Collecting my attempts to improve at tech, art, and life

My NANO-based Emacs config

Tags: org-config emacs

This is more or less my vanilla-ish Emacs playground. I start from nano-emacs. It’s pretty and pretty useful. But expect it to veer pretty far from that base over time.


There’s bound to be a lot of things that make you, the Emacs veteran, wonder “why didn’t he just do X?” The likeliest options:

  • I didn’t know X was an option
  • I saw X but wanted to wait until I understood it

That last is particularly likely. I keep getting reminded that outsmarting yourself is a major hazard of Emacs configuration.

I’ll add org-pymacs-nodejs-todoist-roam-lsp-mode later. Maybe. I may not even need it.


Give Emacs some breathing room

max-specpdl-size sets the upper limit for how many variable bindings and unwind-protect Emacs allows. max-lisp-eval-depth says how deep we can get into a recursive function call.

I got the RAM so let’s go past the respective defaults of 1600 and 800.

(setq max-specpdl-size 3200)
(setq max-lisp-eval-depth 3200)

And of course I’m sure to screw something up so let’s make sure the debugger is enabled for when I do.

(setq debug-on-error t)

Enable local lisp

(let ((default-directory  (expand-file-name "lisp" user-emacs-directory)))
  (setq load-path
         (let ((load-path  (copy-sequence load-path))) ;; Shadow
            (copy-sequence (normal-top-level-add-to-load-path '(".")))

Simplify reloading my config

I putter with this config marginally less than I did initially - progress! - but enough that restarting Emacs for every config tweak gets tedious.

One of the ideas I grabbed from Vianney Lebouteiller’s Emacs config.

(defun reload-init-file ()
  (load-file user-init-file))

(global-set-key (kbd "<f5>") 'reload-init-file)

Use straight.el to install packages

straight.el is my new friend.


But if I’m using straight.el I better disable package.el during the early init stage.

(setq package-enable-at-startup nil)

Bootstrap straight.el

Boilerplate from the straight.el documentation.

(defvar bootstrap-version)
(let ((bootstrap-file
       (expand-file-name "straight/repos/straight.el/bootstrap.el" user-emacs-directory))
      (bootstrap-version 5))
  (unless (file-exists-p bootstrap-file)
         'silent 'inhibit-cookies)
      (goto-char (point-max))
  (load bootstrap-file nil 'nomessage))

Integrate with use-package

I tried to avoid use-package here for a more “minimal” setup. That did not work. Since straight.el plays nice with use-package, let’s let it do that.

(straight-use-package 'use-package)

(use-package straight
  (straight-use-package-by-default t))

General Usability

General guidelines for text handling

Where to put the fill column marker for line wraps, how many pixels to put between lines, stuff like that.

(setq fill-column 80)
(setq-default line-spacing 1)

invoke M-x without Alt

I read Steve Yegge’s effective-emacs a long time ago — back when it was an internal Amazon blog. Applied his suggestion to invoke X-m with C-x C-m and that’s been part of my Emacs muscle memory ever since.

(global-set-key (kbd "C-x C-m") 'execute-extended-command)

Make a few adjustments for running on macOS

Make sure the macOS Emacs GUI app picks up environment variables.

(use-package exec-path-from-shell
  :init (exec-path-from-shell-initialize))

macOS doesn’t use GNU Coreutils and of course its ls isn’t what dired expects. Adjust for that.

(if (string-equal system-type "darwin")
    (setq dired-use-ls-dired nil))

visual-fill-column for a nice soft wrap

(use-package visual-fill-column
  :commands visual-fill-column-mode

  (fill-column-enable-sensible-window-split t)

  (("C-x p" . 'visual-fill-column-mode)))



The Roboto Mono font that NANO wants is not part of any *roboto* package I found in Pop! OS repositories. Ended up going to Font Library for a direct download.

With that note out of the way - I still lean towards Fantasque Sans Mono.

(setq bmw/face-height-default
      (if (eq system-type 'darwin)

(set-face-attribute 'default t
                    :background "#000000"
                    :foreground "#ffffff"
                    :family "FantasqueSansMono Nerd Font"
                    :height bmw/face-height-default)

(setq nano-font-family-monospaced "FantasqueSansMono Nerd Font")
(setq nano-font-size (/ bmw/face-height-default 10))

Configure nano

Install nano and its dependencies

Installing via straight.el.

 '(nano-emacs :type git :host github :repo "rougier/nano-emacs"))

Load the Nano layout

(require 'nano-layout)

Define my colors

Because I’m the kind of person I am: setting the nano theme colors to match my own tacky tastes. Maybe not tacky but certainly not as refined as the author of nano.

This particular set of colors comes from the Spaceduck theme.

(defun nano-theme-set-spaceduck ()
  (setq frame-background-mode 'dark)
  (setq nano-color-foreground "#ecf0c1")
  (setq nano-color-background "#0f111b")
  (setq nano-color-highlight  "#1b1c36")
  (setq nano-color-critical   "#e33400")
  (setq nano-color-salient    "#00a4cc")
  (setq nano-color-strong     "#e39400")
  (setq nano-color-popout     "#f2ce00")
  (setq nano-color-subtle     "#7a5ccc")
  (setq nano-color-faded      "#b3a1e6"))


Set up font faces

I feel comfortable loading nano-faces for font rules now that I’ve defined my colors. Will need to fuss a bit more in a second though.

(require 'nano-faces)

Want to overload some of the defaults, though. nano-emacs does not like to show bold text when using Fantasque Sans Mono.

(set-face-attribute 'nano-face-strong nil
                    :foreground (face-foreground 'nano-face-default)
                    :weight 'bold)

Let nano theme everything

nano-theme maps those custom faces to pretty much everything everywhere. Pretty nice.

(require 'nano-theme)

Except for this little thing where it disables bold for graphical displays? I think? I’m still learning how all this works.

I know I like bold, though. And italics, now that you mention it.

(set-face-attribute 'bold nil :weight 'bold)

Once I have my base established, I should be able to load the nano theme.

Load nano defaults

(require 'nano-defaults)

Enable nano session handling

(require 'nano-session)

Enable the nano modeline

One of my favorite bits really.

(require 'nano-modeline)

Enable nano key bindings

C-x k
kill current buffer without asking
open a new frame
switch to other frame
C-x C-c
delete the current frame; exit if no frames remain
C-c r
interactive select from recent files
toggle maximization of current frame’ not sure if I like this one; it confuses org muscle memory, and if I want “maximized” I usually toggle tiling in the window manager

(require 'nano-bindings)

nano Counsel integration

nano-counsel.el is small. I’ll just map its logic directly to some use-package magic.

(use-package counsel
  (("M-x" . 'counsel-recentf)
   ("C-x b" . 'counsel-bookmark)
   ("C-c r" . 'counsel-recentf)
   ("C-x C-b" . 'counsel-switch-buffer)
   ("C-c c" . 'counsel-org-capture)))

(use-package smex)
(use-package ivy
  (ivy-height 4)
  (ivy-count-format "")
  (ivy-initial-inputs-alist: '((counsel-minor . "^+")
                               (counsel-package . "^+")
                               (counsel-org-capture . "^")
                               (counsel-M-x . "^")
                               (counsel-refile . "")
                               (org-agenda-refile . "")
                               (org-capture-refile . "")
                               (Man-completion-table . "^")
                               (woman . "^")))
  (ivy-use-virtual-buffers t)

  (setq enable-recursive-minibuffers t)

  (ivy-mode 1))

I need to give myself a little context here.

Ivy, Counsel, and Swiper

flexible, simple tools for minibuffer completion in Emacs

These are technically separate packages developed together in the swiper repo.

an alternative completion framework for Emacs
Ivy-enhanced alternatives to common Emacs commands
Ivy-enhanced alternative to Isearch

Loading nano-counsel failed with complaints about missing smex. Smex provides enhancements to M-x behavior, such as an interface to recent and commonly used commands. Since I want my foundation to be a clean Nano experience, I install smex as well.

nano splash

(let ((inhibit-message t))
  (message "Welcome to GNU Emacs / N Λ N O edition")
  (message (format "Initialization time: %s" (emacs-init-time))))

(require 'nano-splash)

(require 'nano-help)

Life management with Org

Okay here we go. Building up my org-roam experience while keeping Deft handy for the longer, more intentional notes.

File locations

I work this out piecemeal, as some of the files and folders build on what’s been defined before.

First: what’s the top level of everything? That depends on whether I’m in a UNIX-like system or playing with the native Windows version of Emacs.

(setq bmw/local-root
      (if (string-equal system-type "windows-nt")

Trying an experiment where first we look for a local ~org/ folder and use that if found, otherwise going with my actual default of ~/Dropbox/org. Trying to shift over to git-synchronized Org files instead of Dropbox-synchronized, but that change will take a bit to percolate through all my systems.

(setq bmw/default-org-directory (expand-file-name "org" bmw/local-root))
(setq bmw/sync-org-directory (expand-file-name "Dropbox/org" bmw/local-root))

(setq bmw/org-dir
      (if (file-directory-p bmw/default-org-directory)

That’s enough to define most of the files I need.

 bmw/current-journal (expand-file-name "" bmw/org-dir)
 bmw/org-id-locations-file (expand-file-name
                            ".org-id-locations" bmw/org-dir)
 bmw/org-roam-directory (expand-file-name "roam" bmw/org-dir))

Oh, one more thing. I want to include org-roam files in my Org agenda. I found helpful instructions, but I’m not adding that code to my config until I understand it. Maybe if I follow the link to the beginning of the post series and start there.

What a novel idea.

But today? With my small collection of org-roam notes, I can get away with directly including them in my agenda searches.

(setq bmw/org-agenda-files (list bmw/org-dir
                                  "daily" bmw/org-roam-directory)))

Tumblelogging with ox-hugo

I started an experiment with using Org to drive a tumblelog at Random Geekery Life. Tumblelog is an older term for a blog that mainly consists of dumping whatever thoughts, links, or just whatever. Sort of like Twitter or Tumblr, but on my own site and less constrained than a tweet-length microblog. Someday I may put more words elsewhere and replace this all this explanatory text with a link.

For now I build the visible tumblelog as a static site with Hugo. It’s quick and it’s familiar.

Org enters the scene with a single file within my Hugo site.

 bmw/tumble-log (expand-file-name

That file contains all the content for the tumblelog, but the important part here is a function to dynamically generate a filename for ox-hugo based on the current time.

(defun bmw/build-tumble-template ()
   "* NOW %%U %%?\n:properties:\n:export_file_name:\n:end:\n"
   (list (cons ?s (format-time-string "%s")))))

Hugo configuration determines permalinks from post dates, which ox-hugo derives from task completion timestamps. If I want to keep all the times for an entry in sync I manually edit, but it’s not a big deal yet. C-t d muscle memory so far is quicker than figuring out how to automate that process.

The actual filename gets ignored, but the epoch timestamp keeps each output file unique at my normal human rate of adding entries.

This also squeaks me past the fact that I came up with this version of the template after I already had a few entries.

Then when I’m building org-capture-templates I create a datetree entry for tumblelogging.

("t" "Tumblelog" entry
 (file+olp+datetree bmw/tumble-log "Posts")
 (function bmw/build-tumble-template))

Custom keywords

A process vagiuely similar to GTD but my brain insists on its own task classifications.

I need to do it, but it can wait (or it’s waiting on something)
I got everything I need to do this
An idea, suggestion, or action that I may or may not want to to
A multi-part task with notable dependencies
I did it!
Never mind

(setq bmw/todo-keywords
         "LATER(l!)" "NOW(n!)" "MAYBE(m!)" "PROJECT(p!)"
         "DONE(d!)" "NOPE(-!)")))

CUSTOM_ID generation via writequit

Grabbing directly from this post.

More to keep my org-roam-ui graph in order than for publishing, but hopefully it’ll come in handy there too.

(defun eos/org-custom-id-get (&optional pom create prefix)
  "Get the CUSTOM_ID property of the entry at point-or-marker POM.
     If POM is nil, refer to the entry at point. If the entry does
     not have an CUSTOM_ID, the function returns nil. However, when
     CREATE is non nil, create a CUSTOM_ID if none is present
     already. PREFIX will be passed through to `org-id-new'. In any
     case, the CUSTOM_ID of the entry is returned."
  (org-with-point-at pom
    (let ((id (org-entry-get nil "CUSTOM_ID")))
       ((and id (stringp id) (string-match "\\S-" id))
        (setq id (org-id-new (concat prefix "h")))
        (org-entry-put pom "CUSTOM_ID" id)
        (org-id-add-location id (buffer-file-name (buffer-base-buffer)))

(defun eos/org-add-ids-to-headlines-in-file ()
  "Add CUSTOM_ID properties to all headlines in the
     current file which do not already have one."
  (org-map-entries (lambda () (eos/org-custom-id-get (point) 'create))))

Putting it all together

(use-package org
  :ensure org-plus-contrib
  (org-agenda-files bmw/org-agenda-files)
  (org-log-done 'time)
  (org-log-reschedule 'time)
  (org-log-into-drawer t)
  (org-startup-indented t)
  (org-startup-truncated nil)
  (org-todo-keywords bmw/todo-keywords)
  (org-id-track-globally t)
  (org-id-link-to-org-use-id 'create-if-interactive-and-no-custom-id)
  (org-id-locations-file bmw/org-id-locations-file)
  (org-id-locations-file-relative t)

  ("C-c a" . org-agenda)
  ("C-c c" . org-capture)
  ("C-c l" . org-store-link)

  (setq org-id-link-to-org-use-id t)
  (setq org-capture-templates
        '(("j" "Jot" entry
           (file+olp+datetree bmw/current-journal)
           "* %U %? \n%i\n %a")
          ("t" "Tumblelog" entry
           (file+olp+datetree bmw/tumble-log "Posts")
           (function bmw/build-tumble-template))
  (setq-local org-fontify-whole-heading-line t))
(require 'nano-writer)

Additional Org tools


The perfect solution for knowledge management varies by context. But the core thing really needed: someplace to drop my notes where I can find them when I need them.

Deft provides exactly that. And since Org mode is the main reason I load Emacs, my ~/org folder is where Deft will look for notes.

I don’t want org-roam notes obscuring the more persistent notes in my Org folder. Better ignore them. Also the org-brain stuff until I have a good handle on that.

(use-package deft
  :custom (deft-extensions '("org")) (deft-directory bmw/org-dir)
  (deft-recursive-ignore-dir-regexp "\\(?:\\.\\|\\.\\.\\|roam\\|brain\\)")
  (deft-ignore-file-regexp "\\(?:~\\|py\\)$")
  (deft-recursive t))

Helpful hint when enabling deft-recursive: =../ is one of the entries in your directory listing, and Deft will do its darndest to follow it if you forget to include it in deft-recursive-ignore-dir-regexp (set to "\\(?:\\.\\|\\.\\.\\)" by default).

This can lead to all sorts of recursive headaches, so don’t forget!

Of course I’ll end up tweaking it. But to get me started?

“Ask deft about my notes” is more than sufficient.


Taking advantage of org-roam-dailies for journaling. I started by copying from OrgMode-ExoCortex and System Crafters.

(use-package org-roam
  :after org
  :ensure t
  :demand t


  (org-roam-directory bmw/org-roam-directory)
  (org-roam-completion-everywhere t)
  (org-roam-dailies-directory "daily")
   (concat "${title:*} " (propertize "${tags:10}" 'face 'org-tag)))

  (("C-c n l" . org-roam-buffer-toggle)
   ("C-c n f" . org-roam-node-find)
   ("C-c n i" . org-roam-node-insert)
   ("C-c n j" . org-roam-dailies-capture-today)
   ("C-c n t" . org-roam-tag-add)
   ([f8] . org-roam-dailies-goto-today)
   (:map org-mode-map
         ("C-M-i" . completion-at-point)))

  ("C-c n d" . org-roam-dailies-map)

  (require 'org-roam-dailies)

  (org-load . org-roam-mode)

I like to always see backlinks as a side-window of my current view.

(add-to-list 'display-buffer-alist
               (side . right)
               (slot . 0)
               (window-width . 0.33)
               (window-parameters . ((no-other-window t)
                                     (no-delete-other-windows . t)))))

Something is off with my :bind and :bind-keymap settings for org-roam. Until I learn enough to fix that, I’ll make a global binding for the one I care about: going to today’s daily note.

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c d") 'org-roam-dailies-goto-today)


For the pretty. Sometimes I enable org-roam-ui-mode on load.

(use-package org-roam-ui
    (:host github :repo "org-roam/org-roam-ui" :branch "main" :files ("*.el" "out"))
    :after org-roam
    ;; :hook (after-init . org-roam-ui-mode)
    (setq org-roam-ui-sync-theme t
          org-roam-ui-follow t
          org-roam-ui-update-on-save t
          org-roam-ui-open-on-start t))


Although ox-hugo isn’t required to use Hugo with Emacs, it sure does simplify things.

(use-package ox-hugo
  :after ox)

Project management with Projectile and friends

Projectile plus a .dir-locals.el file seems like the right way to handle development projects without bumping into everything else.

(use-package projectile
  :ensure t

  (projectile-mode +1)

  (:map projectile-mode-map
        ("s-p" . projectile-command-map)
        ("C-c p" . projectile-command-map)))

lsp-mode adds support for Microsoft’s Language Server Protocol. Hypothetically that means easier setup of commonly desired features like linting and autocompletion.

lsp-mode uses YASnippet for abbreviation and expansion.

(use-package yasnippet)

nano-modeline and lsp-mode’s breadcrumb trail wrestle with each other for space on that top line. Maybe someday I can figure out how to stack them. Until then, I like the modeline and its placement more than I like the breadcrumb.

(use-package lsp-mode
  (lsp-headerline-breadcrumb-enable nil)

  (setq lsp-keymap-prefix "C-c C-l")

  :hook ((python-mode . lsp-deferred)
         (lsp-mode . lsp-enable-which-key-integration))

  :commands lsp)

(use-package lsp-ui :commands lsp-ui-mode)

(use-package lsp-ivy :commands lsp-ivy-workspace-symbol)

(use-package lsp-treemacs
  :after (lsp-mode treemacs)

  (lsp-treemacs-sync-mode 1)

  :commands lsp-treemacs-errors-list)

Programming Languages


Pyenv for Python versions.

(use-package pyvenv
  :ensure t
  (setenv "WORKON_HOME" "~/.pyenv/versions"))

I manage my projects with Poetry. poetry.el offers a nice Magit-like interface to managing and maintaining Poetry projects.

In particular, it might simplify venv handling when I get to linting tools and language server providers.

(use-package poetry
  :ensure t

Which Key?

which-key adds a completion panel for commands. That helps me learn the many Emacs key maps.

(use-package which-key
  :defer 0
  :diminish which-key-mode
  (setq which-key-idle-delay 1))


Treemacs is a file explorer sidebar. That part is kind of “meh” for me. The outliner provided by lsp-treemacs interests me much more.

To get Treemacs and nano playing nice I had to comment out line 515 of nano-modeline.el in my local copy of nano.

;; (setq-default mode-line-format "")

Watching issue #75 for updates on this problem.

(use-package treemacs
  :ensure t

  :defer t

  (with-eval-after-load 'winum
    (define-key winum-keymap (kbd "M-0") #'treemacs-select-window))

    (setq treemacs-collapse-dirs                   (if treemacs-python-executable 3 0)
          treemacs-deferred-git-apply-delay        0.5
          treemacs-directory-name-transformer      #'identity
          treemacs-display-in-side-window          t
          treemacs-eldoc-display                   'simple
          treemacs-file-event-delay                5000
          treemacs-file-extension-regex            treemacs-last-period-regex-value
          treemacs-file-follow-delay               0.2
          treemacs-file-name-transformer           #'identity
          treemacs-follow-after-init               t
          treemacs-expand-after-init               t
          treemacs-find-workspace-method           'find-for-file-or-pick-first
          treemacs-git-command-pipe                ""
          treemacs-goto-tag-strategy               'refetch-index
          treemacs-indentation                     2
          treemacs-indentation-string              " "
          treemacs-is-never-other-window           nil
          treemacs-max-git-entries                 5000
          treemacs-missing-project-action          'ask
          treemacs-move-forward-on-expand          nil
          treemacs-no-png-images                   nil
          treemacs-no-delete-other-windows         t
          treemacs-project-follow-cleanup          nil
          treemacs-persist-file                    (expand-file-name ".cache/treemacs-persist" user-emacs-directory)
          treemacs-position                        'left
          treemacs-read-string-input               'from-child-frame
          treemacs-recenter-distance               0.1
          treemacs-recenter-after-file-follow      nil
          treemacs-recenter-after-tag-follow       nil
          treemacs-recenter-after-project-jump     'always
          treemacs-recenter-after-project-expand   'on-distance
          treemacs-litter-directories              '("/node_modules" "/.venv" "/.cask")
          treemacs-show-cursor                     nil
          treemacs-show-hidden-files               t
          treemacs-silent-filewatch                nil
          treemacs-silent-refresh                  nil
          treemacs-sorting                         'alphabetic-asc
          treemacs-select-when-already-in-treemacs 'move-back
          treemacs-space-between-root-nodes        t
          treemacs-tag-follow-cleanup              t
          treemacs-tag-follow-delay                1.5
          treemacs-text-scale                      nil
          treemacs-user-mode-line-format           nil
          treemacs-user-header-line-format         nil
          treemacs-wide-toggle-width               70
          treemacs-width                           35
          treemacs-width-increment                 1
          treemacs-width-is-initially-locked       t
          treemacs-workspace-switch-cleanup        nil)

    ;; The default width and height of the icons is 22 pixels. If you are
    ;; using a Hi-DPI display, uncomment this to double the icon size.
    ;;(treemacs-resize-icons 44)

    (treemacs-follow-mode t)
    (treemacs-filewatch-mode t)
    (treemacs-fringe-indicator-mode 'always)

    (pcase (cons (not (null (executable-find "git")))
                 (not (null treemacs-python-executable)))
      (`(t . t)
       (treemacs-git-mode 'deferred))
      (`(t . _)
       (treemacs-git-mode 'simple)))

    (treemacs-hide-gitignored-files-mode nil))
  (:map global-map
        ("M-0"       . treemacs-select-window)
        ("C-x t 1"   . treemacs-delete-other-windows)
        ("C-x t t"   . treemacs)
        ("C-x t d"   . treemacs-select-directory)
        ("C-x t B"   . treemacs-bookmark)
        ("C-x t C-t" . treemacs-find-file)
        ("C-x t M-t" . treemacs-find-tag)))

(use-package treemacs-projectile
  :after (treemacs projectile)
  :ensure t)

I want dired icons, and I want them consistent with my Spaceduck colors.

(use-package treemacs-icons-dired
  :hook (dired-mode . treemacs-icons-dired-enable-once)
  :ensure t
  (treemacs-no-png-images t))

Added to vault 2024-01-24. Updated on 2024-02-01