tellico: collection manager for books, videos, music, and a whole lot more

January 4th, 2009 edited by Vicho

Article submitted by Dean Serenevy. We are running out of articles! Please submit good articles about software you like!

You’ve heard of book and movie collection organizers, but Robby Stephenson’s tellico is a general purpose collection manager. This application can be used to store information about arbitrary collections of whatever tickles your fancy. Tellico is available from the tellico package in Debian since Sarge and in Ubuntu since Dapper. Tellico is a KDE application, but works fine in other desktop environments.

The Basics

Like any good book or movie collection application, tellico presents the user with a multi-pane window that groups entries by some customizable criterion (I’ve grouped by director below), lists entries by some fields (customizable), and shows thumbnails.

Typical movie database

Selecting a list entry shows a more detailed view and a larger thumbnail. Clicking the image in this view launches your image editor.

Viewing an entry

Most of the built-in collection types include search sources to make adding new entries easy. Tellico has default search sources for (US, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, and Canada), IMDb (movie database), z39.50 servers (bibliographic database), SRU servers (bibliographic database), PubMed (Medicine bibliography), (bibliographic database developed by a consortium of publishers), and some others. You can also write your own script that performs the search and returns entries in a supported format.

Searching for every Debian user's favorite movie

The search box will filter results based on regular expression queries. Complex filters can be named and will be saved with the collection file.

So many movies, so little time

Beyond Books and Movies

Tellico’s built-in list of collection templates is already quite impressive. It provides default templates for books, bibliographies, videos, music, video games, coins, stamps, trading cards, comic books, and wines. However, users are free to modify, add, or remove fields in these collections or even create custom collections with arbitrary fields.

For example, I keep a collection of hyperplane arrangement examples in a custom tellico file. Tellico happily keeps a fully group-able and search-able record of my coefficient fields, polynomials, and other fields.

Arrangements of hyperplanes

Editing a custom entry looks just like editing a standard record type. Fields are grouped by customizable categories.

Editing a record

Modifying the collection fields is wonderfully simple. Your fields may be any of several field types including: text, paragraph, choice, checkbox, table, URL, date, and image. Field upgrading is supported between compatible field types.

Fields may be auto-formatted as names or titles if you wish. You can also control whether the field should support auto-completion (using existing entries in your collection), multiple values, or whether the field should appear in the grouping combo box.

Editing the fields in a collection

The paragraph field type supports basic HTML markup (used here in my bibliography collection). The red letters are KDE’s spell-check attempting to be useful.

HTML markup in a paragraph field

I use the table field type in my recipe collection.

Using a table for an ingredient listing

Beyond the Application

Tellico can import and export data to and from many sources (Bibtex, CSV, PDF metadata, Alexandria, …). It can export your collections (even custom collections) to HTML and generate HTML reports in several styles. Tellico even has limited support for sending citations to Writer (though I have never used this feature).

Moreover, since Tellico stores its data in a fully documented XML file you can write XSLT or use any XML parser to transform the data file however you like.

Tellico supports loan tracking for any collection type. It also translated into more than ten languages.

The not so good

Tellico is somewhat laggy when loading hundreds or thousands of images from disk and occasionally when switching from thumbnail view to entry view. However, switching between entries is always fine and collections with fewer images are quick and responsive.


There are many special-purpose collection managers (most of which are listed on the tellico homepage), but tellico is one of the earlier general purpose managers. Some applications (such as GCstar) are becoming more general-purpose as they mature. Others (such as Stuffkeeper) are simply younger applications and are not yet stable. Tellico is a well-designed application and therefore can give even the special-purpose collection managers a run for their money.

Posted in Debian, Ubuntu |

7 Responses

  1. Joachim Breitner Says:

    For books, there is also

  2. James Says:

    How hard would it be to feed this thing barcodes using a webcam? That always seemed like a neat feature in other “library” software.

  3. Vicho Says:

    James, the barcodes can only be used with alexandria, and I’m not familiar with that package.

    Maybe somebody could write an article for debaday about alexandria 0:-)

  4. John Says:

    Tellico can be used with GRAMPS

  5. John Says:

    See the wiki

  6. Dom Says:

    @Vicho: Maybe I’m mistaken, but isn’t it possible for Tellico to store barcodes as well, since the fields are editable? Or were you applying to feeding them using a webcam?

    BTW, thank you for a great review. I knew about Tellico but I was only using it to store books information and never really explored it all the way. Now that I realize Krecipes might not be ported to KDE4, which is a shame, there’s no reason why Tellico couldn’t replace it.

  7. Dean Says:

    @Vicho: Tellico appears to have experimental webcam support as of version 1.3 ( I have not used this code, but tellico works fine with a CueCat (which I have used).