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org-protocol.el – Intercept calls from emacsclient to trigger custom actions

org-protocol intercepts calls from emacsclient to trigger custom actions without external dependencies. Only one protocol has to be configured with your external applications or the operating system, to trigger an arbitrary number of custom actions. Just register your custom sub-protocol and handler with the variable `org-protocol-protocol-alist'.

About org-protocol.el

org-protocol.el is based on code and ideas from org-annotation-helper.el and org-browser-url.el.

"org-protocol:/sub-protocol:/" triggers actions associated with sub-protocol through the custom variable org-protocol-protocol-alist.

It comes with four predefined handlers:

triggered through the sub-protocol "store-link". Stores an Org-link and pushes the URL to the kill-ring.
Fill a CAPTURE buffer with information gathered somewhere else. This handler is triggered through the "capture" sub-protocol and uses the function org-capture.
Fills a remember buffer with information gathered somewhere else. This handler is triggered through the "remember" sub-protocol and still available for backward compatibility. This handler uses org-remember. Use the current org-protocol-capture.
"open-source". Maps URLs to local filenames. Use this to open sources of already published contents in emacs for editing.

org-protocol helps creating custom handlers (tutorial) and so called org-protocol-projects.

@<b>As of Org mode release 7.01 org-protocol-remember is now by org-protocol-capture.@</b> If not stated otherwise, you may simply replace each occurrence of capture with remember throughout this document, if you still want to use remember templates. Use M-x org-version to find out about the version you're using.


  • To load org-protocol.el add the following to your .emacs:

    (add-to-list 'load-path "~/path/to/org/protocol/")
    (require 'org-protocol)

Browser / system setup

GNU/Linux setup

Most common desktop environments (Gnome, KDE et al) comply with the XDG Desktop Entry Specification. This means setting up emacsclient as the org-protocol handler using a .desktop file can be regarded as a, in most cases, standard way to set this up in most common desktop environments.

Some environments, e.g. Gnome as of Gnome 3, have deprecated other configuration methods, e.g. gconftool-2 to set-up protocol handling.

Create an org-protocol.desktop file either in ~/.local/share/applications/ to set-up emacsclient as the org-protocol handler for the current user or in /usr/share/applications to set-up a system-wide configuration:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Intercept calls from emacsclient to trigger custom actions
Exec=emacsclient -- %u

Update the cache database of MIME types handled by desktop files via:

update-desktop-database ~/.local/share/applications/

Windows setup

Windows users may register the "org-protocol" once for all by adjusting the following to their facts, save it as *.reg file and double-click it. This worked for me on Windows-XP Professional and the emasc23 from ourcomments.org (http://ourcomments.org/cgi-bin/emacsw32-dl-latest.pl). I'm no Windows user though and enhancements are more than welcome on the org-mode mailinglist. The original file is from http://kb.mozillazine.org/Register_protocol.


@="URL:Org Protocol"
"URL Protocol"=""
@="\"C:\\Programme\\Emacs\\emacs\\bin\\emacsclientw.exe\" \"%1\""

Mac OS X setup

Follow the directions for installing EmacsClient.app from https://github.com/neil-smithline-elisp/EmacsClient.app. This should configure the org-protocol for all Mac OS X browsers.

After installing EmacsClient.app you should then Verify the installation. Once verified, you can begin Using org-protocol.

If that doesn't work, you might check https://github.com/xuchunyang/setup-org-protocol-on-mac for building a custom handler, combined with the per-browser config information below.



If you are using Firefox on Mac OS X, see Mac OS X setup.

Please refer to http://kb.mozillazine.org/Register_protocol and use "org-protocol" as protocol.

Acrobat Reader

Adapted from https://list.orgmode.org/loom.20080527T012114-502@post.gmane.org

You place a javascript file for each menu entry in ~/.adobe/Acrobat/<VERSION>/JavaScripts on unix-like systems or c:/Program Files/Adobe/Acrobat <VERSION>/Reader/Javascripts/ on Windows, or wherever your Adobe Reader Installation might look for javascript.

The examples given here will place new menu entries in the "Tools" menu, after restarting Adobe Reader.

  • org-store-link.js
    // from https://list.orgmode.org/loom.20080527T012114-502@post.gmane.org
    app.addMenuItem({cName:"org-store-link", cParent:"Tools",
       cExec:"app.launchURL('org-protocol://store-link://' + encodeURIComponent(this.URL) + '/' + encodeURIComponent(this.info.Title));"});
  • org-capture.js
    // from https://list.orgmode.org/loom.20080527T012114-502@post.gmane.org
    app.addMenuItem({cName:"org-capture", cParent:"Tools",
       cExec:"app.launchURL('org-protocol://capture://' + encodeURIComponent(this.URL) + '/' + encodeURIComponent(this.info.Title) + '/');"});

    And this one, if you still use remember templates:

  • org-remember.js
    // from https://list.orgmode.org/loom.20080527T012114-502@post.gmane.org
    app.addMenuItem({cName:"org-remember", cParent:"Tools",
       cExec:"app.launchURL('org-protocol://remember://' + encodeURIComponent(this.URL) + '/' + encodeURIComponent(this.info.Title) + '/');"});


If you are using Opera on Mac OS X, see Mac OS X setup.

Opera setup is described here: http://www.opera.com/support/kb/view/535/.

To set up opera for use with org-protocol, follow these steps:

  1. Choose "Tools" -> "Prefences" from the menu.
  2. Select the tab "Advanced".
  3. Choose "Programs" from the list on the left.
  4. Now click the button "Add" on the very right.
  5. In the new dialog window, enter "org-protocol" as "Protocol", choose the radio button "Open with other application" and enter the path to emacsclient.


Safari is only supported on Mac systems, not iOS systems.

See Mac OS X setup for directions.

Verify the installation

After your protocol is registered with your browser/OS, these links here should work. Click on them and see if emacs reacts:

Using org-protocol

To actually use org-protocol add a bookmark to Firefox or Opera.

Here is the URL to use as "Location" for browser bookmarks. Just remove the line breaks and replace "sub-protocol" with the real sub-protocol to use:


This URL may be used for all three standard handlers in org-protocol.el. Some of the values will be ignored (e.g. store-link:/ will use the URL and title only).

Links and bookmarks: org-protocol-store-link

org-store-link stores an Org-link insertable through M-x org-insert-link and pushes the URL found onto the kill-ring for yanking (C-y). The sub-protocol used is "store-link":

emacsclient org-protocol:/store-link:/URL/TITLE

will store this Org-link:


In addition, URL will be pushed on the kill-ring for yanking ('C-y'). You will have to encode URL and/or TITLE if they contain slashes, and probably quote those for the shell.

To use this feature, add a bookmark with an arbitrary name (e.g. "Org: store-link") and enter this as "Location":


Note taking and citations: org-protocol-capture

This one is triggered through the sub-protocol "capture" and consumes up to three data fields:

emacsclient org-protocol:/capture:/URL/TITLE/BODY

will pop up an Capture buffer and fill the template with the data submitted.

To use this feature, add a bookmark with an arbitrary name (e.g. "Org: capture") and enter this as "Location":


The result depends on the template used. See An example capture template further down.

Note, that this one, as opposed to the other two standard handlers, does not mix with more parameters to emacsclient. All parameters but the #'org-protocol://org-capture://...' one will be discarded.

Which capture template is used?

You don't need to setup a capture template to use org-protocol-capture, since Org-mode provides a default template for those cases. Newer versions provide an interactive interface for choosing a template. You may provide a template to be used by customizing the variable org-capture-default-template 1.

The problem with this solution would be, that only one template can be used with the fuction. Luckily, org-protocol-capture understands a slightly extended syntax to choose between several templates: If the first field of the data submitted is exactly one character in length, this character will be used to select the template.

Here we choose to use the "x" template:

emacsclient org-protocol:/capture:/x/URL/TITLE/BODY

And, again, as bookmark location:


An example capture template

(setq org-capture-templates
               "Default template"
               (file+headline "~/org/capture.org" "Notes")
               "* %^{Title}\n\n  Source: %u, %c\n\n  %i"
               :empty-lines 1)
              ;; ... more templates here ...
makes this one the default template used for "org-protocol://capture://" URLs.
makes it a regular entry with a headline.
files the note in file "~/org/capture.org" as child of the headline "Notes"
will be replaced by an Org-link pointing to the location of the page you have been visiting when clicking on the link. The page title will be the link's description.
will be replaced by the selected text in your browser window if any.

In addition, you may use the following placeholders in your template:

Placeholders Replacement
%:link URL of the web-page
%:description The title of the web-page
%:initial Selected text.

You may read more about templates and their special escape characters in the Org-mode manual.


The org-protocol-remember handler is now obsolete. However, the handler is still available for backward compatibility. To use this handler, closely follow the setup for the current org-protocol-capture handler, and simply replace each occurrence of capture with remember.

As remember templates look slightly different than capture templates, we provide an example here.

An example remember template

(setq org-remember-templates
      '((?w "* %^{Title}\n\n  Source: %u, %c\n\n  %i" nil "Notes")))
makes this one the default template used for "org-protocol://remember://" URLs.
will be replaced by an Org-link pointing to the location of the page you have been visiting when clicking on the link. The page title will be the link's description.
will be replaced by the selected text in your browser window if any.

In addition, you may use the following placeholders in your template:

Placeholders Replacement
%:link URL of the web-page
%:description The title of the web-page
%:initial Selected text.

You may read more about templates and their special escape characters in the Org-mode manual.

Edit published content: org-protocol-open-source

This one was designed to help with opening sources for editing when browsing in the first place. org-protocol-open-source uses the custom variable org-protocol-project-alist to map URLs to (local) filenames.

Let's take https://orgmode.org/worg/ as our example.

Our intention is to click a bookmark (or link) to open the source of the published file we are reading in our favourite editor. The bookmark-URL above could be used again. But since org-protocol-open-source regards the first field only, this here will do:


To open files publihed on Worg locally, org-protocol-project-alist should look like this (you may skip the second project):

(setq org-protocol-project-alist
         :base-url "https://orgmode.org/worg/"
         :working-directory "/home/user/worg/"
         :online-suffix ".html"
         :working-suffix ".org")
        ("My local Org-notes"
         :base-url "http://localhost/org/"
         :working-directory "/home/user/org/"
         :online-suffix ".php"
         :working-suffix ".org")))

If you're now browsing https://orgmode.org/worg/org-contrib/org-protocol.html and find a typo or have an idea how to enhance the documentation, simply click the bookmark and start editing.

There are two functions to help you fill org-protocol-project-alist with valid contents. One possibility is org-protocol-create that guides you through the process. If you're editing an Org-mode file that is part of a publishing project in org-publish-project-alist, try

M-x org-protocol-create-for-org RET

Handle rewritten URLs

In some cases, replacing :base-url with :working-directory and :online-suffix with :working-suffix will not yield the desired results.

Suppose you maintain an online store located at http://example.com/. The local sources reside in /home/user/example/. While most of the URLs map directly to local file names by stripping URL parameters from the end and replacing the :base-url with :working-diretory and :online-suffix with :working-suffix, this might not work for rewritten URLs. It's common practice to serve all products in such a store through one file and rewrite URLs that do not match an existing file on the server.

That way, a request to http://example.com/print/posters-A4.html might be rewritten on the server to something like http://example.com/shop/products.php/posters-A4.html.php, where /posters-A4-digital.html.php is the so called path info. Note that the browser will not notice the rewrite.

If you now click your org-protocol://open-source:// bookmark, the handler will probably not find a file named /home/user/example/print/posters-A4.html.php and fail.

Or, even more simple, assume you're browsing http://example.com/. A file named /home/user/example/.php is not likely to exist.

Since Org-mode commit 69b46e10aab3b2374ecbc1a963ba56e77102a9a4 from 15th Nov. 2009, such an entry in org-protocol-project-alist may hold an additional property :rewrites. This property is a list of cons cells, each of which maps a regular expression to a path relative to the :working-directory.

Now map the URL to the path /home/user/example/products.php by adding the :rewrites property like this:

(setq org-protocol-project-alist
         :base-url "http://example.com/"
         :working-directory "/home/user/example/"
         :online-suffix ".php"
         :working-suffix ".php"
         :rewrites (("example.com/print/" . "products.php")
                    ("example.com/$" . "index.php"))

Guess what the second :rewrites element does. Since example.com/$ is used as a regular expression, it maps http://example.com/, https://example.com, http://www.example.com/ and similar to /home/user/example/index.php.

The :rewrites are searched as a last resort if and only if no existing file name is matched.

Other browsers

Conkeror setup

Setting up org-protocol in Conkeror (an emacs inspired Mozilla web browser) requires a slightly different method. You may simply add the following snippets of code to your .conkerorrc file2.

For org-store-link, add the following to .conkerorrc:

function org_store_link (url, title, window) {
    var cmd_str = 'emacsclient \"org-protocol://store-link://'+url+'/'+title+'\"';
    if (window != null) {
	window.minibuffer.message('Issuing ' + cmd_str);

interactive("org-store-link", "Stores [[url][title]] as org link and copies url to emacs kill ring",
	    function (I) {
		org_store_link(encodeURIComponent(I.buffer.display_uri_string), encodeURIComponent(I.buffer.document.title), I.window);

For org-capture (or org-remember — just exchange capture with remember), use the following:

function org_capture (url, title, selection, window) {
    var cmd_str = 'emacsclient \"org-protocol://capture://'+url+'/'+title+'/'+selection+'\"';
    if (window != null) {
	window.minibuffer.message('Issuing ' + cmd_str);

interactive("org-capture", "Clip url, title, and selection to capture via org-protocol",
	    function (I) {
		org_capture(encodeURIComponent(I.buffer.display_uri_string), encodeURIComponent(I.buffer.document.title), encodeURIComponent(I.buffer.top_frame.getSelection()), I.window);

Now, you should be able to invoke the commands from within conkeror with M-x org-store-link and M-x org-capture (or remember).

Or, if you'd like your familiar emacs keybindings, you can add the following to your .conkerorrc:

define_key(content_buffer_normal_keymap, "C-c r", "org-capture");
define_key(content_buffer_normal_keymap, "C-c l", "org-store-link");


Uzbl is a minimalistic webkit browser for Unix/Linux.

You can pass encoded url data from uzbl to org-protocol by adding the following lines to .config/uzbl/config.

# Org-protocol

@cbind 	\\r = sh 'emacsclient "org-protocol://capture://\@<encodeURIComponent(window.location.href)>\@/\@<encodeURIComponent(document.title)>\@/\@<document.getSelection()>\@"'
@cbind 	\\l = sh 'emacsclient "org-protocol://capture://\@<encodeURIComponent(window.location.href)>\@/\@<encodeURIComponent(document.title)>\@"'

These bind org-protocol-capture and org-store-line to "\r" and "\l" respectively.

Keybindings for Firefox

You can add key bindings for the org-protocol commands using the keyconfig Firefox extension.

First, install keyconfig from http://mozilla.dorando.at/keyconfig.xpi.

Open the keyconfig dialog by going to Tools and then Keyconfig.

Click the 'Add a new Key' button. Enter "Org store link" as the name. Enter the following in the box with * CODE * in it:

var orgProtoString = 'org-protocol://store-link://'+
  encodeURIComponent(gBrowser.currentURI.spec) + '/' +
  encodeURIComponent(gBrowser.contentWindow.document.title) + '/' +


Click OK. You will then need to bind a key by clicking in the box next to the 'Apply' button and pressing whatever key combination you want. Click 'Apply' to store the keybinding.

Repeat the steps, but call the next key "Org capture" and use the code below:

var orgProtoString = 'org-protocol://capture://'+
  encodeURIComponent(gBrowser.currentURI.spec) + '/' +
  encodeURIComponent(gBrowser.contentWindow.document.title) + '/' +


Click Close, then OK, and then restart Firefox. You should then be able to access the org-protocol functions with your chosen keys.

Screencast: small introduction to org-protocol.el

This screencast shows off some nice things you can do with Firefox, Emacs, Org-mode and org-protocol.el.

It first shows how to create two bookmarklets, org-capture and org-store-link. These bookmarklets enable your Firefox to talk to emacsclient via a new protocol (org-protocol://); emacsclient then parses the request and tells Emacs to capture or store stuff at the relevant places in your Org files.

At the end of the screencast, we create two ubiquity commands from these bookmarklets. Now in Firefox ALT-SPC org-capture RET creates a note in my Org files.



Before commit fc49c1ec96b2c789f573ae1ba936b930a8494402, 3rd Sept. 2010, if a template with the key string "w" was defined, this one was chosen by default. This was done to make bookmarks used for org-annotation-helper work without changing the template.


Adapted from Tassilo Horn's blog post, "Calling org-remember from inside conkeror," November 14, 2008.

Documentation from the orgmode.org/worg/ website (either in its HTML format or in its Org format) is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License version 1.3 or later. The code examples and css stylesheets are licensed under the GNU General Public License v3 or later.