Here’s a pretty nice guide to beautifying org-mode for prose writing.

As my team moves to more written and asynchronous decision-making, I’m spending more time in a text editor. I don’t much care for Google Docs as an authoring tool, so I’ve been trying to live with Ulysses, which uses Markdown as its home base, and I’ve been playing with org-mode again.

That link above proposes using the Spacemacs light theme along with decent fonts you can install with Homebrew. I like most of the choices, but found that I sort of prefer a monotype face for body type over a proportional one. Maybe it’s from years of just thinking of Emacs that way, or maybe I just haven’t found a proportional face I like.

Ulysses has a big advantage over a lot of editors in the form of its export options, and I wasn’t sure Emacs/org-mode would do well there: It’s nice to write something up in org syntax, but when it comes time to share with others living in a Google Docs workflow, how do you bridge the gap? It turns out org-mode’s HTML “export & open” option is perfect:

  1. Write your prose in org-mode syntax
  2. Export to “HTML” and “open”
  3. Wait for your doc to load in your browser
  4. Copy and paste into a clean Google Doc. All the formatting comes over, and it comes over semantically correct: Your level one headings in org paste in as H1, etc.

Ulysses doesn’t have any provisions for templates (you can just make one and recopy it each time, but there are no provisions for placeholders, etc. org-mode leverages Emacs, so it has access to yasnippet. I org-ified a copy of my team’s RFC template, which is handy: By the time everything goes through the export-to-html-and-paste circuit, it passes with no tweaking.

Though that post is thinking about org-mode as a prose tool, I took a look at a few of my todo org files and it’s … not bad. Nothing to keep me from using it, but I’ve always been a little weirded out by productivity tools that try to use pretty typography as opposed to whatever the system faces are. I expect I’ll get used to it (or write a function that lets me shift between prose view and productivity view).