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Adapted from

Functions to maintain a simple personal diary / journal using in Emacs.

Feel free to use, modify and improve the code! — mtvoid, bastibe


org-journal maintains a set of files, depending on the value of org-journal-file-type, a file represents a day, week, month or year. When org-journal-file-type is set to =’daily=, each file represent a day. In case org-journal-file-type is set to =’weekly=, a file represents a week, etc. Convenient bindings allow the creation of journal records in the current daily, weekly, monthly or yearly file and search within all records or specified time intervals. All records can be browsed and searched from the Emacs Calendar for convenience. All entries in a specified TODO state will be carried over to the next day, see org-journal-carryover-items. Optionally, the journal entry can be encrypted, so can the file, see org-journal-enable-encryption and org-journal-encrypt-journal, respectively.

Every journal entry must have a CREATED property when using yearly, monthly and weekly journal files. This property is added by org-journal-new-entry automatically.

An example of a daily file (it will actually look a lot nicer, depending on your org-mode settings):

* Tuesday, 06/04/13
** 10:28 Company meeting
Endless discussions about projects. Not much progress

** 11:33 Work on org-journal
For the longest time, I wanted to have a cool diary app on my
computer. However, I simply lacked the right tool for that job. After
many hours of searching, I finally found PersonalDiary on EmacsWiki.
PersonalDiary is a very simple diary system based on the emacs
calendar. It works pretty well, but I don't really like that it only
uses unstructured text.

Thus, I spent the last two hours making that diary use org-mode
and represent every entry as an org-mode headline. Very cool!

** 15:33 Work on org-journal
Now my journal automatically creates the right headlines (adds the
current time stamp if on the current day, does not add a time stamp
for any other day). Additionally, it automatically collapses the
headlines in the org-file to the right level (shows everything if in
view mode, shows only headlines in new-entry-mode). Emacs and elisp
are really cool!

** 16:40 Work on org-journal
I uploaded my journal mode to marmalade and Github! Awesome!

** TODO teach org-journal how to brew coffee

An example of a weekly/monthly/yearly journal file, see also org-journal-file-type.

* Tuesday, 06/04/13
  :CREATED:  20130604
** 10:28 Company meeting

** 11:33 Work on org-journal

** 15:33 Work on org-journal

** 16:40 Work on org-journal

* Wednesday, 06/05/13
  :CREATED:  20130605
** 10:28 A new day

** 11:33 Work is almost over

** TODO teach org-journal how to brew coffee


org-journal is available through marmalade, melpa and melpa-stable. So installation should be trivial:

M-x package-install org-journal

Then add (require 'org-journal) to your .emacs.


Doing M-x org-journal-new-entry (or C-c C-j) will immediately create a journal directory in the default path (customized using the org-journal-dir variable), open or create a file in org-journal-mode, and insert a template for a new journal entry.

The same command with a prefix argument (C-u C-c C-j) will do everything mentioned while skipping entry creation, which is useful for looking at the current journal file.

Basic Usage

Bindings available in org-journal-mode:

  • C-c C-f - go to the next journal file.
  • C-c C-b - go to the previous journal file.
  • C-c C-j - insert a new entry into the current journal file (creates the file if not present).
  • C-c C-s - search the journal for a string.

All journal entries are registered in the Emacs Calendar. To see available journal entries do M-x calendar. Bindings available in the calendar-mode:

  • j m - mark entries in calendar
  • j r - view an entry in a new buffer.
  • j d - view an entry but do not switch to it.
  • j n - add a new entry into the day’s file (creates the file if not present).
  • j s w - search in all entries of the current week.
  • j s m - search in all entries of the current month.
  • j s y - search in all entries of the current year.
  • j s f - search in all entries of all time.
  • j s F - search in all entries in the future.
  • [ - go to previous day with journal entries.
  • ] - go to next day with journal entries.

Setup and customization

The following variables can be customized through M-x customize, or configured programmatically in your .init.el.

See below for an example.

Journal Directory and Files

Customization options related to journal directory and files:

  • org-journal-dir - the journal path.
  • org-journal-file-format - format string for journal file names (may contain directories relative to org-journal-dir).
  • org-journal-find-file - a function to use when opening a journal file. By default it opens a window using find-file-other-window. Set this to find-file if you don’t want org-journal to split your window.
  • org-extend-today-until - a number that indicates the hour of your end of the day. If you create a new entry with org-journal-new-entry earlier than this time, the journal entry will go into the previous day’s journal.
  • org-journal-file-type - the journal file type either ‘daily (default), ‘weekly, ‘monthly or ‘yearly. Also see the customizable variables org-journal-start-on-weekday for changing the start of the week for weekly journals (defaults to Monday). Keep in mind changing org-journal-start-on-weekday won’t work for existing weekly journal files.

Journal File Content

Customization options related to the journal file contents:

  • org-journal-date-format - date format org-journal uses when showing a date within a journal and search results page. It can also be a function, which return value will than be inserted.
  • org-journal-date-prefix - this string will prefix the date at the top of a journal file.
  • org-journal-time-format - a timestamp format that will prefix every entry within a daily journal file.
  • org-journal-time-prefix - a string that will prefix every entry within a daily journal file.
  • org-journal-file-header - a string that will be inserted at the top of every new journal file. If a string, it will be passed to `format-time-string` along the time value of the new journal entry. It can also be a function expecting a time value.
    (defun org-journal-file-header-func (time)
      "Custom function to create journal header."
        (pcase org-journal-file-type
          (`daily "#+TITLE: Daily Journal\n#+STARTUP: showeverything")
          (`weekly "#+TITLE: Weekly Journal\n#+STARTUP: folded")
          (`monthly "#+TITLE: Monthly Journal\n#+STARTUP: folded")
          (`yearly "#+TITLE: Yearly Journal\n#+STARTUP: folded"))))
    (setq org-journal-file-header 'org-journal-file-header-func)

An example setup

A very basic example of customization.

(setq org-journal-dir "~/org/journal/")
(setq org-journal-date-format "%A, %d %B %Y")
(require 'org-journal)

For users of use-package, this setup could look like the following:

(use-package org-journal
  :ensure t
  :defer t
  ;; Change default prefix key; needs to be set before loading org-journal
  (setq org-journal-prefix-key "C-c j ")
  (setq org-journal-dir "~/org/journal/"
        org-journal-date-format "%A, %d %B %Y"))

Advanced Usage

Searching the Journal

org-journal has two searching options: the usual org-mode agenda search and the built-in plain text search. The former can become slow with bigger journals, so the built-in search is a recommended option.

To use the agenda search, you can add all journal entries to your org-agenda by adding org-journal-dir to org-agenda-files and setting org-agenda-file-regexp to include files matching your org-journal-file-pattern.

;; When =org-journal-file-pattern= has the default value, this would be the regex.
(setq org-agenda-file-regexp "\\`\\\([^.].*\\.org\\\|[0-9]\\\{8\\\}\\\(\\.gpg\\\)?\\\)\\'")
(add-to-list 'org-agenda-files org-journal-dir)

However, this can become very slow if you have many journal entries. As a compromize, you can set org-journal-enable-agenda-integration to t, which automatically adds the current and all future journal entries to the agenda. This is enough to get an overview over current and future tasks.

The built-in search is available through the following function: org-journal-search (C-c C-s in org-journal-mode). By default, it will ask for the time interval to search within (accepting the org-read-date format such as “-1y” or “-1m”) and the string to search for. Given a prefix argument (C-u org-journal-search), it will go through the whole journal.

The order of the search results (ascending or descending by date) can be customized using the org-journal-search-results-order-by variable.

Search is also available through the Emacs Calendar as described in “Basic Usage”.

Carry Over

By default, org-journal will try to carry over previous day TODO-marked items whenever a new journal file is created. The older journal entry will be inserted to the current day’s file.

This feature is controlled through the org-journal-carryover-items variable. To disable this feature set org-journal-carryover-items to an empty string =”“=. Any agenda tags view match string, tags, properties, and todo states are allowed. By default this is TODO=”TODO”. Which will match TODO items.

The old carryover items in the previous day’s journal are processed by the function assigned to org-journal-handle-old-carryover variable. Default is to remove all of them. You can change this behavior by assigning a custom fuction to the variable. Your function has to take one argument, which is a list of old carryover entries. The list is in form of ((START_POINT (END_POINT . “TEXT”)) … (START_POINT (END_POINT . “TEXT”))); and in ascending order of START_POINT.

For example, you can choose putting a tag on the old carryover entries intead of removing them:

(defun my-old-carryover (old_carryover)
    (let ((matcher (cdr (org-make-tags-matcher org-journal-carryover-items))))
      (dolist (entry (reverse old_carryover))
          (narrow-to-region (car entry) (cadr entry)) 
          (goto-char (point-min))
          (org-scan-tags '(lambda ()
                            (org-set-tags ":carried:"))
                         matcher org--matcher-tags-todo-only))))))

(setq org-journal-handle-old-carryover 'my-old-carryover)

You can also skip carry over of Drawers through the org-journal-skip-carryover-drawers variable. This is specifically useful when you want to skip carry over of previous days clocked entries when it is under the drawer LOGBOOK. The variable accepts a list of drawers names which will be skipped on carry over. Sample configuration for skipping LOGBOOK drawer:

(setq org-journal-skip-carryover-drawers (list "LOGBOOK"))


The journal entry can be encrypted using org-crypt, to enable it set org-journal-enable-encryption to t.

You can also encrypt the journal files itself by setting the variable org-journal-encrypt-journal to t. org-journal will always search for journal files with the .gpg extension, and highlights them in the calendar, etc., regardless of the value of org-journal-encrypt-journal. See the info page (info "(epa)Encrypting/decrypting gpg files") for more information about gpg encryption in Emacs.

Agenda and Scheduling

An easy way of keeping track of appointments or future TODOs is to simply create a journal entry in the future. Such entries will automatically get a timestamp and show up in the current day’s journal entry once you reach that day.

  • if org-journal-enable-agenda-integration is t, org-journal will automatically add the current and all future journal entries to org-agenda-files.

There are a few helper functions to deal with such scheduled entries:

  • org-journal-new-scheduled-entry - prompts for a date, and creates a new journal entry on that date with its timestamp set to the date. By default, this is a TODO entry. Set the prefix to avoid the TODO.
  • org-journal-schedule-view - creates a read-only overview of scheduled entries.

iCalendar export

You can export your scheduled entries to an iCalendar file, and subscribe to that file in your calendar application. You need to enable the agenda integration for this to work. I also recommend you set the following values before exporting:

(setq org-journal-enable-agenda-integration t
      org-icalendar-store-UID t
      org-icalendar-include-todo "all"
      org-icalendar-combined-agenda-file "~/path/to/org-journal.ics")

With this done, you can export your agenda, including your scheduled entries, with (org-icalendar-combine-agenda-files).

Journal Capture Template

You can configure a capture template in order to integrate org-journal with org-capture, as in the following example for a daily journal:

(defun org-journal-find-location ()
  ;; Open today's journal, but specify a non-nil prefix argument in order to
  ;; inhibit inserting the heading; org-capture will insert the heading.
  (org-journal-new-entry t)
  (unless (eq org-journal-file-type 'daily)
  (goto-char (point-max)))

(setq org-capture-templates '(("j" "Journal entry" plain (function org-journal-find-location)
                               "** %(format-time-string org-journal-time-format)%^{Title}\n%i%?"
                               :jump-to-captured t :immediate-finish t)))

If you want to do the same to schedule a task for a future date, you can use the following:

(defvar org-journal--date-location-scheduled-time nil)

(defun org-journal-date-location (&optional scheduled-time)
  (let ((scheduled-time (or scheduled-time (org-read-date nil nil nil "Date:"))))
    (setq org-journal--date-location-scheduled-time scheduled-time)
    (org-journal-new-entry t (org-time-string-to-time scheduled-time))
    (unless (eq org-journal-file-type 'daily)
    (goto-char (point-max))))

(setq org-capture-templates '(("j" "Journal entry" plain (function org-journal-date-location)
                               "** TODO %?\n <%(princ org-journal--date-location-scheduled-time)>\n"
                               :jump-to-captured t))

Caching of journal dates

Since version 2.0.0 a cache has been added to speed up calendar operations. This should drastically improve the performance when using encrypted journal files, see org-journal-encrypt-journal.

The caching functionality can be enabled by settings org-journal-enable-cache to t. The cache can be reset by calling org-journal-invalidate-cache.


Can I use weekly/monthly/yearly journal entries instead of daily ones?

Yes, see org-journal-file-type.

Can I have multiple journals?

At the moment, this is not possible. But it should be possible to switch the value of org-journal-directory using a custom function or directory local variables.

Can I use org-journal with Spacemacs?

Yes you can!

  • To use org-journal with Spacemacs from the master branch, you must do this:
    1. git clone ~/.emacs.d/private/journal
    2. add it to your ~/.spacemacs. You will need to add journal to the existing dotspacemacs-configuration-layers list in this file.

    The manual of the journal layer can be found at

  • If you use Spacemacs from the develop branch you can enable org-journal by setting org-enable-org-journal-support to t, see Spacemacs org-journal support.

Some key-bindings in org-journal conflict with org-mode key bindings

Minor modes are supposed to only use key bindings of the form C-c C-?, where ? can be any letter, and to not overwrite major mode bindings. With org-mode already using most interesting keys, collisions are inevitable. This means that some org-journal key bindings will not work as expected in an org-mode buffer, and also that some org-mode key bindings will not work as expected in an org-journal buffer.

When working in an org-mode buffer the following org-journal key bindings are overwritten:

  • C-c C-s (org-journal-search) with org-schedule
  • C-c C-f (org-journal-open-next-entry) with org-forward-heading-same-level
  • C-c C-b (org-journal-open-previous-entry) with org-backward-heading-same-level
  • C-c C-j (org-journal-new-entry) with org-goto

When working in an org-journal buffer the following org-mode key bindings are overwritten:

  • C-c C-s (org-schedule) with org-journal-search
  • C-c C-f (org-forward-heading-same-level) with org-journal-open-next-entry
  • C-c C-b (org-backward-heading-same-level) with org-journal-open-previous-entry
  • C-c C-j (org-goto) with org-journal-new-entry

To workaround this, you can use user bindings of the form C-c ?, where ? can be any letter, to call the org-journal functions. This allows you to have a set of keybindings that work the same in org-mode and org-journal buffers. However, this is Emacs, and if you don’t like a key binding, change it!

Opening journal entries from the calendar are not editable

Old entries are opened in view-mode, which has convenient key bindings for browsing files. Most notably, you can quickly close view-mode buffers with q, scroll them with the SPC and DEL, or quit view-mode with e.

Can I insert some text on a newly created journal file?

Yes, you can write a custom function and assign it org-journal-date-format.

Can I do more powerful things on a newly created journal entry?

Yes, there are two hooks that are run when a journal entry is created. Each (org-journal-new-entry) will call org-journal-after-entry-create-hook, and org-journal-after-header-create-hook is called each time the date (the parent headline of each entry) is generated.

Convenient org-journal Snippet Extensions

Kill journal buffer after saving buffer (By @dhruvparamhans)

(defun org-journal-save-entry-and-exit()
  "Simple convenience function.
  Saves the buffer of the current day's entry and kills the window
  Similar to org-capture like behavior"
(define-key org-journal-mode-map (kbd "C-x C-s") 'org-journal-save-entry-and-exit)



Contributing to org-journal

We format the code using common-lisp-indent-function rather than the default lisp-indent-function. Please set the variable lisp-indent-function to common-lisp-indent-function, and format the code before creating a PR.

(setq lisp-indent-function 'common-lisp-indent-function)
;; Markt the whole buffer: C-x h
;; Call indent-region: C-M-\



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