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Most kanban boards and project management tools are built around the idea of teams and larger projects. But what about smaller teams or even individuals that need to be able to track their projects with a kanban board-style system?

SEE: Feature comparison: Time tracking software and systems (TechRepublic Premium)

Fortunately, there are options. One such tool is Focalboard. Although the project isn’t specifically marketed toward individual developers, I have found it to be one of the best options for those who simply want a desktop tool to manage their individual workflow.

Yes, Focalboard can be installed on a server and run from within a web browser, but I have found the only way to successfully get Focalboard running on a server is by way of the official Docker image. And although that does work fine, it’s still under early development, so v1.0 has yet to arrive. In other words, it’s probably not a good idea to deploy that for any sized team (especially in a production environment).

However, the desktop app works great. So, anyone looking for an individual kanban board, this might be what you want.

Focalboard is available for Linux, macOS and Windows desktops and features all the tools you need for a successful kanban solution for your solo efforts.

Let’s get Focalboard up and running and see what’s what.

What you’ll need

I’ll be demonstrating on Pop!_OS, but the installation of Focalboard on macOS and Windows is as straightforward as any app on those respective ecosystems. If you’re following along on Linux, you should be able to run Focalboard on any distribution.

How to download and run Focalboard

The first thing we must do is download the Focalboard archive. Open your web browser and point it to the Focalboard download site and download the focalboard-linux.tar.gz file. After it downloads, open your file manager and navigate to the location housing the file. Right-click focalboard-linux.tar.gz and select Extract here. After the archive is uncompressed, change into the newly created focalboard-linux directory and then into focalboard-app. You should see the file focalboard-app (Figure A).

Figure A

The focalboard-app file is how you launch the app.
The focalboard-app file is how you launch the app.

Double-click the focalboard-app file to launch the application. Once Focalboard opens (Figure B), you should be able to either select a pre-formatted (such as a Content Calendar kanban template) or start with an empty board.

Figure B

The Focalboard is open and ready for you to select a template.
The Focalboard is open and ready for you to select a template.

Select your template and Focalboard will open (Figure C) and you can get to work customizing the kanban board to perfectly meet your needs.

Figure C

My first Focalboard kanban board is ready to go.
My first Focalboard kanban board is ready to go.

How to add a Focalboard launcher to your desktop

As it stands, the only way to be able to launch Focalboard is from that focalboard-app file. You can either double-click it or run it from the command line. However, we can create a desktop launcher that will be picked up by your desktop menu, so you can easily launch the app without having to resort to the file manager or terminal window.

First, open a terminal window and issue the command:

sudo nano /usr/share/applications/focalboard.desktop

In that file, paste the following content:

[Desktop Entry]








Where USER is your user name.

If you extracted the focalboard-linux.tar.gz file to a directory other than ~/Downloads, make sure to edit those two lines (Exec and Icon) in the script above.

Save and close the file. If you search your desktop menu, you should now see an entry for Focalbaord (Figure D).

Figure D

Our new entry for the Focalboard project management tool.
Our new entry for the Focalboard project management tool.

And that’s all there is to get your own personal kanban board application installed on your desktop. I look forward to Focalboard reaching its 1.0 release milestone. Hopefully, at that point, the server-based installation will work flawlessly, so this outstanding platform is a viable option for teams.

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