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OrgMode tutuorial – Episode 2

A lot happened to my YouTube channel in the last week. I got a lot of new subscribers and a lot of comments on my OrgMode screencast. This week I recorded again 5 snippets that sum up to Episode 2. Looks like that the people like those snippets a lot because they are relatively short and not so much complex. My goal is to be inside a time box of 5 to 10 minutes for a snippet, sometimes I extend that, but usually the recording fits to that boundaries.I also got mentions on Reddit where people are amused that my accent sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it obviously didn’t improve since the good old times of IRC and my visit to the US in the last millenium. 😉

Snippet 01: Tags

Episode 02 Snippet 01 talks about tags. Tags are adding another „dimension“ to your Org file and many people use them to define GTD contexts. Tags can be predefined and you can assign a „hotkey“ to your predefined tags. There is also the possibility to add free tags that were not previously defined.

Snippet 02: Agenda mode (advanced)

Episode 02 Snippet 02 is all about more agenda functions. It shows that you cannot only have a sort of weekly schedule, but you can get a list of all your ToDo items or a view that just selects headlines which have a specific tag. You can even do a full text search in your Org file and get the results in an agenda view.

Snippet 03: Customized agenda views

Episode 02 Snippet 03 is starting to add more customization to your OrgMode system. We start to define our own agenda views that then are just some keystrokes away and easy accessible. As an starting example we create a combined view that shows alle headlines that we tagged with „URGENT“ and then another overview in the same agenda view that shows the lines with the tag PHONE, in that we we always can see what phone calls we need to do.

The customization is done with the customize dialog inside Emacs. The resulting code inside the Emacs configuration file (usually „.emacs“) looks like this:

You also see the definition of „org-agenda-files“ that we did in Episode 01, now we just added settings for the custom agenda views to the variable „org-agenda-custom-commands“.

Snippet 04: Drawers, logging & quick notes

Episode 02 Snippet 04 is introducing the concept of drawers. A drawer is a place where you can store information that you don’t need to see every time you unfold your tree structure, but of course you can open and close that drawer to see the things, that are inside the drawer.

Common and reserved drawer names are „PROPERTIES“ and „LOGBOOK“. The first is usually done to store internal block specific settings, the later can be used to attach a small microblog to each task in your OrgMode system. Therefore you need to set a variable, we did that with the emacs custom editor and it aded another line to the Emcas configuration file.

With that variable all logging will end up in the LOGBOOK drawer. There is a key combination „Ctrl-C Ctrl-Z“ to add quick notes to a task and this add a line with a timestamp to your tasks LOGBOOK drawer and the note that you typed. The most recent note is put on top of the LOGBOOK drawer, so you have a tiny little microblog where you can write down erverything that happend during working on that task. This is especially useful as a CYA (cover your ass) strategy, because with those notes you can prove when and what you did while working on a task. That makes it difficult to blame something on you when things go bad. And your co-workers might alse be impressed when you’re able to find solutions for old and known problems by searching in your logs.

Snippet 05: Archiving

Episode 02 Snippet 05 is about moving tasks that are marked as DONE out of the way. We define a global archive file and then every Task can easily be moved to that archive by just a few keystrokes. There is even an option to scan through a subtree and look for completed tasks that can be archived. In that case OrgMode asks you those DONE task should be moved to the archive and if you press „y“ its done. The archive file is again an OrgMode file, so you can work on it as you work on your main Org file. The difference is, that you usually don’t include archive files to the files that show up in the agendas. So on one side your Org file keeps clean and uncluttered, on the other hand you create a big archive with all the experiences that you made and that can be easily searched because its just plain text. No difficult data structures, just text.

Preparing for Episode 3

Getting so much feedback on YouTube motivates to go on with this screencast. So I’m currently doing my small brainstorming (of course inside my Org file) to see what topics would fit to the next Episode. I will try to stick to 5 snippets, all within 5 to 10 minutes. I don’t know if I can hold that fast pace with one snippet every day from monday to friday because me schedule for the next weeks is tight and covered with long meetings in the afternoon. But of course Episode 3 will come out sooner or later, so „stay tuned“.

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Autor: Rainer

Diplom-Informatiker, Baujahr 1961, Vater von 2 Kindern, Hundehalter, Sportschütze und Vereinsvorstand, Hobbymusiker (mit zweifelhaftem Erfolg), politisch interessiert, Leseratte, Freizeit-Philosoph und letztlich Blogger.

2 Kommentare

  1. Hello! I like this series of yours a lot. Do you mind doing a post on what tools you use to record with? I would like to do something similar for colleagues, since most of them have just started using Emacs. (We are a distributed team.)

    PS: There’s a couple typos in the title for snippet 4; it should probably be: „Snippet 04: Drawers, logging & quick notes“.