Org-mode outside Org-mode

Table of Contents

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Once one gets used to Org-mode, it's hard to live without it. Even its most basic feature, the hierarchical tree-like structuring of files, can be missed badly when editing files in other GNU Emacs major-modes, not to mention the convenient navigation, structure-editing and visibility-cycling functionality Org-mode offers for these tree-like structures.

One especially important case where Org-mode users might miss Org-mode functionality is their .emacs configuration file. These Emacs Lisp files might become huge, for example Fabrice Niessen's .emacs has some 9720 lines, and structuring them only using Emacs Lisp comments (;) easily becomes a creative nightmare (many approaches for structuring a .emacs file can be found on the very unofficial dotemacs home page).

Another typical case where Org-mode's editing facilities are missing is writing the comment-header sections of Emacs Lisp source code files. These sections often contain extensive explanations of the development-history, installation-process and usage of the library, but are just that - Emacs Lisp comment-sections. Sometimes even the comment-strings of important and complex Emacs Lisp functions contain long and complicated text parts that are not easy to edit as comments.

Last not least, anybody who has used C-c C-j (org-goto) for looking up a different location in the current org-file, keeping current visibility, might have wondered if a kind of 'remote-buffer-control' via an associated read-only buffer might not be a generally useful idea.

Org-mode everywhere

File Structuring


One possibility to enjoy Org-mode's structure-editing and list-formatting facilities outside Org-mode buffers is Orgstruct minor mode. Let's cite from the Org-mode manual:

If you like the intuitive way the Org mode structure editing and list
formatting works, you might want to use these commands in other modes like
Text mode or Mail mode as well. The minor mode orgstruct-mode makes this
possible. [...]

When this mode is active and the cursor is on a line that looks to Org like a
headline or the first line of a list item, most structure editing commands
will work, even if the same keys normally have different functionality in
the major mode you are using. If the cursor is not in one of those special
lines, Orgstruct mode lurks silently in the shadows. When you use
orgstruct++-mode, Org will also export indentation and autofill settings
into that mode, and detect item context after the first line of an item.

orgstruct currently does NOT work with outorg and navi-mode (see below for a description of these libraries). To make both libraries work with orgstruct-buffers just like with outshine-buffers, it would be necessary to:

  1. Structure the file with outshine-style headings (e.g. ;; * Header)
  2. Make Orgstruct calculate and set file-local variable outline-regexp the way outshine does.
  3. Make Orgstruct calculate and set file-local variable outline-level the way outshine does.
  4. Make Orgstruct calculate and set file-local variable outline-promotion-headings the way outshine does.

Then, maybe after a few minor tweaks in the libraries themselves, outorg and navi-mode wouldn't care if they deal with an orgstruct-buffer or an outshine-buffer.

Outline with Outshine

History and Credits

outshine is a merge and extension of older extensions for outline-minor-mode. More exactly, outshine developed out of the now obsolete outxxtra.el, Thorsten Jolitz's modified extension of Per Abrahamsen's out-xtra.el. With the blessing of it's (well-known) author Carsten Dominik, Thorsten Jolitz could merge the (slightly modified) outline-magic.el with outxxtra.el and extend them into the new outshine.el library. Thus, if you use outline with outshine, you don't need outline-magic and out-xtra anymore. However, outshine does not make either of these two libraries obsolete, since it has a more specialized approach and might not be able to replace them in all cases.

Furthermore, `outshine.el' includes functions and keybindings from outline-mode-easy-bindings. Unfortunately, no author is given for that library, so I cannot credit the person who wrote it.

So what is outshine? It's an extension library for outline-minor-mode that gives buffers in different major-modes the 'look-and-feel' of Org-mode buffers and enables the use of outorg and navi-mode on them.

To sum it up in one sentence:

Outline with Outshine outshines Outline


Download outshine.el (or clone the github-repo) and copy it to a location where Emacs can find it:
git clone

Use this in your '.emacs' to get started:

(require 'outshine)
(add-hook 'outline-minor-mode-hook 'outshine-hook-function)

If you like the functions and keybindings for 'M -' navigation and visibility cycling copied from `outline-mode-easy-bindings', you might want to put the following code into your Emacs init file to have the same functionality/keybindings available in Org-mode too, overriding the less frequently used commands for moving and promoting/demoting subtrees (but clashing with 'org-table' keybindings):

(when (require 'outshine nil 'NOERROR)
  (add-hook 'org-mode-hook
            (lambda ()
              ;; Redefine arrow keys, since promoting/demoting and moving
              ;; subtrees up and down are less frequent tasks then
              ;; navigation and visibility cycling
                (org-defkey org-mode-map
                            (kbd "M-<left>") 'outline-hide-more)
                (org-defkey org-mode-map
                            (kbd "M-<right>") 'outline-show-more)
                (org-defkey org-mode-map
                            (kbd "M-<up>") 'outline-previous-visible-heading)
                (org-defkey org-mode-map
                            (kbd "M-<down>") 'outline-next-visible-heading))

Add this if you (e.g.) always want outline/outshine for emacs-lisp buffers (recommended):

(add-hook 'emacs-lisp-mode-hook 'outline-minor-mode)

If you want a different prefix key for outline-minor-mode, insert first (e.g.):

(defvar outline-minor-mode-prefix "\C-c")

or whatever you like best to replace the (quite unusable) original prefix "\C-c @". The prefix can only be changed before outline (minor) mode is loaded.

Outshine's fundamental idea

outshine is based on a very simple yet powerful idea, that enables its use in any Emacs major-mode (in theory at least):

Outshine headlines are Org-mode headlines out-commented with comment-region

Thus, the file at hand must be outline-structured 'the outshine way', i.e. with the headlines being proper Org-mode headlines, marked and outcommented with comment-region. As an example, to generate a 3rd level outshine-headline in an Emacs Lisp file, write down

| *** Third Level Header 

mark the header line, and apply comment-region on it:

| ;; *** Third Level Header 

In a LaTeX file, an adecuate header will look like this:

| % *** Third Level Header 

and in a PicoLisp file like this (always depending of the major-mode specific values of comment-start, comment-end, comment-add and comment-padding):

| ## *** Third Level Header 

outshine.el, outorg.el and navi-mode.el are all examples of how to structure emacs-lisp source files with outshine-style headlines.

Fontification, Navigation and Structure Editing

After structuring a source code file the 'outshine-way' and loading outline-minor-mode with outshine-extensions, the file will have a very Org-mode like 'look-and-feel'. The headlines (up to level 8) are fontified the same way Org-mode headlines are fontified, and the very specific navigation and structure editing commands of outline-minor-mode as well as their more general Org-mode style counterparts are available:

outline-minor-mode Minor Mode Bindings:

key binding
C-c PrefixCommand
<M-down> outline-next-visible-heading
<M-left> outline-hide-more
<M-right> outline-show-more
<M-up> outline-previous-visible-heading
<tab> outshine-cycle-subtree
<backtab> outshine-cycle-buffer
C-c C-a show-all
C-c C-b outline-backward-same-level
C-c C-c hide-entry
C-c C-d hide-subtree
C-c C-e show-entry
C-c C-f outline-forward-same-level
C-c TAB show-children
C-c C-k show-branches
C-c C-l hide-leaves
C-c RET outline-insert-heading
C-c C-n outline-next-visible-heading
C-c C-o outline-hide-other
C-c C-p outline-previous-visible-heading
C-c C-q outline-hide-sublevels
C-c C-s show-subtree
C-c C-t hide-body
C-c C-u outline-up-heading
C-c C-v outline-move-subtree-down
C-c C-^ outline-move-subtree-up
C-c ' outorg-edit-as-org
C-c @ outline-mark-subtree
C-c I outline-previous-visible-heading
C-c J outline-hide-more
C-c K outline-next-visible-heading
C-c L outline-show-more
C-c C-< outline-promote
C-c C-> outline-demote

Subtree and Comment Editing


Once a (outshine) source code buffer looks and behaves like an Org-mode buffer, it would be nice to have the full editing power of Org-mode available when editing the (comment) text parts or overall structure of the buffer.

Think "reverse Org-Babel": editing of comment-sections or entire subtrees from source code files in temporary Org-mode buffers instead of editing of Org-mode source-blocks in temporary source-code buffers.

There are two new libraries available for editing with Org-mode in other major-modes, outorg and poporg. Although developed independently with very different implementations, both libraries complement each other very well in their functionality.


Introduction and Installation

outorg is a library written by Thorsten Jolitz on top of his outshine library. Thus, outorg needs outshine, and files that are structured with outshine-style headers, otherwise it won't work (note that 'oldschool' Emacs Lisp files with headers matched by =^;;;+ = are a special case where outorg works too).

You can download the file (or clone the github-repo) here:
git clone

outorg requires Org-mode too, thus should be loaded after Org-mode. Insert

(require 'outorg)

in your .emacs and you are done.


outorg's main command is

| C-c ' (outorg-edit-as-org)

used in source-code buffers where `outline-minor-mode' is activated with `outshine' extensions. The Org-mode edit-buffer popped up by this command has `outorg-edit-minor-mode' activated, a minor-mode with only 2 commands:

| M-# (outorg-copy-edits-and-exit)
| C-x C-s (outorg-save-edits-to-tmp-file)

If you want to insert Org-mode source-code or example blocks in comment-sections, simply outcomment them in the outorg-edit buffer before calling `outorg-copy-edits-and-exit'.

Thus, with point inside a subtree or on a subtree header, pressing C-c ' (outorg-edit-as-org) will open this subtree in a temporary Org-mode edit buffer, with all out-commented parts in the original buffer uncommented, and all source code parts enclosed in Org-mode source blocks.

When outorg-edit-as-org is called with a prefix C-u, the whole source-code buffer will be transformed into Org-mode and offered for editing in a temporary Org-mode buffer, all headlines folded except the subtree where point was in.

If the original-buffer was read-only, the user is asked if he wants to make it writable for the Org-mode editing. If he answers yes, the buffer can be edited, but will be set back to read-only again after editing is finished.

To avoid accidental loss of edits, the temporary outorg-edit-buffer is backed up in the OS /tmp directory. During editing, the outorg-edit-buffer can be saved as usual with save-buffer via C-x C-s. Even when killed by accident, that last state of the outorg-edit-buffer will be saved and can be recovered.

When done with editing in Org-mode, M-# (Meta-key and #) is used to call outorg-copy-edits-and-exit, a command that orderly exits the edit-buffer by converting the (modified) comment-sections back to comments and extracting the source-code parts out of the Org-mode source-code blocks.

Please note: outorg is line-based, it only works with 'one-line' comments, i.e. with comment-sections like those produced by `comment-region' (a command that comments or uncomments each line in the region). Those special multi-line comments found in many programming languages are not recognized and lead to undefined behaviour.

Outorg vs Poporg

outorg works on subtrees (or whole buffers).

One advantage of this is that there is always a complete subtree (-hierarchy) in the outorg-edit-buffer, thus not only the Orgmode editing functionality can be applied, but also its export facilities and many other commands that act on headlines or subtrees. As an example, in order to produce the nice README.txt files for the github-repos of outshine, outorg and navi-mode, I simply called outorg-edit-as-org on the first 1st-level-headline of the source-code files (the file header comment-sections) and exported the subtree to ASCII.

One disadvantage of this is that comment-strings of (e.g. emacs-lips) functions cannot be edited comfortably, since after transformation of the source-code buffer they end up inside Org-mode source-code blocks - as comment-strings, just like before.

Enters poporg. It will be described in much detail in the next section, but it can already be mentioned here that it does exactly what outorg cannot do well - Org-mode editing of atomic, isolated comment-strings, no matter where they are found in the source code buffer. And it is, in contrast to outorg, completely independent from outline structuring with e.g. outshine or orgstruct.


[NOTE: This section of the tutorial is copied from, where you can find the poporg.el file too, and only slightly modified]


poporg is a small Emacs Lisp project written by François Pinard, to help editing program string or comments using Org mode.

Literate programming with Org is often presented as mixing programs snippets within an Org document, with tools to extract pure programs out of the Org files. I (François) would prefer it the other way around: mixing documentation snippets within program source code, with tools to extract pure Org documentation from the source files.

Emacs does not nicely handle multiple major modes in a single buffer. So far, many solutions have been implemented, all yielding some level of happiness, but none are perfect. The poporg approach avoids the problem by extracting the block comment or the string, from a buffer using a major programming mode, into a separate buffer to be edited in Org mode, but containing only that block comment or that string. Once the edit is completed, the modified comment or string gets re-integrated in the buffer containing the program, replacing the original contents.


To install poporg, move files poporg.el and rebox.el at a place where Emacs will find them. You might byte-compile the files if you want.

To use poporg, you need to pick some unused keybinding and add a few lines to your ~/.emacs file. For one, I picked C-c e o and added these lines:

(autoload 'poporg-dwim "poporg" nil t)
(global-set-key "\C-ceo" 'poporg-dwim)

Another possibility would be to use

(global-set-key "\C-c `" 'poporg-dwim)

i.e. C-c and backquote, just to harmonize a bit the keybindings for outorg and poporg, but note that this keybinding is already in use in Org-mode too.


While editing a buffer containing a program, you may edit a comment block or a string (often a doc-string) in Org mode by placing the cursor within or nearby that comment or string, and calling poporg-dwim using your selected keybinding. This pops another buffer in Org Mode (hence the project name), containing the comment or string. Once your edition is done, right in the popped up editing buffer, call poporg-dwim again to complete the edition, or merely kill that buffer to abandon the edition.

More precisely, if the cursor is within a comment block or a string, this is what gets edited. If the cursor is not within a comment block or a string, a comment or string following the cursor gets selected instead. Otherwise, this is the comment or string which precedes the cursor which is selected for edition. Python mode receives a special treatment: if the cursor is within a string, it is assumed to be a sextuple-quoted string (that is, a triple double-quoted one), and this is what the tool selects.

While the comment or string is being copied in the editing buffer and until the edition is completed, the original comment or string in the original buffer is greyed out and protected against accidental modification. Calling poporg-dwim again from within a greyed out region recovers the editing buffer, it does not create a new one. poporg asks for confirmation when the user attempts to kill an editing buffer which has modifications. poporg also prevents the original buffer from being killed while there are pending poporg edits, the user should either complete or abandon all those edits before killing the original buffer.

Functions added to poporg-edit-hook are run once the poporg editing buffer has been set up with its contents, with the common prefix already removed, these functions may further modify the buffer contents. Functions added to poporg-edit-exit-hook are run when poporg is about to reinstate the common prefix and move back the editing buffer contents into the original programming buffer, these functions may alter the contents as needed. (I (François) did not need these hooks, so let's talk if you need them to be defined differenty!)

Known bugs

The following list is organized in decreasing order of approximative or subjective priority. You may also check if there are any issues on GitHub.

  • If the cursor is located immediately before the opening delimiter of a string before poporg-dwim, some extraneous text to edit may be collected from before the cursor.
  • The protective measures against losing a pending edition do not work when the user plainly exits Emacs.
  • If characters are added immediately before or immediately after the region being edited, while the edition is pending, the characters after the region are preserved when the user completes its poporg edition, but the characters before the region are lost, while they should have been preserved.
  • Even if a region being edited is intangible (meaning that the cursor cannot be pushed into it), it is not read-only and could have its contents deleted by editing from either end of the region. I suspect (without being sure) that this bug, and the preceding one, come from the fact overlays and text-properties do not behave the same.
  • Ideally, the region being edited should be read-only but not intangible, in that the cursor could be moved into it, from where a poporg-dwim command would popup the associated edit buffer. This would be particularly useful when a user has many pending poporg edits.
  • It has been suggested, and rightly so, that C-c C-c would be a nice keybinding for completing a poporg edit. The problem with this is that the edit buffer uses Org mode, where C-c C-c is overcrowded with many functionnalities already; some care would be needed to make sure this command, used with another intent, does not unexpectedly close the edition.
  • I (François) do not much like that poporg depends on Rebox, which is a complex piece of code compared to the reminder of poporg. For comments, Rebox studies the file contents to guess comment delimiters and box styles, while for strings, poporg rather relies the syntax analysis previously made by the programming major mode, and expressed through faces. These approaches are too different, maybe both are wrong anyway. Moreover, the faces approach easily fools poporg when a comment or string does not use a uniform face. One advantage of using Rebox might be that it brings poporg closer to the capability of editing Org mode comments for a wider variety of boxing patterns.
  • Once the string and comment is back into the programming buffer, we loose Org mode highlighting and presentation details, which is unfortunate. Multiple editing modes in Emacs are not able to highlight sections of a file according to the intended mode for each section: there is a single mode for the whole buffer in fact. Org mode, on the other hand, has the virtue of correctly highlighting the code snippets it contains, so surely, there is a way to do things as they should, that might be understood and recycled, I'm not sure.
  • poporg should ideally be accompanied by a set of conventions and some tools for proper extraction of an Org file out of program sources. One is already provided for Python, it would be nice to also have some support for other languages.

poporg recycles a few ideas from two previous Emacs projects:

  • my (François) PO mode (source and documentation), for the idea of using separate buffers for edition. For PO files, the need is quite clear: msgstr strings use escaping which is easy to get wrong, so the idea of a separate buffer is a way to remove that concern from the user, PO mode unquotes before presenting the string to the user, and requotes it once the editing is completed. This was also solving the problem that msgid and msgstr fields, and the reminder of the PO file, could be using different character sets.
  • my (François) Rebox tool (source and documentation), for finding the boundaries of block comments. Originally in Emacs Lisp, this tool has later rewritten in Python at the time I was developing Pymacs, with a few minor improvements while doing so. Le Wang, starting from my old Emacs Lisp, wrote a much enhanced version (source and video). For poporg, however, the needs are modest, so it includes the old Emacs Lisp version. See the very last section of the Rebox documentation for more historial context.
Other tools

Major programming modes show comments and strings in full, and when these comments or strings are written using Org, with all parts of a link visible, it may be disruptive to those sensible to line width limits. The nice org-link-minor-mode tool takes good care of this, by hiding the usually invisible parts of an Org link in other modes.

Org comes with many tools for spreading Org over other major modes, among which the following minor modes which may be added to other major modes:


Org also has the following globally available commands:

Command Usual keybinding
org-store-link C-c l
org-insert-link-global C-c L
org open-at-point-global C-c O
  • PEP8 validation

    The width of Org links often triggers the line length limit check of the pep8 program, which gets annoying when one uses flymake to get real-time feedback while writing. To silence these, I took advantage of this nice workaround, installing a pep8 replacement program, and managed so flymake uses that replacement program instead of pep8.

  • Extractor for Python

    The tool in this poporg project has the purpose of extracting and processing the Org contents of a set of Python sources. I used the .py suffix just in case there could be other extradoc.LANG tools for similarly handling sources in other languages. This tool presumes that all Org text is made up by concatenating the content of all sextuple-quoted strings (I mean triple double-quoted strings). Moreover, prefixed strings are not recognized. Here is its own documentation:

    Extract documentation from one or more Python sources.
    Documentation lies in all unprefixed, sextuple-quoted strings.
    Usage: [OPTION]... [SOURCE]...
      -c PREFIX     Common prefix for all output files.
      -s            Split output in directory PREFIX, obey #+FILE directives.
      -h            Produce an HTML file, either PREFIX.html or PREFIX/NAME.html.
      -o            Produce an Org file, either or PREFIX/
      -p            Produce a PDF file, either PREFIX.pdf or PREFIX/NAME.pdf.
      -t            Produce a translation file, name will be PREFIX.pot.
      -v            Be verbose and repeat all of Emacs output.
      -D SYM        Define SYMbol as being True
      -D SYM=EXPR   Define SYMbol with the value of EXPR.
      -I TAGS       Only include sections having one of TAGS in their header.
      -X TAGS       Exclude sections having one of TAGS in their header.
    If no SOURCE are given, the program reads and process standard input.
    Option -c is mandatory.  If -h or -p are used and -o is not, file
    should not pre-exist, as the program internally writes it and then deletes it.
    Some non-standard Org directives are recognized:
      #+FILE:   Switch output to, also requires -s.
      #+IF EXPR          Produce following lines only if EXPR is true, else skip.
      #+ELIF EXPR        Expected meaning within an #+IF block.
      #+ELSE             Expected meaning within an #+IF block.
      #+ENDIF            Expected meaning to end an #+IF block.
    EXPRs above are Python expressions, eval context comes from -D options.
    TAGS represents a comma-separated list of Org tags.  To get through, a line
    should go through the #+IF system, not be within an excluded section, and if
    any included sections is specified, then either be part of one of them or
    within the introduction (that is, before the first header).

Remote Buffer Control

While visibility-cycling and outline-navigation commands make it very convenient to work even with big Org-mode or outshine buffers, it can't be denied that a read-only "twin-buffer" with one-key command-bindings, exclusively for navigation and high-level structure editing of the associated original-buffer, can be even more convenient.

Enters navi-mode, a major-mode by Thorsten Jolitz derived from and inspired by occur-mode (and, to a certain extend, the org-goto command). Just like outorg, navi-mode depends on outshine and works only with source-code files structured with 'outshine-style' outline-headers. It does work with Org-mode files and 'oldschool' Emacs Lisp files too, though.

A navi-buffer is a kind of "remote-control" for its associated original-buffer. It offers a vast amount of views on the original-buffer via predefined occur-searches that combine headlines and (programming-language specific) keywords. It further allows many frequent actions on the subtree at point to be triggered directly from the navi-buffer, without (visibly) switching to the original-buffer where the actions take place.

A special feature of navi-mode is its customizability. It predefines all ASCII printing characters as keybindings for the navi-generic-command, and users can therefore map their user-defined regexp-searches (customizable variable navi-keywords) to any of the many free one-key bindings (in customizable variable navi-key-mappings). These customizations are made by programming-language, thus the Emacs community could work out default 'alists' for many languages that then may be used and modified by the users.

navi-mode's author Thorsten Jolitz already worked out two configurations, one for Emacs Lisp and the other for PicoLisp. You could use them as inspiration for a configuration of your favorite programming language - and send these 'alists' to him so that he can include them in the library. The more predefined sets of keyword searches there are, the easier to use navi-mode with many languages.

About navi-mode

navi-mode implements extensions for occur-mode. You can think of a navi-buffer as a kind of 'remote-control' for an (adecuately) outline-structured original-buffer. It enables quick navigation and basic structure editing in the original-buffer without (necessarily) leaving the navi-buffer. When switching to the original-buffer and coming back after some modifications, the navi-buffer is always reverted (thus up-to-date).

Besides the fundamental outline-heading-searches (8 outline-levels) and the 5 basic keyword-searches (:FUN, :VAR, :DB, :OBJ and :ALL), all languages can have their own set of searches and keybindings (see navi-key-mappings and navi-keywords). Heading-searches and keyword-searches can be combined, offering a vast amount of possible 'views' at the original-buffer.


Download (or clone the github-repos of) the three required libraries

  git clone

and put them in a place where Emacs can find them (on the Emacs 'load-path'). Follow the installation instructions in outshine.el and outorg.el.

Install navi-mode.el by adding

(require 'navi-mode)

to your .emacs file.

For navi-mode to work, the original-buffer must be outline-structured 'the outshine way', i.e. with the headlines being proper Org-mode headlines, marked and outcommented with comment-region (but oldschool Emacs Lisp headers like ;;; header level 1 work too) .

The second assumption is that outline-minor-mode is activated in the original-buffer and outshine.el loaded like described in its installation instructions (except for Org-mode files).

When these pre-conditions are fullfilled (outorg.el must be loaded too), you can use M-s n (navi-search-and-switch) to open a navi-buffer and immediately switch to it. The new navi-buffer will show the first-level headings of the original-buffer, with point at the first entry.

You can then:

  • Show headlines (up-to) different levels:
key command function-name
1 … 8 show levels 1 to 8 navi-generic-command
  • Navigate up and down in the search results shown in the navi-buffer:
key command function-name
p previous occur-prev
n next occur-next
DEL down page scroll-down-command
SPC up page scroll-up-command
  • Revert the navi-buffer (seldom necessary), show help for the user-defined keyword-searches, and quit the navi-buffer and switch-back to the original-buffer:
key command function-name
g revert buffer navi-revert-function
h show help navi-show-help
q quit navi-mode and switch navi-quit-and-switch
  • Switch to the original-buffer and back to the navi-buffer, display an occurence in the original-buffer or go to the occurence:
key command function-name
M-s n launch navi-buffer navi-search-and-switch
M-s s switch to other buffer navi-switch-to-twin-buffer
M-s M-s    
d display occurrence occur-mode-display-occurrence
o goto occurrence navi-goto-occurrence-other-window
  • Structure editing on subtrees and visibility cycling
key command function-name
TAB cycle subtrees navi-cycle-subtree
<backtab> cycle buffer navi-cycle-buffer
+ Demote Subtree navi-demote-subtree
- promote subtree navi-promote-subtree
\^ move up subtree (same level) navi-move-up-subtree
< move down subtree (same level) navi-move-down-subtree
  • Miscancellous actions on subtrees
key command function-name
m mark subtree navi-mark-subtree-and-switch
c copy subtree navi-copy-subtree-to-register-s
k kill subtree navi-kill-subtree
y yank killed/copied subtree navi-yank-subtree-from-register-s
u undo last change navi-undo
r narrow to subtree navi-narrow-to-subtree
w widen navi-widen
l query-replace navi-query-replace
i isearch navi-isearch
e edit as org (outorg) navi-edit-as-org
  • Furthermore, there are five (semantically) predefined keyword-searches:
key keyword-symbol searches for
f :FUN functions, macros etc.
v :VAR vars, consts, customs etc.
x :OBJ OOP (classes, methods etc)
b :DB DB (store and select)
a :ALL all
  • And (potentially) many more user-defined keyword-searches

(example Emacs Lisp):

key keyword-symbol searches for
F :defun (defun
V :defvar (defvar
C :defconst (defconst
G :defgroup (defgroup
U :defcustom (defcustom
A :defadvice (defadvice
M :defmacro (defmacro
E :defface (defface
S :defstruct (defstruct
L :defclass (defclass
  • Headline-searches and keyword-searches can be combined, e.g.
| C-2 f 

in a navi-buffer associated to an Emacs Lisp source file shows all headlines up-to level 2 as well as all function, macro and advice definitions in the original-buffer,

| C-5 a 

shows all headlines up-to level 5 as well as all functions, variables, classes, methods, objects, and database-related definitions. The exact meaning of the standard keyword-searches 'f' and 'a' must be defined with a regexp in the customizable variable `navi-keywords' (just like the user-defined keyword-searches).


There are some screencasts on Youtube that show the libraries mentioned in this article in action:

topic url
Modern conventions for Emacs Lisp files
Exploring Bernt Hansen's Org-mode tutorial with 'navi-mode'
Exploring my dot emacs file with 'navi-mode'
Exploring a PicoLisp source file with GNU Emacs navi-mode

'Modern conventions for Emacs Lisp files' is probably the video you should watch first, it explores 'navi-mode.el' itself as an Emacs Lisp library structured the 'outshine way', and shows the use of outline-minor-mode, outorg, poporg and navi-mode on such a file. And is has the best background music.

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