Category Archives: emacs

2017-01-09 Emacs News

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, Youtube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

What do I want from my Org Mode files?

What do I want from the notes I keep in Org Mode, how’s that working out, and how can I improve?

Remind me of important tasks, especially recurring ones or ones in the far future
This works pretty well, especially with my weekly review. I mostly trust it, although it might be nice to use the timeline view to review tasks over the next few years just to make sure the important ones are there. And backups!
Keep detailed checklists, instructions, and notes, so that I don’t miss any steps or have to figure things out again when I’m sleep-deprived
I’ve found this useful when dealing with my business paperwork, and I look forward to documenting more routines.
Capture quick thoughts and tasks so that they don’t clutter up my mind
org-capture is good when I’m at my computer, and Google Tasks is a decent inbox when I’m away. Not very good at reviewing and refiling the items, though, but I can do that when I have more discretionary time.
Break bigger projects down into manageable tasks
I don’t have the brainspace right now to work on projects, so most of these have been shelved. I need to tweak my Org refile targets to make organizing things easier. I might be running into a limit with too many targets. Sometimes I can’t use org-refile to select a task that I already know exists.
Help me untangle my thoughts or keep a trail of breadcrumbs as I solve problems
Pretty good at this. Limited by computer time at the moment.
Pull together information and help me summarize
The code I wrote for my weekly and monthly reviews is working well. The code for Emacs News is decent, too, although I can save a little more time if I fix my function for opening all links in a region.
Draft blog posts
This is working well. It could be a little better if I sorted out image uploading and resizing, but my current workflow is fine.
Help me make the most of my limited computer time by prioritizing small tasks that move me forward
This is probably the weakest area. Right now, I tend to prioritize drawing, then checking my agenda for urgent/quick tasks, and maybe writing if I can squeeze it in. I mostly save writing for my phone, though, because I can write on my phone and I can’t do the other tasks then. Coding might help me improve efficiency, but that might have to wait until I have more focused time. It’s okay, I’ll get back to that someday. I think getting better at writing and posting will pay off well enough in the short term. If I give myself permission to post short, possibly incomplete thoughts (like I tell people to! :) ), I’ll get more stuff out there, and then I can build up from there.
Keep notes on people
Little memories, triggers for thoughtfulness, etc. I’m definitely the bottleneck here, not Org.
Help me review my decisions
It’s good to write down goals, options considered, criteria, trade-offs, reasons, predicted results, and so on. My bottleneck is probably taking the time to do so. People are good at rationalization, so I’m not trying to judge whether something was a good decision or a bad decision, but it’s interesting to see what decisions and evaluations reveal about my preferences and values.
Remind me about tools, how to use them, why, and so on
This is partly why I have a literate configuration – so the outline can remind me about stuff I’ve already coded. It’s also handy to keep track of commands and scripts that help me with various tasks. I just need to remember to copy and paste stuff as I do things.

Overall, I’m okay with input and output. Processing is my bottleneck at the moment. If I either fix that org-refile issue I’ve been running into, or come up with an alternative flexible search that will help me find outline entries when I don’t quite remember the headline, that should make processing a bit easier. A bit of outline gardening would help, too – archiving things that are no longer relevant, refiling notes and improving their headlines/text for searchability, maybe prioritizing tasks based on costs and benefits… I’m not entirely sure I’d be comfortable doing that on my phone, so it will have to wait for computer time.

In the meantime, I’m glad I have a place to accumulate (and eventually organize) all those notes!

2017-01-02 Emacs News

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, Youtube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

2016-12-26 Emacs News

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, Youtube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

2016-12-19 Emacs News

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, Youtube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

Using categories to organize your Org agenda

D.C. Toedt wanted to share this tip for Org Mode agenda organization:

I’ve just discovered that it helps to add a :CATEGORY: property to the top-level, non-TODO heading that identifies the project.  Using your example:

* Project ABC

** TODO A task related to Project ABC
** TODO Another task related to ABC
*** TODO Subtask

In my bog-standard org-mode setup, this results in “ABC” being displayed in the far-left column of the agenda instead of just “todo” (which seems to be the default). This is great — it means that, in the text of the “Subtask” todo entry itself, I don’t need to include a reminder of what project the todo entry is associated with.

Here’s an agenda mockup to illustrate the point, augmented with a “default” entry from my own to-do list:

  todo:       Scheduled:  Follow up on expense reimbursement request
  ABC:        Scheduled:  Subtask

This also allows filtering the agenda by the category.

Thanks for sharing, D.C.!

The category actually defaults to the first part of your, so becomes todo, becomes organizer, etc. I keep an,,, etc. Keeping my routine tasks in allows me to filter them with a custom agenda command like:

            ("w" "Weekly review" agenda ""
             ((org-agenda-span 7)
              (org-agenda-log-mode 1)) "~/Dropbox/agenda/this-week.html")

            ("W" "Weekly review sans routines" agenda ""
             ((org-agenda-span 7)
              (org-agenda-log-mode 1)
              (org-agenda-tag-filter-preset '("-routine"))) "~/Dropbox/agenda/this-week-nonroutine.html")

so that I can see all the tasks (including routine tasks) in my regular weekly review, and just the special stuff in a separate view. You can see the whole definition of org-agenda-custom-commands in my Emacs configuration.

Update 2016-12-18: Oops! I just remembered that filtering by -routine is actually made possible by the #+FILETAGS: :routine: I have in, which has the additional benefit of allowing me to mark tasks in other files as routine by adding the :routine: tag to them. You can, however, still use categories to filter your agenda. < (org-agenda-filter-by-category) in an agenda view will filter by category, or use a match filter like CATEGORY="routines" to match on the category. Also, it turns out you can set up category icons by customizing org-agenda-category-icon-alist – hmm…

D.C.’s tip is handy if you want to keep those groups of tasks in one file, but still want that kind of visual indication in your agenda (and the ability to filter by it).

Have fun!