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Emacs: denote version 1.0.0

Denote is a simple note-taking tool. It is based on the idea that notes should follow a predictable and descriptive file-naming scheme. The file name must offer a clear indication of what the note is about, without reference to any other metadata. Denote basically streamlines the creation of such files while providing facilities to link between them.

Below are the release notes.


This is the first major release of Denote. A part of the changes documented herein is for advanced users or developers who wish to extend Denote with their custom code. Though we first cover what applies to everyone.

Changes for all users

  • The custom Org hyperlink type of denote: can be visited from outside the denote-directory. We now provide the necessary glue code that Org needs to store these denote: links. Storing them can be done with an org-capture template or via the command org-store-link. Use this to, for example, capture a TODO that references one of your notes.

    denote: links work for as long as the referenced file is somewhere in the denote-directory or one of its subdirectories.

    Thanks to Marc Fargas for the contribution. Marc did not need to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation, as the patch was within the ~15 line limit that is permissible.

    The contribution was discussed on the mailing list: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/patches/35137. A prior exchange took place in issue 104 over at the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/denote/issues/104.

    Some further tweaks were made to the relevant function. Thanks to Elias Storms for reporting on the mailing list a bug which revealed a regression I introduced to the Org link storing mechanism: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3C15D55F4B-64D1-4083-AD5E-B5BACA8F1909%40ap.be%3E.

  • Following from above, the command denote-link-find-file finds files reliably, regardless of where the link is stored. All it needs is for the target file to be inside the denote-directory.

    I discovered this while exchanging views with Marc Fargas regarding the aforementioned patch: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/patches/35137.

  • The command denote-link-buttonize-buffer, which “buttonizes” denote: links in plain text and Markdown files, now performs its task regardless of where the current file is stored. Those links work for as long as the file they reference is somewhere inside the denote-directory.

  • The commands denote-link-after-creating, denote-link-or-create provide a convenience for users who need to create link to notes that may not exist yet. The idea is that one is expounding on a given topic and wants to create a link to a relevant issue. They are not sure if they have written anything about it yet, so they invoke the relevant command. Consult their doc strings or read the manual: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/denote#h:9e41e7df-2aac-4835-94c5-659b6111e6de.

    Thanks to user sienic for suggesting the idea and for testing the prototypes. And thanks to Juanjo Presa for participating in the discussion to share the view that this functionality should be part of denote.el. This happened in issue 96 over at the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/denote/issues/96.

  • The command denote-open-or-create offers the convenience of visiting a file, if it exists, else prompting for its creation. Thanks to Alan Schmitt for the contribution. The patch was sent on the mailing list: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3C87fsgvddny.fsf%40protesilaos.com%3E. It is within the limit of what is allowed without assigning copyright to the Free Software Foundation, though Alan has done the relevant paperwork.

  • The manual expands on two sections: (1) Variants of denote-open-or-create, (2) Variants of denote-link-or-create. They show how one can use the above “do or create” commands with different permutations of the Denote prompts for new note creation.

  • The manual includes a section titled “Create a note with the region’s contents”. Quote:

    Sometimes it makes sense to gather notes in a single file and later review it to make multiple notes out of it. With the following code, the user marks a region and then invokes the command my-denote-create-new-note-from-region: it prompts for a title and keywords and then uses the region’s contents to fill in the newly created note.

    This is not part of denote.el, though we provide it in the manual for users that may need it. Thanks to sundar bp for suggesting the idea. This was done via a private channel and the information is shared with permission.

  • The manual has another entry titled “Split an Org subtree into its own note”, which is similar to the above idea of using the region’s contents but has some extra niceties provided by Org. Quote:

    With Org files in particular, it is common to have nested headings which could be split off into their own standalone notes. In Org parlance an entry with all its subheadings is a “subtree”. With the following code, the user places the point inside the heading they want to split off and invokes the command my-denote-split-org-subtree. It will create a note using the heading’s text and tags for the new file. The contents of the subtree become the contents of the new note and are removed from the old one.

    Thanks to Sven Seebeck for suggesting the idea and for testing my prototypes. This information is shared with permission, as it was provided via a private channel.

  • The manual describes how a user can leverage the built-in dired-virtual-mode to perform arbitrary sorting of their list of notes. It also includes code for Eshell to quickly “export” a command’s output into a dedicated buffer (which can then be used to derive a “virtual” Dired). Thanks to Yi Liu for asking the question that inspired this entry: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3C1C75FF01-EC76-49DF-9AEB-ED718A2795FF@gmail.com%3E.

  • The denote-faces-broken-link has been removed. It was used for Org links. The idea was to apply a different style if the link was broken. However, the way fontification works means that there may be a performance penalty as Org tries to check again and again if the link is broken or note. As denote: links are robust (unless the user tries to break them), this penalty is unacceptable. Thanks to Peter Prevos for reporting the issue and discussing it with me on the mailing list: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3C87k05umyyo.fsf%40prevos.net%3E.

  • The “denote” group in Custom UI buffers now provides a link to the Info manual that is shipped with the package. To read the manual, evaluate (info "(denote) Top"). Else visit the official web page: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/denote.

  • Fixed a case where an internal check for a note would throw an error if the buffer was not visiting a file. Thanks to Hilde Rhyne was the patch: it is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation. The issue was discussed on the mailing list and was pushed to users as version 0.6.1: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3Cm035d7nq22.fsf%40disroot.org%3E.

  • When linking to a file that has no front matter, Denote tries to use the TITLE component of the file name (per our file-naming scheme) as the link’s descriptive text. We now make this look a bit better, by capitalising only the first letter while dehyphenating the text, converting this-is-a-test to This is a test. Before, we would capitalise all words. Thanks to Clemens Radermacher for the patch. It was sent via a private channel. Clemens has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

Changes for developers or advanced users

Lots of functions and variables which once were for “private” use (the presence of double hyphens in the symbol) are now made public. Concretely this means that they no longer have double hyphens in their name and we pledge to support them henceforth. “Support” means that we (i) consider them stable, (ii) document them properly, (iii) will record any changes made to them such as in a change log, a blog post on my website, and via make-obsolete.

The manual provides a complete reference of what is on offer. The section is titled “For developers or advanced users”: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/denote#h:c916d8c5-540a-409f-b780-6ccbd90e088e.

Normally, we do not support private forms and can delete/modify them without notice. However, I decided to write obsoletion aliases for all forms I made public or otherwise revised, in an effort not to break any existing custom code. The following table covers all obsolete symbols and their new counterparts. PLEASE UPDATE YOUR CODE as those aliases will be removed in the near future.

Index Old symbol New symbol
1 denote–id-format denote-id-format
2 denote–id-regexp denote-id-regexp
3 denote–title-regexp denote-title-regexp
4 denote–keywords-regexp denote-keywords-regexp
5 denote–punctuation-regexp denote-excluded-punctuation-regexp
6 denote-punctuation-excluded-extra-regexp denote-excluded-punctuation-extra-regexp
7 denote–sluggify denote-sluggify
8 denote–sluggify-and-join denote-sluggify-and-join
9 denote–sluggify-keywords denote-sluggify-keywords
10 denote–desluggify denote-desluggify
11 denote–only-note-p denote-file-is-note-p
12 denote–file-has-identifier-p denote-file-has-identifier-p
13 denote–file-supported-extension-p denote-file-has-supported-extension-p
14 denote–writable-and-supported-p denote-file-is-writable-and-supported-p
15 denote–file-name-relative-to-denote-directory denote-get-file-name-relative-to-denote-directory
16 denote-link–id-from-string denote-extract-id-from-string
17 denote–directory-files denote-directory-files
18 denote–subdirs denote-directory-subdirectories
19 denote–get-note-path-by-id denote-get-path-by-id
20 denote–directory-files-matching-regexp denote-directory-files-matching-regexp
21 denote–retrieve-read-file-prompt denote-file-prompt
22 denote–extract-keywords-from-path denote-extract-keywords-from-path
23 denote–keywords-prompt denote-keywords-prompt
24 denote–retrieve-filename-identifier denote-retrieve-filename-identifier
25 denote–file-name-id denote-retrieve-or-create-file-identifier
26 denote–retrieve-filename-title denote-retrieve-filename-title
27 denote–retrieve-title-value denote-retrieve-title-value
28 denote–retrieve-title-line denote-retrieve-title-line
29 denote–retrieve-keywords-value denote-retrieve-keywords-value
30 denote–retrieve-keywords-line denote-retrieve-keywords-line
31 denote–format-file denote-format-file-name
32 denote–barf-duplicate-id denote-barf-duplicate-id
33 denote–title-prompt denote-title-prompt
34 denote–file-type-prompt denote-file-type-prompt
35 denote–date-prompt denote-date-prompt
36 denote–subdirs-prompt denote-subdirectory-prompt
37 denote–template-prompt denote-template-prompt
38 denote–filetype-heuristics denote-filetype-heuristics
39 denote–rename-file denote-rename-file-and-buffer
40 denote–rename-file-prompt denote-rename-file-prompt

If you are writing code that extends Denote and feel that something is either missing or has remained private, please contact us on the mailing list, the GitHub/GitLab mirror, or send me an email directly. I always respond in a timely fashion.

Open to everyone

The most common feedback I get about Denote is that its documentation is good. As you can tell from these change logs, the plan is to continue on this path.

Please note that the communication channels for Denote (mailing list, mirrors, my personal email) are open to users of all levels. Do not hesitate to contact us/me.

Thanks again to everyone for their contributions, direct or indirect, either in the form of code or the discussion of ideas. Quoting from the “Acknowledgements” section of the manual (all my packages have such a section):

Denote is meant to be a collective effort. Every bit of help matters.

  • Author/maintainer: Protesilaos Stavrou.

  • Contributions to code or the manual: Abin Simon, Alan Schmitt, Benjamin Kästner, Clemens Radermacher, Colin McLear, Damien Cassou, Eshel Yaron, Hilde Rhyne, Jack Baty, Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay, Jürgen Hötzel, Kaushal Modi, Kyle Meyer, Marc Fargas, Peter Prevos, Philip Kaludercic, Quiliro Ordóñez, Stefan Monnier.

  • Ideas and/or user feedback: Abin Simon, Alan Schmitt, Alfredo Borrás, Benjamin Kästner, Colin McLear, Damien Cassou, Elias Storms, Frank Ehmsen, Hanspeter Gisler, Jack Baty, Juanjo Presa, Kaushal Modi, M. Hadi Timachi, Paul van Gelder, Peter Prevos, Shreyas Ragavan, Summer Emacs, Sven Seebeck, Taoufik, Yi Liu, Ypot, atanasj, hpgisler, pRot0ta1p, sienic, sundar bp.

Special thanks to Peter Povinec who helped refine the file-naming scheme, which is the cornerstone of this project.

Special thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the numerous contributions to the code base.