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Org-starter is a framework for basic configuration of Emacs Org Mode. It allows you to configure Org Mode easily even with many files and directories.

The standard way to configure Org Mode is set a bunch of variables such as org-agenda-files and org-refile-targets. This makes it hard to add/delete files to/from the configuration. Org-starter lets you configure Org Mode in a file-centric and incremental manner, which scales well especially if you have many Org files and sometimes have to tweak the file list.

In other words, org-starter allows you to configure Org Mode in a manner similar to use-package. The following is an example file configuration with org-starter:

(org-starter-define-file ""
  :agenda t
  :refile '(:maxlevel . 9))

Table of contents


  • Emacs 25.1
  • dash and dash-functional


Install from MELPA.

Note: counsel-org-starter and helm-org-starter in this repository are not available on MELPA yet. Install them individually after installing org-starter if you need them.


Load path for org files

You can set up a “load path” for Org files. This path is later used to find an Org file with a specific file name. To set the load path, customize org-starter-path.

You can also add directories to the load path by calling org-starter-define-directory with :add-to-path option.

External configuration files

An obvious way to configure Org files using org-starter is to put the configuration in your Emacs initialization file, i.e. ~/.emacs.d/init.el. Org-starter also allows you to put it in an external configuration file residing in the same directory as your Org files. This is useful if have some host-local configuration and don’t want to put it in your init.el. Org-starter is about Org files, so it makes sense to configure the package in alongside the files.

To use this feature, set org-starter-load-config-files custom variable to t. Now you can put your configuration in ~/org/.org-config.el if ~/org/ is included in org-starter-path:

;; ~/.emacs.d/init.el: Configure org-starter
(use-package org-starter
  ;; Enable external configuration files loaded from org-starter-path
  (org-starter-load-config-files t))

;; Your custom-file: Set org-starter-path
 '(org-starter-path (quote ("~/org/")))

;; Now you can put your configuration in ~/org/.org-config.el
(org-starter-def "")

You can put the configuration in any directories in org-starter-path. It is possible for you to put the configuration in a different directory

org-starter-swiper-config-files command available from org-starter-swiper.el in this repository lets you run swiper through your configuration files. It is handy for finding a particular location in your configuration. It may be a good idea to bind a key to the command:

(add-to-list 'org-starter-extra-alternative-find-file-map
             '(";" org-starter-swiper-config-files "config")

org-starter-extra-alternative-find-file-map is a list of commands available when you run org-starter-alternative-find-file-by-key command:

(define-key (kbd "C-c j") #'org-starter-alternative-find-file-by-key)

The following org-capture template lets you add a configuration quickly to one of your org-starter configuration files. org-starter-find-config-file lets you select an existing configuration file, and the entire target function navigates to the end of the selected file:

(org-starter-def-capture "e" "Personal Emacs configuration"
  plain (function (lambda ()
                    (goto-char (point-max))))
  :unnarrowed t)

Loading local variables in Org files without confirmation

You may have added local variables to your Org files. It is annoying to answer “yes” every time Emacs asks you if you are sure you want to load the variables. This can be skipped by enabling org-starter-mode and setting org-starter-enable-local-variables to :all. That is, enable-local-variables is temporarily overridden while a file registered by org-starter is loaded.

Since variables defined in your own files are trusted, this is generally considered safe. However, when you set this option to :all, please don’t add a file that can be edited by someone else to org-starter-known-files, as local variables defined by others can bring a security risk.


Configure directories

Use org-starter-define-directory function to define a directory that contains Org files. You can add the directory to agenda files and/or refile targets via its options.

You can also add it to the load path via :add-to-path option.

For details of options, run C-h f org-starter-define-directory.

Configure files

Use org-starter-define-file function to define an Org file. As with directory definitions, you can add the file to agenda files and/or refile targets.

You can also define Org files inside org-starter-define-directory form as :files option.

For details, run C-h f org-starter-define-file.

Quickly access a particular file with a shortcut key

org-starter-define-file accepts optional :key property, whose value should be a key passed to kbd function. This property is used by org-starter-find-file-by-key, org-starter-alternative-find-file-by-key, and org-starter-refile-by-key commands, which enter a transient state to operate on a particular file quickly.


You can also add custom commands to the transient keymaps by setting org-starter-extra-find-file-map, org-starter-extra-alternative-find-file-map, and org-starter-extra-refile-map, respectively.

(setq org-starter-extra-refile-map
      '(("/" org-refile "normal refile")))

For example, you can add a function that refiles entries into a date tree using my org-reverse-datetree package as in this example.

org-starter-def macro

You can also use org-starter-def define either a file or a directory. Depending on the type of the argument, it calls either org-starter-define-file or org-starter-define-directory. It supports the same functionality as the two functions, but it allows you to define files and directories slightly more concisely.

It basically supports the same as options as org-starter-define-file=/=org-starter-define-directory, but it doesn’t need quoting. For example, the following two directives are equivalent:

(org-starter-define-file "~/"
:refile '(:maxlevel . 3))

(org-starter-def "~/"
:refile (:maxlevel . 3))

When you define a directory using org-starter-def, you can pass multiple arguments as :files option:

(org-starter-def "~/my-directory"
  ("" :agenda t)
  ("" :agenda nil :required nil))

It also supports an additional option :config. Its argument is evaluated after the other options are applied, as in use-package. This is executed if and only if the file/directory exists. It can take multiple arguments:

(org-starter-def "~/my-directory"

Configure capture templates

Org-starter provides two ways to incrementally define org-capture templates:

  • :capture property in org-starter-define-file, which lets you omit the file name of each template target. (file FILENAME) becomes file here.
  • org-starter-def-capture macro, which lets you omit the directory of a file name in template target. The file is searched from the load path. If there is no file existing in the load path, the template is not added.

Templates added by org-starter are sorted alphabetically, so they are grouped by prefix letters even if they are defined in distributed locations.

Each template entry added by these functions is transformed by a function specified as the value of org-starter-capture-template-map-function custom variable. This can be used to apply rules to your capture templates.

There is also org-starter-initial-capture-templates custom variable, which is a recommended way to define template groups.


Locate a file

You can use org-starter-locate-file function to find an Org file contained in one of the directories in org-starter-path:

(org-starter-locate-file "")

To locate a file which is not in the path but already registered (defined) as a known file, use the function with an extra third argument. This function first tries to find a file in the list of known files:

(org-starter-locate-file "" nil t)

Load all known files

It is sometimes convenient to load a specific set of Org files into Emacs as buffers. For example, you can search headings in the live Org buffers using counsel-org-goto-all.

  • To load all files registered by org-starter-define-file into Emacs, use org-starter-load-all-known-files command.
  • To load all files in org-starter-path into Emacs, use org-starter-load-all-files-in-path command.

Jump to a file

If you set :key of a file in org-starter-define-file, you can jump to the file quickly with org-starter-find-file-by-key command.

You can also define extra bindings for the commands by adding entries to org-starter-extra-find-file-map:

;; Add a binding to jump to your Emacs init file
(setq org-starter-extra-find-map
      '(("e" (lambda () (interactive) (find-file "~/.emacs.d/init.el")) "init.el")))

Jump to a file (alternative mode)

This package also provides org-starter-alternative-find-file-by-key, which provides an alternative mode for jumping to a file. Like org-starter-define-file, it displays options based on :key property of your files, but it uses a different function, which is configured as org-starter-alternative-find-function, for visiting a selected file. For example, you can use helm-org-rifle-files for performing a search in the selected file:

(setq org-starter-alternative-find-function 'helm-org-rifle-files)

Refile an entry to a file

When you are visiting a file in Org mode, you can use org-starter-refile-by-key to refile the current entry to a particular file. The refile level as set in :refile option is used for producing candidates.

Like the previous commands, you can add extra bindings to the command through org-starter-extra-refile-map. If you use org-reverse-datetree, it is a good idea to define a custom refile function for your datetree file and add it to the map. org-starter-extras.el in this repository provides a shortcut for defining such a function concisely:

;; Define org-starter-refile-cpb-datetree function
(org-starter-extras-def-reverse-datetree-refile ""

(add-to-list 'org-starter-extra-refile-map
             '("p" org-starter-refile-cpb-datetree "cpb"))

Helm interface to visit an Org file

A separate package helm-org-starter.el provides a Helm command named helm-org-starter which you can use to select an Org file in various categories or create a new one in a known directory.

Counsel interface

counsel-org-starter.el provides the following commands:

  • counsel-org-starter-known-file, which lets you choose a known file.
  • counsel-org-starter, which lets you choose a known file or a file in org-agenda-files.

Related packages

You may find the following packages useful if you use org-starter:


GPL v3

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