OrgMode tutorial – Episode 3

Another week in screencasting is finished. I recorded 5 more snippets of my OrgMode tutorial that sum up to Episode 3. And I got even more subscribers to my YouTube channel and lots of (thank god) positive comments. So here is some more text information on the snippets.

S01: Autmatic logging of status changes

The E03S01 snippet describes a function that I really love in OrgMode. Whenever a task changes from „NEXT“ to another state, e.g „WAITING“ that change is logged with a timestamp and I can write a small note like „Have sent a proposal to customer, waiting for feedback“.

I can even place timestamps in the log when I reschedule a task. That’s good because there are thos ugly tasks that you always postpone, then you reschedule it („this time I will do it“) and some days ahead you’re in the same situation again. The more „rescheduled“ lines are in the logbook of the task, the more you should think if you really want this task on your list or if you should cancel it because it obviously will never get done.

S02: Splitting your System up into several files

The E03S02 snippet is about tidying up your system. If you use it for different areas of focus (e.g. work and private life) then you should split it up into several files. OrgMode can handle lots of files, they are just plain text and you decide what they mean to you. The important thing to keep in mind is that you add all your working files that you need to see the entries in an agenda view to the variable „org-agenda-files“.

The snippet also describes how to fine tune the refiling function, so now we can define the target for refile by a sort of path that starts with a filename and then the heardline hierarchy separated by slashes. We can even create new parent headlines in the destination files.

In my own system I currently use 5 files that also show up in the agenda view:

  • That’s my private life, all the things I have to do at home and for my family
  • This holds all my work assignements.
  • This is a sort of tickler files that reminds me about scheduled events or that I have to renew some cryptographic keys.
  • Being the president of a sports club I have this file to deal with the jobs in my sports club.
  • Recently I played around with a file that just holds some goals. SMART goals of course.

S03: The first capture template(s)

The E03S03 snippet is demonstrating how the OrgMode capture functions works. A while ago I was writing a blog post about the capture function but it much different if you read about it or if you see it in action.

We defined a simple template to capture a new task with a timestamp when this task was captured. Then I created a template to capture book information for a „to read“ list. In this template I made a small mistake, so here is the corrected version of that book template:

Then we had a look at a long template that I use to create an on-the-fly checklist for my weekly reviews. There is a blog post on this available as well.

S04: The :PROPETIES: drawer

The E03S04 snippet is about that special drawer that is called PROPERTIES. Properties are system or user defined attributes that are local to a headline and might get inherited to the childs of that headline. I was very much confused when I prepared the recording because I wanted to show the property matching in agenda views and wanted to use the book collection for that. Then I found the problem and it reminds me to always read the changelog of a new version. Because this time it clearly says „Properties drawers are now required to be located right after a headline and its planning line, when applicable.“ The template I used in the Snippet 03 video wasn’t constructed like this, I had the „- Recommended by,,,“ line directly after the headline instead of the properties drawer.

Well, problem fixed and then we can play around wth agenda views and match Genres for our book list. Or we see all books that have between 100 and 250 pages.

We also had a look at the :LOGGING: property that defines if we want timestamps and notes for an entry or not. There might be entries (especially repeating ones) that you just want to advance, but you won’t take any completion notes on them.

S05: Archiving to different files

The E03S05 snippet shows how we can definde archive settings that are local to a subtree. In that way we can create a list of all the books we have read by defining a local archive for all the children under the „Books“ headline. In real life at work I use this to create different archives based on the internal clients I work for. And in private life I track not only the books I’ve read but also the progress on my bass practice and how I advance in the textbook from which I’m learning.

Preparing the next Episode

The draft schedule for episode 4 is done already. It will be about ordered tasks, timers, clocking your work, the basics of column view and about estimating efforts.

At the moment I’m perfectly fine with recording one snippet per day and uploading it. At the end I sum up the past week in a blog post like this one and prepare for the next. After 3 episodes I think that the people have learned a lot about the OrgMode basics and I hope that for many people now „doing time management in a text editor“ doesn’t sound so weird anymore. 😉