Submitting Tasks to Tracks via Email

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I’ve recently installed Tracks on my server to help me manage my myriad of tasks, projects and timelines utilizing the GTD methodology created by David Allen.

After installing it on my server I almost immediately noticed that Ruby and Rails was going to have a problem coexisting with my very tweaked Apache instances (running roughly 300 separate websites).

I found a project called Passenger, and immediately got that working with Tracks running on top of it. No fuss, no muss.

But one problem with Tracks that I’ve found (well, one of several, none of them showstoppers), is that you can’t interact with Tracks any other way other than the web interface. The interface is nice and clean and slick, but I don’t always have access to the web where I am.. and that limits the functionality of Tracks for me. I do, however… have access to some sort of email account everywhere I go.

So I whipped up a quick little script to allow me to send email to Tracks and have it post Tasks in the right contexts and on the right due dates for me.

Here’s the code for that:

#!/usr/bin/perl
#        _._   
#       /_ _`.      (c) 2008, David A. Desrosiers
#       (.(.)|      setuid at gmail.com
#       |\_/'|   
#       )____`\     Email to Tracks interface
#      //_V _\ \ 
#     ((  |  `(_)   If you find this useful, please drop me 
#    / \> '   / \   an email, or send me bug reports if you find
#    \  \.__./  /   problems with it. I accept PayPal too! =-)
#     `-'    `-' 
#
##############################################################################
# 
# License
#
##############################################################################
#
# This script is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
# under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free
# Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option)
# any later version.
# 
# This script is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT
# ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or
# FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the GNU General Public License for
# more details.
# 
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along
# with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59
# Temple Place
#
# - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.
#
##############################################################################
# 
# Email format can be any of the following:
#
#       Subject: The main description of the Task
#
#       @Context
#       01/02/2003
#       This is my note text
#
# or:
# 
#       Subject: Default Task description
#
#       c: @context
#       d: 2008/12/31
#       n: The note text to insert
#
# Most valid date formats are accepted, and this will do its best to
# "correct" and normalize them. You can also prefix your lines with the
# modifiers above, or read the regexes below for more. For example: 
# c:, context:, cxt:, con:, ct: are all valid prefixes for "context"
# n: and note: are all valid prefixes for "notes", and so on.
#
##############################################################################
use strict;
use XML::Simple;
use LWP::UserAgent;
use URI::Escape;
use Email::Abstract;
use Date::Manip;
use Date::Parse;
use Data::Dumper; 

my $url                 = "http://your.tracks.site/todos.xml";
my $contextUrl          = "http://your.tracks.site/contexts.xml";

# The default contextid where you want the todo added
# SELECT id,name FROM contexts;
my $contextid           = "8";

my $user                = "yourname";
my $password            = "yourpass";

# Leave these tokens alone.  They are valid as of Tracks 1.5 RESTful API.
my %todo = map { +($_ => "todo[$_]") } qw(notes context_id description due);

# Get the context legend in order to match by name
my $ua                  = new LWP::UserAgent;
my $req                 = new HTTP::Request 'GET',$contextUrl;
$req->authorization_basic($user,$password);
my $res                 = $ua->request($req);
my $contexts            = XMLin($res->content);

# Split apart the email into Subject and Body
my $message             = do { local $/; <STDIN> };
my $email               = Email::Abstract->new($message);
my $subject             = $email->get_header("Subject");
my $body                = $email->get_body;

# These can probably be cleaned up a bit
my ($context_line)      = $body =~ /^(?:c:|ct:|cxt:|con:|context:|@)\s*(.+)$/mi;
my ($date_line)         = $body =~ /^(?:d:|date:)\s*(\d.*)$/m;
$date_line              = UnixDate(ParseDate("today"), "%g") if (length($date_line) == 0);
my $time                = str2time($date_line);
my $due_date            = UnixDate(scalar gmtime($time), "%m/%d/%Y");
my ($note_line)         = $body =~ /^(?:n:|note:)\s*(.*?)$/mi; 

# Concatenate the data here before we send POST to the Tracks server
my $post_data = 
        $todo{'context_id'} . "=" . $contextid . "&" . 
        $todo{'description'}. "=" . uri_escape($subject) . "&" . 
        $todo{'notes'} . "=" . uri_escape($note_line) . "&" . 
        $todo{'due'} . "=" . uri_escape($due_date);

# Use LWP to do the posting ($ua was created earlier)
$req = new HTTP::Request 'POST',$url;
$req->content_type('application/x-www-form-urlencoded');
$req->content($post_data);
$req->authorization_basic($user,$password);
$res = $ua->request($req);

You can send emails in the format in the comments above to your Tracks install and it will create Tasks for you. I could refactor those regexes a bit, and that’s a task on my list, but so far, this works…

Emails look like this:

Subject: Update regexes in Tracks perl email interface
From: "David A. Desrosiers" <desrod at gnu-designs.com>
To: 2e59561d76 at gnu-designs.com
Content-Type: text/plain
Message-Id: <1228182961.14783.123.camel at gnu-designs.com>
Mime-Version: 1.0
X-Mailer: Evolution 2.22.3.1 
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2008 20:56:02 -0500
X-Evolution-Format: text/plain

c: @Internet
d: 12/15/2008
n: Clean up the regexes that processes email-based Tracks tasks

Set it up in your MTA as an alias, as follows:

2e59561d76:                         "|/path/to/tracks-mail.pl"

Make sure you re-run newaliases(1) after adding this entry:

$ sudo /usr/sbin/newaliases
/etc/mail/aliases: 248 aliases, longest 82 bytes, 15141 bytes total

I tried to make it smart enough to figure out most common (valid please) date formats and if you omit that, it just sets it to today’s date so you can change it later.

The next step is to figure out how to make this script multi-user aware, without forcing users to expose their username or password in email directly. I have some ideas for that and will test that in v1.1 of this script and release it later on.

The Tracks Forums are pretty busy and lots of people are beating up the code, testing it in many different ways. I’m just trying to contribute back in whatever way I can.. in the hopes that the project continues to thrive and grow.

If you have any suggestions or ideas, let me know!

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