Long Tail of Org-Mode Features are Compelling

Posted on May 2, 2020 by Richard Goulter

One of the things I don’t like so much about proselytising of Emacs’ org-mode is mentioning the vast swarth of features org-mode has.
Partly I think it’s ‘intimidating’ to see a bit list of features and be told “you have to learn this, it’s great”. (See the org mode manual table of contents for an overview).
Partly because the use of those features strikes me as a “long tail”. I’ve tried most of the org-mode features, but most of the time I’m not using most of them.

Org mode is good. Other tools are good.
– If there are things to consider about “what note-taking tool to use”, I’d rather think about limitations.

Org Mode has a wonderful synergy with plaintext.
A lot of the stuff developers work with is good with plaintext.

That makes org-mode’s babel feature killer.

org-mode’s babel works with chunks of code snippets.
Markdown etc. can put prose and code snippets together, but meta-info on code snippets (and keeping the output alongside the code) doesn’t seem to be as common. (I bet 80% of the power of org-babel could be had for 20% of the effort).
Literate Devops demonstrates a couple of use cases of: “prose, code and output in a plaintext file”.

It really ought to have been obvious from the “Literal DevOps” post, but this usage of org-babel has other uses which are very useful.
e.g. for learning and exploring a codebase, I’ve found it useful as a way for keeping the output of greps, clocs and other commands used to explore a repo. Similarly, “keeping the output of CLI programs” naturally makes sense for tools like AWS-CLI.

Newer post Older post