Easily browse your activity with GNOME Activity Journal

Jack Wallen
Aug 5, 2010
Updated • Dec 5, 2012

There are a lot of ways to keep track of your files on your Linux machine. You can use the command-line tools, you can do index searching, you can manually search. But there is one method that is quite unique and keeps a real-time display of your daily interaction with files. This tool is the GNOME Activity Journal.

The GNOME Activity Journal is not a file browser, but a logger of activity. It uses the Zeitgeist engine to keep track of the files/websites/contacts/etc you have interacted with and tracker to get the current state of files. It's very handy to use if you are constantly struggling to remember exactly what you did and what day you did it. In this article I will show you how to install and use this handy tool.

A preface

Before we start on this little journey, I must say there is a bug or two in the current iteration of GAJ. The developers are currently working on a new migration script from the old ontology to the new. What this is causing is the inability of GAJ to track web sites. This does not affect GAJs ability to track the files you have used, so the tool is still very usable. Look for future updates to resolve the issue of not being able to track your interaction with the web.

Another issue is that the package from the Fedora 13 repositories is broken. So if you are using Fedora 13, and you expect GAJ to work, you will be disappointed. This issue will hopefully be resolved very soon.

With that said, on with the show.


Installation is very simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open up your Add/Remove Software tool.
  2. Search for "gnome activity journal" (no quotes).
  3. Mark Gnome Activity Journal for installation.
  4. Click Apply to install.

That's it. The above steps will also install the necessary dependencies. Once installed, in order to start up the GAJ, click Applications > Accessories > Activity Journal and the main (and only) window will start.

Using the GNOME Activity Journal

Figure 1

When you fire up GAJ what you see will, obviously, depend upon how much activity you have had. If you take a look at Figure 1 you can see the user I use for writing purposes hasn't had much activity over the last few days. Figure 1 deceivingly show an HTML page that has been accessed. That page was actually a page that had been saved to the hard drive.

As you open and interact with files you will see the "Today" column update almost immediately. If you are curious about a particular file you can hover your mouse over that file to get a thumbnail preview. If you want to re-open that file you can click on it and the file will open in the chosen, default application for that file type.

What I really like about this tool is that it, as the name would imply, serves as a journal of what files I have accessed during the calendar year. You can scroll backwards and forwards (using the left or right-pointing arrows) to any date you want.

Final thoughts

If you are looking for a tool that will keep track of your daily activity on your machine GAJ might be the right tool. Even though it has a few bugs in it's current form, it is still very useful.


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