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I've already seen several times the org-mode application between applications for productivity, information processing, planning, note-taking etc.

I wonder what are the advantages of this application, what unique features does it bring to the user?

Has it some advantage to organize life in plain text? The mastering of this tool takes a lot of time. Will it be worth it?

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Wouldn't reading the docs be the quickest way to answer this? – Dave Newton Apr 12 '12 at 23:14
@DaveNewton I'm rather interested in why people prefer this tool over another tools. – xralf Apr 13 '12 at 7:49
You don't have to use org-mode to organzize your life in plain text. I personally use a combination of Taskwarrior and plain text files (+markdown markup) synced via dropbox to do a lot of my note taking. This approach needs little effort to learn and is powerful enough for me. The reasons to use org-mode or a setup like mine is that it is independent from any service provider, internet connection or software installation (you can read your data even in the most basic text editor). – 0x6d64 Apr 14 '12 at 12:49
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I use org-mode a lot.

But you can really use the setup you want. I tried to use todo lists inside org-mode but I prefer other dedicated tools for my todos (like Omnifocus). Mainly for the easier capture tools and sync options those dedicated tools have.

But I use org-mode all the time to take notes on projects, books, ideas, write articles etc. I am quicker with org-mode because of all the emacs shortcuts and tools I already use while programming.

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I'm glad that somebody who uses it answered. I'm not using emacs editor, so I decided not to learn org-mode. Thanks – xralf Apr 17 '12 at 6:25
OTOH, org-mode is often cited as, if not a 'killer app' (I don't expect the guy who cuts my hair to start using emacs), then at least a great reason to learn emacs. I would agree with that. – Croad Langshan Mar 29 '15 at 15:45

So my take on this is that this is the ideal bit of kit for those people who live their lives inside emacs - personally I'm cult of vim rather than church of emacs and I've got a lot of my project review stuff running as macros in there. But I think the point I might make here is the importance of small steps. It's my position that it is very hard to start using any system effectively from the get go - my impression of org-mode is that it would very much suit programmery types who already spent a lot of time in emacs and already use a text file todo list- for those people it gives some powerful new features and adoption is very easy - for other people the entry bar might be a little high…

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I started using org-mode some weeks ago for my todolist-system, as I was searching for a highly customizable and powerful solution based on plain text and platform independent... I'm quite happy with it, but it is really difficult to get into it (especially as I had never "really" used emacs before). I've adopted the very good system presented here and try to learn step by step its features: – MostlyHarmless Apr 17 '12 at 10:26
I'm also a 'vim person' and use vimwki ( for a similar purpose to emacs' org-mode. It's absolutely clear that someone who already successfully uses emacs or vim for other purposes should stick there for his personal productivity management, as both editors are extremely powerful 'places to be in' when you start mastering the normal mode / shortcuts. – Dalker Apr 21 '12 at 7:51
This is a great answer. Still, I would say if you're at all "programmery" (which I think includes a lot of people who are not programmers), maybe put org-mode in your tickler file or someday/maybe list, because it's a high quality system. – Croad Langshan Mar 29 '15 at 15:48

I was a Vim user for 4 years now but org-mode caused me to change. Here's why:

  • It's a text file !

No proprietary hooplah, No special (bloated) software needed to open and the ability to view it on practically ANY device with a screen. Did I mention it's cross-platform?

  • It's small !

Not so much of a new point but an addition to the above. Because these are plain text files, their sizes are incredibly small. I can write all my notes of all my semesters of school in <1MB. Plus, I can use Dropbox or even better, Github (or BitBucket if you want to keep it private) for syncing with home and office computers.

  • It supports LaTeX

If you are taking notes and it includes formulas and you are using some tool built for generic project planning/note taking; best of luck with formula writing.

  • The sheer number of output modes available

C-c, C-e and you have options to export as PDF, HTML, Calender and what not ! If I write out mathematical notes, I can create a nice PDF for my use and a nice HTML (including the nice LaTeX markup for others to see)

  • The breadth of use/Versatility

You want to take math notes? It can do it. You want to schedule meetings, set deadlines, create TODO lists, do some GTD, maybe even some pomodoro. Whatever it is. org-mode can do it.

  • The community

Have a problem? I can assure you that you won't have it an hour later if you look into the documentation or the mailing lists. The community is just too awesome. (Although this seem biased, I wish to reiterate that I used {and still use to a large extent} Vim for coding)

  • It's fast.

It's text based, it's emacs, it's fast. I read a joke somewhere that you can start emacs in org-mode and begin taking notes before your friend can say "Evernote". I personally love using it in emacs -nw in TTY mode so I work on one screen and there are no distractions and believe me, it's superfast.

  • It's hard. But it's worth it.

After all, it's emacs. And no one can deny that emacs is pretty much raw infinite power in your hand. You can get started with org-mode in less than 10 commands and you'll do fine but if you invest in learning more, you'll never regret it.

Some things which are NOT true about emacs org-mode:

  • It is made for programmers.

Programmers have an easier time if they already use emacs. A person using Vim but has been coding for 50 years will have as much trouble learning it as a computer n00b. Certain things are off-putting for n00bs (especially who are used to nice GUI interfaces of iOS devices) but again, it's worth it. {Side note: It was more irritating to learn emacs after vim since I kept hitting ESC, :w every 2 minute only to find weird things happening}

  • The era of text editors is over.

Not by a long shot. org-mode is 100% Open Source and Free. Even if the world stopped using text-editor altogether (I don't see this happening unless a Genocide of all *NIX users takes place), you can gladly keep using it. Also, org-mode isn't an unstable piece of open source software which has bugs every other day. It's VERY robust and for all things that normal people would do, it's practically unbreakable.

Side Note: For people suggesting Vim's org-mode (VimOrganizer or vim org-mode), my experiences with them have not been great and there are many other reasons but that's beyond the scope of this answer.

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  • Low latency. Its fast and as an advanced user I defined my own caputre templates to make it even more faster.
  • You have total control of your files. When I had a blackberry I was using a tool and after one week being abroad on holidays I found out that my data was lost. Ok, it could be recovered from the backups, but it was bizarre anyway. And just remember that IQTELL (another good GTD app) was considering to close their service recently because their business model didn't work as expected. Take this and imagine, that in 10 years from now your text file will still be there while many so fancy apps won't be there anymore. And not every app allows you to export your data completely.

If you're interested to see OrgMode at work, I've created a series of tutorial videos recently and I'm still adding new videos.

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