore them. If not, try running the install command again with --no-document:

$ gem install --no-document doing

Command not found

If running doing after a successful install gives you a “command not found” error, then your gem path isn’t in your $PATH, meaning the system can’t find it. To locate the gem and link it into your path, you can try this:

cd $GEM_PATH/bin
ln -s doing /usr/local/bin/

Then try running doing and see if it works.

Encoding errors

Ruby is rife with encoding inconsistencies across platforms and versions. Feel free to file issues (see below).


I’m not making any money on doing, and I don’t plan to spend a lot of time fixing errors on an array of operating systems and platforms I don’t even have access to. You’ll probably have to solve some things on your own.

That said, you can get support from other users (and occasionally me) on GitHub. If you run into a replicatable bug in your environment, please post an issue and include your platform, OS version, and the result of ruby -v, along with a copy/paste of the error message. To get a more verbose error message, try running GLI_DEBUG=true doing [...] for a full trace.

Please try not to email me directly about GitHub projects.

Developer notes

I’ll try to document some of the code structure as I flesh it out. I’m currently working on adding a CLI reporting structure and logging methods, as well as santizing and standardizing all the flags and switches for consistency. Feel free to poke around, I’ll try to add more comments in the future (and retroactively).


1.0.7 / 2014-09-23

  • fix for -v option
  • Slightly fuzzier searching in the grep command
  • cleaner exits, only_timed key for view configs
  • making the note command append new notes better, and load existing notes in the editor if -e is called
  • handle multiple tag input in ‘show’ tag filter
  • Global tag operations, better reporting


  • Improved HTML output
  • –only_timed option for view/show commands that only outputs items with elapsed timers (interval between start and done dates)
  • add seconds for timed items in CSV output, run –only_timed before chopping off –count #
  • fix for 1.8.7 Dir.home issue
  • version bump
  • don’t show tag totals with zero times
  • zsh completion for doing
  • HTML styling
  • –only_timed option
  • added zsh completion file to
  • add zsh completion file


  • done command: making –took modify start time if –back isn’t specified
  • Cleaned up time totals, improved HTML output
  • fixes for –back and –took parsing
  • Adding more complete terminal reporting to archive command


  • Skipped ahead in the version numbering. Because I don’t care.
  • Added a note command and --note flags for entry creation commands


  • –totals, –[no-]times, –output [csv,html] options for yesterday command.
  • Add tests for Darwin to hide OS X-only features on other systems
  • -f flag to now command for finishing last task when starting a new one (Looks back for the last unfinished task in the list)
  • –took option for done and finish for specifying intervals from the start date for the completion date
  • Basic command line reporting
  • –auto flag for finish and done that will automatically set the completion time to 1 minute before the next start time in the list. You can use it retroactively to add times to sequential todos.
  • doing grep for searching by text or regex


  • Default to showing times #26, show totals even if no tags exist #27, fix indentation #29
  • Add section label to archived tasks automatically, excepting Currently section
  • Today outputs and backdate for finish
  • html styling and fix for 1.8.7 haml errors
  • Look, HTML output! (--output html)
  • Also, --output csv
  • let doing archive function on all sections
  • option to exclude date from @done,
  • output newlines in sections and views
  • Flagging (doing mark)
  • fix for view/section guess error
  • Adding tag filtering to archive command (doing archive \@done)
  • doing yesterday
  • doing done -r to remove last doing tag (optionally from -s Section)
  • Add -f flag to specify alternate doing file
  • Meanwhile command


  • CSV output for show command (--csv)
  • HTML output for show command (--output html)
  • fuzzy searching for all commands that specify a view.
    • On the terminal you’ll see “Assume you meant XXX” to show what match it found, but this is output to STDERR and won’t show up if you’re redirecting the output or using it in GeekTool, etc.
  • tags_color in view config to highlight tags at the end of the lines. Can be set to any of the %colors.
  • Basic time tracking.
    • -t on show and view will turn on time calculations
    • Intervals between timestamps and dated @done tags are calculated for each line, if the tag exists.
    • You must include a %interval token in the appropriate template for it to show
    • @start(date) tags can optionally be used to override the time stamp in the calculation
    • Any other tags in the line have that line’s total added to them
    • Totals for tags can be displayed at the end of output with --totals


  • doing done without argument tags last entry done
    • -a archives them
  • doing finish or doing finish X marks last X entries done
    • -a archives them
  • doing tag tag1 [tag2] tags last entry or -c X entries
    • doing tag -r tag1 [tag2] removes said tag(s)
  • custom views additions
    • custom views can include tags and tags_bool
      • tags is a space separated list of tags to filter the results by
      • tags_bool defines AND (all tags must exist), OR (any tag exists), or NONE (none of the tags exist)
      • order key (asc or desc) defines output sort order by date
      • section key can be set to “All” to combine sections
  • doing show updates
    • accepts “all” as a section
    • arguments following section name are tags to filter by
      • -b sets boolean (AND, OR, NONE) or (ALL, ANY, NONE) (default OR/ANY)
    • use -c X to limit results
    • use -s to set sort order (asc or desc)
    • use -a to set age (newest or oldest)
  • fuzzy section guessing when specified section isn’t found
  • fuzzy view guessing for doing view command


  • colors in templated output
  • open command
    • opens in the default app for file type
    • -a APPNAME (doing open -a TaskPaper)
    • -b bundle_id (doing open -b com.sublimetext.3)
  • -e switch for now, later and done commands
    • save a tmp file and open it in an editor
    • allows multi-line entries, anything after first line is considered a note
    • assumed when no input is provided (doing now)
  • doing views shows all available custom views
  • doing view without a view name will let you choose a view from a menu
  • doing archive fixed so that -k X works to keep X number of entries in the section


  • colors in templated output
  • open command
    • opens in the default app for file type
    • -a APPNAME (doing open -a TaskPaper)
    • -b bundle_id (doing open -b com.sublimetext.3)
  • -e switch for now, later and done commands
    • save a tmp file and open it in an editor
    • allows multi-line entries, anything after first line is considered a note
    • assumed when no input is provided (doing now)

Speaking of doing…

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