A blog about everything by Jack Baty

Org-journal stays

My org journal. September.

I’ve been keeping a journal using Org-journal in Emacs since 2016. I’ve got the writing process nailed. I’ve configured it so that with just a few keystrokes I can export it to a nice PDF file every month for archiving and printing. I have no complaints.

The looming problem is that I can feel myself pulling away from using Emacs for everything. Org-mode uses the most powerful markup language and tooling there is, but I haven’t been feeling the need for such powerful features. I just want simple, uncomplicated tooling that doesn’t lend itself to endless fiddling. Emacs is the granddaddy of endless fiddling.

Org-mode does task management better than anything, but I’m perfectly happy with Things or OmniFocus or even Apple Reminders. Email is cool and fun to play with in Emacs, but it’s not easy and definitely too much work.

Objectively, Org-mode’s markup is superior in nearly every way, but if I’m being honest I get along fine with Markdown. As we all know, Markdown’s VHS beat Org-mode’s Beta in the mindshare race, so everything works with Markdown while almost nothing works with Org files1

My latest experiment with Obsidian for notes is going better than with earlier attempts, so one of my heaviest uses of Org-mode, note-taking, is at risk.

But nothing I’ve found is as good at journaling as Org-journal. Day One is pretty and is probably more appropriate, but I don’t like writing in it. I could use Obsidian’s daily notes feature, but I already use that for more of a lab notebook. I just really like using Org-journal, is the thing.

For now, then, my use of Emacs has been reduced to writing my journal and for when a note would benefit from a longer outline format.

  1. Please don’t send me examples proving otherwise. I know about them. ↩︎


2023-Roll-118 (Leica MP/HP5)


Film photography as late-stage Burning Man


  1. Thank you for writing about org-journal. Since I wrote it, I have tried to shoehorn it into various other tasks as well, such as knowledge management, task tracking, and even calender planning. None of those stuck. But it remains inimitably frictionless as a journal, in a weird tangible ways that somehow, other tools can’t seem to match. Even though much of my coding life otherwise has migrated aways from Emacs, like for you, org-journal stays.

    • Thanks so much for dropping by, Bastian. As someone who tends to bounce around with various tools on an almost daily basis, I’ve found that the persistence of Org-journal just shows how right you got things directly out of the gate. I’m thankful for it.

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