Emacs: denote version 1.2.0
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.
- Package name (GNU ELPA):
- Official manual: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/denote
- Change log: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/denote-changelog
- Git repo on SourceHut: https://git.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote
- Mailing list: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote
- Video demo: https://protesilaos.com/codelog/2022-06-18-denote-demo/.
- Backronyms: Denote Everything Neatly; Omit The Excesses. Don’t Ever Note Only The Epiphenomenal.
Below are the release notes.
Denote now requires Emacs version 28.1 or higher
With the help of Noboru Ota (nobiot), we realised that Denote was broken on Emacs 27 for quite a while. The fact that we received no feedback about it suggests that this change is the best course of action going forward. Discussion: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3C86r0yvzm12.fsf%40nobiot.com%3E#%3C86sfja78ik.firstname.lastname@example.org%3E
Emacs 27 lacks certain Xref facilities that we need for the backlinking facility. It was holding us back for no good reason, while also adding to the maintenance burden.
If you are using Denote on Emacs 27 and things are working for you, there is no need to update the package. Do it when you also upgrade Emacs to a newer version.
Display context in backlinks’ buffer
By default, the generic backlinks’ buffer, which can be displayed with
only shows the file names of the linked notes.
We have made it possible to produce a more informative view by showing
the context of the link and also listing all links per file. This is
done by setting the user option
denote-backlinks-show-context to a
To illustrate the difference, this is the default backlinks’ buffer:
Backlinks to "On being honest" (20220614T130812) ------------------------------------------------ 20220614T145606--let-this-glance-become-a-stare__journal.txt 20220616T182958--feeling-butterflies-in-your-stomach__journal.txt
And this is the one with
Backlinks to "On being honest" (20220614T130812) ------------------------------------------------ 20220614T145606--let-this-glance-become-a-stare__journal.txt 37: growing into it: [[denote:20220614T130812][On being honest]]. 64: As I said in [[denote:20220614T130812][On being honest]] I have never 20220616T182958--feeling-butterflies-in-your-stomach__journal.txt 62: indifference. In [[denote:20220614T130812][On being honest]] I alluded
Granted, here we show plain text though in Emacs the results have the appropriate colours of the active theme and are easier to read.
Thanks to Noboru Ota (nobiot) for implementing this feature. We discussed it at length on the mailing list: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3C86r0yvzm12.fsf%40nobiot.com%3E.
Noboru has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.
Dynamic Org blocks for lists of Denote links
Denote now includes the
denote-org-dblock library. Activate it
;; Register Denote's Org dynamic blocks (require 'denote-org-dblock)
A dynamic block gets its contents by evaluating a given function,
depending on the type of block. The type of block and its parameters
are stated in the opening
#+BEGIN line of the block. Typing
C-c with point on that line runs the function, with the given
arguments, and populates the block’s contents accordingly.
What Denote has is ways to write blocks that produce a list of links matching a given regular expression while conforming with some other parameters. The manual explains how to use this powerful feature (which is necessarily specific to the Org file type): https://protesilaos.com/emacs/denote#h:8b542c50-dcc9-4bca-8037-a36599b22779.
Thanks to Elias Storms for authoring
denote-org-dblock and for
discussing this issue at length with me on the mailing list:
Elias has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.
Integration with the built-in project.el and xref.el libraries
Denote was already using Xref internally but has now gained more
capabilities which help it find files more effectively. With the help
of Emacs’ standard project library, all file-related prompts (e.g. to
add a link) search all items in the
denote-directory regardless of
whether the user is in a subdirectory or not.
All Denote commands benefit from this refactoring. One such request
denote-open-or-create work better across subfolders” was
made in issue 114 on the GitHub mirror:
Thanks to Noboru Ota (nobiot) for introducing this feature together with a new system of “modules” for incorporating additional built-in functionality:
I will not document the new user option
denote-modules right now as
my ongoing job search prevented me from exploring the full potential
of this feature. I promise to do it for the next version of Denote
and update the manual accordingly. Nevertheless, the doc string of
denote-modules already provides all one needs to get started.
Re-use last input in “do or create” commands
prompt for an existing note. If they find it, they act on it,
otherwise they prompt for the creation of a new note to operate on.
At the first prompt, it is common to use regular expressions and
out-of-order pattern matching (such as with the
so the input can be something like
_test ^2022 some title, which we
obviously don’t want to automatically reuse as the new note’s actual
To this end, and to accommodate all workflows, we leverage Emacs’
minibuffer history to make the last input accessible with
M-p at the
minibuffer prompt (
M-x previous-history-element). The text is
available for further editing before it is submitted as the new note’s
title. Simple, effective, and flexible!
Thanks to Guo Yong for starting the discussion that led me to this improvement: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3CNF6pFBq--3-9%40tutanota.com%3E.
Add support for any file type
Denote provides the user option
denote-file-type which specifies the
file type to use for new notes. Options include Org mode (the
default), Markdown+YAML, Markdown+TOML, and plain text. Furthermore,
there exists the convenience command
denote-create-note-using-type) which prompts for a file type to use
when creating a new note (I normally write in plain text, but
sometimes switch to Org or Markdown).
denote-file-types (which is NOT a user option)
specifies all the parameters of what a “file type” means, such as how
to format its front matter, what style of date+time to use, which file
type extension to write, how to rename the file, what style of link to
apply, and so on. Advanced users can now edit this variable to either
register new file types or redefine the behaviour of existing ones.
Read this comprehensive guide on how to do it:
I repeat: this is for advanced users or, anyhow, for those who are prepared to maintain some custom code in their setup. The guide is accessible though and I am always willing to help anyone in need of assistance.
A relevant request for such a feature can be found in issue 86 on the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/denote/issues/86.
denote-file-types were introduced by Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay in
pull request 89 at the GitHub mirror and were part of Denote version
0.6.0: https://github.com/protesilaos/denote/pull/89. I have made
lots of changes since then to make all parts of Denote work with it
and to parameterise its various facets.
Exclude certain directories from all operations
The user option
denote-excluded-directories-regexp instructs all
Denote functions that read or check file/directory names to omit
directories that match the given regular expression. The regexp needs
to match only the name of the directory, not its full path.
Affected operations include file prompts and functions that return the
available files in the
denote-directory. File prompts are used by
several commands, such as
Functions that check for files include
Thanks to Graham Marlow for the contribution which was done in pull request 112 on the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/denote/pull/112.
The original contribution, with the subsequent tweaks I made to it, is within the eligible line count and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.
Exclude certain keywords from being inferred
The user option
denote-excluded-keywords-regexp omits keywords that
match a regular expression from the list of inferred keywords.
Keywords are inferred from file names and provided at relevant prompts
as completion candidates when the user option
Thanks to Stefan Thesing for proposing this idea in issue 115 on the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/denote/issues/115.
[ Other people participate in that thread and there may be something more coming out of it. ]
citar-denote package for bibliography notes
Peter Prevos has produced the
citar-denote package which makes it
possible to write notes on BibTeX entries with the help of the
package. These notes have the citation’s unique key associated with
them in the file’s front matter. They also get a configurable keyword
in their file name, making it easy to find them in Dired and/or
retrieve them with the various Denote methods.
citar-denote, the user leverages standard minibuffer completion
mechanisms (e.g. with the help of the
to manage bibliographic notes and access those notes with ease. The
package’s documentation covers the details: https://github.com/pprevos/citar-denote/.
Thanks to Peter Prevos for developing this package and for mentioning it on the Denote mailing list: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3C877cz0e96r.fsf%40prevos.net%3E.
New functions and variables for developers
Developers or users who maintain custom code now have access to:
Plus all the following which are related to the aforementioned
Again, users can implement support for ANY FILE TYPE and use it to write notes in, either as their default choice or on-demand. If anything, this highlights the flexibility of Denote.
denote-keywords-sortfunction. The intent is to abstract the task of sorting the keywords. Before, it was handled by the
denote-keywords-prompt, which meant that keywords were not sorted when the
denotefunction was called from Lisp. Thanks to Florian for bringing this matter to my attention, providing relevant feedback, and fixing an omission of mine in
Expanded the manual’s entry on directory “silos” to include more code examples. Thanks to Viktor Haag for asking a question on the mailing list that inspired me to produce this entry: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/denote/%3CCANnkwC6NLd0VneUEqFrjh7TCUBLBgEtLCcPwM37JDvJXJCShVQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E.
Included a section in the manual with a non-exhaustive list of references to publications about Denote. As of this writing, it includes entries from David Wilson (SystemCrafters), Jack Baty, Jeremy Friesen, and Peter Prevos. If you have an article about Denote, please contact me about it directly or on the Denote mailing list and I will add it to the manual.
Tweaked how Org’s HTML export produces links in order to avoid broken subdirectory paths. Thanks to Thibaut Benjamin for the contribution, which was done in pull request 116 on the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/denote/pull/116.
The change concerns a single line and thus Thibaut requires no copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.
Expanded the manual where necessary.