Emacs org-mode productivity

31 October, 2010 | santosh

Productivity with Emacs, org-mode and remember

For productivity and time keeping I am now using orgmode in Emacs. I have a heavily customized Emacs and org-mode. I went through many web pages and tutorials and finally I have come to an agreement with myself that this setup is enough to make myself efficient and keep myself from forgetting things. I will show you what I did.

Version control

The first thing I did was setup a version control system for my notes and org files. This helps me in keeping everything synchronized across systems I use. I was using dropbox previously but in my current company, access to dropbox is blocked. I use a free git repository server for hosting my files.

org-mode and remember

The next thing I did was to customize my .emacs file for tasks, notes, fast note taking with remember(New users with org-mode version 6.36 and later should use capture) etc. My org-mode specific configurations are below.

;;; remember and org-mode
(setq org-default-notes-file "~/notes/org/notes")
(setq remember-annotation-functions '(org-remember-annotation))
(setq remember-handler-functions '(org-remember-handler))
(add-hook 'remember-mode-hook 'org-remember-apply-template)
(define-key global-map "\C-cr" 'org-remember)

(setq org-agenda-custom-commands
      '(("w" "Things to be done"
         ((org-agenda-list nil nil 1)
          (tags "WORK")
          (tags "HOME")
          (tags-todo "WAITING")

;; templates for remember
(setq org-remember-templates
        ("Todo" ?t "* TODO %? %g\n  %i" "~/notes/org/TODO" "Tasks")
        ("TO Learn" ?l "* TODO %?\n %i" "~/notes/org/TODO" "To Learn")
        ("Random" ?r "* %u %?\n  %i" "~/notes/org/random.org")
        ("Notes" ?n "* %u %^{Title} %^g\n %i%?\n %a" "~/notes/org/notes"
         "Learning Notes")
        ("Misc" ?m "* %T %^{Title}\n  %i%?\n  %a" "~/notes/org/notes" "Unfiled")
        ("Work" ?w "* %^{Title}\n  %i%?\n  %a" "~/work/notes/jots.org")))

Other emacs customisation

I used to use Emacs not XEmacs, so I had a habit of closing the window when I intended to close the buffer. So I changed the the quit keyboard command to C-x C-\ and C-x C-c to kill-buffer. That part of the file is below.

;; prompt when quitting Emacs in GUI
(defun ask-before-closing ()
  "Ask whether or not to close, and then close if y was pressed"
  (if (y-or-n-p (format "Are you sure you want to exit Emacs? "))
      (if (< emacs-major-version 22)
    (message "Canceled exit")))

(when window-system
  (global-set-key (kbd "C-x C-\\") 'ask-before-closing)
  (global-set-key (kbd "C-x C-c") 'kill-buffer))

OK how do I use it?

How you want to use the org-mode and remember package is up to you. I will just give you some ideas about how to start using it, not conceptually, just keyboard shortcuts, invocations etc.

The following key bindings are for org and remember mode, some are custom and some are default in emacs-23. Please note the key-bindings specified are Emacs convention, ie., C is control, and M is meta/Alt/escape.

| Key bindings | Action | | C-a a a | org-mode agenda | | C-a a t | org-mode agenda tabular view | | C-M-r | Remember mode | | Shift-arrow | cycle through todo tag list | | C-c C-c | file note (in remember mode) | | C-c C-k | discard note in remember mode |

The list of keybindings are given here

I have set up some remember templates too, so that filing notes can go into the appropriate file in desired format. Explanation of remember mode with org-mode can be found here.

Other shortcuts and uses

Since I use Emacs extensively for many things, it is set to run at start up in my gnome preferences. Also emacs always starts up in server mode, accomplished with the help of (server-start) in the .emacs file.

I use xbindkeys to bind Super+esc to

emacsclient -e '(remember-other-frame)'

So even when my Emacs window is not focused, I can quickly enter notes in remember mode with super+esc.

I also use cscope extensively for browsing through the kernel source code. I prefer not to close files when searching for another definition. To avoid Emacs opening separately for each file, and cscope waiting for the editor to be closed, I use emacsclient as my CSCOPE_EDITOR. I wrote a small script like the below.

emacsclient -a vi -n $*

When Emacs server is not running, I just use vi instead of wasting my time starting the server for small look-ups.

A very nice tutorial on org-mode is http://doc.norang.ca/org-mode.html.

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