I've seen org-mode for Emacs mentioned very frequently around the interwebs, so it went into my mental queue of topics to learn. It finally bubbled to the top this week, so I took a look.
As an organizer/calendar, well, I doubt I'll need it. Enforced use of MS Outlook is mandated by work. My Post-it-notes-all-over-my-desk method of organization will also continue to serve me well.
There are some nice agenda-related shortcuts that are probably worth using though, like typing
C-c . to enter a datestamp, like
<2011-01-20 Thu>. Then you can increment or decrement it one year/month/day at a time via
S-down. I like this.
Plaintext editor? Yes!
As a plaintext outline and table editor... wow. org-mode rocks. Do you know how many hours of my life could have been saved by having a good ASCII table/bullet-list editor? org-mode lines everything up and keeps it all nice and neat for you.
You can also make plaintext check boxes and check/uncheck them. And you can insert hyperlinks and footnotes, and click them to open web pages or jump back and forth between footnote and reference.
There are ways to collapse and expand outlines, search for items and only display those items, and so on. The documentation for org-mode is very clear and took me less than an hour to read through. All-in-all a pleasant experience.
* Agenda ** Things to learn 1. [X] Clojure 2. [X] org-mode (see [fn:diagram1]) 3. [ ] Haskell 4. [ ] Japanese 1. [X] Hiragana 2. [X] Katakana 3. [ ] Kanji 5. [ ] The true meaning of friendship * Footnotes [fn:diagram1] | Task | Annoyance (1-10) | |-----------------------------------+------------------| | Making ASCII tables by hand | 9.5 | | Making ASCII bullet lists by hand | 7.2 | | Using org-mode | 0.4 |
It looks nice plastered into my blog, but you don't get a real idea of how many cool things you can do with it until you open it in Emacs and start shuffling items around, bumping them up/down a level in headlines, creating properly-numbered bullet items with one key, and seeing the columns in the table auto-resize as you type.
I also highly recommend putting
(setq org-startup-indented t) into
.emacs to make everything look pretty on-screen. It still saves as the simple plaintext above, but it looks like this in Emacs:
I can definitely see using org-mode for TODO files in some of my projects. (You can mark entries as TODO (just by typing
TODO in front), and then toggle between TODO/DONE via
C-c C-t.) I can also see using it as a general-purpose note-taker.
org-mode also has a mobile version for iPhone and Android, synced via WebDAV or Dropbox, so you can org-mode on your phone while you're driving to the grocery store1. Again I don't really need this, but there it is.
The joy of plaintext
Plaintext is awesome.
It's the universal file format. It's readable and writeable by scripting langauges, terminals, text editors, IDEs, word processors, web browsers, even lowly humans.
Plaintext's one shortcoming is its lack of structure. It's just a bunch of letters. It doesn't have a color, it doesn't have a style, it doesn't line up into columns without a lot of effort. There's nothing stopping you from opening a parenthesized list and forgetting the closing paren.
Computers don't care about these problems, but humans are bad at producting plaintext by hand, and bad at editing it once it's produced. Our clumsy, stumpy fingers and inconsistent, chaotic brains can't handle the freedom.
Emacs (and Vim) are awesome because they let you do magical things to plaintext. They enforce structure. They provide shortcuts so you can get your plainext right the first time.
[ ] is just two braces and a space, but org-mode lets me hit
C-c C-c and turn the space into an
X. This may seem banal, hardly worth caring about, but add to this shortcut thousands upon thousands of others. Things like org-mode, or paredit, or all of Vim's built-in magic... it all adds up to something wonderful.
And best of all, you always still have the option of manually keyboarding over and typing that
X between the braces yourself. It's still just plaintext underneath. So you end up with the best of both worlds.
I do not recommend using org-mode while driving, for public safety reasons. ↩