New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Back In Time—a Backup Tool with a Difference (

Ever made a mistake, deleted or overwritten something, and wanted to go back a day? This might be the tool for you. According to the project's Freshmeat entry:

Back In Time is a simple backup system for Linux (GNOME and KDE4) inspired by the flyback project and TimeVault. The backup is done by taking snapshots of a specified set of directories. All you have to do is configure where to save the snapshot, what directories to back up, and when a backup should be done (manually, every hour, every day, every week or every month). It acts as a user-mode backup system. This means you can back up and restore only folders to which you have write access.

Back In Time—Simplistic Backups for Specific Folders

Back In Time lets you decide how often you want to back up your folders and where, in handy folder snapshots.


If you check out the Web site's download page, it has instructions to integrate repositories for Ubuntu and Fedora, where you can install the packages straight from your system's package manager. If you don't have either of these distros though (or prefer to compile it), the source is available too. The link where these are found is misleadingly marked “You can download older versions here” on the main downloads page (you actually can get the latest source tarballs from this section too, newer than the main binaries).

If you're going with the binaries, you'll have to install the available common package first, and then install either the GNOME or KDE4 package, depending on your preference. If you choose to run with the source tarball, installation is surprisingly easy. Download the tarball, extract it, and open a terminal in the folder. Enter the command:

$ sudo ./

This first step installs the base of the program (not the GUI) and requires that you have Python and rsync installed.

If you want to run with GNOME, enter:

$ sudo ./

It now will be ready to run under GNOME and requires python-glade2, python-gnome2 and meld.

For KDE, enter:

$ sudo ./

The KDE option requires x11-utils, python-kde4 (>= 4.1) and kompare. Once the installation is finished, you can run the program by entering:

$  backintime


Once you're inside, Back In Time is a pretty basic affair. On a first-time run, it starts off with the Settings Dialog, where you define where the backup snapshots are saved, what folders to back up and how often to do it (among other features).

Start with where to back up. You'll see the General tab first, and the first field will let you choose where to save the snapshots of what you want backed up. Below that is the drop-down box for how often you want snapshots updated, which has the choices of disabled (you'll have to do it yourself), every five minutes, ten minutes, hour, day, week or month. I've got mine set to every ten minutes. It checks to see whether there are any folder differences, and if so, it takes another snapshot.

Click on the Include tab, and you can define what actual folders you want backed up in your snapshots. I've got my desktop being backed up in snapshots, which are in the form of separate folders in my home directory, under backups. Every time there's a change, a new folder is made, each with a different date and time code, allowing me to backtrack accurately if I need to retrieve something. Other tabs include more advanced options, such as excluding certain files and the like, but I'll let you explore that yourself.

All in all, Back In Time is a very simple application that is best used on smaller folders that you work with a lot. As a musician with my own recordings, I have a lot of music files being constantly altered, and quite often, I make silly mistakes that result in files being irretrievable. Back In Time is invaluable for such circumstances. If you're chasing something super-advanced with a lot of wizz-bang features that work system-wide, this probably isn't it, but for those who want something simple for use on a small scale, it's ideal.


John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.


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