A Synchronized Shopping List for Linux/Android

Karl Voit has an interesting post about a synchronized shopping list for him and his girlfriend. He had a promising solution leveraging Wunderlist but after a week of working on it, he discovered that Wunderlist had been acquired by Microsoft and would shortly be discontinued in favor of a homegrown Microsoft solution.

This illustrates an important general principal that I follow as much as I can and that Voit has written about before: Don’t depend on cloud services. There are at least two very good reasons for this. First, you can lose control of your data at least to the extent that third parties have access to it and second, you may lose the data altogether. That can happen when the cloud service is discontinued, for example, or when the provider decides that they don’t like you for some reason and lock you out of your account and data.

All that said, I do sometimes use cloud services—especially Apple ones—but I never commit important data to them or proprietary applications. So, for example, I maintain my shopping list in the Apple Reminders app because it’s not important data and I can share the list with my wife easily. The Reminders app, in fact, meets all the must-have and most of the nice-to-have requirements that Voit mentions in his post. If Apple discontinued Reminders tomorrow, the worst that would happen is that I would have to go through the pantry to figure out this week’s list again.

Better still, though, is Voit’s new approach: build an Emacs/Org solution. That’s not that hard to do, especially with Linux and Android, which have apps that can communicate between your laptop and phone. I don’t know how technical his girlfriend is but I can see this approach resulting in a process that’s mainly useful for geeks. On the other hand, the nice thing about shopping lists is that you can probably get by with having it be read only for the less technical partner and probably even entering data could be made straightforward.

The important thing is that the solution is entirely open source and under Voit’s control. He doesn’t have to worry about the service being discontinued, someone spying on his grocery list, or violating some vendor taboo and being cut off from his data.

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  • Karl Voit

    Hi jcs,
    Thanks for featuring my article on Irreal.
    No, my girlfriend is not geeky at all. Therefore, the app has to be minimalistic and very easy to use. This seem to work with Orgzly. I configured Orgzly so that it uses a bigger font and gave a short introduction on how to add headings and mark headings as done.
    So far, she likes it and is able to handle everything necessary.
    The only downside of Orgzly is that you have to manually sync from the file system (within Orgzly) before you start changing anything and also manually sync after each change.
    Having lost (too) many cloud services herself, she is open to any off-cloud solution which we both are able to use on the long run.

    • philipp

      It might be useful to do the syncing with tasker, which is quick and easy and can be bound to intervals or opening/closing orgzly: https://github.com/orgzly/orgzly-android/issues/8 (no root required).
      Also, in the meantime orgzly got a nice widget - just right for going shopping.