Org mode?

Anyone here use org mode? I know basically nothing about vim or emacs. If you use it, how? I’m under the impression it’s very customizable. What kind of things do you have set up for yourself?

I do not personally use it but there was a great thread about it:


Org mode is great, I use it all the time! And yes, it is very customizable – after all, it’s an Emacs mode.

I use it for (in no particular order):

  • clocking (ie., time tracking, with my own integrations with Toggl and Beeminder),
  • authoring (I used it to write two books and hundreds of blog posts, with my custom exporter to my wiki/blog format),
  • task management (with a dead-simple, one-way “integration” with Jira, also my own),
  • note taking (including my daughter’s and wife’s school schedules, vacation planning, brainstorming, keeping tracks of books I’d like to buy/read, writing down procedures for tasks I need to do regularly but seldom enough that I don’t remember how to do them, sometimes writing email drafts),
  • collecting data (like weighing myself every day – it has excellent support for stuff like “I press a key and a datapoint/entry is added to a table/list”),
  • DevOps (bash or postgres scripts I can run from within an Org file, with results inserted right there e.g. in the form of a table I can then export to HTML, LaTeX and other formats)
  • bookmarking websites to read (or just have in the archive), integrated with Firefox (basically, I click an icon in ff and an entry appears in an Org list, with the title, url, current timestamp and the selection text if it was active in ff),
  • day planning,
  • reminding myself about recurring tasks, like bills to pay,
  • journaling,
  • a few years ago I used it to prepare e-learning materials, automatically exported to HTML+JS (with quizzes),
  • I sometimes use the built-in spreadsheet feature,
  • I wanted to use it for spaced repetition, though I’ll probably settle for Anki for that,
  • I played around with Zettelkasten with Zettlr, but I’m probably going to move my notes to Org mode – it has several Zettelkasten-inspired add-ons now.

Actually, every time someone mentions things like Obsidian, Scrivener, Zettlr etc., I take a look and decide “ah, so it’s kind of a poor man’s Org mode”…

I can provide links to any of the above if you’re interested. And one of the important features/design principles of Org mode is “you don’t need to learn everything – you can start small, with e.g. a short to-do list or one file with notes, and expand from there if/when you want – features you don’t use shouldn’t get in the way”. The only reason they sometimes do get in the way is when you press some key by accident and you activate something you have no idea about. But it’s Emacs, so then you can undo or press C-h l (ctrl+h and then l) to see the last 300 keys you pressed (annotated with what commands they invoked).


This reminds me that I came across another poor man’s Org mode, as @mbork says, that’s like a text file with built-in, in-line timers:

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That’s right, I’ve seen that, too, on HN. Looks nice and doesn’t seem to do anything that Org mode can’t do (though you’d have to work a bit to get the inline timers if you really wanted them).

To fair, though, Org mode has its deficiencies, too. The main one is probably that it doesn’t have any features for collaboration. Another one is the lack of support for timezones.


@mbork hmm, interesting!

Currently I’m thinking I’d like to have a workflowy-like collapsible outline tasklist where I can create a bunch of nested tasks and then view only the outer most leaves, and beemind different characteristics of the task collection. What would I need to learn / use to do something like that?

Also, sync between devices?

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Well, I don’t know Workflowy.
But, “collapsible outlines” are the heart of Org-mode. Also, any headline in the outline may be a “task” in Org mode – you just need to assign it a keyword like TODO or DONE.
As for sync between devices – well, Git, basically. I assume there are automated solutions, but one of the basic tenets of Org mode is “use text files, human-readable even without Org mode”.
I could show you some basics over Google Meet or something. There are also a lot of YouTube videos about Org mode, if that’s your thing.