On the road with MobileOrg

This is another article about the usage of Emacs OrgMode for GTD. Its again written in English for the audience at the LinkedIn GTD group. Orgmode is perfect when you use it on your desktop PC. But sometimes the desktop is not available and you still want to have access to your tasks and capture ideas. This is when MobileOrg kicks in.

MobileOrg is a sort of „org mode companion“ for Android or iOS. Since I only own an Android device I will refer to the Android version in this article. MobileOrg is not a full working emacs running the orgmode extension, its an app that can read and edit files that orgmode provides. And it requires some setup.

MobileOrg works on a copy of your orgfiles and an actual agenda that is placed in a cloud drive like Dropbox. You need to configure the „org-mobile-dirctory“ setting like this:

The other setting you need to do is to tell orgmode where to store the things that you captured on MobileOrg. Its done like this:

Screenshot_2014-09-10-11-58-30Once this is setup all you need to do is to select the menu item „MobileOrg/Push Files and View“ or simply press „C-c C-x RET p“ which is way faster than moving the mouse. This copies the org-files you have customized in the „org-agenda-files“ list to your cloud drive and also puts the actual agendas there and an index file.

Once you have installed and configured your MobileOrg App you can access those files. The screenshot is showing the work agenda for today. Important note: MobileOrg doesn’t automatically sync with your cloud, so you need to press the refresh icon in the upper right area of the App screen.

If you press on the Plus-Icon in the upper right corner you can capture new things on your mobile phone. They are stored by pressing the floppy disk icon.

Screenshot_2014-09-10-12-02-13To get your captures on your desktop PC you need to sync again on the  mobile phone. You should do this when you’re starting up your desktop to process the mobile changes because syncing means that the captured stuff will disappear for the moment. They will be stored in your cloud directory under the file name „mobileorg.org“.

Now back on your desktop you can select the menu „MobileOrg/Get Captured and flagged“ to get the captured entry into your system. Your Emacs status line at the bottom will display something like „1 new, 0 edits, 0 flags, 0 errors“ and in the Buffers menu you will have an entry „from-mobile.org“.

Open this buffer and you will end up seeing your captured entry from
the mobile phone. In my case the buffer will show:

Yeah, typos. No problem, just correct them on the spot. To move this captured entry to your orgmode files just place the cursor there and press „C-c C-w“ to refile it where you want it to be. Remember that you need to customize refiling for that purpose. In my case I have set the customization like this:

This means I can refile to any of my agenda-files and select the top level
heading inside this file as the „final destination“ for refile.

So once your capture is refiled all you have to do is another „Push files
and views“ to save all your orgmode files and put them back on stage so
that the next mobile sync gets them.

After finishing the „Push files and views“ a thing has changed in your
original org file. First, the captured entry now got a property named „ID“:

This property is like a unique serial number that identifies that entry. Its created automatically for every entry that doesn’t have an ID property yet.

All buffers are saved during this „Push“, so you can exit Emacs now without fear of losing something.

Some more hints from my experience with MobileOrg. If you have configured yourTODO keywords in the org file using „#+SEQ_TODO“ then you might face the problem that your drop down list in MobileOrg where you select the keywords shows strange entries like „#+TODO:“. This happens because the push creates an index.org file in your cloud that has 2 lines starting with „#+TODO:“ one from your file, and one that comes from the default orgmode settings. To avoid this do the follwoing customization:

This means the default TODO keywords list is empty and all keywords are defined in the org file. The push algorithm then just makes one line with TODO keywords and everything is fine. Maybe sooner or later this bug will be fixed, but until then the customization helps.

MobileOrg doesn’t give you the full control and power, especially be careful about marking repeating tasks as „done“, this doesn’t work as expected. Nevertheless its a good helper when you’re on the road and you need to see what’s on your list or you want to capture some quick idea.


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