move Dropbox shared notes from Android into org-mode datetree
Emacs Lisp
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org-dropbox.el use group and version directive from names Jan 14, 2015

org-dropbox.el — move Dropbox notes from phone into org-mode datetree

This minor mode syncs DropBox notes from mobile devices into org datetree file that can be part of org agenda. The minor mode starts a daemon that periodically scans the note directory.


I wanted to collect together all interesting articles I saw reading news on my phone applications. I was already using Org mode to keep notes in my computer.

The MobileOrg app in my Android phone is fiddly and does not do things the way I want, so this was a good opportunity to learn lisp while doing something useful.

Sharing notes

On Android phones, installing Dropbox client also adds Dropbox as one of the applications that can be used to share articles from many news applications (e.g. BBC World News, Flipboard). In contrast to many other options, Dropbox saves these links as plain text files – a good starting point for including them into org-mode.

Org mode has a date-ordered hierachical file structure called datetree that is ideal for storing notes and links. This org-dropbox-mode code reads each note in the Dropbox notes folder, formats them to an org element, and refiles them to a correct place in a datetree file for easy searching through org-agenda commands.

Each new org headline element gets an inactive timestamp that corresponds to the last modification time of the note file.

The locations in the filesystem are determined by two customizable variables – by default both pointing inside Dropbox:

org-dropbox-note-dir      "~/Dropbox/notes/"
org-dropbox-datetree-file "~/Dropbox/org/"

Since different programmes format the shared link differently, the code tries its best to make sense of them. A typical note has the name of the article in the first line and the link following it separated by one or two newlines. The name is put to the header, multiple new lines are reduced to one, and the link is followed by the timestamp. If the title uses dashes (’ - ‘), exclamation marks (‘! ‘), or colons (‘: ‘), they are replaced by new lines to wrap the trailing text into the body. In cases where there is no text before the link, the basename of the note file is used as the header.

After parsing, the source file is removed from the note directory.

Note that most of the time the filename is ignored. The only absolute requirement for the filename is that it has to be unique within the directory. Filename is used as an entry header only if the file does not contain anything usefull, i.e. the content is plain URL.


Set up variables org-dropbox-note-dir and org-dropbox-datetree-file to your liking. Authorize your devices to share that Dropbox directory. As long as you save your notes in the correct Dropbox folder, they are copied to your computer for processing and deletion.

The processing of notes starts when you enable the minor mode org-dropbox-mode in Emacs, and stops when you disable it. After every refiler run, a message is printed out giving the number of notes processed.

An internal timer controls the periodic running of the notes refiler. The period is set in customizable variable org-dropbox-refile-timer-interval to run by default every hour (3600 seconds).


This is first time I have written any reasonable amount of lisp code, so writing a whole package was a jump in the dark. The code has been running reliably for some time now, but if you want to try the code and be absolutely certain you do not lose your notes, comment form (delete-file file) from the code.

There are undoubtedly many things that can be done better. Feel free to raise issues and submit pull requests.