Command-Line Cloud: gcalcli

If you follow my columns in Linux Journal, you probably are aware that I'm a big fan of the command line. When it comes to getting things done efficiently, most of the time the command line can't be beat. This has led me to integrating services like instant messaging and Twitter into BitlBee so I can use them with my command-line IRC client Irssi (both written up in previous LJ issues).

You probably also are aware that unlike some other Linux Journal writers out there (I'm looking at you Bill Childers), I'm a bit more skeptical of cloud services. That said, in this day and age, it seems you can't escape cloud services, so what's a guy like me to do? Well, I've just figured out how to use cloud services from the comfort of my green-on-black terminal. So, I figured it might be interesting to write a few articles describing how you can access various cloud services from the command line.

The first cloud service I thought I'd cover also is one of the most prevalent: Google Calendar. Although a lot of calendaring options exist, in a corporate environment, you often are talking about either Exchange (usually larger, older-school companies) or Google Apps (usually smaller startups). Google Calendar can be pretty convenient as a shared calendar, particularly if you are issued an Android device at work. Plus, like with all major cloud services, you can collaborate and share your data with other people (like the NSA). My main problem with Google Calendar always has been having to open up a browser every time I want to view my calendar. Although I'm sure some people are logged in to the Gmail Web interface all day and get meeting notifications that way, I'm not. Because I'm usually glued to my terminal window, I often don't see those reminders. After missing a few meetings, I decided I needed to find some way to put meeting notifications inside my terminal.

The CLI to Google Calendar that worked for me was gcalcli. It provides a command-line interface to view your calendar in various formats and also lets you add events—all from the command line.

Install gcalcli

gcalcli itself was not packaged for my distribution, so installation took me a few extra steps. First, I cloned the project's git repository into a local directory named src that I use to keep track of source code (feel free to replace this with the directory you use for the same purpose). Then, I created a symlink to the included script so I could start identifying what Python libraries I'd need:

$ cd ~/src/
$ git clone
$ sudo ln -s ~/src/gcalcli/gcalcli /usr/local/bin/gcalcli

At this point, I tried to launch the application but noticed I was missing a few required Python libraries, such as gflags, dateutil, httplib2 and google-api-python-client. The first three had Debian packages, so I was able to install them with:

$ sudo apt-get install python-gflags python-dateutil 

The final Python library wasn't packaged in Debian. For better or worse, it seems just about every modern scripting language has its own implementation of Perl's CPAN, so I fell back to using Python's pip (which I first had to install):

$ sudo apt-get install python-pip
$ sudo pip install --upgrade google-api-python-client

Initial Setup

With all of the libraries in place, you are ready to set up gcalcli to use your Google account. The first time gcalcli is run, it will set up your account, but if you are not running it from your local machine, you will want to add an extra argument the first time you launch it so it can provide you with a URL to load locally to authorize gcalcli:

$ gcalcli agenda --noauth_local_webserver

Once it's set up, you can see your current calendar agenda with the agenda command (the events have been changed to protect the innocent):

$ gcalcli agenda

Mon Jul 15   9:15am  Space out and stare at screen
            10:00am  Meeting with the Bobs
            11:00am  Remodel Cubical Wall
            11:45am  Lunch at Flinger's
             1:00pm  Meeting with Michael

I've found the agenda output to be the most useful for seeing what's on my plate for the day; however, you also can use calw and calm to output ASCII-art-style weekly and monthly calendars, respectively (Figure 1).

Figure 1. gcalcli Screenshot from the Official Project Page


Kyle Rankin is a director of engineering operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the author of a number of books including DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu Server Book, and is a columnist for Linux Journal.

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