Change Log of Denote

Simple notes for Emacs with an efficient file-naming scheme

This document contains the release notes for each tagged commit on the project’s main git repository:

The newest release is at the top. For further details, please consult the manual:

1. Version 3.0.0 on 2024-06-30

This major release comes about two years after the first version of Denote, which was published on 2022-06-27. A lot of technicalities have changed in the meantime, though the core idea remains the same. In fact, the original video presentation I did is still relevant, especially for those looking to get started with Denote (but remember to consult the latest documentation for up-to-date information—and ask me if you have any questions).

Version 3 iterates on refinements that we made over the life cycle of version 2. Existing users will find that their workflow remains the same, though they now have even more options at their disposal.

As usual, my release notes are detailed. Please take your time to read them: they are here for you.

Special thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay, a long-time contributor to the project, for working on some of the items covered herein. I am not covering everything, as many important changes are not user-facing. Please consult the Git log for further details.

1.1. File name components can be written in any order

[ Relevant blog post:]

Users can now change the variable denote-file-name-components-order to affect how Denote file names are constructed. By default, file names are written using this scheme (consult the manual for the details):


An optional SIGNATURE field can be added, thus:


By modifying the denote-file-name-components-order, users can produce file names like these:


Note that when the DATE is not the first component, it gets the @@ prefix to (i) remain unambiguous and (ii) make it easy to target it directly for search purposes.

Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 360:

We discussed the possible delimiters for the IDENTIFIER in issue 332: Thanks to Jean-Philippe, Nick Bell, Maikol Solis, and mentalisttraceur for their insights. Our concern was to use characters that are stylistically fine, while they are not special symbol in regular expressions (as those make searching a bit less convenient).

Please remember that the file-naming scheme is the cornerstone of Denote. If you do change how your notes are named, make sure to be consistent throughout, otherwise you will likely make it harder for yourself to find what you need.

1.2. Exclude certain files from all prompts

Sometimes users keep files in their denote-directory that they do not want to interactive with. These can, for example, be what Org produces when exporting to another file format or when archiving a heading.

The user option denote-excluded-files-regexp makes is possible to omit all those files from the relevant Denote prompts.

This is in response to requests for such a user option done by Samuel W. Flint and zadca123 in issues 376 and 384, respectively:

[ Please let me know if you need this feature but do not know how to write a regular expression. I can include concrete examples in the manual, though I need to know about them first. ]

1.3. Links in plain text and Markdown files are buttonised differently

Before we were using the function denote-link-buttonize-buffer, which would create “buttons” for all the denote: links it would. Users probably had something like this in their configuration:

;; DEPRECATED method
(add-hook 'text-mode-hook #'denote-link-buttonize-buffer)

We now provide an approach that is technically better by using Emacs’ fontification mechanism. All the user needs is to add this to their configuration:

(add-hook 'text-mode-hook #'denote-fontify-links-mode-maybe)

The notion of “maybe” in the symbol of that function is because this will take care to be activated only in the right context.

Thanks to Abdul-Lateef Haji-Ali for the contribution in pull request 344 (further changes by me):

Abdul-Lateef has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

1.4. How to make Org export work in a Denote silo

[ Relevant blog post: ]

This is not a change in Denote per se, though I have added the relevant details in the manual. Basically, the Org export machinery dismisses directory-local variables, thus breaking how Denote silos work. We can work around this by having an extra #+bind directive in the front matter of each file. The manual, or the aforementioned blog post, describe the technicalities.

1.5. Org headings can have their own backlinks

[ Relevant blog: ]

Denote could already link to an Org heading directly. Now it can also generate a backlinks buffer for the current heading, using the command denote-org-extras-backlinks-for-heading.

This is part of the optional extension denote-org-extras.el (it is part of the Denote package, but not loaded by default if you use something like (require 'denote)).

I am providing this as an option for those who absolutely need it, though in my opinion it is better to have atomic notes, such that each file contains information that is relevant as a whole. In this workflow, individual headings can be added or removed, but the big picture idea of the file remain intact.

At any rate, this change is possible due to the requisite refactoring of the code that handles the backlinks. We can technically produce backlinks to any pattern in files, though this may be more of interest to developers rather than foreshadow future features in core Denote.

1.6. Finer control over confirmations while renaming

The denote-rename-no-confirm is deprecated and superseded by the more flexible user option denote-rename-confirmations.

The command denote-rename-file (and others like it) prompts for confirmation before changing the name of a file and updating its front matter. The user option denote-rename-confirmations controls what the user is prompted for, if anything. Please consult its documentation for the technicalities.

Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 324:

1.7. The user option denote-save-buffer-after-creation is renamed to denote-save-buffers

Please update your configuration accordingly, if you were using the old name.

1.8. The commands denote-keywords-add and denote-keywords-remove are replaced by denote-rename-file-keywords

The new command can add or remove keywords. It does this by prepopulating the minibuffer prompt with the existing keywords. Users can then use the crm-separator (normally a comma), to write new keywords or edit what is in the prompt to rewrite them accordingly. An empty input means to remove all keywords.

[ NOTE: Please check with your minibuffer user interface how to provide an empty input. The Emacs default setup accepts the empty minibuffer contents as they are, though popular packages like vertico use the first available completion candidate instead. For vertico, the user must either move one up to select the prompt and then type RET there with empty contents, or use the command vertico-exit-input with empty contents. That Vertico command is bound to M-RET as of this writing on 2024-06-30 10:37 +0300. ]

Technically, denote-rename-file-keywords is a wrapper for denote-rename-file, doing all the things that does.

1.9. The commands denote-rename-file-title and denote-rename-file-signature

These are like the denote-rename-file-keywords we just covered. There are wrappers of the denote-rename-file command, which are used to change on the file name component they reference.

If that component exists, its text is included in the minibuffer. The user can then modify it accordingly. If there is no text, the user is adding a new one. An empty input means to remove the title/signature from the file altogether (again, check your minibuffer for how to provide an empty input).

1.10. More commands to add/remove keywords in bulk from Dired

Two new specialised commands are available to help users add or remove keywords from many files at once. These are:

  • denote-dired-rename-marked-files-add-keywords
  • denote-dired-rename-marked-files-remove-keywords.

They complement the denote-dired-rename-marked-files-with-keywords, which we have had for a long time already, and which rewrites all the keywords (instead of only adding/removing from the list).

All three of those commands operate only on the KEYWORDS component of the file name, leaving everything else as-is (while respecting the aforementioned denote-file-name-components-order).

Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for the contribution in pull request 316: Vedang has already assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

1.11. The denote-org-extras-convert-links-to-file-type can return relative paths

The previous implementation would always return an absolute file path, ignoring the Org user option org-link-file-path-type. Whereas now it will return a relative path if that user option is set to a value of either 'adaptive or 'relative.

Thanks to Alexandre Rousseau for the contribution in pull request 325: The change is small, meaning that Alexandre does not need to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

1.12. For developers or advanced users

1.12.1. The denote-add-prompts is made public

This is used to let bind any additional prompts that should be used by the denote command. Check the source code for how we are using this function.

1.12.2. The denote-select-linked-file-prompt is now public

This is used internally but the commands denote-find-link, denote-find-backlink. Refer to the implementation of those commands to get an idea of how to use this prompt.

1.12.3. The denote-retrieve-title-or-filename is just a wrapper

It simply calls the denote-retrieve-front-matter-title-value or denote-retrieve-filename-title. We do not want it to return the file-name-base, as it used to, because this will duplicate the text of the file name when there is no TITLE component, as demonstrated by duli in issue 347:

1.12.4. The denote-file-prompt is more robust

We have made this function show relative file paths for the convenience of the user, but we take care to internally return and store the full file path (which is unambiguous). Thanks to Alan Schmitt for noting that the history was not working properly. This was done in issue 339: A series of commits dealt with the implementation details, including a contribution by Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay in pull request 342: Also read 353 for a further set of tweaks from my side:

As part of these changes, the denote-file-prompt now takes a NO-REQUIRE-MATCH argument. It also respects the aforementioned user option of denote-excluded-files-regexp.

1.12.5. Relevant functions conform with the denote-rename-confirmations

These include the denote-rename-file-prompt and denote-rewrite-front-matter, as well as the new denote-add-front-matter-prompt.

This has the meaning of what I mentioned above. Commands that need to deviate from the user option denote-rename-confirmations can let bind it accordingly: we even do this for some commands in denote.el, because certain prompts do not make sense there.

1.12.6. All file name components can be let bound

We define a new series of variables which can be set to a lexically scoped value to control what the denote function parses. These are:

  • denote-use-date
  • denote-use-directory
  • denote-use-file-type
  • denote-use-keywords
  • denote-use-signature
  • denote-use-template
  • denote-use-title

Employ those for custom extensions you may have.

Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for adding those in pull request 365:

1.13. Miscellaneous

  • All the Org dynamic blocks defined by Denote in the optional denote-org-extras.el are now autoloaded. This means that evaluating such a code block will work even if the user has not explicitly used something like (require 'denote-org-extras). Thanks to Julian Hoch for asking for a relevant clarification in issue 337: Thanks to Kolmas for reporting some missing autoloads in issue 371:
  • The value of the user option denote-link-backlinks-display-buffer-action is slightly modified to (i) make the buffer dedicated to its window and (ii) try to preserve its size during automatic recombinations of the frame’s layout.
  • There was a regression in version 2.3.0 relative to 2.2.0 where the denote-link command would fail in Org capture buffers. Thanks to Sven Seebeck for reporting this bug in issue 298:
  • The denote-filetype-heuristics function no longer chokes if it gets a nil value (such as in Org capture buffers).
  • The denote-journal-extras-directory (part of the optional denote-journal-extras file) falls back to denote-directory if its value is nil. This is what the user option denote-journal-extras-directory promises in its doc string.
  • All prompts should have their scope of application in all capital letters, such as Select TEMPLATE key. The idea is to make it easier for the user to quickly spot for the prompt is about.
  • The user option denote-link-description-function is documented in the manual. Thanks to Sven Seebeck for noticing that we did not document this for the 2.3.0 release. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for helping me refine the code. This was all done in issue 298:
  • As part of internal changes to how our various “rename” commands work, Kolmas reported a regression with wrongly assigned file extensions. This was done in issue 343:
  • In the denote-org-extras.el we now always jump to the correct Org heading line, instead of missing it by 1 under certain conditions. Thanks to kilesduli for bringing this matter to my attention in issue 354:

1.14. Policy for the aftermath of this release

The next few days or weeks are reserved for bug fixes. We first want to make sure that the current code base is rock solid, before making any further changes. Any bugs will be addressed outright and new point releases will be published (though those are not accompanied by a change log entry).

1.15. Git commits

Just an overview of what we did. Thanks again to everyone involved.

~/Git/Projects/denote $ git shortlog 2.3.0..3.0.0 --summary --numbered
   169  Protesilaos Stavrou
    52  Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay
     3  Al Haji-Ali
     2  Alan Schmitt
     1  Alexandre Rousseau
     1  Jianwei Hou
     1  Vedang Manerikar

2. Version 2.3.0 on 2024-03-24

This release brings a host of user-facing refinements to an already stable base, as well as some impressive new features. There is a lot to cover, so take your time reading these notes.

Special thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the numerous refinements to parts of the code base. Some of these are not directly visible to users, but are critical regardless. In the interest of brevity, I will not be covering the most technical parts here. I mention Jean-Philippe’s contributions at the outset for this reason. Though the Git commit log is there for interested parties to study things further.

2.1. Check out the denote-explore package by Peter Prevos

This package provides several neat extensions that help you make better sense of your knowledge base, while keeping it in good order. The denote-explore package has commands to summarise the usage of keywords, visualise connections between notes, spot infrequently used keywords, and jump to previous historical entries.

Now on to Denote version 2.3.0!

2.2. Link to a heading inside a Denote Org file

Denote creates links to files by using their unique identifier. As Org provides the CUSTOM_ID property for per-heading identifiers, we now leverage this infrastructure to compose links that point to a file and then to a heading therein. This only works for Org, as no other plain text major mode has a concept of heading identifiers (and it is not Denote’s job to create such a feature).

I demonstrated the functionality in a video:

Technically, the denote: link type has the same implementation details as Org’s standard file: and has always had this potential to jump to a section inside the given file.

2.2.1. The denote-org-store-link-to-heading user option

The user option denote-org-store-link-to-heading determines whether org-store-link links to the current Org heading (such links are merely “stored” and need to be inserted afterwards with the command org-insert-link). Note that the org-capture command uses the org-link internally if it has to store a link.

When its value is non-nil, org-store-link stores a link to the current Org heading inside the Denote Org file. If the heading does not have a CUSTOM_ID, it creates it and includes it in the heading’s PROPERTIES drawer. If a CUSTOM_ID exists, org-store-link use it as-is.

This makes the resulting link a combination of the denote: link type, pointing to the identifier of the current file, plus the value of the heading’s CUSTOM_ID, such as:

  • [[denote:20240118T060608][Some test]]
  • [[denote:20240118T060608::#h:eed0fb8e-4cc7-478f-acb6-f0aa1a8bffcd][Some test::Heading text]]

Both lead to the same Denote file, but the latter jumps to the heading with the given CUSTOM_ID. Notice that the link to the heading also has a different description, which includes the heading text.

The value of the CUSTOM_ID is determined by the Org user option org-id-method. The sample shown above uses the default UUID infrastructure.

If denote-org-store-link-to-heading is set to a nil value, the command org-store-link only stores links to the Denote file (using its identifier), but not to the given heading. This is what Denote was doing in all versions prior to 2.3.0.

Thanks to Kristoffer Balintona for discussing with me how org-capture interfaces with org-store-link. I updated the documentation accordingly. This was done in issue 267:

2.2.2. Insert link to an Org file with a further pointer to a heading

As part of the optional denote-org-extras.el extension that comes with the denote package, the command denote-org-extras-link-to-heading prompts for a link to an Org file and then asks for a heading therein, using minibuffer completion. Once the user provides input at the two prompts, the command inserts a link at point which has the following pattern: [[denote:IDENTIFIER::#ORG-HEADING-CUSTOM-ID]][Description::Heading text]].

Because only Org files can have links to individual headings, the command denote-org-extras-link-to-heading prompts only for Org files (i.e. files which include the .org extension). Remember that Denote works with many file types.

This feature is similar to the concept of the aforementioned user option denote-org-store-link-to-heading. It is, however, interactive and differs in the directionality of the action. With that user option, the command org-store-link will generate a CUSTOM_ID for the current heading (or capture the value of one as-is), giving the user the option to then call org-insert-link wherever they see fit. By contrast, the command denote-org-extras-link-to-heading prompts for a file, then a heading, and inserts the link at point.

2.3. Refinements galore to minibuffer prompts

2.3.1. All commands that affect file names conform with denote-prompts

The scope of the denote-prompts user option is broadened to make it more useful. In the past, this variable would only affect the behaviour of the denote command. For example, the user would make the command prompt for a subdirectory, then keywords, then a title. But all other commands were not following this setting, as they were hardcoding the prompts for title and keywords.

Take the denote-subdirectory command as an example. It would first prompt for a subdirectory to place the new note in, then for a title, and then for keywords. Whereas now, it prepends the subdirectory prompt to the list of denote-prompts. So if the user has configured their denote-prompts to, for example, ask for a signature and a file type, the denote-subdirectory will do just that with the addition of the subdirectory prompt.

Same idea for all commands that either create or modify file names, wherever conformity with denote-prompts makes sense. For example, the denote-rename-file will never ask for a subdirectory because our renaming policy is to always rename in place (to avoid mistakes—you can always move the file afterwards).

This also means that the denote-rename-file and its multi-file counterpart, denote-dired-rename-files, will only prompt for a signature if it is part of the denote-prompts. Whereas in the previous version this was unconditional, thus burdening users who do not need the SIGNATURE file name component (more about renaming further into the release notes).

Lots of Git commits went into this redesign, per my initiave in issue 247: Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for the changes to the convenience wrappers of the denote command (like denote-subdirectory), which were done in pull request 248:

Vedang has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

Also thanks to Max Brieiev for joining the technical discussion therein.

The renaming commands are more intuitive now, which addresses a discussion point raised by user babusri in issue 204:

2.3.2. A simple tweak for more informative minibuffer prompts

The text of each prompt now has all capital letters for the word referencing its scope of its application, like TITLE, KEYWORDS, SIGNATURE. The idea is to make it easier to quickly scan the text, especially while working through multiple prompts. For example, the prompt for a title now reads:

New file TITLE:

This paradigm is followed by all prompts. It is a small yet effective tweak to get a better sense of context.

2.3.3. The file prompt uses relative names once again

In previous versions of Denote, the minibuffer prompt to pick a file (such as a file to link to) would show relative file names: the name without the full file system path. The functionality depended on the built-in project.el library, which did not allow us to do everything we wanted with our prompts, such as to have a dedicated minibuffer history or to easily enable the workflow of commands like denote-open-or-create.

In the previous version, I made the decision to remove the project.el dependency and the concomitant presentation of relative names in order to add the functionality we want. I did it with the intention to find a better solution down the line. Et voilá! Relative file names are back. We now have all the functionality we need. Sorry if in the meantime you had to deal with those longer names! It was a necessary intermediate arrangement for the greater good.

For the technicalities, refer to the source code of the function denote-title-prompt.

2.3.4. Completion using previous inputs is now optional

All our minibuffer prompts have their dedicated history (you can persist histories with the built-in savehist-mode). They store previous values, giving the user easy access to their past input values. Some of our commands not only record a history, but also leverage it to provide completion. These commands are named in the variable denote-prompts-with-history-as-completion. As of this writing, they are:

  • denote-title-prompt
  • denote-signature-prompt
  • denote-files-matching-regexp-prompt

Users who do not want to use completion for those can set the new user option denote-history-completion-in-prompts to a nil value.

2.4. Renaming files got better all-round

One of the pillars of the denote package is its ability to rename any file to use the efficient Denote file-naming scheme (makes file names predictable and easy to retrieve even with rudimentary tools). To this end, we provide several commands that affect file names, beside the commands that create new files.

As noted above, the commands which rename files to follow the Denote file-naming scheme now conform with the user option denote-prompts, but there is more!

2.4.1. A broadened scope for the denote-rename-no-confirm option

The implementation of this user option is redone (i) to save the underlying buffer outright if the user does not want to provide their confirmation for a rename each time and (ii) to cover all relevant commands that perform a rename operation. The assumption is that the user who opts in to this feature is familiar with the Denote renaming modalities and knows they are reliable.

The default is still the same: Denote always asks for confirmation before renaming a file, showing the difference between the old and new names, as well as any changes to the file’s contents. In this light, buffers are not saved to give the user the chance to further inspect the changes (such as by running diff-buffer-with-file).

Commands that will now skip all confirmation prompts to rename the file and, where relevant, save the corresponding buffer outright:

  • denote-rename-file
  • denote-dired-rename-files
  • denote-dired-rename-marked-files-with-keywords
  • denote-rename-file-using-front-matter
  • denote-rename-add-keywords
  • denote-rename-remove-keywords
  • denote-rename-add-signature (new, more below)
  • denote-rename-remove-signature (new, more below)

2.4.2. Rename a file by adding or removing a SIGNATURE component

The SIGNATURE is an optional free-form field that is part of a Denote file name. A common use-case is to write sequence notes with it, though Denote does not enforce any particular convention (you may prefer to have it as a special kind of keyword for certain files that simply stands out more due to its placement).

[ Besides, the denote-sort-dired command lets you filter and sort files while putting them in a fully fledged Dired buffer, so manually sequencing notes via their signature may not be needed. ]

We now provide two commands to add or remove a signature from file names:

  • The denote-rename-add-signature prompts for a file and a signature. The default value for the file prompt is the file of the currently open buffer or the file-at-point in a Dired buffer. The signature is an ordinary string, defaulting to the selected file’s signature, if any.
  • The denote-rename-remove-signature uses the same file prompt as above. It performs its action only if the selected file has a signature. Otherwise, it does nothing.

Files that do not have a Denote file name are renamed accordingly. Though for such cases it is better to use denote-rename-file or denote-dired-rename-files as they are more general.

2.4.3. Use the denote-after-rename-file-hook for optional post-rename operations

All renaming commands run the denote-after-rename-file-hook after a successful operation. This is meant for users who want to do something specific after the renaming is done.

2.5. More optional features of the denote-org-extras.el

I already covered the denote-org-extras-link-to-heading, though the file denote-org-extras.el has some more optional goodies for those who work with Org files.

2.5.1. Create a note from the current Org subtree

In Org parlance, an entry with all its subheadings and other contents is a “subtree”. Denote can operate on the subtree to extract it from the current file and create a new file out of it. One such workflow is to collect thoughts in a single document and produce longer standalone notes out of them upon review.

The command denote-org-extras-extract-org-subtree (part of the optional denote-org-extras.el extension) is used for this purpose. It creates a new Denote note using the current Org subtree. In doing so, it removes the subtree from its current file and moves its contents into a new file.

The text of the subtree’s heading becomes the #+title of the new note. Everything else is inserted as-is.

Read the documentation string of denote-org-extras-extract-org-subtree or consult the manual for further details.

2.5.2. Convert denote: links to file: links

Sometimes the user needs to translate all denote: link types to their file: equivalent. This may be because some other tool does not recognise denote: links (or other custom links types—which are a standard feature of Org, by the way). The user thus needs to (i) either make a copy of their Denote note or edit the existing one, and (ii) convert all links to the generic file: link type that external/other programs understand.

The optional extension denote-org-extras.el contains two commands that are relevant for this use-case:

Convert denote: links to file: links
The command denote-org-extras-convert-links-to-file-type goes through the buffer to find all denote: links. It gets the identifier of the link and resolves it to the actual file system path. It then replaces the match so that the link is written with the file: type and then the file system path. The optional search terms and/or link description are preserved.
Convert file: links to denote: links
The command denote-org-extras-convert-links-to-denote-type behaves like the one above. The difference is that it finds the file system path and converts it into its identifier.

2.5.3. The Denote Org dynamic blocks are now in denote-org-extras.el

As part of this version, all our dynamic blocks are defined in the file denote-org-extras.el. The file which once contained these block definitions, denote-org-dblock.el, now only has aliases for the new function names and dipslays a warning about its deprecation.

There is no need to require the denote-org-extras feature because all of Denote’s Org dynamic blocks are autoloaded (meaning that they work as soon as they are used). For backward compatibility, all dynamic blocks retain their original names as an alias for the newer one.

We will not remove denote-org-dblock.el anytime soon to avoid any potential breakage with people’s existing notes. Though if you are new to this functionality, you better avoid the deprecated symbols.

2.5.4. Org dynamic block to only insert missing links

The denote-missing-links block is available with the command denote-org-extras-dblock-insert-missing-links. It is like the denote-links block (documented at length in the manual), except it only lists links to files that are not present in the current buffer. The parameters are otherwise the same:

#+BEGIN: denote-missing-links :regexp "YOUR REGEXP HERE" :sort-by-component nil :reverse-sort nil :id-only nil


Remember to type C-c C-x C-u (org-dblock-update) with point on the #+BEGIN line to update the block.

This brings back a feature that was deprecated in version 2.2.0, but makes changes to it so that (i) it is more limited in scope and (ii) available as a standalone Org dynamic block.

Thanks to Stephen R. Kifer, Peter Prevos, and Elias Storms for the discussion which made it clear to me that users do have a need for such functionality. This was done in the now-defunct mailing list:

Also thanks to Vedang Manerikar for fixing an edge case bug. This was done in pull request 260:

Org dynamic blocks are a powerful feature which also showcases how far we can go with Denote’s efficient file-naming scheme.

2.6. Quality-of-life improvements

Here I include other changes we made to existing functionality.

2.6.1. BREAKING User-defined sluggification of file name components

In the previous version, we introduced the user option denote-file-name-letter-casing. This was used to control the letter casing of file name components, but was ultimately not flexible enough for our purposes. We are thus retiring it and replacing it with the more powerful, but also more advanced, user option denote-file-name-slug-functions.

For existing users of the deprecated functionality, you can still preserve the input of a prompt verbatim with something like this:

(setq denote-file-name-slug-functions
      '((title . denote-sluggify-title)
        (keyword . identity)
        (signature . denote-sluggify-signature)))

The manual explains the details and shows ready-to-use code samples.

Remember that deviating from the default file-naming scheme of Denote will make things harder to use in the future, as files will have permutations that create uncertainty. The sluggification scheme and concomitant restrictions we impose by default are there for a very good reason: they are the distillation of years of experience. Here we give you what you wish, but bear in mind it may not be what you need. You have been warned.

Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for introducing this variable, among other tweaks, in pull request 217: Jean-Philippe has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

2.6.2. Option to automatically save the buffer of a new note

The user option denote-save-buffer-after-creation controls whether commands that create new notes save their buffer right away.

The default behaviour of commands such as denote (or related) is to not save the buffer they create. This gives the user the chance to review the text before writing it to a file. The user may choose to delete the unsaved buffer, thus not creating a new file on disk.

If denote-save-buffer-after-creation is set to a non-nil value, such buffers are saved automatically and so the file is written to disk.

2.6.3. The denote-menu-bar-mode and the placement of the Denote submenu

The command denote-menu-bar-mode toggles the inclusion of the submenu with the Denote entries in the Emacs menu bar (which is on display when menu-bar-mode is enabled).

This submenu is now shown after the Tools entry.

Thanks to Joseph Turner for sending me the relevant patches. Joseph has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

2.6.4. The C-c C-o works in markdown-mode for Denote links

In files whose major mode is markdown-mode, the default key binding C-c C-o (which calls the command markdown-follow-thing-at-point) correctly resolves denote: links. This method works in addition to the RET key, which is made available by the buttonization that we also provide. Interested users can refer to the function denote-link-markdown-follow for the implementation details.

Thanks to user pmenair for noting a case where this was breaking general Markdown linking functionality. This was done in issue 290:

2.6.5. More fine-grained control of Denote faces for dates/identifiers

We now define more faces for fine-grained control of the identifier in Dired. Thanks to mentalisttraceur for suggesting the idea in issue 276:

Before you ask, no, none of my themes will cover those faces because extra colouration is something only the user can decide if they want or not. In the above link I provide a sample with a screenshot (apart from the modus-themes, my ef-themes and standard-themes have similar functionality):

(defun my-modus-themes-denote-faces (&rest _)
     `(denote-faces-year ((,c :foreground ,cyan)))
     `(denote-faces-month ((,c :foreground ,magenta-warmer)))
     `(denote-faces-day ((,c :foreground ,cyan)))
     `(denote-faces-time-delimiter ((,c :foreground ,fg-main)))
     `(denote-faces-hour ((,c :foreground ,magenta-warmer)))
     `(denote-faces-minute ((,c :foreground ,cyan)))
     `(denote-faces-second ((,c :foreground ,magenta-warmer))))))

(add-hook 'modus-themes-post-load-hook #'my-modus-themes-denote-faces)

2.6.6. New convenience command for users of the optional denote-journal-extras.el

The command denote-journal-extras-link-or-create-entry links to the journal entry for today or creates it in the background, if missing, and then links to it from the current file. If there are multiple journal entries for the same day, it prompts to select one among them and then links to it. When called with an optional prefix argument (such as C-u with default key bindings), the command prompts for a date and then performs the aforementioned. With a double prefix argument (C-u C-u), it also produces a link whose description includes just the file’s identifier.

Thanks to Alan Schmitt for contributing this command, based on previous discussions. It was done in pull request 243:

2.7. For developers or advanced users

These has new parameters or are new symbols altogether. Please read their respective doc string for the details.

  • Function denote-convert-file-name-keywords-to-crm.
  • Function denote-valid-date-p.
  • Function denote-parse-date.
  • Function denote-retrieve-title-or-filename.
  • Function denote-get-identifier.
  • Function denote-signature-prompt.
  • Function denote-file-prompt.
  • Function denote-keywords-prompt.
  • Function denote-title-prompt.
  • Function denote-rewrite-front-matter.
  • Function denote-rewrite-keywords.
  • Function denote-update-dired-buffers.
  • Function denote-format-string-for-org-front-matter.
  • Function denote-format-string-for-md-front-matter.
  • Variable denote-link-signature-format.
  • Function denote-link-description-with-signature-and-title.
  • Variable denote-link-description-function.

2.8. Miscellaneous

  • The denote-sort-dired function no longer errors out when there is no match for the given search terms. Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for the initial patch! This was done in the now-defunct mailing list: Further changes by me.
  • The denote-keywords-sort function no longer tries to sort keywords that are not a list. Thanks to Ashton Wiersdorf for the patch. The change is small. As such, Ashton does not need to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation.
  • Documented in the manual that custom convenience commands can be accessed by the denote-command-prompt. Thanks to Glenna D. for clarifying the language.
  • The denote-user-enforced-denote-directory is obsolete. Those who used it in their custom code can simply let bind the value of the variable denote-directory. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for making the relevant changes (the Git history is not direct here and I cannot quickly find the pull request—the commit is a48a1da).
  • The denote-link-return-links no longer keeps buffers around. Thanks to Matteo Cavada for the patch. This was done in pull request 252: The change is small and so Matteo does not need to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation.
  • Thanks to user jarofromel (recorded in Git as “random” author) for fixing a mismatched parenthesis in denote-parse-date. This was done in pull request 258:
  • The denote-rename-buffer-mode now works as expected with non-editable files, like PDFs. Thanks to Alan Schmitt for bringing this matter to my attention and then refining the implementation details in pull request 268:
  • All the Denote linking functions can be used from any file outside the denote-directory (links are still resolved to files inside the denote-directory). Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 236:
  • We removed all glue code that integrated Denote with the built-in ffap, xref, and project libraries. We may reconsider how best to organise such features in the future. Thanks to Noboru Ota (nobiot), who originally contributed those extensions, for suggesting their removal from our code base. We did this by evaluating all use-cases. The discussion with Noboru happened in issue 264: Also thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay and Alan Schnmitt for checking the impact of this on how we generate backlinks. The latest iteration of this was done in pull request 294, by Jean-Philippe:
  • While renaming files, signatures no longer lose consecutive spaces. Thanks to Wesley Harvey for the contribution in pull request 207: The change is within the ~15 line limit and so Wesley does not need to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation.
  • All of the above and lots more are documented at length in the manual. This is a big task in its own right (as are release notes, by the way), though it ensures we keep a high standard for the entire package and can communicate all our knowledge to the user.

2.9. No more SourceHut

Development continues on GitHub with GitLab as a mirror. I explained my reasons here:

This is a change that affects all my Emacs packages.

2.10. Forward guidance for Denote version 3.0.0

We will not any new features until mid-April or a bit later if necessary. This gives users enough time to report any potential issues with version 2.3.0. If there are any bugs, they will be fixed right away and new minor releases will be introduced (though without release notes).

Once we are done with this release cycle, we want to prepare for the next major version of Denote. The plan is to make the placement of file name components entirely customisable, among many other power user features. Though the defaults will remain intact.

For the immediate future, please prioritise bug reports/fixes. Then see you around for another round of hacking. The Denote code base is a pleasure to work with due to how composable everything is. I happy to make it even better for developers and users alike.

2.11. Git commits

Just an overview of what we did. Thanks again to everyone involved.

~/Git/Projects/denote $ git shortlog 2.2.0..2.3.0 --summary --numbered
   246	Protesilaos Stavrou
    46	Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay
     6	Vedang Manerikar
     3	Joseph Turner
     2	Alan Schmitt
     2	Max
     2	Peter Prevos
     1	Ashton Wiersdorf
     1	Glenna D.
     1	Matteo Cavada
     1	mattyonweb
     1	random
     1	wlharvey4

2.12. All contributions are valuable

I encourage you to provide feedback on any of the functionality of the Denote package. You do not need to be a developer or indeed an expert in Emacs. When you have an idea in mind on how you use Denote, or you think something could be done differently, please speak your mind. I do listen to feedback and am interested in further improving this package. Everybody is welcome!

3. Version 2.2.0 on 2023-12-10

The present version covers four broad themes:

  1. Denote rename commands are more user-friendly and featureful.
  2. An optional sorting facility makes it possible to produce a filtered and sorted Dired buffer with Denote files.
  3. The optional Denote Org dynamic blocks have received a lot of attention.
  4. Bug fixes and internal refinements.

[ Remember that you do not need to be a programmer to contribute to Denote. Report a bug, make a suggestion, or just describe how you want to use this package. Every idea counts and we may implement it if we can. ]

3.1. The rename commands can remove a Denote file name component

The commands we provide to rename files using the Denote file-naming scheme---denote-rename-file, denote-dired-rename-files, and denote-dired-rename-marked-files-with-keywords—can now remove Denote file name components. This is done by providing an empty string at the relevant prompt.

For example, to remove the TITLE component from a file called 20231209T110322==sig--title__keywords.ext we provide an empty string at the title prompt. The end result will look something like this: 20231209T110322==sig__keywords.ext.

All prompts now include a hint that leaving them empty will ignore the given field if it does not exist or remove it if it does exist.

Note that you must check how to input an empty string with your minibuffer user interface of choice. For instance, with the vertico package you can do that with the M-RET key binding or by selecting the prompt line directly (notice the counter showing something like */5 instead of 1/5). Please make sure to consult the documentation of the package you are using as this behaviour is not controlled by Denote. Vertico, and others like it, selects the first candidate if you type RET without any input, which is not the same as an empty string—it is the first candidate.

Also read the Denote manual on the matter of Renaming files. In short, we use this facility to name all our files, regardless of file type, in a consistent way that makes them easier to find (I do this with my videos, for example, and I do it across my filesystem for all personal files).

3.2. The file-to-be-renamed is easier to read in the minibuffer

The commands denote-rename-file and denote-dired-rename-files show the name of the file they are operating on in the minibuffer prompt. This is now produced relative to the current directory, meaning that instead of /some/rather/long/path/to/file-name.txt Denote only displays file-name.txt.

Our rename commands never move files to another directory, anyway, so we do not need to remind the user of the entire file system path.

To make things easier for users/themes, file names highlighted in Denote prompts are fontified with either of following faces, depending on the specifics of the case:

  • denote-faces-prompt-old-name
  • denote-faces-prompt-new-name
  • denote-faces-prompt-current-name

These faces inherit the attributes of basic faces, so they should look decent without further tweaks across all themes.

3.3. Prompts for title, keywords, and signature accept an empty string

The prompts defined by Denote that apply to file name components all accept an empty string. This has the effect of skipping the given component. For example, we can create a file without a title and keywords, with the following sequence of actions (I assume you are using vertico for the minibuffer user interface):

  • Type M-x denote.
  • Type M-RET at the title prompt to input an empty string.
  • Now type M-RET at the keywords prompt for another empty string.

The resulting file name is something like

3.4. Dired with sorting and filtering

The new optional denote-sort.el library provides facilities to sort Denote files by any of their file name components. Users can benefit from this facility to produce a filtered and sorted listing of Denote files with the command denote-sort-dired.

denote-sort-dired produces a fully fledged Dired buffer. It asks for a regular expression that matches file names in the denote-directory. It then prompts for a sort key and finally checks with the user whether to reverse the order or not.

[ Do not be discouraged by the term “regular expression”. Ordinary words work fine. Plus, with Denote’s file-naming scheme we have semantics such as _keyword, -title, =signature, as explained in the manual. This is the whole point of using a thoughtful naming scheme. ]

The resulting Dired listing is flat, meaning that files inside of subdirectories are bundled together with those present at the root of the denote-directory. In this case, files inside of a subdirectory include the directory component as a prefix. So we have something like this:


I think this is a killer feature, as the fully fledged Dired buffer allows us to perform all supported operations on our Denote sorted+filtered files (e.g. change file permissions, move files to another directory, or open them in an external application).

I recorded a video to show how this works:

[ Remember that we can rename any file using the Denote file-naming scheme, meaning that our files can include stuff like PDFs and videos. Combine this with the concept of “silos”, which is covered in the Denote manual, to organise your long-term storage and retrieve it efficiently. ]

3.5. Combine contents of files with an Org dynamic block

The new denote-files Org dynamic block produces a continuous stream of file contents. It joins together the contents of files inside the denote-directory whose name matches the given regular expression. Optional parameters control whether to include links to those files, omit their front matter, sort by a given file name component, or tweak the separator between each file’s contents.

I produced a video to demonstrate the functionality:

Use the command denote-org-dblock-insert-files to insert such a block directly at point. Read the Denote manual for the technicalities: Org dynamic block to insert file contents.

[ Videos I do will eventually be out-of-date. The manual is the source of truth. ]

Bear in mind that this feature is not “transclusion”. We are simply printing a copy of the contents of the files in the current buffer. Changes made to this copy are not reflected in the original files.

The denote-files Org dynamic block is an excellent way to quickly collect your thoughts on a given topic. Although dynamic blocks are a feature of Org, the contents of the files do not need to be in Org syntax (I write most of my notes in plain text (.txt)).

Thanks to Claudiu Tănăselia for proposing this idea and discussing it with me. This was done via a private channel and the information is shared with permission.

3.6. Sort parameters are used in all Denote Org dynamic blocks

All Denote Org dynamic blocks make use of denote-sort.el (described further above). It powers the :sort-by-component and :reverse-sort parameters.

Thanks to Glenna D. for suggesting this feature and discussing it with me. This was done via a private channel and the information is shared with permission. It is what inspired me to start work on denote-sort.el, which I then extended to cover Dired, as noted above.

3.7. The :missing-only parameter is removed from Org dynamic blocks

I am removing it because the underlying functionality of denote-add-missing-links was not always reliable.

3.8. Files with signature are linked appropriately in Org dynamic blocks

In general, we provide the command denote-link-with-signature to let the user pick a file that has a signature and link to it. The description of such a link contains the signature text as well as the file title. The denote-link-with-signature is distinct from the standard denote-link, as it allows the user to express intent about the inclusion of the signature.

In Org dynamic blocks for links/backlinks, we make this happen automatically since there can be no manual intervention to express intent on a link-by-link basis.

3.9. Fontification in Dired can now extend to subdirectories

The user option denote-dired-directories activates the denote-dired-mode in the specified list of directories when the user sets this in their init file:

(add-hook 'dired-mode-hook #'denote-dired-mode-in-directories)

The new user option denote-dired-directories-include-subdirectories extends the reach of this feature to all subdirectories thereof.

Thanks to Henrik Hörmann for discussing this with me and contributing a patch. This was originally done in pull request 191 on the GitHub mirror: Subsequent refinements by me.

3.10. Signatures are sluggified as intended

The file name signature component is now sluggified properly. This means that multiple words are separated by the equals sign, in accordance with the Denote file-naming scheme where a word separator is the same as the given field separator (this is the low-tech feature that makes Denote files so easy to retrieve without fancy extras).

Vedang Manerikar fixed two relevant bugs in the “rename” commands, while I rewrote internal functions and tests in the interest of consistency. Vedang’s patches:

[ The “signature” is a free form component of the file name. Users can add anything they want there, such as to use it as a “category” that is different from “tags/keywords”, or to introduce sequences in their notes, or to just have an extra marker for files they need to spot quickly. ]

3.11. For developers

There is a section in the manual titled “For developers or advanced users”. There we document functions or variables that are public-facing, meaning that we test and document their behaviour and encourage others to use them for code they write on top of Denote. Refer to this section if you are looking to extend Denote. Though you can also just check the source code, which is designed to be readable and hackable.

  • The denote-directory-files function gains new functionality that subsumes that of the now-deprecated functions denote-directory-files-matching-regexp, denote-all-files, denote-directory-text-only-files. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution, which was done in pull request 195 on the GitHub mirror:
  • The font-lock keywords we define are consolidated into a single variable: denote-faces-file-name-keywords instead of being split into two variables. This means that we cover all our fontification needs in the backlinks buffer as well as the denote-dired-mode with this one point of entry. It also works for denote-sort-dired, which can include files with their subdirectory component in the same flat listing.
  • Use the function denote-retrieve-filename-keywords to extract keywords from the file name alone, without going into the file contents.
  • The denote-retrieve-filename-title function now returns an empty string if no title is present. Its behaviour is thus consistent with denote-retrieve-filename-keywords and denote-retrieve-filename-signature.
  • The denote-retrieve-filename-title will now use the file-name-base function as a fallback subject to a non-nil optional argument. This case come into effect when the file does not have a title component. The new optional argument allows the caller to handle such cases as they see fit.
  • The denote-signature-prompt and denote-title-prompt functions accept an optional DEFAULT-SIGNATURE or DEFAULT-TITLE argument. Internally, this is used as the INITIAL-INPUT of completing-read instead of the DEF argument. This matters because we want the prompt to return an empty string if there is no input, whereas the presence of DEF means that DEF is returned when the prompt is empty.
  • All our functions that interactively match file names with a regular expression now use the denote-files-matching-regexp-prompt function. When called from Lisp, it takes a REGEXP argument as well as an optional PROMPT-TEXT.

For the purposes of this release cycle, I am not documenting the points of entry provided by denote-sort.el. It is a new feature that I may eventually incorporate in denote.el. If you are interested in the functionality (e.g. to have more elaborate sorting algorithms), please take a look at the source code and then let us discuss the implementation details.

3.12. Miscellaneous

  • Rewrote the manual on the topic of Org dynamic blocks. Same idea for practically the entirety of denote-org-dblock.el.
  • Marked the interactive specification of a few commands with the major mode they belong to. This means that M-X (note the capital X), which calls execute-extended-command-for-buffer by default, will only show those commands in the relevant context.
  • Made internal refinements and simplified the implementation of a few functions. This is important work to keep the code base clean and easy to read/maintain. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution. It was done in pull request 193 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Improved the doc string of the denote-format-file-name function. Also introduced a unit test for it to be sure it does what we expect (I eventually want to have tests for everything we do, but this is a long-term project).

3.13. Git commits

Just an overview of what we did. Thanks again to everyone involved.

~/Git/Projects/denote $ git shortlog 2.1.0..2.2.0 --summary --numbered
   125	Protesilaos Stavrou
    17	Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay
     2	Vedang Manerikar
     1	Henrik Hörmann

3.14. Policy for the next development cycle

I will give a ~1 week pause on Denote development before making any feature changes. This is to ensure that we catch possible bugs and push fixes right away. If there are other changes in place, it is not possible to make point updates of this sort, as we must first wait for the new features to be tested in real-world scenaria.

4. Version 2.1.0 on 2023-11-12

The general theme of this release is improvements to the quality of life with Denote. While these release notes and the overall documentation are comprehensive, make no mistake: Denote can be used with M-x denote, M-x denote-link, M-x denote-backlinks, M-x denote-rename-file. These have been rock solid from the beginning. Everything else is for more specialised workflows.

I hope to produce a companion video to this changelog in the coming days. Though I am still reeling from the injury to my left hand (I wrote all this to not delay the package any longer). Please check back in my website’s coding blog section to find the follow-up video:

[ Remember to consult the manual whenever you have a question about Denote. It is comprehensive and, in my opinion, a paradigm of how free software should be done for the benefit of users. I document everything in detail and am eager to continue this way. If something is unclear, contact me in person, use the mailing list, or open an issue on the GitHub/GitLab mirror. I do not check other fora or media and will thus not help you there. If you are writing custom code, remember to read the doc strings. I write them for you too. ]

4.1. Deprecated the denote-allow-multi-word-keywords

This user option enabled the use of keywords that consisted of multiple words. Those would be separated by hyphens. Such keywords do not work as Org #+filetags and also mess up with the neat search semantics of Denote’s file-naming scheme where a hyphen prefix anchors the query to the TITLE component of the name.

Users who absolutely need multi-word keywords are encouraged to use the new denote-file-name-letter-casing option. More below.

4.2. Control the letter casing of file name components

By default, Denote downcases all components of the file name. The user option denote-file-name-letter-casing provides granular control over this behaviour.

The value it accepts is an alist where each element is a cons cell of the form (COMPONENT . METHOD). The manual, or the variable’s doc string, cover the details. The gist is that we can now instruct Denote to accept input verbatim, such as because we want to apply a camelCase convention or variants thereof.

Here is an example, where we downcase the title, but preserve the letter casing of the signature and keyword components with this:

(setq denote-file-name-letter-casing
      '((title . downcase)
        (signature . verbatim)
        (keywords . verbatim)
        (t . downcase)))

Users of the now-deprecated denote-allow-multi-word-keywords are encouraged to implement a letter casing convention with the help of this new user option.

Relevant sections in the manual:

4.3. The denote-dired-mode should now work while toggling wdired

The writable version of Dired would break the colouration applied by denote-dired-mode. I have arranged for this to not happen anymore, although it means that I had to add an advice to relevant wdired symbols because no proper hook is on offer.

4.4. The “do or create” commands are more intuitive to use

Denote provides several commands with a “do or create” logic. For example, the denote-open-or-create prompts for a file to visit: if something matches the user’s input, it is visited in a buffer, otherwise a new note is created with the given input. Same for denote-link-or-create, mutatis mutandis.

Before, the “… or create” step did not make it obvious how the previous search terms could be reused. Whereas now those are set as the default minibuffer value at the title prompt, meaning that typing RET at the empty prompt will use that value, while M-n (next-history-element with default settings) will put the text into the prompt for further editing.

I will answer this because I get asked about it: we still refrain from creating the new note outright because the search terms are not necessarily suitable for a new title. Remember that Denote’s file name is optimised for searching: -word is specific to the title, _word to the keywords, and =word to the signature. Combine this with the orderless package and you frequently type something like _jou -he to match a file with the journal keyword and the word hesitation in its title.

IMPORTANT NOTE: some minibuffer completion User Interfaces preselect the first completion candidate, which is not always the same as the default value. Check with your UI of choice how to pass a default value and/or provide an empty input. For example, with the vertico package one can move up from the first candidate to select the prompt itself (the counter switches from 1/N to */N).

Relevant sections in the manual:

4.4.1. New “… or create with command” features for more flexibility

As part of the wider “do or create” feature set, Denote provides the option to run a specific note-creating command instead of just using the standard denote one. For example, it is possible to call the denote-subdirectory command to pick a subdirectory of the denote-directory for the new note. Commands providing this facility are denote-open-or-create-with-command and denote-link-after-creating-with-command.

Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for fixing a broken if clause during development:

4.5. The title and signature prompts use minibuffer completion

All Denote minibuffer prompts come with their own history. This means that M-p (previous-history-element) and M-n (next-history-element) always return relevant input.

The title and signature prompts now reuse their input history to provide completion. This means that the user can quickly access previous inputs, either to pass them directly or edit them further before inputting them.

[ Use the built-in savehist-mode to persist histories across sessions. ]

Remember to check with your minibuffer UI on how to input empty values at the prompt, should you ever need to do so.

For posterity, I first implemented this in commit 0d855bb. However, it did not work with the default minibuffer because the SPC key performs completion (popping up the Completions buffer). So users could not easily input an arbitrary string for the title/signature. I thus reverted that commit in 9f692cb.

[ The bug was reported by Suhail Singh on the mailing list: ]

Stefan Monnier suggested the use of the minibuffer-with-setup-hook, which lets us disable SPC completion for the purposes of these functions. This is most welcome as the functionality is nice to have. Stefan’s feedback was provided on the emacs-devel mailing list:

4.6. Create a note with the region’s contents

The command denote-region takes the contents of the active region and then prompts for a title and keywords. Once a new note is created, it inserts the contents of the region therein. This is useful to quickly elaborate on some snippet of text or capture it for future reference.

It also provides the denote-region-after-new-note-functions abnormal hook. Read the manual for more:

4.7. Comprehensive refinements to the denote-rename-buffer-mode

This is an opt-in feature that automatically renames the buffer of newly visited Denote files according to the user’s preferences. Not to be confused with renaming files: buffers are internal to Emacs. Enable it at startup by adding this to your configuration file:

(denote-rename-buffer-mode 1)

Relevant entries in the manual:

4.7.1. The denote-rename-buffer-format option

The user option denote-rename-buffer-format controls how the function denote-rename-buffer chooses the name of the buffer-to-be-renamed. This function is the one used by the denote-rename-buffer-mode.

Users may want, for example, to include some text that makes Denote buffers stand out, such as a [D] prefix. Examples:

;; Use the title (default)
(setq denote-rename-buffer-format "%t")

;; Use the title and keywords with some emoji in between.
(setq denote-rename-buffer-format "%t 🤨 %k")

;; Use the title with a literal "[D]" before it
(setq denote-rename-buffer-format "[D] %t")

Users who need yet more flexibility are best served by writing their own function and assigning it to the denote-rename-buffer-function (in such a case, please contact me as I am curious to know what the underlying need is).

The manual or doc string of denote-rename-buffer-format cover the technicalities of the available format specifiers.

Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for intermediately refining parts of the code. This was done in pull request 177 on the GitHub mirror:

Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for ensuring that the string of the buffer is trimmed so that it never starts with an empty space (those buffers count as “internal” to Emacs and are not shown to the user):

4.7.2. The denote-rename-buffer-mode also works with unsaved buffers

Internal refinements to a Denote Lisp macro make this minor mode also work with new and unsaved Denote buffers. Whereas before only the buffers of existing files would be renamed.

4.8. Denote’s renaming facilities are better than ever

Denote’s value proposition is its efficient file-naming scheme that makes it easier to retrieve files even with rudimentary search tools. We provide several commands to rename existing files according to this scheme. The underlying file type does not matter (e.g. I use Denote to name my video files).

Relevant sections in the manual:

4.8.1. Rename like an expert with denote-rename-no-confirm

By default, the denote-rename-file command asks for a final confirmation before carrying out its function. The new user option denote-rename-no-confirm can be bound to a non-nil value to skip that step.

This only applies to denote-rename-file. Other commands that rename files in bulk never prompt for such confirmation (it would make them cumbersome to use, plus it is assumed that the user who performs a batch operation understands the implications).

4.8.2. The denote-rename-file command prompts for a signature

This command used to only ask for a title and keywords. Now it allows to use a signature as well. An empty input means that the signature is ignored. AGAIN, please check with your minibuffer completion UI on how to input an empty value, otherwise you will not get what you expect.

4.8.3. Rename mutliple files sequentially with denote-dired-rename-files

This provides the same interface as denote-rename-file, only it works over a list of marked Dired files.

Internally, the prompts for title, keywords, and signature are improved to display the underlying file that is affected by the current operation. As the user renames files, the prompts reflect which one is current.

4.8.4. The name of denote-dired-rename-marked-files has changed

It is now called denote-dired-rename-marked-files-with-keywords to better communicate what it does. In short, this is a quick way to add the given keywords to a list of files, converting them to the Denote file-naming scheme in case they are not already using it. For the full interactive power, use the aforementioned denote-dired-rename-files.

4.8.5. The denote-rename-file-using-front-matter can be used without saving its buffer

This is now possible because of changes to underlying functions (a Denote Lisp macro—not to bother you with technicalities).

Same principle for denote-rename-file-using-front-matter.

4.8.6. The name of denote-change-file-type has changed

It is now called denote-change-file-type-and-front-matter to avoid confusion as to whether Denote converts files from one format to another (there are specialised tools for that).

4.8.7. Renaming a file returns the new file path for programmatic use

Thanks to mentalisttraceur for requesting this feature in issue 183 on the GitHub mirror:

4.9. Link to a file with a signature

The denote-link-with-signature command prompts for a file that has a SIGNATURE component and links to it. The link’s description includes the text of the signature as well as the title.

Thanks to Mark Olson for mentioning this idea. It was done in issue 167 on the GitHub mirror:

I implemented it live, while also refactoring relevant parts of the code to be more abstract/reusable:

Thanks to Alan Schmitt for spotting and fixing a regression caused by the above:

4.10. Renaming GPG or Age encrypted file works as expected

Emacs can seamlessly visit a .gpg or .age file. Denote has nothing to do with encryption, though it takes care to recognise the underlying file type and to perform its work accordingly. However, prior versions of Denote contained a bug in how file extensions were handled: it would keep the encryption extension but remove the file type extension before it (so “.org.gpg” would wrongly become “.gpg”).

Thanks to Jens Östlund for reporting a bug with denote-keywords-add on an encrypted file, which prompted me to investigate this further and fix the issue holistically. This was done in issue 172 on the GitHub mirror:

Interested parties are advised to check the two new public functions, denote-get-file-extension and denote-get-file-extension-sans-encryption, for the implementation details. In short, we had a problem with all operations that needed to retrieve the file extension when that included an encryption component.

4.11. The optional denote-journal-extras

The manual of Denote has long provided code samples to achieve particularised results. Among those were snippets to streamline the use of Denote for journaling.

To make things even easier for users, we now have the denote-journal-extras.el. It consolidates the rich corpus of documented snippets into an easy-to-use and formally maintained package. Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for providing the impetus for this process. This was done on the mailing list:

The new file is optional. It can be loaded thus:

(require 'denote-journal-extras)

The main idea is to quickly create journal entries. Check the manual for the details, including the commands to use and the variables to configure:

Thanks to Kostas Andreadis for working on a comment I had included in a working state of the code about the inclusion of templates. Kostas made it possible to use the Denote template prompt (per the denote-templates user option) as part of the creation of a new journal entry. This was done in pull request 173 on the GitHub mirror: The change is less than 15 lines and thus Kostas does not need to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

Also thanks to TJ Stankus for reporting a case where denote-journal-extras-title-format did not accept a nil value (as it should). This was done in issue 176 on the GitHub mirror:

4.12. The optional denote-silo-extras

This is the same idea as with the denote-journal-extras.el: we had the code in the manual and are now formally distributing it. Thanks again to Vedang Manerikar for initiating this process. It was done on the mailing list:

Use this optional feature with:

(require 'denote-silo-extras)

Consult the manual for the details:

4.13. The infrastructure for unique identifiers is more robust

For Denote version 2.0.0 I introduced a general scheme intended to avoid scenaria where duplicate identifiers could be created (thus breaking a premise of Denote). Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay iterated over the code to make it more robust and to fix some of the cases I had not accounted for. This was done in pull request 159 on the GitHub mirror: Same idea in pull request 187:

4.14. For developers or advanced users

Denote has a clean code base with small and composable functions. This encourages hackability. Each definition in the source is documented, while the manual provides an overview of every public symbol.

denote-get-file-extension, denote-get-file-extension-sans-encryption, denote-keywords-combine, denote-retrieve-keywords-value-as-string, denote-title-prompt-current-default, denote-command-prompt.
denote-all-files, denote-signature-prompt, denote-file-prompt, denote-title-prompt, denote-rewrite-front-matter.

Please read their documentation strings for the details. Or check the manual:

4.15. Check out the denote-explore package by Peter Prevos

Peter posted this on the mailing list and I asked if it was okay to mention it in the release notes of Denote. If you have a relevant announcement to make, consider sending it to our mailing list.

Hi folks,

I have just updated the denote-explore package:

It does three things:

  1. Summary statistics: Count and visualise keywords and note types
  2. Random walks: Generate new ideas using serendipity
  3. Network visualisation: Visualise your Denote network of links

It contains a rudimentary network visualisation function, relying on the R language. I will need some D3.js expertise to improve the visualisation.

There should be a way to generate the basic network structure just using Elisp and feeding a JSON to D3.js.



4.16. Miscellaneous

  • During this release cycle, I made lots of changes that in one way or another related to the denote-file-prompt. It was relying on a project.el mechanism that did not allow us to do everything we needed. I have thus arranged for it to use the standard completing-read mechanism. There are subtle differences in behaviour, though the core idea is the same. This change fixes a few not-so-obvious bugs. Interested parties are advised to refer to the message in commit 50d1bbdf1e8ffe0f449f2f5da02f9b70322fff7d.
  • All commands that use the denote function internally (i.e. anything that creates a new note) call the denote-after-new-note-hook as part of their work. This hook is mostly intended for advanced users who want to do something after a new note is produced.
  • The menu-bar-mode submenu of Denote is now positioned where it should be after the “Tools”. Thanks to Noboru Ota for the patch:
  • The menu-bar-mode entry of Denote includes the new commands. This is a nice way to discover more of what Denote can do.
  • The commands denote-backlinks-prev and denote-backlinks-next are only meant to be used inside the Denote backlinks buffer. As such, they now produce an error when called elsewhere (I wish I could hide them from M-x altogether).
  • The denote-extract-keywords-from-front-matter always returns a list, thus avoiding an erroneous case. Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for fixing the bug:
  • The T in the Denote identifier component now has its own face: denote-faces-time-delimiter. This is used by the backlinks buffer and the denote-dired-mode. The idea is to introduce a subtle distinction between the date and time constituents of the identifier. Those who want the T to be the same colour as the rest of the identifier, can make the denote-faces-time-delimiter inherit the denote-faces-date. For example:

      (set-face-attribute 'denote-faces-time-delimiter nil :inherit 'denote-faces-date)

    Thanks to Jean-Charles Bagneris for sending this patch:

  • Fixed a nil file expansion in the function denote--extract-title-from-file-history. Thanks to ezchi for bringing this matter to my attention. It was done in issue 166 on the GitHub mirror:
  • A link can be created from inside an org-capture buffer. This means that we can call denote-link (and related) while capturing a new note with org-capture. Thanks to Peter Smith for reporting the bug in issue 186 on the GitHub mirror:
  • We stopped using vc-rename-file to rename files. The reason is that it requires the buffer to be saved, but we do not want that after modifying the front matter because we want to give the user a chance to confirm what happened. Thanks to Frédéric Willem for reporting the problem in issue 185 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Thanks to Ivan Sokolov for removing a double negative logic in a snippet. This was done in pull request 162 on the GitHub mirror:

4.17. Git commits

Just an overview of what we did. Every contribution matters.

~/Git/Projects/denote $ git shortlog 2.0.0..2.1.0 --summary --numbered
   153	Protesilaos Stavrou
    15	Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay
     5	Vedang Manerikar
     1	Alan Schmitt
     1	Ivan Sokolov
     1	Jean-Charles Bagneris
     1	Kostas Andreadis
     1	Noboru Ota
     1	Peter Prevos

5. Version 2.0.0 on 2023-07-21

This is the second major version of Denote, close to one year after its initial release. The video demo I did back then remains relevant, even though lots of details have changed.

5.1. Notes have a new optional SIGNATURE field

It is now possible to create notes that include a SIGNATURE field in their file name. Either use the convenience command denote-signature or configure the user option denote-prompts to affect what the denote command should prompt for.

Signatures are arbitrary strings of characters that enable the user to further qualify their documents. One possible workflow is to write relational notes, such that 1a1 is the first extension of another note with a 1a signature.

The design of the SIGNATURE field is consistent with the Denote file-naming scheme. The field separator is the double equals sign (==), while words that comprise the signature are joined together by a single equals sign. As such, the user can prefix a search with an equals sign to match words in the SIGNATURE, just as they would use dashes for the TITLE and underscores for the KEYWORDS.

[ Read the manual for the technicalities of the Denote file-naming scheme. This is not limited to “notes”: any file can be named accordingly (I do it with my videos, for example). ]

Signatures are not included in a file’s front matter. This is a strategic decision to preserve backward compatibility, while not introducing a feature that has not enjoyed widespread usage. I want to make signatures behave the same as the rest of the file name fields, though I am interested to learn how users employ them in their workflow.

The signature extension was discussed at length on the GitHub mirror in issue 115: Thanks to Stefan Thesing, Mirko Hernandez, Noboru Ota (nobiot), Xiaoxing Hu, nbehrnd, Elias Storms, and 101scholar for helping me reason about this feature, understand its scope, and prototype its implementation.

Also thanks to Alfredo Borrás and Jeremy Friesen for discussing with me the field delimiter of signatures on the mailing list: Thanks to Kai von Fintel for doing the same on the GitHub mirror in issue 147:

Read the original announcement:

As part of the development, I fixed a case where denote-rename-file-using-front-matter would fail if it could not find a signature

The idea is that we want the command to behave the way it always did when the file has no signature and to preserve the signature when it is present.

Thanks to relict for reporting the issue on the mailing list:

5.2. The rename commands avoid creating duplicate identifiers

Denote provides commands to rename an existing file to one that follows the Denote file-naming scheme (videos, PDFs, other text documents, …). Check, for example, the denote-rename-file and denote-dired-rename-marked-files. The idea is to make everything easier to search.

In prior versions, these commands could produce duplicate identifiers if the modification date of the underlying files was the same. Such a scenario occurs when the files are modified programmatically, as with the touch command or the various git operations.

Denote will now take care to increment the identifier until it becomes unique within the current scope.

Thanks to Felipe Balbi for reporting this bug in issue 105 on the GitHub mirror:

Thanks to Vedang Manerikar and Jean-Charles Bagneris for commenting on this feature on the mailing list:

Thanks to Ashton Wiersdorf for noticing a mistake I made that caused a regression in denote-rename-file:

5.2.1. Optional arguments affect denote-dired-rename-marked-files

The denote-dired-rename-marked-files now accepts two optional arguments. When called interactively, these are interpreted as a single or double universal prefix argument (C-u by default, though do M-x where-is and search for universal-argument).

The first argument, named SKIP-FRONT-MATTER-PROMPT, skips the “yes or no” prompt requested at the outset of the operation, passing to it an affirmative response. Thanks to Jay Rajput for asking the question that inspired me to implement this. It was done in issue 155 on the GitHub mirror:

The second argument, named NO-UNIQUE-ID-CHECK, will not perform any checks for potential duplicate identifiers. The default is to check for duplicates and increment them such that they become unique. The reason this optional argument exists is for those who want to speed up the process, perhaps because they know ahead of time all identifiers will be unique or do not care about them.

Thanks to Bruno Boal for refining how the prefix argument is processed. The patch was sent via a private channel. The change is small and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

5.3. Menu entries help users discover Denote

Users of menu-bar-mode and/or context-menu-mode will now find a submenu with points of entry to Denote. Refer to the publication I made on my website, as it includes a picture: I will save the thousand words for the following sections. 🙃

There is a known issue where the menu-bar-mode entry is positioned before the File submenu. Apparently, there exists an inelegant way to place the menu elsewhere, but I am not willing to maintain hacks for missing functionality. If someone knows a clear way to put the submenu elsewhere, please contact me: I want it to be after Tools.

Thanks to Kai von Fintel and Noboru Ota (nobiot) for discussing the placement of the submenu:

5.4. “Link” commands have simpler names

Originally, Denote was organised as a collection of several files, each of which had its own prefix like denote-dired.el, and denote-link.el. This arrangement was deemed surplus to requirements and all core code was consolidated in denote.el. An artefact of that design was the presence of symbols that retained their admittedly awkward names, like the command denote-link-backlinks or denote-link-add-missing-links.

All such commands are deprecated. They are replaced with more discoverable names. The deprecation is done in such a way that the old names are aliases for the new ones, but the user is warned not to rely on them.

The new names in detail:

Old name 🤨 New name 🤩
denote-link-add-links denote-add-links
denote-link-add-missing-links denote-add-missing-links
denote-link-backlinks denote-backlinks
denote-link-find-file denote-find-link
denote-link-insert-link denote-insert-link (alias for denote-link)
denote-link-show-backlinks-buffer denote-show-backlinks-buffer (alias for denote-backlinks)

5.5. Denote buffers can have shorter names

The Denote file-naming scheme is designed to be a low-tech way of embedding information in files, making them easier to find. A downside is that the names are longer than blah.txt and so the default Emacs behaviour is to derive a buffer name from the file name.

The new optional denote-rename-buffer.el provides a minor mode to automatically rename the buffer of an existing file, such that it reflects the file’s TITLE field. Users must enable denote-rename-buffer-mode.

The renaming procedure is controlled by the user option denote-rename-buffer-function. By default, it provides the means to rename using (i) the title, (ii) the identifier, or (iii) a custom function that returns a string. Experienced users can refer to denote-rename-buffer-with-title to draw inspiration on the design of such a function.

Thanks to Morgan Davidson for asking a question that inspired me to implement this feature. The discussion took place in issue 151 on the GitHub mirror

5.6. Silos work as directory trees

Denote provides a feature to isolate files in to their own silos, each of which functions as its own denote-directory variable. The technicalities are explained in the manual. Silos have proven to be a valuable aspect of file management and I have thus expanded their scope to work as fully fledged directory trees. This means that we no longer assume a silo to be a flat directory listing, but instead recognise any subdirectories inside of it.

Thanks to relict007, Hilde Rhyne, Mirko Hernández, Noboru Ota (nobiot), Alan Schmitt, hapst3r, and Hilde Rhyne for their participation in the relevant discussions:

5.7. Keywords do not accept multiple words by default

The idea is to have short keywords and then use more than one, if necessary. We do not want to encourage the habit of long keywords that become overly specific, while we want to avoid the use of dashes as delimited in the file name’s KEYWORDS field.

Technically, this changes the default value of the user option denote-allow-multi-word-keywords. Users who preferred the old behaviour can simply toggle it on.

5.8. Pass arguments to Org capture

Denote is not an extension of Org mode, though it can integrate with org-capture. I now make it possible to design a capture template that uses specific prompts. Consult the section in the manual titled “Create note with specific prompts using Org capture”.

Thanks to Aditya Yadav for asking about this in issue 132 on the GitHub mirror:

5.9. Change an existing note’s file type

The command denote-change-file-type changes the file type of an existing note. The available options are those among denote-file-type. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution, which was done in pull request 137 on the GitHub mirror:

5.10. Denote dynamic blocks can now parse rx notation

Denote can leverage the Org feature of “dynamic blocks” to produce lists of links/backlinks. This is especially useful for metanotes (read the Denote manual—I document everything for a reason).

Before, regular expressions were implemented only as strings while now they can also be written using the rx notation. Thanks to Mirko Hernandez for proposing this feature and discussing it with me in issue 122 on the GitHub mirror:

Thanks to Elias Storms, the author of denote-org-dblock.el, for iterating on this functionality. This was done in pull request 130 on the GitHub mirror:

5.11. Made links to non-note files works as intended

The function denote-get-path-by-id is refactored to accept any file with an identifier. This always was its intended purpose. The user was always able to create denote: Org link types to, for example, jpg files but denote-get-path-by-id was refusing to resolve the otherwise valid path. Thanks to user relict007 for reporting the problem and discussing it with me in issue 135 on the GitHub mirror:

The change was not trivial. It was followed up by a patch from Noboru Ota (nobiot) which elaborated on the conditionality. Quoting from commit 9ce9a24:

fix(denote-get-path-by-id): #135


This patch change function ’denote-get-path-by-id’ to allow for the following:

  • A single ID points to multiple files with different extensions
  • Denote needs to find a single file out of the multiple files
  • This is not necessarily a user error (export an Org file to an HTML)
  • Denote should let user decide their “primary” file extension

The case the patch is intended to fix goes something like this:

  • You have 20230216_mynotes–
  • You export it to 20230216_mynotes–tag.html.
  • Both files are in denote-directory
  • This means you have two files with the same ID with different extensions denote-link-find-file, denote-link-find-backlink, and xref integration might find the html file INSTEAD OF the .org file

This is because html is earlier in the alphabetical order than org. Because the function uses seq-find, it will find the .html file first and returns it.

5.12. The denote-rename-file-using-front-matter works with empty keywords

Keywords are an optional field in the Denote file-naming scheme. However, an earlier version of the command mentioned in this heading was considering them mandatory and would refuse to proceed if the keywords were nil. Thanks to Eduardo Grajeda for fixing this:

The change is within the ~15 line limit and does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

5.13. The denote-title-prompt has its own history

Denote implements minibuffer histories for all its relevant functions. This makes it easier for users to retrieve their previous inputs and to not get irrelevant ones.

Before, the denote-title-prompt was not using its own history but was instead relying on another one that was intended only for file paths, thus mixing unrelated inputs.

Thanks to Jonathan Sahar for bringing this matter to my attention. This was done in issue 144 on the GitHub mirror:

5.14. For developers or advanced users

5.14.1. Made it possible to add predicates for recursive file listing

5.14.2. New public symbols

The following are now public symbols that we commit to support and document henceforth:

Function denote-file-type-extensions
Return all file type extensions in denote-file-types.
Variable denote-encryption-file-extensions
List of strings specifying file extensions for encryption.
Function denote-file-type-extensions-with-encryption
Derive denote-file-type-extensions plus denote-encryption-file-extensions.
Function denote-link-return-links
Return list of links in current or optional FILE. Also see denote-link-return-backlinks.
Function denote-link-return-backlinks
Return list of links in current or optional FILE. Also see denote-link-return-links.
Function denote-rewrite-front-matter
Rewrite front matter of note after denote-rename-file (or related) The FILE, TITLE, KEYWORDS, and FILE-TYPE arguments are given by the renaming command and are used to construct new front matter values if appropriate.
Function denote-rewrite-keywords
Rewrite KEYWORDS in FILE outright according to FILE-TYPE. Do the same as denote-rewrite-front-matter for keywords, but do not ask for confirmation. This is for use in denote-keywords-add, denote-keywords-remove, denote-dired-rename-marked-files, or related.

I am publicising the denote-link-return-links and its counterpart in response to the mailing list thread started by relict007: relict007 is the developer of the denote-cache package (in progress):

Similarly, the denote-rewrite-keywords is made public upon the request of Alan Schmitt:

5.15. Miscellaneous

  • Revised denote-link-return-{links,backlinks} to not produce a user-error. The errors are reserved for the interactive functions. The others are for developers. Thanks to Elias Storms for bringing this matter to my attention:
  • Refrained from trying to find forward links in non-text-files. If a file extension is not in denote-file-types, we have no way of parsing or finding outgoing links in it. This change checks for the file extension early on in ’when-let*’ block and avoids opening the file which is a relatively costly operation (and would fail finding links anyway). Thanks to relict007 for the patch. This was done on the mailing list: The change is small and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.
  • Explained how to troubleshoot Denote. Refer to the section in the manual titled “Troubleshoot Denote in a pristine environment.” While this is about Denote, the skills apply to all Emacs packages.
  • Ensured backlinks get correct denote-directory path. The backlinks buffer will now get the correct path when it is generated inside a silo. This is related to issue 129 reported by hapst3r on the GitHub mirror: The change is necessary because .dir-locals.el do not work for buffers, so we must get the value from the file that calls denote-link-backlinks.
  • Added missing underscore from examples in exporting section. Thanks to Peter Prevos for bringing this matter to my attention:
  • Made the command denote-open-or-create work with an empty denote-directory. The denote-file-prompt would throw an error before. The correct behaviour is to proceed to the “Create” phase if the denote-directory is empty. Thanks to user drcxd for reporting the bug in issue 131 on the GitHub mirror and for testing my sample code:
  • Documented how to use tree-based file prompt on demand. This is my solution to a request made by Mirko Hernandez on the possible use of the old Denote file prompt. It is better not to introduce a user option for this case, nor to keep multiple variants of the denote-file-prompt in denote.el, as we want to keep things simple. Mirko’s feedback was provided in issue 121 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Added the variable denote-user-enforced-denote-directory. This is intended for users who write custom code to extend Denote. The value of this variable should be let bound around calls to the function denote-directory, thus overriding its return value. This was discussed on the mailing list and then introduced by Vedang Manerikar in commit 977c757, with further changes by me in 20ddc97: Vedang has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.
  • Fixed my-denote-org-extract-subtree section of the documentation. This is part of some sample code that is not part of denote.el, but we provide as a convenience/inspiration for interested parties.

    The provided function did not work correctly.

    1. Tags are extracted before deleting the region from the source file.
    2. The function org-end-of-subtree is called to calculate the point we should delete up to. The previously used function org-entry-end-position ends at the first sub-heading under the tree, which is not what we want. Instead, we want to cut the whole subtree.
    3. The date information available in the subtree is retained. We look for three common places for this information: the CREATED or DATE properties in the PROPERTIES drawer, and the CLOSED cookie at the element level itself.

    Thanks to Vedang Manerikar for the contribution:

  • Removed the dependency on the built-in xdg library and updated the default value of the user option denote-directory. The reason is that XDG is a Linux standard that does not work on other operating systems, according to private feedback I received.
  • Fixed a regression for M-p (previous-history-element) in “do or create” commands. Read the doc string of the commands denote-open-or-create or denote-link-or-create for how this is supposed to work. In short:

    • Invoke the “do or create” command.
    • Type something that does not match a file.
    • In the following title prompt, hit M-p to bring back the last input.

    I realised there was a regression when I read issue 152 on the GitHub mirror, which was created by user “ustcpxy”: The issue is about skipping the file title prompt.

  • Simplified the internal denote--buffer-file-names. Thanks to Adam Růžička for noting that my change was not compatible with older Emacs versions, and for preparing the change. This was discussed in pull request 158 on the GitHub mirror, with my suggestion to not use seq-filter as it affected the return value: The change is below the 15 line limit, meaning that Adam does have to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation.
  • Documented custom code in the manual on how to interactively select a silo. I am providing this in response to a request from GitHub user rbenit68. The discussion took place in issue 127 on the GitHub mirror, with the participation of Mirko Hernandez: The custom code I provide is the expanded version of an idea put forth by Mirko, to whom I am thankful.
  • Fixed an outdated reference in the denote-file-types doc string. Thanks to user doolio for spotting the error and reporting it in issue 139 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Cited in the manual’s section “Publications about Denote” an article by Mohamed Suliman titled Managing a bibliography of BiBTeX entries with Denote (2022-12-20): If you have published something related to Denote, please let me know and I will add to the list.
  • Cited the essay by Summer Emacs titled An explanation of how I use Emacs (2023-05-04):
  • Cited the video series by Stefan Thesing titled Denote as a Zettelkasten:
  • Added link to Karl Voit’s work in the manual’s section “Alternative implementations and further reading.” Thanks to Norwid Behrnd for the contribution in pull request 123 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Fixed the broken link to jao’s blog. Thanks to Tomasz Hołubowicz for the contribution, which was done in pull request 145 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Authored lots of other ancillary changes/features to the code base or the manual (yes, this change log is how I “cut the long story short”).

6. Version 1.2.0 on 2022-12-12

6.1. 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:

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.

6.2. Display context in backlinks’ buffer

By default, the generic backlinks’ buffer, which can be displayed with the command denote-link-backlinks (alias denote-link-show-backlinks-buffer), 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 non-nil value.

To illustrate the difference, this is the default backlinks’ buffer:

Backlinks to "On being honest" (20220614T130812)


And this is the one with denote-backlinks-show-context enabled:

Backlinks to "On being honest" (20220614T130812)

37: growing into it: [[denote:20220614T130812][On being honest]].
64: As I said in [[denote:20220614T130812][On being honest]] I have never
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:

Noboru has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

6.3. Dynamic Org blocks for lists of Denote links

Denote now includes the denote-org-dblock library. Activate it thus:

;; 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 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):

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.

6.4. 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 to “Make 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.

6.5. Re-use last input in “do or create” commands

The commands denote-open-or-create, denote-link-or-create first 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 orderless package), 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 title.

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:

6.6. 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-type (alias 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).

The variable 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:

The 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: I have made lots of changes since then to make all parts of Denote work with it and to parameterise its various facets.

6.7. 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 denote-link and denote-subdirectory. Functions that check for files include denote-directory-files and denote-directory-subdirectories.

Thanks to Graham Marlow for the contribution which was done in pull request 112 on the GitHub mirror:

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.

6.8. 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 denote-infer-keywords is non-nil.

Thanks to Stefan Thesing for proposing this idea in issue 115 on the GitHub mirror:

[ Other people participate in that thread and there may be something more coming out of it. ]

6.9. Use the 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 citar 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.

With citar-denote, the user leverages standard minibuffer completion mechanisms (e.g. with the help of the vertico and embark packages) to manage bibliographic notes and access those notes with ease. The package’s documentation covers the details:

Thanks to Peter Prevos for developing this package and for mentioning it on the Denote mailing list:

6.10. New functions and variables for developers

Developers or users who maintain custom code now have access to:

  • Function denote-keywords-sort
  • Function denote-keywords-prompt

Plus all the following which are related to the aforementioned denote-file-types:

  • Variable denote-org-link-format
  • Variable denote-md-link-format
  • Variable denote-id-only-link-format
  • Variable denote-org-link-in-context-regexp
  • Variable denote-md-link-in-context-regexp
  • Variable denote-id-only-link-in-context-regexp
  • Function denote-date-org-timestamp
  • Function denote-date-rfc3339
  • Function denote-date-iso-8601

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.

6.11. Miscellaneous

  • Added the denote-keywords-sort function. 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 denote function was called from Lisp. Thanks to Florian for bringing this matter to my attention, providing relevant feedback, and fixing an omission of mine in denote-rename-file:
  • 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:
  • 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:

    The change concerns a single line and thus Thibaut requires no copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

  • Expanded the manual where necessary.

7. Version 1.1.0 on 2022-10-20

7.1. New commands or refinements to common use-cases

  • The denote-link-add-missing-links is a companion to what we already provide to produce a list of links to Denote files matching a regular expression (the denote-link-add-links). This new command adds links that are not already present in the current file. So if you have a metanote that references, say, your journal entries but have not updated it in a month, you can revisit the metanote, invoke denote-link-add-missing-links, and then type the search terms (e.g. _journal) to include what remains.

    Thanks to Elias Storms for the initial contribution, which was done in pull request 108 on the GitHub mirror:

    Elias has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation. It is required for changes that exceed 15 lines in total.

  • The denote-link-find-backlink provides a minibuffer interface that shows all backlinks to the current note. It complements the existing denote-link-backlinks command (which also has the alias denote-link-show-backlinks-buffer). Each command has its own niche: the minibuffer lets the user leverage powerful pattern matching styles, such as those provided by the orderless package, while the bespoke buffer provides an easy overview of what links to the current note.

    Thanks to Elias Storms for the original patch:

  • The denote-keywords-add and denote-keywords-remove are two commands that interactively operate on the current note’s front matter to add or remove keywords. They use the familiar keywords’ prompt which means, among others, that they can read more than one keyword at a time. To specify multiple keywords, separate each input with a comma (or whatever the value of crm-separator is, which should be a comma unless something out-of-the-ordinary is in force).

    Thanks to Elias Storms for the original patch, which was done as part of a discussion on the mailing list and then iterated on:

  • The denote-link command will now recognise an active region and use its text as the description of the inserted link. The default behaviour is to use the file’s title from its front matter or file name. Thanks to Charanjit Singh for the original contribution, which was done as part of pull request 109 on the GitHub mirror: A subsequent tweak was implemented in pull request 110, following a discussion with me:

    Charanjit’s contribution is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

  • The renaming operations are now aware of the underlying version control system and will use the appropriate command when a VCS is available. In practice, renaming a file under, say, Git will register it as a “rename” instead of two separate actions of deletion and addition.

    Thanks to Florian for the patch. It was discussed on the mailing list and then underwent some changes:

  • The denote-rename-file-using-front-matter no longer fails to carry out its intended task when the front matter has no keywords. If no keywords are available, this is interpreted as a request to remove the KEYWORDS component of the file name. This was always technically possible and could be achieved with various permutations of the user option denote-prompts (as explained in its doc string or the manual). Denote only needs an identifier in the file name to establish unique links (although I strongly encourage you to stick to the standard file-naming scheme as it is informative, reliable, and can work even if you access your data without Emacs).

7.2. For more advanced use-cases

  • The variable denote-file-types has been tweaked to respond directly to changes in its value done with setq. Thanks to Noboru Ota for the patch:

    Noboru has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

  • The :front-matter property of the denote-file-types now accepts a nil value. Denote could always work without front matter, but this was not implemented flexibly in the denote-file-types. Thanks to Noboru Ota (nobiot) for pointing this out on the mailing list:
  • The denote-file-prompt function now reads an optional INITIAL-TEXT argument. This is a string that prepopulates the minibuffer. It is useful for custom commands the user may have where, for example, there is a need to automatically filter to entries matching _journal. Thanks to Alan Schmitt for suggesting the idea:
  • The denote-rename-file-using-front-matter accepts an optional AUTO-CONFIRM argument. It can either be passed interactively or via Lisp. The doc string (or the manual) explains the details. Thanks to Elias Storms for the initial patch:
  • The denote-prompt-for-date-return-id function uses the familiar denote-date-prompt and returns the appropriate identifier. It is used internally by some of our function, but we also provide it for anyone who wants to write their own custom code.
  • The denote-retrieve-or-create-file-identifier function reads and option DATE argument to its mandatory FILE argument. If FILE does not have an identifier and optional DATE is non-nil, the function invokes the denote-prompt-for-date-return-id, as mentioned above.
  • The denote-rename-file command accepts an optional DATE argument. It functionally does what is described right above, with the exception that this is for an interactive function (a “command”). Read the detailed doc string or the manual for everything that pertains to this powerful command.

    Thanks to Florian for suggesting the idea on the mailing list:

  • The denote-directory-text-only-files function filters the denote-directory-files to only return a list of text files. This leaves out, say, mp3 files. The function is used internally, though it may also prove useful in custom user code.

7.3. Miscellaneous refinements

  • Implemented a revert-buffer-function for the backlinks’ buffer, which is produced by the command denote-link-backlinks. This revert function is what the g key invokes with the default key bindings (the command is revert-buffer). It produces the buffer anew, updating the list of backlinks accordingly.
  • Documented how to speed up the creation of the backlinks’ buffer. As this depends on the built-in xref library, the change is done by specifying the value of the user option xref-search-program in Emacs 28 or higher. For example:

      (setq xref-search-program 'ripgrep)

    For something more elaborate:

      ;; Prefer ripgrep, then ugrep, and fall back to regular grep.
      (setq xref-search-program
             ((or (executable-find "ripgrep")
                  (executable-find "rg"))
             ((executable-find "ugrep")
  • Removed some minor duplication of effort in how the buttonisation of links is done (what makes them clickable).
  • Made refinements to the definition of functions such as denote-link-add-links. There should be no noticeable change for users, though this shows we care about code quality.
  • With Eshel Yaron, we tried to remove the empty indices for functions and variables from the HTML version of the manual. These indices are useful in the Info version, which can be accessed directly from Emacs when the denote package is installed (for example, evaluate (info "(denote) Top")), but they do not work with HTML. Alas, what we tried to do did not work. Maybe Org has a way to control what is exported where. We shall see. At any rate, thanks to Eshel for the effort:
  • All code that integrates the denote: custom hyperlink type with Org’s link facility is now assigned autoload cookies. These are done to ensure that denote is loaded and is available in cases where Org needs to access a denote: link at some early stage (e.g. at startup before using Denote). Thanks to Sven Seebeck for reporting the problem: Although Sven could not reproduce a bug reliably, I believe this prevents such an eventuality.
  • Expanded or otherwise updated the manual to account for all of the above, where appropriate.

8. Version 1.0.0 on 2022-09-30

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.

8.1. 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: A prior exchange took place in issue 104 over at the GitHub mirror:

    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:

  • 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:

  • 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:

    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:

  • 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: 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:
  • 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:
  • 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:
  • 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:
  • 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.

8.2. 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”:

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.

8.3. 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.

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.

9. Version 0.6.0 on 2022-08-31

Denote is in a stable state. I consider it feature-complete, without prejudice to possible refinements to its existing feature set. The next version shall be 1.0.0.

9.1. User-facing changes

  • The Denote linking facility can now link to any file that has the Denote file-naming scheme. Before, we limited this feature to what we consider “note” files, else the supported plain text formats (per denote-file-type). Thanks to Peter Prevos for the discussion on the mailing list:
  • Date prompts may optionally use the familiar Org date-selection mechanism that leverages the calendar. This feature is subject to the user option denote-date-prompt-use-org-read-date. A date prompt is used by the denote-date command or, optionally, by the denote command when the user option denote-prompts is configured accordingly. The manual elaborates on the specificities. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 97 at the GitHub mirror:
  • Leading empty spaces at the denote TITLE prompt no longer produce hyphens: they are simply ignored to keep file names consistent. Thanks to Peter Prevos for the contribution in pull request 99 at the GitHub mirror:

    [ Peter has started the process for copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation, though the total contributions are still within the permitted boundaries. ]

  • When linking to files that have no front matter, the link’s anchor text (the human-readable part) is derived from the file name TITLE component. We apply a de-hyphenation and capitalisation of its constituent words. This is not always perfect, but it is better than something like this-is-the-title. Thanks to Peter Prevos for the original idea in pull request 93 at the GitHub mirror:
  • The active region is now used as the default value of the denote command TITLE prompt. The idea behind this Do-What-I-Mean-flavoured patch is to be able to take a note about a subject that appears in a buffer by simply marking it before invoking the denote command.

    Thanks to Eshel Yaron for the patch: It is below the ~15 line threshold that thus requires no copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

  • The denote-rename-file-using-front-matter command now offers to save the buffer if appropriate. In the past, it would simply produce an error asking the user to save the buffer. Thanks to Peter Prevos for the contribution in pull request 103 at he GitHub mirror:
  • Fixed the text of the confirmation prompt in the command denote-migrate-old-markdown-yaml-tags. Thanks to Abin Simon for the patch:

    This patchset also fixes (i) how a tag is identified for the purposes of migrating old to new front matter, (ii) the regular expression for Org front matter keywords

    [ The total changes are below the ~15 line threshold and thus do not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation. ]

  • Fixed a bug that prevented the creation of new notes. Thanks to Juergen Hoetzel for the contribution in pull request 84 at the GitHub mirror: This was done immediately after the release of version 0.5.0 on 2022-08-10 and was provided to users as version 0.5.1

    [ The change is below the ~15 line threshold. ]

9.2. Internal refinements

These make the code simpler and more predictable. As the individual changes are not user-facing, I invite interested parties to consult the Git log. Special thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the multiple contributions (and relevant discussions) over at the GitHub mirror:

[ Jean-Philippe has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation. It is required for non-trivial changes. ]

9.3. For advanced users

The variable denote-file-types is an alist of plists which substantiates the supported file types (per the user option denote-file-type). Properties pertain to the formatting of front matter and the retrieval of relevant values. The doc string of denote-file-types explains the details, while the default value uses the ancillary functions we define. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the relevant contributions in pull request 89 at the GitHub mirror:

10. Version 0.5.0 on 2022-08-10

The general theme of this release is to refine what we already offer. As I explained in some discussions, Denote is feature-complete. We can always improve the code or add some ancillary function/command/variable, though all the main ideas have already been implemented. Additional functionality can be provided by other packages: I remain at the disposal of anyone willing to write such a package.

The present release covers more than 150 commits since version 0.4.0 on 2022-07-25.

All release notes:

10.1. Templates for new notes

We now provide the denote-templates user option. A “template” is arbitrary text that Denote will add to a newly created note right below the front matter.

Templates are expressed as a (KEY . STRING) association.

  • The KEY is the name which identifies the template. It is an arbitrary symbol, such as report, memo, statement.
  • The STRING is ordinary text that Denote will insert as-is. It can contain newline characters to add spacing. The manual of Denote contains examples on how to use the concat function, beside writing a generic string:

The user can choose a template either by invoking the new command denote-template or by changing the user option denote-prompts to always prompt for a template when calling the denote command.

Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for refinements to this facility. Done in pull request 77 on the GitHub mirror:

[ Jean-Philippe has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation. ]

10.2. Revised format for Org #+filetags entry

Denote used to format tags in Org files by separating them with two spaces:

#+filetags:  tag1  tag2

While this worked for some obvious use-cases, it is not supported by Org. The Org documentation stipulates that tags be separated by the colon sign. The above would then be written thus:

#+filetags:  :tag1:tag2:

Denote now conforms with Org’s specifications. To help users update their existing notes, we provide the denote-migrate-old-org-filetags command. It will perform the conversion in all Org files that had the old notation. As with all Denote operations that rewrite file contents, it DOES NOT SAVE BUFFERS. The user is expected to review the changes, such as by using diff-buffer-with-file. Multiple buffers can be saved with save-some-buffers (check its doc string).

This command is provided for the convenience of the user. It shall be deprecated and eventually removed from future versions of Denote.

If you need help with any of this, please do not hesitate to contact me either in private or in one of Denote’s official channels (mailing list, GitHub/GitLab mirror).

Thanks to Alan Schmitt for bringing this matter to my attention: Also thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for commenting on it as it helped me decide to include the command in denote.el:

10.3. Revised format for Markdown+YAML tags: entry

This is the same idea as above. Before, we were making the mistake of using incorrect YAML notation:

tags:  tag1  tag2

Now we do:

tags:  ["tag1", "tag2"]

This is how the TOML variant always worked.

For the user’s convenience, we provide a command to migrate from the old to the new syntax: denote-migrate-old-markdown-yaml-tags.

10.4. Changes to file renaming and front matter rewriting

Denote adds “front matter” to newly created notes which includes data such as the title and keywords/tags of the document. Strictly speaking, the front matter is not required by Denote. It is provided for the user’s convenience, such as for readability or if they want to use the note with other programs (e.g. Org export, a blog with Hugo/Jekyll, …).

Denote provides commands which help the user rename their notes, by changing the file name’s TITLE and/or KEYWORDS components (per Denote’s file-naming scheme). These commands also operate on the front matter to keep the data between file name and file contents in sync (again, for the user’s convenience).

For this release we have consolidated and refined our offerings in order to improve their ergonomics. All changes are the result of fruitful discussions on the mailing list and the issue tracker of the GitHub mirror:

Thanks to (A-Z) Hanspeter Gisler, Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay, and Peter Prevos for their participation.

Also thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for relevant code contributions (please consult the Git log for the minutiae):

10.4.1. Renaming a single file

The commands denote-dired-rename-file-and-add-front-matter and denote-dired-rename-file are deprecated and superseded by the new denote-rename-file. Please update any key bindings in your setup.

The difference between the old commands and the new denote-rename-file is that the latter will now insert front matter to supported file types (per denote-file-type) if they have none. This basically means that, e.g., renaming a generic Org/Markdown/Plain text file with denote-rename-file will update its file name to comply with Denote’s file-naming scheme and also add the appropriate front matter (it “converts” it to a Denote note). If front matter exists, this command will rewrite it to reflect the changes to the file name’s TITLE and/or KEYWORDS.

Consult the manual for the details:

Or, if the new version of the GNU ELPA package is installed, evaluate:

(info "(denote) Rename a single file")

The user option denote-dired-rename-expert is obsolete. Denote always asks for confirmation when renaming a single file. This is because the user can rely on batch-renaming commands which ask for confirmation only once per batch.

10.4.2. Renaming multiple files at once

The command denote-dired-rename-marked-files-and-add-front-matter is deprecated and its functionality is absorbed by the existing denote-dired-rename-marked-files command. The deprecated command was used to insert front matter to supported file types (per denote-file-type) that had none. We now handle this internally, thus streamlining the experience for the user.

Refer to the manual for the details:

Assuming the latest Info manual is installed, evaluate:

(info "(denote) Rename multiple files at once")

10.4.3. Renaming a single file based on its front matter

Introduced the denote-rename-file-using-front-matter command. This is new functionality we provide which uses the front matter as input to perform a rename of the file. The aforementioned offerings prompt for input via the minibuffer and propagate the changes firstly to the file name and subsequently to the front matter. Whereas with the command denote-rename-file-using-front-matter, the user can edit the front matter manually and then invoke the command to pass the changes to the file name, subject to a confirmation. Relevant entries are the title and tags/filetags (depending on the file type). The date and the identifier are not pertinent. Identifiers in file names are NEVER rewritten by Denote.

Consult the manual:

With the latest package, evaluate:

(info "(denote) Rename a single file based on its front matter")

10.4.4. Renaming multiple files based on their front matter

The command denote-dired-rename-marked-files-using-front-matter completes the set of features we provide for syncing between file name and front matter. It applies to all marked files in a Dired buffer.

Read the manual to understand how the command works and what it does exactly:

Or evaluate:

(info "(denote) Rename multiple files based on their front matter")

10.4.5. Add missing front matter on demand

Sometimes the user may have incomplete front matter, perhaps due to a mistake that was saved on disk. The command denote-add-front-matter appends a new front matter block to the current note.


Or evaluate:

(info "(denote) Regenerate front matter")

10.5. Faces for Denote links

We provide the denote-faces-link and the denote-faces-broken-link. The latter is only relevant for Org, as Emacs’ standard button mechanism does not have a way to apply a face dynamically.

This is a change for themes/tinkerers who need to differentiate denote: links from other links. Otherwise, the presentation is the same as before.

Thanks to Peter Prevos for asking about it on the mailing list:

10.6. Use of XDG path in denote-directory

The default value of the denote-directory user option used to be ~/Documents/notes (subject to some conversion via Elisp). Denote now conforms with the specifications by using the XDG directory for DOCUMENTS instead of ~/Documents:

Users who already bind the denote-directory are not affected by this change. Same for those who do not tinker with XDG environment variables and/or do not use some exotic setup.

Thanks to Philip Kaludercic for the patch:

10.7. Bespoke major-mode for the backlinks’ buffer

The backlinks’ buffer now uses the denote-backlink-mode instead of the generic special-mode. The former derives from the latter. It binds keys to move between links with n (next) and p (previous). These are stored in the denote-backlink-mode-map (use M-x describe-mode (C-h m) in an unfamiliar buffer to learn more about it).

Thanks to Philip Kaludercic for the patch:

10.8. Changes to the manual

  • Documented all of the aforementioned. Improved how information is presented and, generally, iterated on an already comprehensive document.
  • Introduced a node which explains how to tweak the front matter: Or evaluate:

      (info "(denote) Change the front matter format")
  • Updated the reference to consult-notes. This is a package that uses the consult interface to provide access and search facilities for notes. It can integrate with Denote. Thanks to Colin McLear for the change in pull request 70 on the GitHub mirror:

    [ The change is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation. ]

10.9. Internal restructuring

  • All Denote code is consolidated in denote.el. We no longer maintain separate files like denote-link.el, denote-dired.el, etc. Users who had require calls to such libraries must remove them and only keep:

      (require 'denote)
  • User options that have an entry in the manual will now provide a link to it via their Help buffer and/or the Custom UI. This is done by adding the :link attribute to their declaration.

    Furthermore, user options and faces now specify the version of Denote that last affected their value (e.g. denote-directory, which was mentioned above for the XDG spec, now informs the user that it changed for version 0.5.0).

    [ I learnt these by developing the modus-themes. ]

  • The variables denote-last-title, denote-last-keywords, denote-last-buffer, and denote-last-front-matter are all obsolete. These were used prior to version 0.1.0 to help with development but are now deemed surplus to requirements.
  • Lots of changes were made to private functions, variables, doc strings, and comments, in the interest of simplifying the code and/or ensuring consistency in how operations are carried out. Though everything is the same for the end-user.

Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the numerous contributions on the GitHub mirror. They are important for Denote, though the user does not need to know what is happening internally (consult the Git log for the details):

10.10. Discussions

10.10.1. Encrypting Denote notes

Paul van Gelder asked about this on the mailing list. I provided guidelines on what can be done, though did not record anything in the manual: I prefer to elicit more feedback from users. The gist is that Emacs already has all the requisite functionality, though encryption per se is outside the scope of Denote:

Denote’s relevant internal mechanisms will recognise files ending in .gpg (e.g. for fontification in Dired).

10.10.2. Visualise usage of Denote keywords

Peter Prevos shared a proof-of-concept way to visualise keywords in the denote-directory and show usage statistics:

We do not include this information in the manual, as we wait for the fully fledged code. Though do give it a try if you are interested and, perhaps, share your thoughts for Peter’s consideration.

10.10.3. Conflict between denote-dired-mode and diredfl-mode

Hilde Rhyne shared a workaround they have to disable diredfl-mode in the buffers where denote-dired-mode is enabled. The conflict between the two is a known issue that is acknowledged in the manual:

I think we need a proper solution in the code we provide, so this workaround is not mentioned in the manual.

10.10.4. Why doesn’t Denote provide a search facility?

There was a discussion started by Fourchaux, with the participation of basaran and Andre0991 on the GitHub mirror:

The gist of my answer is that Denote does not need to provide such a facility because notes are ordinary files: whatever the user already has for them should apply to Denote. If the user has nothing to search through files, they anyhow need something that works outside the confines of Denote: a denote-SEARCH command is not an adequate solution.

Emacs has numerous built-in commands, such as grep (lgrep and rgrep), project-find-regexp, find-grep-dired, ibuffer-do-occur, … Furthermore, there are lots of high quality packages that have their own wrappers or extensions for searching file contents, such as the ivy and helm completion frameworks, as well as consult (the commands consult-grep and consult-ripgrep), consult-notes, rg, deadgrep, deft, and probably plenty more that do not come to mind right now.

I strongly encourage the user to find a universal search solution to the problem of searching file contents.

11. Version 0.4.0 on 2022-07-25

  • Defined the denote-link-dired-marked-notes command. It lets the user produce a typographic list of links to the note files that are marked in Dired. The list is written at point. If there are multiple buffers which visit Denote notes, the command first prompts with minibuffer completion for one among them.

    In terms of workflow, denote-link-dired-marked-notes complements the denote-link-add-links command for those cases where it is easier to select files than write an elegant regular expression.

  • Implemented the denote-dired-rename-marked-files command. This provides a much-requested facility to perform the familiar renaming operation on a set of files. In particular:

    • the file’s existing file name is retained and becomes the TITLE field, per Denote’s file-naming scheme;
    • the TITLE is sluggified and downcased, per our conventions;
    • an identifier is prepended to the TITLE;
    • the file’s extension is retained;
    • a prompt is asked once for the KEYWORDS field and the input is applied to all file names;
    • if the file is recognised as a Denote note, the command rewrites its front matter to include the new keywords. A confirmation to carry out this step is performed once at the outset. Note that the affected buffers are not saved. The user can thus check them to confirm that the new front matter does not cause any problems (e.g. with the command diff-buffer-with-file). Multiple buffers can be saved with save-some-buffers (read its doc string).

    Parts of denote-dired-rename-marked-files were added or refined over a series of commits. Consult the Git log for the minutia. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the relevant additions in pull requests 51 and 52 on the GitHub mirror:

    Jean-Philippe has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation.

  • Improved how the denote-dired-rename-file command rewrites front matter. Before, it would perform a replacement of the whole block, which had the adverse effect of overwriting custom front matter entries. Now, it only targets the lines which hold the title and keywords, leaving everything else intact. Thanks to Peter Prevos for reporting the problem and testing the solution to it in issue 60 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Introduced the denote-dired-rename-file-and-add-front-matter command that always prepends front matter to a file whose extension is among the supported ones (per the user option denote-file-type). This differs from the standard denote-dired-rename-file command which only rewrites the front matter’s title and keywords if they exist.

    In practice, denote-dired-rename-file-and-add-front-matter empowers the user to convert a generic text file to a Denote note.

    This command was originally added by Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay in pull request 49 on the GitHub mirror and refined in subsequent commits: Also read issue 48 where this idea was originally discussed:

  • Added the denote-dired-rename-marked-files-and-add-front-matters command, which is like the denote-dired-rename-marked-files but adds front matter instead of rewriting existing one, just how the command denote-dired-rename-file-and-add-front-matter does it (both are mentioned above). Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the refinements to it in pull request 53 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Wrote an interactive spec for denote-link-buttonize-buffer. It can now be invoked with M-x or a key binding, should the need arise. This function is normally called via a hook and takes effect in plain text as well as Markdown files.
  • Extended the fontification rules so that file names with non-ASCII characters are styled properly. This issue was brought up on the mailing list by Frank Ehmsen and was discussed with the participation of Peter Prevos:

    The same topic was raised at the same time on the GitHub mirror by user hpgisler in issue 61:

    After some discussion, we agreed on the right approach, which was formalised by Peter Prevos as pull request 64 on the GitHub mirror: The change is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

  • Made the registration of the denote: custom Org hyperlink type conditional on the availability of the org feature. In other words, those who do not use Org will not be loading this part of the code. Thanks to Abin Simon for reporting the problem and for showing how Elfeed handles this case. This was done in issue 47 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Ensured that duplicate keywords are not produced by the relevant prompt. Thanks to user Taoufik for the contribution in pull request 50 on the GitHub mirror: The change is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.
  • Fixed a typo in the reference to the crm-separator in the manual. David Wilson (System Crafters channel) spotted the error in a recent live stream whose main topic was about Denote (thanks, by the way!):
  • Addressed an inconsistency in the command denote-link-find-file where it would not recognise links without a title in their format (those can be inserted by passing a prefix argument (C-u by default) to the commands that insert links, such as denote-link).
  • Attached conditionality to the denote command’s SUBDIRECTORY argument, so that it does not create new file paths. This is only relevant for those who call denote from Lisp. Interactive use is the same as before.
  • Clarified that the user option denote-org-capture-specifiers can accept arbitrary text in addition to the formatting specifiers that Org’s capture mechanism introduces.
  • Explained in the manual why denote-org-capture-specifiers is needed instead of writing the capture template directly the way one normally does. The gist is that because our file names are derived dynamically based on user input, we need to account for the sequence in which the value of arguments is reified by org-capture.
  • Refactored how notes are prepared internally. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 55 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Declared the denote-punctuation-excluded-extra-regexp variable which is, for the time being, targeted at experienced users. Its purpose is to extend what we consider “illegal” punctuation for the file name. Thanks to pRot0ta1p for the feedback in issue 57 over at the GitHub mirror: Example based on the input of pRot0ta1p:

      (setq denote-punctuation-excluded-extra-regexp

    The ideal is to make denote--punctuation-regexp work for all scripts, but that may be unrealistic.

  • Clarified what the manual means by “attachments” to notes. Those are for Org, if the user resorts to the relevant Org mechanisms. Denote does not do any of that.
  • Revised the parsing of a date input as used in the denote-date command or related. The idea is to turn 2020-01-15 into something like 2020-01-15 16:19 by using the current time, so that the hour and minute component is not left to 00:00 when the user does not specify it explicitly.

    This reduces the burden on the user who would otherwise need to input the time value in order to avoid the error of duplicate identifiers in the scenario where the same date is used more than once.

    The change also addresses a difference between Emacs 28 and Emacs 29 where the former does not read dates without a time component.

    Thanks to Peter Prevos for the feedback in issue 58 over at the GitHub mirror:

  • Fixed compilation warnings in Emacs 29 about the format of doc strings that need to output a literal single quote. Thanks to Kyle Meyer for the patch, which was sent on the mailing list:
  • Fixed typo in the user option denote-prompts about the crm-separator. Thanks to Kyle Meyer for the patch, which was sent on the mailing list:
  • Made the built-in subr-x library a runtime dependency, due to complications with the when-let* form. The problem was made manifest in a renaming operation, though it was not about renaming per se. Thanks to hpgisler for reporting the problem in issue 62 and for testing the proposed solution:
  • Streamlined the use of the seq library instead of cl-lib, as we were already using the former more heavily and there was no need for the latter. Thanks to Philip Kaludercic for pointing this out on the emacs-devel mailing list:
  • Added a generic file to placate the Git forges. Neither SourceHut nor GitHub/GitLab are fully compliant with the Org markup we use in (we use Org because it is easy to generate the Info manual and HTML pages out of it). SourceHut will not render the file at all, while the others render it but do not parse it properly.
  • Made several other internal tweaks and refinements in the interest of robustness and/or clarity.
  • Rewrote all relevant documentation.

11.1. Non-changes

The following are not part of any changes that were made during this release cycle, though they provide potentially interesting insight into the workings of the project.

Identifiers with milliseconds
Denote’s identifier format extends up to seconds. This is the product of years of experimentation and is, in my opinion, the best compromise between usability/readability and precision. If a user produces two notes within a fraction of a second, then yes they will have duplicate identifiers. In principle, there is no reason not to address this potential problem, provided we do not compromise on Denote’s file-naming scheme (making the identifier less readable is a compromise). We shall see what the best course of action is. Thanks to Felipe Balbi and Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the discussion thus far in issue 54 on the GitHub mirror:
Denote and evil-mode
Users of evil-mode do not have to worry about Denote, as we do not define any key bindings. The manual includes sample configuration, which proposes some key bindings, but that is the user’s prerogative. Thanks to Saša Janiška and Alan Schmitt for their participation on the mailing list:
Denote and Citar
Peter Prevos started developing a package that connects Denote with Citar: The idea is to use notes as part of one’s bibliography. Discussions which include sample code on how to leverage denote from Lisp:
Denote and graph of connections
Saša Janiška asked whether Denote will provide some way to visualise links between notes. The answer is negative. Denote’s scope is clearly delineated and its feature set is largely complete (notwithstanding refinements to what we already provide). Peter Prevos is experimenting with some code that uses the R language. Any such facility will have to be implemented as a separate package. I remain at the disposal of anyone who needs help with Denote’s internals. Thanks to the aforementioned fellows for their participation on the mailing list:
Denote’s scalability
There was a discussion whether Denote will work well with very large sets of files. The short answer is that it will work the same way Emacs and/or standard Unix tools do: good enough! If there are improvements to be made, which do not jeopardise the principles of the project, we shall implement them without hesitation. Thanks to Saša Janiška and Peter Prevos for their participation on the mailing list:
Denote’s minimum requirement of Emacs 27.2

We cannot depend on Emacs 27.1 due to this message from the byte compiler:

You should depend on (emacs "27.2") or the (org "9.3") package if you need `org-link-open-as-file'.

Depending on Org is not an option because Denote optionally works without Org, so Emacs 27.2 is what we have to opt for. If your operating system does not provide this version in package format, please petition its maintainers/providers to do so. Thanks to Alexander for asking about it on the mailing list:

Finally, a mildly interesting piece of trivia: we have exceeded 600 commits since the first day of the project’s Git history on 2022-06-04 (the actual history is much longer). That averages to more than 10 per day! I think things will slow down eventually.

12. Version 0.3.0 on 2022-07-11

  • Fixed how references are analysed to produce the backlinks’ buffer. This should resolve the issue that some users faced where the backlinks would not be produced.

    The previous implementation would not yield the appropriate results if (i) the value of the user option denote-directory was a “project” per the built-in project.el and (ii) the link to the given entry was from a subdirectory. In short, the references were sometimes returned as relative file paths, whereas they should always be absolute. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the feedback in issue 42 over at the GitHub mirror:

    [ Jean-Philippe has assigned copyright to the Free Software Foundation. It is a prerequisite for contributing to core Emacs and/or any package distributed via the official GNU ELPA. ]

  • Addressed a regression in the function denote-directory (this is the function that normalises the variable of the same name) which prevented it from returning an expanded file path. This too contributed to problems with the backlinking facility. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 44 over at the GitHub mirror:

    Also thanks to user pRot0ta1p for the relevant feedback in issue 43 (also on the mirror): More thanks to Alfredo Borrás, Benjamin Kästner, and Sven Seebeck for their comments in a related thread on the mailing list: These discussions showed we had a problem, which we managed to identify.

  • Introduced the user option denote-prompts (read its doc string or the relevant entry in the manual). It governs how the standard denote command for creating new notes will behave in interactive usage. By default, denote prompts for a title and keywords. With denote-prompts, the command can also ask for a file type (per denote-file-type), subdirectory of the denote-directory, and a specific date+time. Prompts occur in the order they are specified. Furthermore, the denote-prompts can be set to values which do not include the title and keywords. This means that the resulting file names can be any of those permutations:


    Recall that Denote’s standard file-naming scheme is defined as follows (read the manual for the details):


    For our purposes, Denote will work perfectly fine for linking and backlinking, even if file names do not include the TITLE and KEYWORDS fields. However, the user is advised to consider the implications on usability: notes without a descriptive title and/or useful keywords may be hard to filter and practically impossible to manage at scale. File names without such information should at least be added to subdirectories which themselves have a descriptive name.

    At any rate, Denote does not have strong opinions about one’s workflow. The standard file name is the culmination of years of experience.

    Consider the denote-prompts the affirmative answer to the question “Can keywords be optional?” as posed by Jack Baty on the mailing list:

    Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the original contribution in commit 9b981a2. It was originally part of a pull request, but due to some internal changes I had to merge it as a patch and technically the web UI did not count the PR as “merged” (though it was in terms of substance).

  • Refactored the denote command to (i) accommodate the new user option denote-prompts via its interactive specification and (ii) be more flexible when called from Lisp. The latter scenario is for advanced users or, generally, those who can maintain some custom code in their configuration. A case in point is one of the examples we show in the manual for a programmatic way to create notes that automatically get the journal tag:

      (defun my-denote-journal ()
        "Create an entry tagged 'journal', while prompting for a title."

    Notice that the '("journal") is a list of strings even for a single keyword. Whereas before a single one was a plain string. This is a breaking change.

    Please consult the doc string of the denote command for the technicalities.

  • Refashioned the interactive convenience functions of denote-type, denote-date, denote-subdirectory to leverage the denote-prompts user option while calling denote interactively. In practical terms, they no longer accept any arguments when called from Lisp. Users who need a programmatic approach are advised to either call denote directly, or check how these commands let bind the denote-prompts to carry out their operations. The doc string of each command explains how it works. Or evaluate this to check the manual:

      (info "(denote) Convenience commands for note creation")

    Else visit:

  • Documented how the user option denote-directory can accept a local value. This is pertinent to scenaria where the user needs to maintain separate directories of notes. By “separate” we mean sets of notes that do not communicate with each other, cannot create links between them, etc. The manual delves into the technicalities. If you have the Info entry installed, evaluate:

      (info "(denote) Maintain separate directories for notes")

    Else visit:

    Thanks to user “Summer Emacs” for starting the discussion on the mailing list, and Benjamin Kästner for their participation:

  • Added an entry to the manual’s Frequently Asked Questions about a failed search for backlinks. It includes sample code that users of Windows can apply, if necessary. (The error is not Denote’s fault.) Thanks to Benjamin Kästner for the patch, which is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation:
  • Removed duplicate entries from the list of file paths that the xref library returns for the purposes of backlinking. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 44 on the GitHub mirror:
  • Applied an appropriate face to the backlinks’ button to mitigate an error. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the contribution in pull request 45 on the GitHub mirror and for later testing a subsequent tweak:
  • Simplfied all the faces we define to make them work with all themes. The previous colours were consistent with the modus-themes:
  • Refined how strings are sluggified under all circumstances. Before, a nil value for the user option denote-allow-multi-word-keywords would have the adverse effect of joining all the strings in the title field of the file name. The intent always was to do that only for multi-word keywords, not the title. This change was part of a hotfix, formalised as version 0.2.1 a day after the release of 0.2.0.
  • Made the fontification rules more robust, while avoiding any false positives. This was done over a series of commits as it had implications for the file name permutations that were mentioned earlier. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the patches and/or discussion about the merits of each change and concomitant considerations:
  • Rewrote all relevant entries in the manual to reflect all the user-facing aspects of the aforementioned.
  • Discussed a use-case of rewriting old journal entries as Denote-style files. As of this writing, we do not support migration of files in bulk. It might happen at some point, though it is no mean task. Thanks to Summer Emacs and Alan Schmitt for their participation:

    An aside here as this topic was brought up: my packages are open to users of all skill levels and is why I maintain a mailing list as well as mirrors of the official git repository on SourceHut. Do not hesitate to ask a question. If, for whatever reason, those communication channels are not appropriate, you are welcome to contact me in private:

Thanks again to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the numerous contributions. Please read the commit log for the minutia, as this change log entry omitted some of the finer yet important details.

13. Version 0.2.0 on 2022-07-04

  • Version 0.1.0 (from 2022-06-27) was never built as a package. The reason is that the GNU ELPA machinery reads the Version: header of the main file, not the git tag. As the original commit in denote.el included Version: 0.1.0, GNU ELPA rightly tries to build the package using that reference. But because at that time I had not yet updated the Copyright header to name the Free Software Foundation, the package could not be prepared. As such, please consider this release to be the “first formal stable version”. My apologies for the delay, contrary to what was promised in the last change log entry.
  • Originally, Denote was designed to only work with notes in a flat directory. With code contributions from Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay, support for subdirectories of the user option denote-directory is now available. This covers the case of creating links between notes, following them, and viewing the backlinks’ buffer of the current entry.
  • The new denote-subdirectory command lets the user select a directory to place the new note in. Available candidates are the value of the denote-directory as well as all of its subdirectories, minus .git. In future versions, we will consider how to provide a blocklist or a regexp filter for the user to specify which subdirectories should be omitted from minibuffer completion. Please consider providing your feedback on the technicalities.
  • From 2022-06-24 to 2022-07-03, Denote provided support for links between Org notes that leveraged the id: hyperlink type. Discussions on the mailing list and the GitHub mirror revealed the longer-term problems in our implementation. In the Annex below, I provide my detailed opinion on the matter. The gist is that Denote does not—and will not—create id: links between its notes, but shall use the denote: hyperlink type instead (which works like the standard file: type). As the Annex explains, Denote is not org-roam lite and we try not to engender such false expectations.
  • The user option denote-date-format controls how the date and time is recorded in the file’s contents (what we call “front matter”). When nil (the default value), we use a file-type-specific format (also check the user option denote-file-type):

    • For Org, an inactive timestamp is used, such as [2022-06-30 Wed 15:31].
    • For Markdown, the RFC3339 standard is applied: 2022-06-30T15:48:00+03:00.
    • For plain text, the format is that of ISO 8601: 2022-06-30.

    If the value is a string, ignore the above and use it instead. The string must include format specifiers for the date. These are described in the doc string of format-time-string.

    The denote-date-format supersedes the now obsolete denote-front-matter-date-format.

    Thanks to Peter Prevos and Kaushal Modi for their feedback in issue 27 on the GitHub mirror:

  • All the faces we define are now declared in the denote-faces.el file. The fontification rules are shared by denote-dired-mode and the backlinks’ buffer (invoked by denote-link-backlinks and controlled by the user option denote-link-fontify-backlinks). The current list of faces:
    • denote-faces-date
    • denote-faces-delimiter
    • denote-faces-extension
    • denote-faces-keywords
    • denote-faces-subdirectory
    • denote-faces-time
    • denote-faces-title
  • Named the mailing list address as the Maintainer: of Denote. Together with the other package headers, they help the user find our primary sources and/or communication channels. This change conforms with work being done upstream in package.el by Philip Kaludercic. I was informed about it here:
  • Fixed how keywords are inferred and combined. The previous code did not work properly when the user option denote-infer-keywords was nil. It would return a list of symbols, with the parentheses, whereas the file name needs a string where each keyword is delimited by an underscore.
  • Simplified how information in the front matter is retrieved. It fixes cases where, for example, a special character at the end of the title was ignored. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay for the patch over at the GitHub mirror:
  • Rewrote parts of the manual in the interest of clarity.

13.1. Annex about discontinuing support for org-id

My thanks for their participation in the discussions go to Jean-Philippe Gagné Guay, Kaushal Modi, and Shreyas Ragavan.

commit f35ef05cb451f265213c3aafc1e62c425b1ff043
Author: Protesilaos Stavrou <>
Date:   Sun Jul 3 17:34:38 2022 +0300

    REMOVE support for 'id:' hyperlink types

    The original idea was to support the 'org-id' library on the premise
    that it makes Denote a good Emacs citizen.  However, discussions on the
    mailing list[0] and the GitHub mirror[1] have made it clear to me that
    'org-id' is not consistent with Denote's emphasis on simplicity.

    To support the way 'org-id' works, we will eventually have to develop
    some caching mechanism, just how the org-roam package does it.  This is
    because the variable 'org-id-extra-files' needs to be kept up-to-date
    whenever an operation on a file is performed.  At scale, this sort of
    monitoring requires specialised software.  Such a mechanism is outside
    the scope of Denote---if you need a db, use org-roam which is already

    [0] <>

    [1] <>

    Quote of what I wrote on the GitHub mirror issue 29:

            [ggjp] This is what I was implying.  That we are, in fact,
            providing an option that is not viable long-term, but keeping
            the option for expert users who will be able to handle this.
            And we should warn about this clearly in the doc of that option.

        [protesilaos] What you write here @ggjp and what @shrysr explained
        tells me that those expert users will need to be real experts.  To
        put it concretely, I am an experienced Emacs user with no
        programming background, who has written several Emacs
        packages (including the modus-themes which are built into Emacs),
        but I have zero knowledge of using a db or of handling things with
        python and the like.  So if I opt in to 'denote-link-use-org-id' I
        will eventually run into problems that my non-existent skills will
        prevent me from solving.  At that point, I will just use org-roam
        which already handles this use-case in a competent way (and has a
        massive community to rely on in case I need further support).

        If each package needs to write its own optimisations and maintain
        its own cache, to me this shows that 'org-id' is not good enough for
        the time being: more work needs to be done in org.git to provide a
        universal solution.

        I wanted to support 'org-id' by default on the premise that Denote
        must be a good Emacs citizen which interoperates with the rest of
        the wider ecosystem.  But if 'org-id' leaves something to be
        desired, then that goal is not worth pursuing: we add complexity to
        our code, offer an option that we cannot genuinely/adequately
        support, and make usage of it contingent on reading the docs and
        having a high level of expertise.

        I think being a good Emacs citizen is a laudable principle.  In this
        case, the right thing to do is to recommend the use of org-roam
        instead of trying to accommodate 'org-id'.  As such, I have now
        changed my mind and think we should remove what we previously added.

        For some context here: the reason I never used org-roam is
        because (i) it is Org-specific whereas I write notes in different
        file types and (ii) I did not want to ever rely on a db or
        equivalent dependency.

        <>         | 226 ++++++++---------------------------------------------
 denote-link.el     |  99 ++++++-----------------
 denote-retrieve.el |   2 +-
 denote.el          |  14 +---
 4 files changed, 63 insertions(+), 278 deletions(-)

Followed up by my explanation:

> can we not have denote style links to be default for (de)notes - and
> explicitly supported, while if they need to, users can still link
> denote org files via org-id to any other notes/files (and vice versa)
> -- in which case performance + testing for org-id driven linking is
> not within Denote's purview at all?

The formal support for `id:` links was added shortly before the release
of version `0.1.0`.  In the days prior, we supported what you describe
via the manual.  The user could change the `denote-org-front-matter`
variable to include a `PROPERTIES` drawer.  This possibility still
exists, though yesterday I removed the relevant entry from the manual.
This way only the real do-it-yourself experts will go down that path.

My concern here is with managing expectations.  If our Org notes are
superficially the same as org-roam's, an unsuspecting user may think
that Denote is an org-roam lite.  We will thus get issues/requests, such
as those already mentioned in this GitHub repo, about migrating from
org-roam to Denote.  While there are similarities, Denote is not a
minimalist org-roam and I would not like to encourage the idea of
treating the two as interchangeable.

Doing things half-way-through is a way to create false expectations.  A
package on GNU ELPA must be usable by users of all skill levels.  If the
functionality we provide is incomplete and needs to be covered by
user-level tweaks, we are excluding a portion of the user base while
still assuming the maintenance burden.  If someone trusts Denote to,
say, write a 1000 notes, we do not want to surprise them after the fact.
Imagine if the reported issues that triggered this change happened 6
months into one's daily usage of Denote: it wouldn't be nice.

Setting the right expectations is a matter of responsibility: we let the
user make a more informed choice and show respect for their time.  It
also makes it easier for me to keep Denote's scope in check by not
supporting every little extra that Org implements.  The premier Org
extension is org-roam: we do not need another one (or, if we do, I am
not the one to implement it).

* * *

Some comments on the `denote:` hyperlink type for Org as they may be
relevant in this context:

* It is meant to work like the standard `file:` type.  This means that
  it links to a file, while it can also have additional search
  parameters, as explained in the Org manual.  Evaluate:

      (info "(org) Search Options")

* It does not read the front matter, but only the file name.  You can
  create a note as usual, delete all its contents, save it, and try to
  link to it from another note.  It works.

* Exporting now works like the `file:` type for HTML, LaTeX, Texinfo,
  and Markdown.  Technically, it also supports the ASCII backend but the
  format of the output could be tweaked further.

There may be refinements to be made, which is okay as that is part of a
maintainer's duties.

14. Version 0.1.0 on 2022-06-27

The present entry is intended for early adopters of Denote who may have not caught up with the latest developments. Prospective users are advised to read the manual: For a video demonstration:

  • The denote package on GNU ELPA will be available a few hours after this release. GNU ELPA provides the latest stable release. To use a development snapshot, read:
  • Remember that any significant contribution (above ~15 lines) requires copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation. A form with instructions is included in the manual’s “Contributing” section:
  • The front matter of notes in Org has changed to be compliant with the standard org-id infrastructure. A PROPERTIES drawer is added to the top of the file, which includes an ID property with the value of the Denote identifier. Sample:

      :ID:          20220610T202537
      #+title:      Sample Org front matter
      #+date:       2022-06-10
      #+filetags:   denote  testing
  • The front matter of Markdown (YAML or TOML) and plain text files remains constant. For completeness, this is how they look:

       title:      "Sample with Markdown and YAML"
       date:       2022-06-10
       tags:       denote  testing
       identifier: "20220610T202021"
      title      = "Sample with Markdown and TOML"
      date       = 2022-06-10
      tags       = ["denote", "testing"]
      identifier = "20220610T201510"
      title:      Sample plain text
      date:       2022-06-10
      tags:       denote  testing
      identifier: 20220610T202232
  • The integration with org-id extends to how linking works. By default, Denote uses its own custom hyperlink type which starts with the denote: prefix. In Org, it works like the file: type. When the user option denote-link-use-org-id is non-nil, links from Org notes to other Org notes will use the standard id: type instead. As this is an Org-specific feature, Denote takes care to use the major-mode-agnostic denote: type when the link targets a non-Org note.
  • In Org files the links created by Denote are buttonized automatically. For Markdown and plain text, we use our own methods. When a link is inserted it is buttonized outright. To buttonize links in existing notes while visiting them in a buffer, add/evaluate this (it excludes Org on its own):

      (add-hook 'find-file-hook #'denote-link-buttonize-buffer)
  • The generation of the backlinks’ buffer now uses the built-in xref library instead of relying on a hardcoded call to the find executable. This means that the denote-link-backlinks command will, in principle, work properly with all Emacs builds.
  • Users of Emacs 28 or higher can configure xref-search-program to change from the default grep to ripgrep, ugrep, or a user-defined alternative.
  • This is the first stable release of Denote. It covers close to 400 commits starting from 2022-06-04. Denote is the successor to a toy package of mine, USLS, whose first public version was made available in early November 2020:
  • Thanks to everyone involved in the development of Denote. Code contributions, bug reports, discussion of ideas, are all valuable. From A-Z the names mentioned in the manual’s “Acknowledgements” section: Colin McLear, Damien Cassou, Frank Ehmsen, Jack Baty, Kaushal Modi, Peter Povinec, Sven Seebeck, Ypot.
  • Sources of Denote: