Language/Editor Integration

In yesterday’s post, I discussed Karl Voit’s love letter to Org mode and how he’s come to depend on it for personal information management. Articles about Org mode almost always make the point that Org documents are plain text and can be edited with any editor. That’s true and it’s part of what gives Org its power.

On the other hand, just because you can edit Org mode documents with any editor doesn’t mean you should or would. Who, other than in an emergency, would do such a thing1? One reason not to do so is, of course, that Org mode runs in the Emacs lisp interpreter so you can’t get agendas, generate reports, use the spreadsheet functionality, or a host of other things in other editors.

A more subtle reason, though, is that the Org language is integrated with the Emacs editor. Alex Beal explores this integration in an interesting post over at his blog usr/bin/blog. The way you deal with Org structures and operate on the data is deeply integrated into Emacs. One of the examples he gives is editing tables. You can, of course, build an Org table in any editor but the Emacs editor will automatically format them for you and allow operations such as adding, deleting, or moving rows or columns in an easy way.

Beal argues that this integration is very valuable and is something missing in most languages. Emacs does, of course, provide minor modes that do some of this integration but not as much as with Org mode. It’s an interesting and thoughtful post that’s worth reading.

Footnotes:

1

Leaving aside the possibility of programmatically generating such a file, of course.

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  • Dhavan Vaidya

    I use orgzly even when I'm not in a hurry. That is a +1 to plain text!