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Noob notetaking with Emacs

June 12th 2020

Ever since I have met Emacs, we are living together and we are getting along really well. At first I had to know her a little bit better to understand her, but I don't think I ever fully know her. But that's alright, she will be here when I need her…

I read a lot of posts about notes, organizing and what's the habit of the different people on the fediverse. I am a sucker for note taking shit, since I learned markdown. I used FocusWriter, Ghostwriter, Simple Note, etc. But as soon as I discovered Emacs, it just didn't let me go. Whenever I look at programs like Zotero. I say to my self, Emacs is better. Way, way better.

I don't want to get into what Emacs is. You can use it however you want it. Here is how I use it for text stuff.

I use Org-mode for my blogging needs, and keeping a big personal file, what I do daily, no matter if it's exercise, or just writing down a movie experience. It's pretty easy to get into, you just need to save your file as .org, and start using bullets! Bullets, well asteriks (*). Those are headers, that you can organize your notes with and use tab for folding and unfolding those sections that are under bullets.

You can write anything you want, simple texts, source code, whatever. People wrote books using Emacs and org-mode! You can use org-mode for organizing as well.

If you want to start learn about org-mode, check out Mike Zamansky's video. I learned a lot about Emacs from him. He has done some great videos about Emacs, he'll take down the rabbit hole. And every video has a blog post with the stuff he is talking about.

The whole thing is just a giant magic box. And don't feel intimidated by the shortcuts, you will learn it, just by using it. If you are using Emacs frequently one simple tip is just switch Caps Lock to Ctrl, and you will have a better experience. Most modern OSes have a keyboard setup where you can do that.

My latest love in note-taking with Emacs, is org-capture mode. It's basically for simple notes, when you have to jott down something quickly. I also use this for web bookmarks.

What I do is, I press C-c c in Emacs (that is Ctrl+c and then c), that's starts capture mode, then I have a couple (well atm 2) notebooks and I choose the one I want to write in with another key and I start to write my note. When I finish I just press C-c C-c and then it saves and closes the notebook. Pretty handy for fast stuff. And you can have lots of notebooks!

The most amazing stuff is that it's all text! While the .org thing looks like a special format for Emacs, it's really just text files that is readable by any simple editor, however only Emacs will give you highlighting, folding and the other good stuff.

I wrote this post, because I read Mike Stone's New Features For Vivaldi Notes post, and I think there should be a simple way than a text editor in a web browser. Emacs doesn't need a graphical interface, it runs just fine in the terminal.

Emacs is a very old program now, but unlike others, it won't be bought by other company, won't be discontinued or any changes like that. It's extensible in a way that every configuration on this planet is different. It's not tied to any operating system, or other programs. You can use it for the smallest stuff, or you can write a best-selling novel in it, or the greatest thought-provoking article.

Text is a wonderful thing…

This was my day 27 of #100DaysToOffload, check out the website for other people's post or just participate and write something!