git clone 'git://github.com/tj64/outorg.git'

outorg.el — Org-style comment editing

Author: Thorsten Jolitz Version: 2.0 URL: https://github.com/tj64/outorg


copyright: Thorsten Jolitz

copyright-years: 2013+

version: 2.0

licence: GPL 2 or later (free software)

licence-url: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/

part-of-emacs: no

author: Thorsten Jolitz

author_email: tjolitz AT gmail DOT com

inspiration: org-src

keywords: emacs org-mode comment-editing

git-repo: https://github.com/tj64/outorg

git-clone: git://github.com/tj64/outorg.git


About outorg

Outorg is for editing comment-sections of source-code files in temporary Org-mode buffers. It turns conventional literate-programming upside-down in that the default mode is the programming-mode, and special action has to be taken to switch to the text-mode (i.e. Org-mode).

Outorg depends on Outshine, i.e. outline-minor-mode with outshine extensions activated. An outshine buffer is structured like an org-mode buffer, only with outcommented headlines. While in Org-mode text is text and source-code is ‘hidden’ inside of special src-blocks, in an outshine buffer source-code is source-code and text is ‘hidden’ as comments.

Thus org-mode and programming-mode are just two different views on the outshine-style structured source-file, and outorg is the tool to switch between these two views. When switching from a programming-mode to org-mode, the comments are converted to text and the source-code is put into src-blocks. When switching back from org-mode to the programming-mode, the process is reversed - the text is outcommented again and the src-blocks that enclose the source-code are removed.

When the code is more important than the text, i.e. when the task is rather ‘literate PROGRAMMING’ than ‘LITERATE programming’, it is often more convenient to work in a programming-mode and switch to org-mode once in a while than vice-versa. Outorg is really fast, even big files with 10k lines are converted in a second or so, and the user decides if he wants to convert just the current subtree (done instantly) or the whole buffer. Since text needs no session handling or variable passing or other special treatment, the outorg approach is much simpler than the Org-Babel approach. However, the full power of Org-Babel is available once the outorg-edit-buffer has popped up.


Outorg (like outshine) assumes that you set `outline-minor-mode-prefix' in your init-file to ‘M-#’:

;; must be set before outline is loaded
(defvar outline-minor-mode-prefix "\M-#")

Outorg's main command is

M-# # (or M-x outorg-edit-as-org)

to be used in source-code buffers where `outline-minor-mode' is activated with `outshine' extensions. The Org-mode edit-buffer popped up by this command is called outorg-edit-buffer and 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, i.e. you don't want outorg to remove the enclosing blocks, simply outcomment them in the outorg-edit buffer before calling `outorg-copy-edits-and-exit'.

Note that outorg only treats ‘active’ src-blocks in a special way - the blocks whose Babel language is equal to the major-mode of the associated programming-mode buffer. All other (src-) blocks are treated like normal text.

Note further that outorg uses example-blocks as ‘fallback’ when it cannot find the major-mode of the programming-mode buffer in the `org-babel-load-languages'. In this case you should not use example-blocks for other tasks, since they will be removed when exiting the outorg-edit-buffer, use e.g. quote-blocks or verse-blocks instead.


You can get outorg.el either from Github (see section MetaData) or via MELPA. It depends on outshine.el, so you have to install and configure outshine first to make outorg work.

Installation is easy, simply insert

(require 'outorg)

in your init file. When you use navi-mode.el too, the third Outshine library, it suffices to (require 'navi), since it requires the other two libraries.

Bugs and Shortcomings

Outorg started out purely line-based, it only worked 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). It was enhanced later on to recognize comment regions too, i.e. those special multi-line comments found in many programming languages. But using outorg on such multi-line comments will probably change their syntax back to ‘single-line’, whenever `comment-region' uses this style.


A special kind of test has been developed for outorg using the `ert-buffer' library, the so called ‘conversion test’. It has the following steps:

  1. programming-mode → org-mode

  2. edit in org-mode, store undo-information

  3. org-mode → programming-mode

  4. programming-mode → org-mode (again)

  5. undo edits

  6. org-mode → programming-mode (again)

After these 4 conversions, the original programming-mode buffer must be unchanged when the conversion process is perfect, i.e. does not introduce any changes itself. See `outorg-test.el' for details.

Emacs Version

Outorg works with GNU Emacs 24.2.1 or later. No attempts of testing with older versions or other types of Emacs have been made (yet).


date author(s) version
<2014-09-20 Sa> Thorsten Jolitz 2.0
<2013-05-03 Fr> Thorsten Jolitz 1.0
<2013-02-11 Mo> Thorsten Jolitz 0.9