One of the most important admin tasks for an IT pro is documenting systems and processes. Another crucial IT admin task is keeping a journal or a log of what you’ve done because it simplifies the process of retracing your steps and troubleshooting persistent issues. An easy way to fit this in to your already crammed schedule is to use a journal application such as RedNotebook that is right up an IT admin’s ally.
Features of RedNotebook
- Available on Linux, Windows, and Mac
- Text formatting
- Insert images, files, and links (links recognized automatically)
- Spell Check (Linux only)
- Back up to zip archive
- Word clouds with most often used words and tags
- Export PDF, HTML, Latex, or plain text
- Data stored in plain text files (no database is needed)
- Translated into more than 20 languages
The feature that makes RedNotebook really useful to IT admins is the ability to create your own templates; you can create templates specific to tasks, servers, clients, billing, or whatever you need to make your job easier.
Let’s walk through the process of installing RedNotebook, and then we’ll look at using the template functionality.
I’ll describe how to install the free application for the Windows and Linux clients. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick with Ubuntu Linux.
The Windows installation is simple:
- Download the latest installer.
- Double-click the downloaded file.
- Walk through the installation wizard.
For Ubuntu Linux, follow these steps to install the most updated version:
- Open a terminal window.
- Issue the command sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rednotebook/stable (you will be prompted for your sudo password).
- Issue the command sudo apt-get update.
- Issue sudo apt-get install rednotebook.
If you aren’t concerned about having the most recent version, you can search for rednotebook in the Ubuntu Software Center and install from there.
Once the application is installed, fire it up and begin to get familiar with the main interface (Figure A). The developers have done a great job of making sure the interface is the same across platforms.
Navigate in RedNotebook via calendar or cloud tags. (Click the image to enlarge.)
Creating templates in RedNotebook
You can make your journaling/documentation/billing tasks much easier by creating templates in RedNotebook. The developers of RedNoteBook have made it a snap to create templates that can be re-used for quick creation. To create a new template, follow these steps:
- Click a date within the RedNotebook calendar.
- Click the Template drop-down.
- Click Create New Template.
- Give the template a name (such as Hourly Client Billing).
- When the template editor (OS-default text editor) opens, create the template as needed (Figure B).
- Click the Save button.
- Close the editor.
An explanation of how templates can be formatted in RedNotebook. (Click the image to enlarge.)
For your templates, you can use this formatting:
- =Title 1=
- ==Title 2==
- ===Title 3===
\\ is a line break
Images can be added to templates in the following way:
You can also make these additions to templates:
- link to files on your computer: [filename.txt ""/path/to/filename.txt""]
- link to directories: [directory name ""/path/to/directory/""]
- link to websites: [Website Name ""http://website.com""]
- You can comment lines with % tags. Comments are only viewable in Edit mode.
Let’s say you want to create a simple Server Work template. You could create a template that looks like:
% Next Line is for Client tag %
**Hours to completion:**
The reason for the ==SERVER WORK== and ==END== tags are simple: On each date, you create a single journal entry. Within each journal entry, you will add your work, which is why using templates makes this easy and why adding beginning and end tags is important. You could create multiple journals, but you would have to open each one individually.
There are two modes for using RedNotebook:
- Edit: This is the mode used to add templates and edit journal entries.
- Preview: Click this mode to view the entry.
If you want to export your entry as a PDF document, follow these steps:
- Go to Journal | Export.
- Select PDF and click Forward.
- Select either Export Currently Visible Day or Export Days In The Selected Time Range (Figure C).
- If selecting a range, select the From date on the left side and the To date on the right side.
- Click Forward.
- Select any filters (tags and text) you want.
- Click Forward.
- Give the PDF a name.
- Click Forward.
- Review the export.
- If everything looks good, click Apply. Your PDF should be ready to view or print.