(or emacs irrelevant)

Orca - new package to improve org-capture from browser


Orca is a new Emacs package, an attempt to refactor my old org-fu into something that's much more re-usable and easier to get started with.

Orca functionality


When capturing from Firefox using org-protocol (together with this addon):

  • either I refile each time I capture, which is slow
  • or my captures pile up in one place, which is messy


  1. Define rules for where links from certain websites should be captured.
  2. Allow to capture directly into the current org-mode buffer, since it's likely related to what I'm working with on.

Part 1: Rules example

Here is my example list of configurations:

Corresponding code:

(setq orca-handler-list
         "~/Dropbox/org/wiki/emacs.org" "Reddit")
         "~/Dropbox/org/wiki/emacs.org" "\\* Questions")
         "~/Dropbox/org/ent.org" "\\* Articles")))

Part 2: Current buffer example

For example, I'm researching how to implement something with docker. This means that I have docker.org open, along with dozens of tabs in the browser.

I can configure to capture into the current org-mode buffer with a * Tasks heading like this:

(push '(orca-handler-current-buffer "\\* Tasks") orca-handler-list)

Since docker.org has * Tasks, I just click the capture button in Firefox and follow up with an immediate C-c C-c in Emacs. The link is already in the right position, no need for an extra refile step.

Using customize with orca

You can set up the capture rules using M-x customize-group RET orca RET.

Here's a screenshot: orca-customize

As you see, the customization is a list of an arbitrary length, with each element falling into one of three categories, each backed by an Elisp function (orca-handler-current-buffer, orca-handler-file, and orca-handler-match-url). Each function takes a different number of arguments (one, two, and three, respectively) - they are all annotated by the interface.

Here's the code that describes the expected :type to customize:

(defcustom orca-handler-list
  ;; ...
  :type '(repeat
            :tag "Current buffer"
            (const orca-handler-current-buffer)
            (string :tag "Heading"))
            :tag "URL matching regex"
            (const orca-handler-match-url)
            (string :tag "URL")
            (string :tag "File")
            (string :tag "Heading"))
            :tag "Default"
            (const orca-handler-file)
            (string :tag "File")
            (string :tag "Heading")))))

You can read more about the customization types in this manual section.


I hope you enjoy orca. I've submitted it to MELPA. Hopefully, it will be available for an easy install very soon.

Org-mode is a beautiful thing, but my previous attempts to configure it were huge config files of loosely related (i.e. the only thing in common was Org-mode) stuff spanning hundreds of lines. Orca is an improvement in this respect, since it focuses on a very narrow domain. It still tries to be flexible (just like org-capture) - you can plug in your own functions into orca-handler-list. But initially, the flexibility can be constrained into the customize-group interface, to allow for a self-documenting solution that's easy to get started with. Happy hacking!

PS. Thanks to all my patrons for advancing my Patreon campaign! As of this writing, we're almost at the 25% mark with 61 contributors.

Please consider supporting me on Patreon

In light of the recent success of the Magit Kickstarter (congratulations to @tarsius, by the way), I got a lot more optimistic about Free Software crowdfunding.

So I opened a Patreon account where you can support my work: https://www.patreon.com/abo_abo. The goal I set there is both optimistic and (hopefully) realistic: I'd like to hack on Free Software 1 day per week indefinitely, reducing my real world job days to 4 per week.

Ideally, I'd like to work on Free Software full time (one can dream), but it doesn't look like that level of donations is attainable right now. But I think I could accomplish a lot working a full day per week:

  • improve the level of maintenance of my current projects
  • polish and release a few projects I have in a semi-complete unreleased state
  • produce more content on my YouTube channel
  • maybe start working on an Emacs book

Here's a list of popular repositories I've made over the last 5 years in my free time (all Free Software under GPL):

If you are a user of my work, don't feel any pressure to donate. We are all here voluntarily: I publish because I enjoy it, you use the software because you find it useful. But out there is the real world, and, although I like my real world job enough, I can't say that would I do it voluntarily if I had enough money to meet my needs.

If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life

I'd like to do what I love, and I wish you all the same. Happy hacking!

Extending completion-at-point for Org-mode


When creating documents, context aware completion is a powerful mechanism that can help you improve the speed, correctness and discoverability.

Emacs provides context aware completion via the complete-symbol command, bound to C-M-i by default. In order for it to do something useful, completion-at-point-functions has to be set up.


Special hook to find the completion table for the thing at point.
Each function on this hook is called in turn without any argument and should
return either nil to mean that it is not applicable at point,
or a list of the form (START END COLLECTION) where
START and END delimit the entity to complete and should include
point, COLLECTION is the completion table to use to complete it.

For each major-mode, a different value of completion-at-point-functions can (and probably should) apply. One of the modes that's set up nicely by default is emacs-lisp-mode: press C-M-i to get completion for Elisp variable and function names. Org-mode, on the other hand, is quite lacking in this regard: nothing useful happens with C-M-i.

Here's my current setting for Org-mode:

(setq completion-at-point-functions


When I write about code in Org-mode, I quote items like this:

=/home/oleh/=, =HammerFactoryFactory=, etc.

Quoting has several advantages:

  • It looks nice, since it's in a different face,
  • flyspell doesn't need to check it, which makes sense since it would fail on most variable and class names,
  • Prevents Org from confusing directory names for italics mark up.

Completion has one more advantage on top of that: if I refer to a symbol name multiple times within a document, completion helps me to enter it quickly and correctly. Here's the corresponding completion source:

(defun org-completion-symbols ()
  (when (looking-back "=[a-zA-Z]+")
    (let (cands)
          (goto-char (point-min))
          (while (re-search-forward "=\\([a-zA-Z]+\\)=" nil t)
             (match-string-no-properties 0) cands :test 'equal))
      (when cands
        (list (match-beginning 0) (match-end 0) cands)))))
  1. First of all, it checks if the point is e.g. after =A, i.e. we are in fact entering a new quoted symbol. If that's not the case, return nil and let the other completion sources have a go.

  2. Next, it looks through the current buffer for each =foo= and =bar=, accumulating them into a list.

  3. Finally, it returns the bounds of what we've got so far, plus the found candidates. It's important that the bounds are passed to the completion engine, so that it can delete everything inside the bounds before inserting the whole selected symbol.


This source is for completing file names:

(defun ora-cap-filesystem ()
  (let (path)
    (when (setq path (ffap-string-at-point))
      (let ((compl
             (all-completions path #'read-file-name-internal)))
        (when compl
          (let ((offset (ivy-completion-common-length (car compl))))
            (list (- (point) offset) (point) compl)))))))

I usually enter ~, so that ffap-string-at-point recognizes it as a path. Then complete each part of the path with C-M-i. It's very similar to counsel-find-file. In fact, I could just use counsel-find-file for this, with M-o i to insert the file name instead of opening the selected file.


org-completion-refs is very similar to org-completion-symbols: it will collect all instances of e.g. \label{foo}, and offer them for completion when you enter \ref{. If you want to look at the code, it's available in my config.


I hope I convinced you about the usefulness of completion at point. It's especially cool since it's a universal interface for major-mode-specific completion. So any IDE-like package for any language could provide its own completion using the familiar interface. That could go a long way towards providing a "just works" experience, particularly when dealing with a new language.



Lately, due to working with a large code base, I've grown more and more fond of counsel-rg. It's an Elisp wrapper around ripgrep - a relatively new recursive grep tool that aims to be faster than the competition (ag, git grep, pt, ack etc).

Besides being really fast, rg also has some really nice command switches. One such switch is especially useful for Emacs:

-M, --max-columns NUM : Don't print lines longer than this limit in bytes. Longer lines are omitted, and only the number of matches in that line is printed.

The -M switch is useful twofold:

  • Emacs is slow when dealing with long lines (by long I mean thousands of chars per line)
  • Emacs is slow at accepting a huge amount of output from a process

For each character you add to your input, counsel-rg starts a new shell command to recalculate the matches with the new input. This means that in order to avoid keyboard lag there's only about 0.1 seconds available for both:

  1. Running the shell command.
  2. Accepting output from the shell command.

So I'm quite happy that rg speeds up both steps. Less time spent on these steps provides for much smoother searching.


I also work with large log files, one file at a time. For a long time, I've used counsel-grep-or-swiper as my main search command:

(global-set-key (kbd "C-s") 'counsel-grep-or-swiper)

But for a 40Mb log file with really long lines counsel-grep-or-swiper started to lag a bit. I tried counsel-rg, and it was actually faster than grep, although it was searching the whole directory. So I thought, why not use rg instead of grep? The switch is actually really easy and required only a simple user customization:

(setq counsel-grep-base-command
 "rg -i -M 120 --no-heading --line-number --color never '%s' %s")


If you haven't tried ripgrep so far, I suggest you give it a go. Happy hacking!

And if you're a C hacker and have some free time on your hands, why not look at the long lines and the process output issues in Emacs? I'd be very grateful:)

hydra.el talk @ london.el

Today I gave a talk on hydra at the London Emacs meet up - london.el. My screen capture is available on youtube, and the slides are here.

Thanks to @dotemacs for organizing the event and inviting me.