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Emacs Org-Mode Settings

The Org Mode feature was a big reason in my recent re-kindling of my Emacs love affair.

Initial Settings

Initialization of Org Mode by hooking it into YASnippets, and other settings.

(use-package org
  :ensure t        ; But it comes with Emacs now!?
  (setq org-use-speed-commands t
        org-return-follows-link t
        org-hide-emphasis-markers t
        org-completion-use-ido t
        org-outline-path-complete-in-steps nil
        org-src-fontify-natively t   ;; Pretty code blocks
        org-src-tab-acts-natively t
        org-confirm-babel-evaluate nil
        org-todo-keywords '((sequence "TODO(t)" "DOING(g)" "|" "DONE(d)")
                            (sequence "|" "CANCELED(c)")))
  (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.txt\\'" . org-mode))
  (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '(".*/[0-9]*$" . org-mode))   ;; Journal entries
  (add-hook 'org-mode-hook 'yas-minor-mode-on)
  :bind (("C-c l" . org-store-link)
         ("C-c c" . org-capture)
         ("C-M-|" . indent-rigidly))
  (font-lock-add-keywords            ; A bit silly but my headers are now
   'org-mode `(("^\\*+ \\(TODO\\) "  ; shorter, and that is nice canceled
                (1 (progn (compose-region (match-beginning 1) (match-end 1) "")
               ("^\\*+ \\(DOING\\) "
                (1 (progn (compose-region (match-beginning 1) (match-end 1) "")
               ("^\\*+ \\(CANCELED\\) "
                (1 (progn (compose-region (match-beginning 1) (match-end 1) "")
               ("^\\*+ \\(DONE\\) "
                (1 (progn (compose-region (match-beginning 1) (match-end 1) "")

  (define-key org-mode-map (kbd "M-C-n") 'org-end-of-item-list)
  (define-key org-mode-map (kbd "M-C-p") 'org-beginning-of-item-list)
  (define-key org-mode-map (kbd "M-C-u") 'outline-up-heading)
  (define-key org-mode-map (kbd "M-C-w") 'org-table-copy-region)
  (define-key org-mode-map (kbd "M-C-y") 'org-table-paste-rectangle)

  (define-key org-mode-map [remap org-return] (lambda () (interactive)
                                                (if (org-in-src-block-p)

Speed Commands: If point is at the beginning of a headline or code block in org-mode, single keys do fun things. See org-speed-command-help for details (or hit the ? key at a headline).

Note: For the most part, I like electric-indent-mode, however, it doesn’t really play well with org-mode, so I just bind the Return key to the org-return-indent function and get the same effect (but only if I am not in a source code block…which actually insert multiple new lines). This return and indent feature is fine, since when I save a file, I automatically strip off trailing whitespace.

We will use some of the packages from org extras, especially org-drill and org-mime for HTML exports:

(use-package org-drill
  :ensure org-plus-contrib)

(use-package org-mime
  :ensure t)

Local Key Bindings

Trying an experiment to see if I like inserting two spaces at the end of a sentence:

(defun ha/insert-two-spaces (N)
  "Inserts two spaces at the end of sentences."
  (interactive "p")
  (when (looking-back "[!?.] " 2)
    (insert " ")))

(advice-add 'org-self-insert-command :after #'ha/insert-two-spaces)

A couple of short-cut keys to make it easier to edit text.

(defun org-text-bold () "Wraps the region with asterisks."
  (surround-text "*"))
(defun org-text-italics () "Wraps the region with slashes."
  (surround-text "/"))
(defun org-text-code () "Wraps the region with equal signs."
  (surround-text "="))

Now we can associate some keystrokes to the org-mode:

(use-package org
   (bind-keys :map org-mode-map
   ("A-b" . (surround-text-with "+"))
   ("s-b" . (surround-text-with "*"))
   ("A-i" . (surround-text-with "/"))
   ("s-i" . (surround-text-with "/"))
   ("A-=" . (surround-text-with "="))
   ("s-=" . (surround-text-with "="))
   ("A-`" . (surround-text-with "~"))
   ("s-`" . (surround-text-with "~"))

   ("C-s-f" . forward-sentence)
   ("C-s-b" . backward-sentence)))

Better Org Return

From this discussion, I got the code to replace M-RET in lists with just RET, so that Org acts more like other word processors.

(defun ha/org-return (&optional ignore)
  "Add new list item, heading or table row with RET.
A double return on an empty element deletes it.
Use a prefix arg to get regular RET. "
  (interactive "P")
  (if ignore
     ;; Open links like usual
     ((eq 'link (car (org-element-context)))
     ;; lists end with two blank lines, so we need to make sure we are also not
     ;; at the beginning of a line to avoid a loop where a new entry gets
     ;; created with only one blank line.
     ((and (org-in-item-p) (not (bolp)))
      (if (org-element-property :contents-begin (org-element-context))
        (setf (buffer-substring
               (line-beginning-position) (line-end-position)) "")
      (if (not (string= "" (org-element-property :title (org-element-context))))
          (progn (org-end-of-meta-data)
        (setf (buffer-substring
               (line-beginning-position) (line-end-position)) "")))
      (if (-any?
           (lambda (x) (not (string= "" x)))
            (- (org-table-current-dline) 1)
        ;; empty row
        (setf (buffer-substring
               (line-beginning-position) (line-end-position)) "")

(define-key org-mode-map (kbd "RET")  #'ha/org-return)

Color and Display

Displaying the headers using various bullets are nice for my presentations.

(use-package org-bullets
   :ensure t
   :init (add-hook 'org-mode-hook 'org-bullets-mode))

Here is my approach for quickly making the initial asterisks for listing items and whatnot, appear as Unicode bullets (without actually affecting the text file or the behavior).

(use-package org
  (font-lock-add-keywords 'org-mode
   '(("^ +\\([-*]\\) "
          (0 (prog1 () (compose-region (match-beginning 1) (match-end 1) "")))))))

Before we load org-mode proper, we need to set the following syntax high-lighting parameters. These are used to help bring out the source code during literate programming mode.

Better Pasting

Assuming the pandoc project has been installed, we can take HTML code, copied from a browser into the system’s clipboard, and convert it to org-mode format before yanking it into buffer.

(defun ha/paste-html-to-org ()
  "Assumes the contents of the system clip/paste-board to be
HTML, this calls out to `pandoc' to convert it for the org-mode
  (let* ((clip (if (eq system-type 'darwin)
                   "pbpaste -Prefer rts"
                 "xclip -out -selection 'clipboard' -t text/html"))
         (format (if (eq mode-name "Org") "org" "markdown"))
         (pandoc (concat "pandoc -f rts -t " format))
         (cmd    (concat clip " | " pandoc))
         (text   (shell-command-to-string cmd)))
    (kill-new text)


Didn’t realize that org-journal essentially does what I have been doing by hand. With a little customization, I don’t have to change anything else:

(use-package org-journal
  :ensure t
   (setq org-journal-dir "~/journal/")
   (setq org-journal-date-format "#+TITLE: Journal Entry- %e %b %Y (%A)")
   (setq org-journal-time-format ""))

The time format is the heading for each section. I set it to a blank since I really don’t care about the time I add a section.

A function to easily load today (and yesterday’s) journal entry.

(defun get-journal-file-today ()
  "Return filename for today's journal entry."
  (let ((daily-name (format-time-string "%Y%m%d")))
    (expand-file-name (concat org-journal-dir daily-name))))

(defun journal-file-today ()
  "Create and load a journal file based on today's date."
  (find-file (get-journal-file-today)))

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c f j") 'journal-file-today)

Since I sometimes (not often) forget to create a journal entry, and need to re-write history.

(defun get-journal-file-yesterday ()
  "Return filename for yesterday's journal entry."
  (let* ((yesterday (time-subtract (current-time) (days-to-time 1)))
         (daily-name (format-time-string "%Y%m%d" yesterday)))
    (expand-file-name (concat org-journal-dir daily-name))))

(defun journal-file-yesterday ()
  "Creates and load a file based on yesterday's date."
  (find-file (get-journal-file-yesterday)))

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c f y") 'journal-file-yesterday)

Auto Insert a Journal Template

Nice to automatically insert a specific header if the journal entry file is empty using auto-insert.

When I create a new journal entry, I want a snappy title and a checklist of daily tasks. The template should insert a date that matches the file’s name, not necessarily the current date.

Also the inserted daily information and check-lists should only happen if I am creating today’s journal, not catching up with the past… oh, and we might have special dailies to be inserted based on the day of the week. Guess I could use YAS snippets, but then the code amount of code would over-shadow the text, so we’ll make a function.

(defun journal-file-insert ()
  "Insert's the journal heading based on the file's name."
  (let* ((year  (string-to-number (substring (buffer-name) 0 4)))
         (month (string-to-number (substring (buffer-name) 4 6)))
         (day   (string-to-number (substring (buffer-name) 6 8)))
         (datim (encode-time 0 0 0 day month year)))

      (insert (format-time-string org-journal-date-format datim))
      (insert "\n\n  $0\n") ; Start with a blank separating line

      ;; Note: The `insert-file-contents' leaves the cursor at the
      ;; beginning, so the easiest approach is to insert these files
      ;; in reverse order:

      ;; If the journal entry I'm creating matches today's date:
      (when (equal (file-name-base (buffer-file-name))
                   (format-time-string "%Y%m%d"))
        (insert-file-contents "")

        ;; Insert dailies that only happen once a week:
        (let ((weekday-template (downcase
                                 (format-time-string ""))))
          (when (file-exists-p weekday-template)
            (insert-file-contents weekday-template)))
        (insert-file-contents "")
        (insert "$0")

        (let ((contents (buffer-string)))
          (delete-region (point-min) (point-max))
          (yas-expand-snippet contents (point-min) (point-max))))))

(define-auto-insert "/[0-9]\\{8\\}$" [journal-file-insert])

To use this, make the following files:

  • to contain the real dailies
  • to contain any follow-up notes
  • for additional text to be inserted on Monday journals
  • And a for each additional weekday

Displaying Last Year’s Journal Entry

I really would really like to read what I did last year “at this time”, and by that, I mean, 365 days ago, plus or minus a few to get to the same day of the week.

(defun journal-last-year-file ()
  "Returns the string corresponding to the journal entry that
happened 'last year' at this same time (meaning on the same day
of the week)."
(let* ((last-year-seconds (- (float-time) (* 365 24 60 60)))
       (last-year (seconds-to-time last-year-seconds))
       (last-year-dow (nth 6 (decode-time last-year)))
       (this-year-dow (nth 6 (decode-time)))
       (difference (if (> this-year-dow last-year-dow)
                       (- this-year-dow last-year-dow)
                     (- last-year-dow this-year-dow)))
       (target-date-seconds (+ last-year-seconds (* difference 24 60 60)))
       (target-date (seconds-to-time target-date-seconds)))
  (format-time-string "%Y%m%d" target-date)))

(defun journal-last-year ()
  "Loads last year's journal entry, which is not necessary the
same day of the month, but will be the same day of the week."
  (let ((journal-file (concat org-journal-dir (journal-last-year-file))))
    (find-file journal-file)))

  (global-set-key (kbd "C-c f L") 'journal-last-year)

Taking Meeting Notes

I’ve notice that while I really like taking notes in a meeting, I don’t always like the multiple windows I have opened, so I created this function that I can easily call to eliminate distractions during a meeting.

(defun meeting-notes ()
  "Call this after creating an org-mode heading for where the notes for the meeting
should be. After calling this function, call 'meeting-done' to reset the environment."
  (outline-mark-subtree)                              ;; Select org-mode section
  (narrow-to-region (region-beginning) (region-end))  ;; Only show that region
  (delete-other-windows)                              ;; Get rid of other windows
  (text-scale-set 2)                                  ;; Text is now readable by others
  (fringe-mode 0)
  (message "When finished taking your notes, run meeting-done."))

Of course, I need an ‘undo’ feature when the meeting is over…

(defun meeting-done ()
  "Attempt to 'undo' the effects of taking meeting notes."
  (widen)                                       ;; Opposite of narrow-to-region
  (text-scale-set 0)                            ;; Reset the font size increase
  (fringe-mode 1)
  (winner-undo))                                ;; Put the windows back in place

Specify the Org Directories

I keep all my org-mode files in a few directories, and I would like them automatically searched when I generate agendas.

(setq org-agenda-files '("~/Dropbox/org/personal"

Auto Note Capturing

Let’s say you were in the middle of something, but would like to take a quick note, but without affecting the file you are working on. This is called a “capture”, and is bound to the following key:

General notes are stored in, and tasks synced with my Google Task list are stored in

(defvar org-default-notes-file "~/personal/")
(defvar org-default-tasks-file "~/personal/")

This will bring up a list of note capturing templates. I actually override this in my system-specific “local” configuration file.

(defun ha/first-header ()
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (search-forward-regexp "^\* ")
    (beginning-of-line 1)

(setq org-capture-templates
      '(("n" "Thought or Note"  entry
         (file org-default-notes-file)
         "* %?\n\n  %i\n\n  See: %a" :empty-lines 1)
        ("j" "Journal Note"     entry
         (file (get-journal-file-today))
         "* %?\n\n  %i\n\n  From: %a" :empty-lines 1)
        ("t" "Task Entry"        entry
         (file+function org-default-tasks-file ha/load-org-tasks)
         "* %?\n\n  %i\n\n  From: %a" :empty-lines 1)
        ("w" "Website Announcement" entry
         (file+function "~/website/" ha/first-header)
         "* %?
  :PUBDATE: %t
  #+HTML: <div class=\"date\">%<%e %b %Y></div>


  [[%F][Read more...]" :empty-lines 1)))

After you have selected the template, you type in your note and hit C-c C-c to store it in the file listed above.

Just remember, at some point to hit C-c C-w to refile that note in the appropriate place.

Org and Google Tasks

Using org-michel for syncing a single Org file with my Google Tasks.

pip install google-api-python-client python-gflags python-dateutil httplib2
pip install urllib3 apiclient discovery
pip install --upgrade oauth2client
hg clone

The problem is the --sync doesn’t work. So, whenever I read the file, I pull it down first. On save, I push it:

(defun ha/load-org-tasks ()
   (shell-command (format "/usr/local/bin/michel-orgmode --pull --orgfile %s" org-default-tasks-file))
   (find-file org-default-tasks-file)
   (add-hook 'after-save-hook 'ha/save-org-tasks t t))

(defun ha/save-org-tasks ()
   (shell-command (format "/usr/local/bin/michel-orgmode --push --orgfile %s" org-default-tasks-file)))

Export Settings

Seems some change now requires a direct load of HTML:

To make the org-mode export defaults closer to my liking (without having to put specific #+PROPERTY commands), I get rid of the postamble, and then configure the default fonts.

(use-package ox-html
  (setq org-html-postamble nil)
  (setq org-export-with-section-numbers nil)
  (setq org-export-with-toc nil)
  (setq org-html-head-extra "
     <link href=',700,400italic,700italic&subset=latin,latin-ext' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>
     <link href=',700' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>
     <style type='text/css'>
        body {
           font-family: 'Source Sans Pro', sans-serif;
        pre, code {
           font-family: 'Source Code Pro', monospace;


I alternated between the browser-based presentation tool, reveal.js and staying in Emacs with org-tree-slide.


Generate presentations from my org-mode files using org-reveal. Just download and make the results available to the HTML output:

(use-package ox-reveal
   (setq org-reveal-root (concat "file://" (getenv "HOME") "/Public/js/reveal.js"))
   (setq org-reveal-postamble "Howard Abrams"))

Tree Slide

A quick way to display an org-mode file is using org-tree-slide.

  • org-tree-slide-move-next-tree (C->)
  • org-tree-slide-move-previous-tree (C-<)
  • org-tree-slide-content (C-x s c)
(use-package org-tree-slide
   :ensure t
   (setq org-tree-slide-skip-outline-level 4)

Literate Programming

The trick to literate programming is in the Babel project, which allows org-mode to not only interpret source code blocks, but evaluate them and tangle them out to a file.

(use-package org
  (add-to-list 'org-src-lang-modes '("dot" . "graphviz-dot"))

  (org-babel-do-load-languages 'org-babel-load-languages
                               '((shell      . t)
                                 (js         . t)
                                 (emacs-lisp . t)
                                 (perl       . t)
                                 (scala      . t)
                                 (clojure    . t)
                                 (python     . t)
                                 (ruby       . t)
                                 (dot        . t)
                                 (css        . t)
                                 (plantuml   . t))))

This setting also addresses the issue to associate the dot language with the graphviz-dot mode.

It seems to automatically recognize the language used in a source block, but if not, call org-babel-lob-ingest to add all the languages from the code blocks in a particular file into the list that Babel supports. Keystroke: C-c C-v i.

According to the narrow-widen article, we can have C-x C-s get out of editing org-mode source code blocks:

(eval-after-load 'org-src
  '(define-key org-src-mode-map
     (kbd "C-x C-s") #'org-edit-src-exit))

Just Evaluate It

I’m normally fine with having my code automatically evaluated.

(setq org-confirm-babel-evaluate nil)

Font Coloring in Code Blocks

Once upon a time, fontifying individual code blocks made it impossible to edit the block without org-edit-special. Now that the syntax rendering is faster, I keep it on.

(setq org-src-fontify-natively t)
(setq org-src-tab-acts-natively t)

Technical Artifacts

Need to provide the init-org-mode so that I can require this package.

(provide 'init-org-mode)

Before you can build this on a new system, make sure that you put the cursor over any of these properties, and hit: C-c C-c