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Taking notes in Emacs

There are a few ways to take advantage of Emacs for note-taking; no system is perfect and while some approaches may fit your workflow, others might feel a bit convoluted. Needless to say, all the alternatives presented here are plain-text, or at least some flavor of plain-text. Here's a quick rundown.

Org mode (the default one)

The default way. Embedded into Emacs for quite a while now, Org mode probably needs no introduction: if you're reading this, you're familiar with it. Offering way more than just note-taking, it's the Swiss army knife of the Emacs environments (at least for some of us). Sometimes, you don't need no complications, the default solution might be the best.

Deft (the almost perfect one)

Inspired Notational Velocity, it's a brilliant way to search within your text-based notes (basically text files in a folder). Unfortunately, Deft doesn't seem to be actively maintained and users complain about not scaling very well with a large collection of notes (although there's a workaround for this).

Denote (the best one)

Denote shines in so many ways: there's a lot of data about your note in its title of it, which makes this system very flexible for its use outside of Emacs too (if you can handle grep); it has an extensive documentation and probably its most overlooked feature it's the way it can be used with dynamic blocks; also, if you're into Luhmann-style note-taking method, it offers signatures too. Currently, I'd say Denote is most likely the best note-taking tool in the Emacs ecosystem.

Org-roam (the second best one)

Org-roam is another excellent tool, an implementation of Roam Research, which offers backlinks and it's wonderful—if you don't mind the use of a database; I've notice a lot of Org-roam users switching to Denote just because of this little inconvenience.

Howm (the most interesting one)

Now this is an interesting one: howm it's maintained for over 20 years by a single developer for over 20 years, but has seen only a relatively recent focus on the Emacsphere. I've heard about it from Jack Baty, there's an introduction to it written by Leah Neukirchen and an excellent manual by Andrei Sukhovskii. It looks intimidating, it uses some concepts that predate Org mode itself, but it's quite interesting, so at least take a look, especially at the tasks and scheduling implementation.

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