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Emacs in the real world – part 2

by Richard Smedley

Forget Perl’s claims, Emacs really is the Swiss Army chainsaw of the *NIX world. Join Richard Smedley for the second of a three-part series revealing how you can do most of your day-to-day tasks without leaving Emacs – from contacts and appointments to GTD, there’s an Emacs way to productivity paradise…

Simple uses
Both the Org-mode and the Muse examples above show the basics of Emacs’ outline abilities, upon which the rest is built. This simple, text-based approach to planning and managing layers of a document is deceptively powerful, and more flexible than the outline editors in complex office suites. After all, it’s just text – you can work on your document in the text editor of any device, then return it to Emacs to benefit from all of the features offered in Org-mode.

Once you have your main heading and the branches of your subtree, you can move things about with Alt, Shift-Alt and the arrow keys to promote items up the tree. Org menus make these features accessible to the mouse until you learn the shortcuts. Alt-<Enter> produces a new line at the same rank (with the same number of asterisks), to make space for a list of whatever you want to brainstorm – transforming Org-mode into an electronic counterpart to your paper mind maps (you can also export/import with the FreeMind mind-mapping program).

* Software Freedom Day
** Venue needed
** ISOs to burn
** Leaflets to write
** Publicity

Once you’ve brainstormed an idea, add in TODO items and deadlines. Emacs Agenda now picks up the items. You can see the expanded version of the above list in the introductory screenshot, after TODO items have been added, and in the Calendar screenshot, too.

If it suits your way of working, you could add in a checklist, too:

* [3/5] Software Freedom Day
** [X] Venue needed
** [ ] ISOs to burn
** [X] Leaflets to write
** [X] Publicity
** [ ] People to help

Once again there’s ~/.emacs code available here to make use of such additions.

As well as searching for headlines in your list with C-s ** Venue, for example, you can link to search terms in long lists by enclosing them in [[ ]]. Note that C-s searches forward from the current cursor point – you can use C-r to search backwards.

Emacs in the real world - part 2
Agenda: Move deadlines, shift priorities, or just record time spent

Get Org-anised!
Org-mode works well for outlining with no modification, but to bring in task scheduling you should add a few items to you Emacs
dotfile (~/.emacs).

(add-to-list ‘load-path “~/emacs/org”)
 (require ‘org)
 (add-to-list ‘auto-mode-alist ‘(“\\.org$” . org-mode))
 (define-key global-map “\C-cl” ‘org-store-link)
 (define-key global-map “\C-ca” ‘org-agenda)
 (setq org-log-done t)

The above, at the very least, starts to integrate tasks into your Agenda, unleashing the power of Emacs and Org-mode into your daily organisation, whatever system you use.

Continue to page 4…

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