Doom Emacs tweaks: Org Journal and Super Agenda

I’ve been back a week from a work trip, and — as I often do after a busy period — I’ve been taking stock of what I need to do next and refining my systems a bit. Cynics might argue that this is either procrastination or yak shaving (and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong), but when I have been at full stretch at work I do find it helpful to have a period of sorting out the mess that I had to let accumulate, to tie up loose ends and to plan the next bit of work.

I am spending more and more of my time in Emacs for all things, so I wanted to refine both my agenda and journalling setup.

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Back to Doom Emacs

The inevitable wheel of Emacs life has circled back again, and — as the title suggests — I have moved back to Doom Emacs. When I last wrote about my Emacs configuration, I was trying to move away from frameworks (including Doom), and to set up my own configuration from scratch. It was a really fun process, and I think a necessary one for me to really understand how to configure and use Emacs, and the way that all the moving parts fitted together. However, I have recently overhauled my whole command line setup (again… more on this later), so I got curious to try out Doom again. It was always a great project, but in the time since I last used it Henrik Lissner has polished and improved it even more to the point where it is a really fast, slick and easy to use framework.

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Getting comfy with Emacs

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Emacs since I last wrote about it. I’m gradually starting to get comfortable with it, by doing as much as possible of my text editing (as well as other kinds of tasks) in Emacs. For example, I had to write some new lectures this Semester, and used Org mode to write them, using the built-in converter to make a Beamer PDF. I used the ability to include another file in the header to set up all the stuff needed to use the Metropolis Beamer theme, which I could then easily include in each lecture file. It was a delightful way to work. I split my frame into the org file for the lecture, a dired buffer showing the image files I wanted to include so that I could easily copy the filename into my lecture file (just move the cursor to the line in dired and hit w to copy the filename so you can yank it in your file), and a docview window showing the generated PDF file.

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Emacs from a clean slate

I feel like this post could be subtitled “For real this time”. Let’s just say that it’s certainly not my first time down an Emacs rabbit hole. I’ve used Spacemacs, then given up because I found it hard to maintain and fix small issues that arose. Then I moved to Doom Emacs, and liked it a lot. It was more compact and less monolithic than Spacemacs, but it still required more Emacs knowledge than I had at the time to understand how all the working parts fitted together. Then I went back to Neovim, and so the bouncing between Vim and Emacs cycle began again. This time, something struck me: what if I was approaching Emacs in the wrong way, trying to make it into something it isn’t, namely Vim? What if I actually took the time to learn how to do things the Emacs Way, and built up my configuration from scratch, adding only what I needed and understood? It was a crazy idea, but it might just work…

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Falling down the Emacs rabbit hole

It has been about 18 months since I started using Spacemacs, and I am still constantly learning wondrous new things about it, and about Emacs more generally. I go through waves of tinkering and learning, but I find myself using Spacemacs for more and more things. I’ve had a recent tinkering bout — partly inspired by some helpful resources — so I thought it was probably worth documenting what I’ve done here for anyone interested, and so that I remind myself what I did when I inevitably forget a few months down the line! This is going to be quite a long article, so whether you are an Emacs fan, or just Emacs-curious, you might want to get a drink of your choice and settle back.

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Regular readers will know that when it comes to tinkering with text editors, I can’t leave well enough alone. I’ve used many different editors over the years, but have kept returning at various intervals to Vim. I like Vim a lot, and despite its various inconveniences, I find myself missing modal editing and the ease with which you can move around and edit text when I am using other editors. Despite that, I occasionally drop back into the comforting GUI territory of Sublime Text 2 or Textmate 2, purely because I’ve set up some fancy configuration in Vim, but forgotten to how to use it (or — in extreme cases — that it’s even there).

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