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Episode 13: Taking Notes in Emacs Org-Mode

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Episode 13If you are anything like me you find that maintaining an organized to-do list is essential to being productive. I’ve tried many of the programs currently available, but I’ve settled on using Emacs with Org-Mode to keep track of most of what I need to get done. Emacs is a very powerful free text editor that is highly customizable, and since version 22 has Org-Mode built in. Org-mode for Emacs allows you to quickly create outlines, mark items as “TODO”, set deadlines, and assign tags to specific tasks. One big benefit of using Emacs with Org-Mode is that the file you create is saved as plain text, which means you will be able to open it in any text editor to make changes. Org-Mode also has a mobile app for iOS and Android which allows you to sync you todo lists with your mobile phone and edit them on the go!

Emacs can be a powerful tool in organizing your life, but it can be a little intimidating if you are just getting started. I hope that this tutorial shows you that with only a few simple commands you can easily organize your thoughts and keep track of everything you need to do. You don’t need to know Emacs inside and out to take advantage of Org-Mode, and even if you only use Emacs to manage your to-do list, I think you will find that the time you spent learning the program is a worth wile investment.

Show Notes:


Download Emacs for your platform of choice.


Installing Emacs 24 in Ubuntu 14.04

Installing Emacs in Ubuntu 14.04
sudo apt-get install emacs


Org-Mode comes pre-installed by default in Emacs 22 and later. You can also download the latest version, and add it to emacs separately.


Keyboard Shortcuts Used:

The following abbreviations are used to represent keys on your keyboard:

  • “C” –> Ctrl
  • “M” –> Alt (or Command on a Mac)
  • “S” –> Shift
  • “C-c” –> Holding down Ctrl while pressing the letter c

The creators of Org-Mode have put together a handy Reference Card of all the keyboard shortcuts. There are many more listed on the Reference Card than were covered in this tutorial. Below are the keyboard shortcuts shown in this video.

New Bullet Point
M-Enter # Create new bullet Point
Indent Bullet Point
M-RightArrow # Indent Bullet Point
Move Bullet Point Up
M-UpArrow # Move Bullet Point Up
Move Bullet Point Down
M-DownArrow # Move Bullet Point Down
Show/Hide Items for Bullet Point
Tab # Show/Hide Items for Bullet Point
Cycle Visibility of Indentation Levels
S-Tab # Cycle Visibility of Indentation Levels
Add Tag
C-c # add Tag to Bullet Point
Mark Bullet Point as TODO
S-RightArrow # Mark Bullet Point as TODO
Set Deadline for Bullet Point
C-c C-d # Set Deadline for TODO item
Add File to Agenda
C-c [ # Add File to Agenda
List Agenda Views
M-x org-agenda # List Available Agenda Views