The Many Uses of Org Mode

Sid Raval

I’m a relatively recent convert to GNU Emacs; Haskell mode is what made me make the switch, but Org mode is what has kept me here.

I’ve tried several applications for todo management before, but have not been able to make one stick. Org mode works for me because I spend a large portion of my day in my editor anyway, so there is minimal friction in adding to or checking it.

Client Work

On client work, I use Org mode in combination with org-projectile to get things out of my head and onto paper. As soon as I feel the need to ‘remember to do something later’, I use org-projectile to open an Org file scoped to my current git repository, and jot it down. I’ve noticed an improvement in my focus because of the lack of context switch. I also use org-projectile to leave myself todos at the end of each day, making picking up where I left off much smoother.

When I’m advising a project, I use it during weekly retrospectives to take notes and capture action items. Org comes with extensive exporting functionality - I usually export to markdown, then share a gist of the retro notes with the team, complete with checkboxes for action items!

Personal productivity

I also use Org mode in my life outside of work. I use it for all my personal todos – Org mode comes with the ability to schedule tasks, and Org agenda allows me to see only the tasks that are due for the current week. It alleviates the feeling of overwhelmedness I get when looking at a huge, never ending list of tasks.

When I finish tasks, I move them to a file so I have a list of all my completed items, dated and with any comments I may have thought to leave myself:

And of course, no todo list would be complete without a mobile application; I use Orgzly along with Dropbox to keep my org files synced across devices.

Emacs NYC

I’m writing this blog post at a hack night during Emacs NYC. I asked attendees to come mention their creative uses of Org mode, and lo and behold Zachary showed me a package he wrote called zpresent. He writes presentations, conference talks, etc. as plain org files and then uses zpresent to transform them into slides that he can present from within Emacs.

Let Org Consume You

If managing your life inside a text editor appeals to you, I highly recommend giving Org mode a try. Harry Schwartz presented a great intro at the Boston Emacs meetup that serves as a good entry point!