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org-dotemacs.el — Store your emacs config as an org file, and choose which bits to load.

Store your emacs config as an org file, and load code snippets based on tag matches.
Joe Bloggs <>
Joe Bloggs <>
  • Copyleft (Ↄ) 2013, Joe Bloggs, all rites reversed.
2013-04-27 20:19:18
2013-04-27 20:19:18
Joe Bloggs
GNU Emacs 24.3.1
((org “7.9.3”) (cl-lib “1.0”))
Features that might be required by this library
org cl

This file is NOT part of GNU Emacs

Licensed under the [GPL version 3]( or later.

Bitcoin donations gratefully accepted: 1Ph9srQBspJCDS9CnGUyWJPTrU4ydX9Aa3


Keeping your emacs config in an org file makes it easier for you to keep your .emacs under control, and avoid DotEmacsBankruptcy. With your config code stored in an org file you can easily edit the structure and keep notes.

This library allows you to load elisp code from an org file on emacs startup. You can also limit the code that is loaded to certain tagged headers using an org tag match, and specify dependencies between code blocks. Using tag matches you can also reuse the same org file for different emacs setups by specifying different tag matches for each setup, or load parts of the file on demand.


The main command is `org-dotemacs-load-default’ which loads your default org-dotemacs file (~/, and prompts for a tag match to specify which code blocks to load. In this way you can load bits of config code when you need them.

You can also put this command in your InitFile (see Installation below) to load the code on startup. To change the default org file use the `org-dotemacs-default-file’ option. If you want to load a different org file from your default one, use `org-dotemacs-load-file’.

For faster loading you may prefer to keep your config code in a separate elisp file, and just update this file now and again by exporting the code from the org file. Use the `org-dotemacs-load-file’ command for this and specify a target file when prompted. Note however that you may get errors when loading the elisp file that you didnt get with the org file. This is because in order to process the org-file some other libraries are loaded which are not loaded when the elisp file loads. You will have to experiment for yourself.

After loading you can inspect the Messages buffer to see which blocks were successfully loaded and which had errors. If you call the `org-dotemacs-jump-to-block’ command on one of the org-dotemacs lines in this buffer it will take you to the block mentioned on that line, or you can prompt for one by using a prefix with this command.

Structure of the org file

The elisp code should be contained in emacs-lisp code blocks, e.g:

#+BEGIN_SRC emacs-lisp

(setq line-number-mode t)
(setq column-number-mode t)
(setq frame-title-format "%b")
(set-background-color "Black")
(set-foreground-color "White")
(set-cursor-color "White")


Ideally you should have each code block under a separate org subtree, then you can use properties to name the blocks and define dependencies, and tags and todo states to specify which blocks should be loaded (see below).

I prefer to keep all my code block subtrees under a single header, and use other headers for keeping notes, defining buffer-wide properties, etc. This way I can get a nice column view of the code blocks (see the columns view section below).

Block dependencies

You can enforce dependencies between code blocks by defining NAME & DEPENDS properties for the subtrees containing the blocks (preferred). The NAME property should contain the name of the block, and the DEPENDS property should contain a space separated list of block names that this block depends on. If a block doesn’t have it’s own NAME property it will be given a default name of “@N” where N is the buffer position of the start of the block. If `org-dotemacs-dependency-inheritance’ is non-nil then block dependencies will be inherited from parent headers.

A block will not be loaded until all of its dependencies have been loaded.

Tags and TODO states

You can tag your subtrees and use tag matches to specify which blocks to evaluate in calls to `org-dotemacs-load-file’ and `org-dotemacs-load-default’. See ”Matching tags and properties” in the org manual for more information on tag matches.

Also, by default any blocks in a subtree marked with a todo state of BROKEN will not be evaluated. You can specify which TODO states to include/exclude for evaluation by customizing the `org-dotemacs-include-todo’ and `org-dotemacs-exclude-todo’ options.

To add the BROKEN state to the list of todo states for the file you need to add buffer-wide todo states by adding a line like this somewhere in your org file (see ”Per file keywords” in the org manual).


Columns View

If you use properties for defining names and dependencies then you can get a nice column view of your code subtrees with the following columns view specification:


This can be placed anywhere in your dotemacs org file. Then if you press C-c C-x C-c on the toplevel header for your code blocks you’ll get a column view that allows you to easily change the names, dependencies, tags and todo states.

Error handling

Error handling can be controlled by customizing `org-dotemacs-error-handling’ or by setting the error-handling command line option when starting emacs. By default code blocks with unmet dependencies or errors are skipped over as soon as an error is encountered, but you can also specify that org-dotemacs should halt or try to reload the blocks. In the latter case after attempting to evaluate all blocks, any blocks with errors will be tried again. This process is repeated until there are no changes in the blocks that succeed, or no bad blocks left.

Command line options

org-dotemacs.el will look for two command line options when loaded: error-handling (for setting the value of `org-dotemacs-error-handling’) and tag-match (for specifying which headers to load). For example if you enter the following at the command line:

emacs –error-handling retry –tag-match “settings-mouse”

Then only code blocks tagged “settings” but not “mouse” will be loaded, and org-dotemacs will try to reload any blocks that have errors.

Customizable options

  • `org-dotemacs-default-file’ : The default org file containing the code blocks to load when `org-dotemacs-load-file’ is called.
  • `org-dotemacs-error-handling’ : Indicates how errors should be handled by `org-dotemacs-load-blocks’.
  • `org-dotemacs-include-todo’ : A regular expression matching TODO states to be included.
  • `org-dotemacs-exclude-todo’ : A regular expression matching TODO states to be excluded.
  • `org-dotemacs-conditional-tags’ : A list of tags/regexps and corresponding conditions for loading blocks.
  • `org-dotemacs-dependency-inheritance’ : Whether dependency properties (:DEPENDS:) can be inherited or not.
  • `org-dotemacs-noselect-on-jump’ : Whether to display or select org-dotemacs file when `org-dotemacs-jump-to-block’ is called.


To use without using a package manager:

  • Put the library in a directory in the emacs load path, like ~/.emacs.d
  • Add (require 'org-dotemacs) in your ~/.emacs file
  • If you have, this org-dotemacs is part of the emacs packges you can install. Just type M-x package-install org-dotemacs marmalade

After installing org-dotemacs make sure you have an ~/ file and add the following lines to the end of your .emacs file:

(load-file "~/.emacs.d/org-dotemacs.el")

or if you want to just load code blocks matching a tag match:

(load-file "~/.emacs.d/org-dotemacs.el")
(org-dotemacs-load-default "<TAG-MATCH>")

See the org manual ”Matching tags and properties” section for more details on tag matches.

To load a different org file either customize `org-dotemacs-default-file’ or use the `org-dotemacs-load-file’ function, e.g:

(load-file "~/.emacs.d/org-dotemacs.el")
(org-dotemacs-load-file "~/.emacs.d/" "<TAG-MATCH>")


Store your emacs config as an org file, and load code snippets based on tag matches.



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