xcal(1) General Commands Manual xcal(1)


xcal – calendar with alarms and a notebook for X11


xcal [ -debug ][ -alarmscan ][ -format fmt ][ -editformat fmt ][ -stripformat fmt ][ -clocktick tick ][ -u

username ]


Xcal is an interactive calendar program. The user interface has several levels. When started, xcal dis‐

plays today’s date in a small command box that is intended to sit on the screen as a companion to the xclock

program. The format of the command box may be altered using the resource manager, so you are not stuck with

my preferred layout. You can set the time in the window too, if you wish (see the format resource). Access

to further levels in xcal is made by clicking a mouse button in the command box. The command box is split

into several areas and clicking on one of these will popup a window supporting a new function.

Clicking with mouse button one on the question mark in the command box pops up a help window. Xcal comes

with many help buttons. When you are convinced they are no longer any use to you, they can all be turned

off using an X resource.

A small button containing a `mouse’ bitmap can be pressed with mouse button one to inspect appointments for

today. This generates a panel showing information from the calendar file for today and information from a

set of seven daily files holding regular commitments. The panel also contains a text scratchpad, `the memo

panel’. This allows the editing of a memo file.

The calendar functions are accessed by clicking a mouse buttons inside date portion of the command window.

1) Mouse button one pops up a calendar `strip’ for the current month. The strip has some header lines
and then one line per day of the month. The `line per day’ display contains the day in the month and

the day of the week. Today may be highlighted specially – the notion of Today alters at midnight.

The strip has a help button which displays a description of the panel. Command buttons in the header

line allows the user to bring up a strip for the previous or the next month.

2) Pressing mouse button two in the date area will bring up a dialogue box which allows the user to
select any month of any year (yes, September 1752 is supported). The month may be input as month

name or abbreviation, even though the prompt indicates a more restrictive format.

3) Pressing mouse button 3 in the date label causes the whole program to exit, a dialog box is used to
ask the user for confirmation.

Like xcalendar, daily events are stored in set of files, one for each day. If the file exists when the

strip is started, its data is displayed as the label in the command button on the right-hand side of the

month strip. The file is created and edited by entering a simple text editor (the standard text widget)

which is started by pressing the right hand side of the appropriate day line in the strip. You can also add

data to the file by selecting a string on the screen and clicking with the middle button on the right-hand

side of the month strip. The string is appended to the file for the day. This short-hand allows one entry

to be loaded into several day files.

The width of the month strip is computed from the width of the header. Users who wish to display a wider

strip to show more of the stored information should widen the strip using the minStripWidth resource (see


The colours and fonts used in the strip is controllable by resources. The widget that comprises each line

in the strip is tagged with the short form name of the day, so it’s easy to vary the strip display showing

weekends differently from the weekdays.

Data files are stored in a directory usually called Calendar under the user’s home directory. Each file is

stored in a subdirectory containing all the data for a particular year. This is incompatible with xcalen‐

dar, the user may specify that the compatibility should be maintained.

Alarms are supported by xcal. When a line in the data file starts with a digit, it is assumed to be a time

specification and a candidate for an alarm. The line contains a string giving the alarm time and a text

string displayed in a dialogue alarm box that pops up when the alarm fires. You can also arrange for count‐

down alarms to fire, so that you can be told that something is about to happen. These dialogue boxes will

automatically go away after two minutes, unless the `Stick’ button is pressed glueing the box onto the

screen. The box can be made to go away at any time by hitting the `Unpin’ button.

When specifying alarms, Xcal tries to be liberal about the times that it understands. Time specifications

are: h, hh, hhmm, hmm, hh:mm, h:mm, hh.mm, h.mm; all of these may be optionally followed by an am/pm indica‐

tor – one of: A, a, AM, am, Am, aM, P, p, PM, pm, Pm, pM. Times must always be followed by at least one

space or tab. Some legal examples are:
12:00 Lunch – Meet Joe at Burger King

14.30 Meeting in the cafeteria

2:30p Ring Mark

7pm Pizza

You can make a time like 2:30 mean 14:30 by setting the resource AlarmWarp to be true. If this is the case,

an alarm hour will be promoted to a PM time if it is found to be between the range of zero and the value of

the resource minAlarmWarp.

Xcal also supports timed command execution from the data file. To trigger a command, the data part of the

line starts with an exclamation mark, eg:
4.30pm !xmessage -message ‘ring home’

The exclamation mark can also be replaced by the string `%cron’. It is also possible to make xcal execute a

command whenever an alarm is triggered, see the Cmd resource below.

The memo function of Xcal is accessed by pressing the non-date portion of the command window. This shows a

bitmap diagram of three mouse buttons. Clicking the left mouse button in this area brings up a complex

panel, clicking on the button again will pop it back down again. The top half of the panel displays the

information held in the diary for today; pressing the Edit button here will start an edit box for today.

The next section of the panel displays the information held in the weekly files. Again you cannot directly

change the text in this area, you must press on the Edit button to bring up a strip enabling you to change

things. The bottom portion of the panel is an edit window displaying the contents of a file usually called

`memo’ in the Calendar directory. The idea of this panel is to allow you to access your current information

in one button click.

It is obviously possible to change Xcal’s data files without using the inbuilt text widget editor. In gen‐

eral, Xcal will not notice this. Editing random day files with a standard text editor will not change the

contents of any displayed strips until the strips are popped down and up again. Xcal knows what days have

been altered when the text widget is used to edit the day files, and will reflect any change immediately

into the displayed strips.

You can make Xcal take notice of today’s date file and the current memo file. The `Update’ resource sets a

polling time in seconds. When the clock fires and today’s file has been altered, the alarm list is rebuilt

from the current date file and the memo panel is updated. The bottom part of the memo panel is also updated

if the `memo’ file has been altered on the clock tick.


Version 4 of Xcal permits one user to view another’s calendar by giving the -u option followed by the user’s

login name. The user’s calendar storage area is assumed to be called `Calendar’ in their home directory.

The facilities are somewhat rudimentary. First, the main date box will have the user’s login name appended

to the date format string. When a month strip is generated, you will be given read-only access to their

calendar files, assuming that the file permissions allow you to read them. This is intended to be one step

better than using cat on their calendar files.

The -debug switch causes contents of the initial date window to be incremented very frequently, this allows

some testing of the program.

The -alarmscan switch prints debugging information about the alarm system on standard output.

The argument following the -format is a date format used to display dates in the top level window (see

below, the Format resource). Changing this to include a time format will make xcal display a clock in your

top level window.

The argument following the -stripfmt argument is a date format used to display month names and years in the

monthly calendar strip. (see the resource StripFmt).

Similarly, the -editfmt argument is the format for dates used in an edit window (see the Editfmt resource).

The -clocktick argument is used to set the clock update time of the main date window, should a time be dis‐

played as well as the date. See the Clocktick resource.


As with all standard X applications, xcal may be customised through entries in the resource manager. It is

a serious mistake to install Xcal without putting the resource initialisation file Xcal in /usr/lib/X11/app-

defaults. Resource class names are listed below; resource instance names are identical, except the first

letter is in lower case. The following resource manager entries are defined:

Debug If True enables accelerated time. Alarms will not function correctly. Default: False.

OtherUser the name of the user whose calendar files will be inspected. This is usually set by the
-u option.

AlarmScan If True enables printing of alarm related debugging information to the standard output.
Default: False.

ReverseVideo If true display the output in reverse video. Default: False.

Format This is a format string used to create the contents of the top command button and the
memo box. The format is aimed at the system routine: strftime. I have chosen to use the

system routine because it makes it easier for non-english language sites to generate

their own formats. However, this means that the names used for months and days may not

be compatible with the ones set in the resources below. Any characters in the format

string are passed to the output unchanged unless they specify a format. Format letters

are preceded by a `%’ character and can be found in the documentation for strftime on

your system. The SunOS 4.1.3 routine supports:

%% same as %

%a day of week using abbreviated name

%A day of week using full weekday names

%b (%h) month, using locale’s abbreviated names

%B month, using locale’s full names

%c date and time as %x %X

%C date and time, in local long-format date and
time representation
%d day of month (01-31)

%D date as %m/%d/%y

%e day of month (1-31; single digits are preceded by a blank)

%H hour (00-23)

%I hour (00-12)

%j day number of year (001-366)

%k hour (0-23; single digits are preceded by a blank)

%l hour (1-12; single digits are preceded by a blank)

%m month number (01-12)

%M minute (00-59)

%n same as \n

%p local equivalent of AM or PM

%r time as %I:%M:%S %p

%R time as %H:%M

%S seconds (00-59)

%t same as \t

%U week number of year (01-52), Sunday is the first day of the week

%W week number of year (01-52), Monday is the first day of the week

%x date, using locale’s date format

%X time, using locale’s time format

%y year within century (00-99)

%Y year, including century (fore example, 1988)

%Z time zone abbreviation

The default is “%A %d %B %Y”, printing the day, the date, the month and the full year. I

prefer to use “%A %e %B %Y”, but this does not seem to be portable to different systems.

The format string is scanned to determine the update frequency that is needed to maintain

a correct date image. The default needs updating every 24 hours, if you insert an AM/PM

format then the strip will be updated every 12 hours. Adding an hour specification will

cause an update every hour and specifying minutes or seconds will cause appropriate be‐


ClockTick If you specify a second hand in the main date string and only want it updated every 30
seconds (say) then setting the ClockTick resource to 30 will force an update for that

period. Default: 0 (derived from the Format string).

StripFmt is used to format the date line at the top of each strip. This uses an internal version
of the strftime routine that only supports format characters relating to months, years

and days. The supported format characters are: %A, %a, %B, %b, %h, %D, %d, %e, %m, %n,

%t, %x, %y and %%. Long/short day and month names are taken from the resources.

Default: “%B %y”.

EditFmt provides the format string for any edit window. This uses the same code as StripFmt.
Default: “%A %d %B %Y”. Again, I prefer to use “%A %e %B %Y”.

MarkToday If True then highlight today. Default True.

TodayBackground the background colour when marking, default Black.

TodayForeground the foreground colour when marking today, default White.

FontToday Today may be marked by using a special font, if this is desired the font is given by this
resource. Default is to use the default font.

Directory The name of the directory under the home directory where the day files are stored.
Default: Calendar.

XcalendarCompat If true then subdirectories are not created in the Calendar directory. This flag is not
relevant when files are being read, so users can use both programs with existing data

files. Default: False.

GiveHelp If True than access to the help information is given. If False, help buttons disappear
returning screen real-estate to the user. You should resist setting this to False in the

default resources file. Default: True.

HelpFromFile The Xcal program will usually have help strings compiled into it. These are in English
and it may be desirable to use help data in other languages. If this resource is true,

it forces Xcal to look in a data file for the help strings. Default: False.

HelpFile gives the name of the file used as a database for the help system, accessed when
HelpFromFile is True. Default: /usr/lib/X11/XCal.help.

InitialCalendar If True then the calendar for this month is automatically displayed on startup. If
False, the calendar is not automatically displayed. Default: False.

InitialEdit If True then an edit window for today is automatically displayed on startup if a file
exists for today’s date. If False, the edit window is not automatically displayed.

Default: False.

InitialMemo If True then the memo window is automatically displayed on startup. Default: False.

UseWmTitle If True display the month and the year at the head of each strip. This information is
duplicated if your window manager uses titles so it is nice to be able to turn it off.

Default: True.

TextBufferSize the maximum number of bytes which we are prepared to deal with in an edit window.
Default: 2048 bytes.

Alarms whether or not to enable the alarm system. Default: True.

ExecAlarms if the alarm system is active, whether or not to invoke timed-execution commands.
Default: True.

Update When scanning for alarms in the current day file Xcal inspects it at program startup time
and also when it is edited using the normal built-in editing mechanism. However, if some

external program changes t file xcal will not see the new contents and new alarms will

not be set. Setting this resource to non-zero will force xcal to scan the file every

`update’ seconds looking for alterations in size and modification date. When it detects

that the file is altered, then it will rebuild the internal alarm list. Default: zero.

Nbeeps When an alarm window is popped up, it is accompanied by `Nbeeps’ beeps. Default: 3.

Volume Control the loudness of the beep. Default: 50.

Cmd This resource contains a command that is executed by calling the shell when every alarm
is triggered. The command is passed the contents of the data line as one argument.

Countdown contains a comma separated string of numbers; for example: 10,5,0. The string allows the
user to customise warning alarms: so in the example, alarm boxes will be displayed 10

minutes before the stated time, 5 minutes before the stated time and exactly on the

stated time. Commands lines in the data prefaced by a `!’ will always be triggered

exactly at the stated time. Default: 10,0.

Autoquit Each dialogue box containing an alarm message contains an `Unpin’ button allowing the
user to remove the message from the screen by using mouse button one. Additionally, the

message box can remove itself from the screen after a specified period, this resource

gives that timeout in seconds. If the resource is set to zero, then the user is always

forced to take explicit action to remove the box. Default: 120, alarm boxes disappear

after 2 mins.

Alarmleft contains a printf string that is displayed in the label at the top of an alarm box when
countdown is in operation and there is some time before the stated time. The time before

the stated time is supplied as the second argument to printf. Default: “%d minutes


Alarmnow contains the printf string that is displayed in the label at the top of an alarm box when
the stated time is reached. Default: “Time is now…”.

UseMemo enables the use of the memo feature. This defaults to “True”, but is present to allow
users to make XCal have as it used to.

MemoLeft affects the placing of the memo button in the top level date window. The default is
`True’ meaning that the button box is placed on the left of the date portion. Setting

this to `False’ will place the button box to the right of the date portions.

MemoFile gives the name of the memo file within the Calendar directory. The default is `memo’.

MaxDisplayLines controls the maximum number of text lines that can placed in the top half of the memo
panel. The top hald will normally size to the number of lines in the diary file for the

day, unless the number of lines exceed the value in this resource. This ensures that

today’s events do not dominate the memo panel. Default: 5 lines.

MaxStripHeight controls the maximum height of a strip. A scroll bar will be added into the date part of
the scrip of the contents are larger than this number. If unset, this defaults to the

height of the screen. Default: unset.

MinStripWidth The width of month strips are set by the top line, which usually displays the month and
year. The whole strip can be widened from this default value by setting this resource to

be non-zero. Default: zero (i.e. off).

January February and so on. The names of the long form of the month name.

Jan Feb and so on. A short form of the month name – done this way because I doubt that writ‐
ing with %3s works in all languages. Changing this resource means that the data file

will no longer be compatible with xcalendar .

Sunday Monday and so on. The long names of the days: Sunday, Monday etc. These are used in
titles: the top level widget, the title of an edit window and the memo frame.

Sun Mon and so on. The short names of the days – used in date strips.

Private Contains the string `Private calendar entry’ and is used when the -u option is in force.
It is displayed when a calendar file entry is unreadable by the caller.

Alarmleft Contains the string `%d minutes before’.

Alarmnow Contains the string `Time is now…’.

Already Contains the string `Already editing %d %B %Y’ I prefer to use `Already editing %e %B

AlreadyWeekly Contains the string `Already editing %A’.


Xcal makes extensive use of the resource manager. The user needs to know the names of the various panels

and widgets which comprise the application.

XCal Toplevel application
form Form containing two buttons
today Memo Command button

date Strip Command button

mainHelp Optional main help button

Then we have various popups. The Calendar Strip is:

“Mon Year” the popup shell
Month panel containing the strip
header label containing month and year

action form containing < quit > buttons
back command containing < – last month

quit command containing exit button

next command containing > – next month
help command generating help
viewport viewport permitting scrolling of the

data data widget
“DDD” form containing day button (lots of these)
these are named for the short days of the week
label label containing dd DDD, day of the month
and day of the week
info command containing the file data

Note that each day button is named for the day of the week, so that weekends can be highlighted specially

using the standard resources.

The weekly popup strip is:

weekly the popup shell
weekly panel containing the strip
header label containing the title

action form containing quit and help
quit command containing exit button

help command generating help
viewport viewport permitting scrolling of the

data data widget
shortday form containing days
label label containing day of the week

info command containing the file data

The Edit Window is:

edit the popup shell
panel the panel inside the shell
title the form containing the first line
quit the exit button

save the save button

help the help button

date the date string
text the text widget for editing

The Help Window is:

help the popup shell
helpPanel the panel inside the shell
helpForm the form containing the title line
quit the exit button
helpText the text widget showing the information

The Alarm Window is:

alarm the popup shell
alarmPanel the panel inside the shell
alarmForm form for top line
alarmQuit the exit button

alarmHold the hold button

alarmTitle the title on the alarm window
alarmText the text widget for displaying

The Memo Window is:

memo the popup shell
memoPanel the panel inside the shell
title Top line form widget
quit the exit button

edit edit button – edit today’s info

help the help button

date display today’s date
display text from today’s date file

weeklyMemo form for the Memo title line
weeklyEdit Edit button

weeklyTitle Title area
display text from today’s weekly file

memoMiddle Middle line form widget
save Save button

memoTitle text title of middle line
memoText Text widget showing memo file

The Middle button date selection popup is:

question the popup shell
newdate the dialog widget
ok the OK button

cancel the cancel button

The Right button exit selection popup is:

question the popup shell
exit the dialog widget
yes the yes button

no the no button

An error is shown when a multiple attempts are made to edit the same day file.

question the popup shell
noedit the dialog widget
ok the OK button

A dialog box is popped up when an attempt is made to exit from an editing box without saving the file.

check the dialog widget
yes the yes button

no the no button



xc<dd><Mon><Year> A data file is day, Month in three letter format and the year.

xy<Year> A year directory.

xw<Day> A data file for the weekly code, one per day.

memo The memo file.

The standard resource database can be found in /usr/lib/X11/app-defaults/Xcal. Assuming that this is where

the system admin installed it.


xrdb(1), xcalev(1), xcalpr(1), xcal_cal(1)


There should be some way of removing several edit windows from the screen at once.

Setting an alarm 1 minute in the future may not work.

Countdown does not work in the early hours of the morning, if you have a ten minute countdown and an alarm

set at 0005 – then you will not get warning at 2325.

Alarms set at 0000 probably won’t work.


Copyright 1989,1990,1993 by Peter Collinson, Hillside Systems All rights reserved.

This product includes software developed by the University of California, Berkeley and its contributors.

At one time, much of the xcalendar program was plundered to create xcal ; author is: Roman J. Budzianowski,

MIT Project Athena

Thanks to Ed Gould, Mt Xinu for the support for the calendar(1) program. Thanks to Mark Majhor, Sequent for

the basis of the alarm code. Thanks to Rod Whitby, Austek Microsystems Pty. Ltd., Australia for the ideas

of the Stick/Unpin code for alarms and for prompting me to add the memo code. Thanks to Miles O’Neal from

Pencom for revising the help code to be a little more `X’, although this was later revised to use files.

There are a number of other people who have sent in revisions, some I have used, some I have not. Thanks


X Version 11 R5 September 1990 xcal(1)


  • man 1 xcal,