Back to school with Emacs

Daniel Rösel (ˈrøːzl̩, IRC: velocitatem,,

Daniel Rosel demonstrates Lectorg, a package that he wrote to make note taking faster and simpler. Afterwards, he will handle questions over IRC.

00:00.000 Introduction 00:51.920 Packages: Lectorg, Reorg, HBH 02:30.680 Org Mode 03:14.920 The ecosystem of Lectorg: Elisp and Python 04:18.680 How Lectorg works 04:49.160 Math 06:15.800 Business 07:25.760 Conclusion


This talk is aimed at those who would be interested in using Emacs for school purposes. What it will present the listeners with is a collection of tips and trick on how to be more efficient when taking notes and organizing student life. Methods should apply to a target audience studying at a university or high school.


  • Part 1: 5 - 10 min
    • Present benefits of using Emacs over other software/hand-writing
    • Present packages which support the mentioned benefits
      • Packages used
      • Usage and application of each package
      • The ecosystem as a whole
  • Part 2: ~5 min
    • Demonstrate the work-flow
      • Show applications in various regions of academics
      • External input from other users




Questions and answers

  • Q:regarding exporting notes from remarkable does this system works with any tablet? Would love to use it with a boox max etc.
    • A: Unfortunately, it does not (directly). The current software I use makes use of OneDrive so in theory it could be integrated with others.
  • Q: quiliro: is there a demo for lector?
  • Q: velocitatem: are you opening the pdf inside emacs?
    • A: The PDF was being open in firefox.
  • Q:Have you tried org-noter for taking notes on pdfs?
    • A:I have not, will make sure to check it out tho!
  • Q: How does lectorg diverge from using something like YASnippets for the math insertations, etc. 
    • A: It uses YASnippets to inser the math functions, the main idea is to provide those snippets and to use them with lectorg's functions to plot graphs.
  • Q: Can your notes interact with the vidoes at all? ex timestamps or inserted subs, external player "mpv"
    • A: As of now, they cannot, but that is a wonderful idea!
  • Q:  do you find that you can type fast enough / keep up with live lectures using Lectorg?
    • A: Not 100% but the package makes it easier for me to deal with other things while taking notes
  •   velocitatem : thanks for the talk! you mentioned integration with remarkable notes, could that be with other hand writing software, like xjournalpp?
    • A: I am really not certain, but im sure it could be. Since reMarkable has a very proprietary cloud, the integration is a bit of a hack.
  • Q: Is there a way of making latex rendering go in the background? Also to lower its 
    • A: 
  • Q: did you open that firefox from inside EXWM or is it a separate frame?
    • Its bspwm
  • Q: "With lectorg you can easily capture the every detail without your attention wavering a single bit." What makes Lecter not waver your attention?
    • Not 100% but the package makes it easier for me to deal with other things while taking notes
    • It makes some actions more automated and quicker
    • You can see some of the functions and snippets improving my speed when opening certain files or creating markup for my notes
  • how does the remarkable import works? can it be used with other tablets?
    • Speaker: I am really not sure, but im sure it could be. Since reMarkable has a very proprietary cloud, the integration is a bit of a hack
  • how does the function graphing work?
    • Insert new latex function with graph using lectorg/insert-new-function
    • Generate graph for existing latex function with lectorg/generate-graph-for-function
  • I do read using nov.el and I use bookmarks. Is there a way to link the ePUB to your org documents?
  • how long have you been using Emacs? Did you find that you could take notes productively right away or did it take you a while before you reached the point where you could follow e.g. a lecture sufficiently quickly?
    • Iv been using Emacs for about a year now. It definitely took me a while to become more productive
  • nov.el adds nov: link type
  • How you considered using something like to speed up your workflow entering Maths equations, I wonder if an streamlined integration exists for that in Emacs already 🤔
  • I also have a remarkable, and would love to learn more about how other people integrate their hand-drawn notes into their org-mode notes :)
  • thanks velocitatem! I am considering whether to recommend it to my students; I have been using Emacs a long time and it is easy to forget how long it took to get into it ;)
  • yeah, same. Both handwritten notes and Treesitter are super interesting to me :)


[00:00:00.000] Taking notes on a computer can be challenging, especially if you compare computer notes with handwritten notes. When you're handwriting, you don't focus as much on taking those notes. Well, you don't focus as much on how you take the notes, you more so focus on what you're taking. You don't get that same experience if you're writing your notes on a computer. When writing notes on a computer, you mostly focus on typing or alignment. Those are things that are kind of solved already by certain software such as Org Mode, which is fantastic when it comes to note-taking, but I still believe it could be much better.

[00:00:51.920] That's why I've developed the package called Lectorg. It's a collection of scripts and snippets which allow you to improve your note-taking experience on the computer, of course, making you more focused on the subject rather than the process of taking notes. So why use Emacs? Well, again, if compared with other software, it has a lot more customizability and it can also unify pretty much anything you need in student life or work life into one place. The problems that Lectorg solves are kind of, as I mentioned, already solved partially by Org Mode itself. What I've done is simply make a bunch of additions to Org Mode through an external package, but I've also developed other sub-modules, one of them being HBH, which allows me to easily plan out my days HBH, hour by hour, therefore I can plan out my days on an hourly basis practically. But I've also built something called Reorg which, for those of you that are familiar with the Remarkable tablet, allows you to integrate notes from your Remarkable into Emacs-- into your Org Mode notes basically. Now I believe there's already another talk on integrating handwritten notes into Emacs, so I won't get too much into that.

[00:02:30.680] So again, at the heart of Lectorg is Org Mode, which for those of you that might not be familiar, Org Mode is one of the best pieces of software when it comes to basically capturing any sort of text, managing that text, exporting it into various different formats, which is perfect for taking notes because you can either export them, take them on the go if you don't have access to your computer all the time, or you can share them with friends, which... Well, that is somewhat self-explanatory in how that can help you or others.

[00:03:14.920] Now the ecosystem of Lectorg, it's a bit chaotic as of right now. It's a package itself, Lectorg.el, which also partially relies on a collection of Python scripts as I didn't have that much time to develop the software strictly in Elisp, but it still gets the job done, and I believe that there is no speed hindrance. Now to further improve Lectorg, I'd love to ask for your help if you have encountered any sort of issue when it comes to note-taking or academics in general, I would love to integrate your solution (or if you don't have one, we can come up with one) into Lectorg. Also, if anyone would be willing to transcribe those Python scripts into a more Lisp approach, then that'd be fabulous.

[00:04:18.680] So let's look at how Lectorg works in practice. We'll look at two examples, one of taking notes for math and the other for business, I believe. Now I have to mention that all of the things that I do in that example do not cover all the functions and features of Lectorg. There is decent documentation on the Lectorg GitLab page,

[00:04:49.160] so do check that out for further reference. For our first example, we're going to start off with taking notes for statistics. Now what I'm doing here is opening Lectorg Hub, which allows me to associate certain resources with this particular course. Here, I've opened the book which I have associated with this course, and I'm going to go ahead and start taking some notes on the cumulative distribution function here. Now what OrgMode allows you to do is integrate LaTeX into regular text quite easily, preview it, and then later export it. Now here we can see the first usage of a snippet !m, which inserts a block for entering a LaTeX equation. What I'm trying to do here is take a screenshot of the figures in the book, which is done with org-download (not a part of Lectorg, but a very useful tool). Now that is it for math.

[00:06:15.800] Let's look at something a bit different. We're going to take a look at business, more specifically, taking notes on the product lifecycle. Here on the left, I have certain notes from class which are not complete. As you can see at the top, there's a comment also done using Lectorg which puts this file into a TODO so that I can get back to it whenever I want or schedule this TODO. Now I'm taking notes on a video lecture, which I've opened, again, through Lectorg hub. As you can see right now, I'm inserting another snippet for Plantuml, which immediately exports it to a file, and again I'm going to be using org-download here to insert another figure at the top.

[00:07:25.760] I hope this demonstration was useful. Once again, it did not demonstrate everything. You can find more on GitLab. I hope some of you might consider using Lectorg in your academic life or perhaps even in some areas of business. I believe that is everything I have to demonstrate for today. Thank you for listening to this talk, have a nice rest of the day.

Captioner: sachac

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