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Re Org 9.4 is out. Can you help? // breaking apart Org Mode

From: William Rankin
Subject: Re Org 9.4 is out. Can you help? // breaking apart Org Mode
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2020 20:05:20 +1000
User-agent: mu4e 1.4.13; emacs 27.1


At the request of Bastien I'm sending on these ideas regarding the future of Org Mode development. I'm also copying emacs-devel since they might be interested too.

Org Mode and Emacs would benefit greatly from the codebase being broken apart, not unlike how an antitrust suit breaks apart a big company for the good of society!

It is my view that many parts of Org code could be implemented as minor modes or independent libraries. This would encourage cleaner, more modular and more easy to understand code. It would provide an exponential benefit for other elisp programs. And by splitting up the codebase you allow contributors more a sense of ownership and emotional investment in the things to which they provide their time/effort.

A few suggestions...

* outline

Org Mode builds on top of outline, but those improvements are isolated to Org, e.g. Org has wonderful outline cycling, but if someone wants outline cycling in another major mode they need to implement this again (likely just duplicating Org's existing code). Ideally all of this could be ported back to outline itself. This would slim down the Org codebase while benefiting all other outline-based major modes.

* orgtbl-mode

This is a good attempt at implementing some of Org's functionality as a minor mode. Ideally orgtbl could be ported back to table and enough flexibility added to make it compatible with Markdown Mode tables (currently implemented with its own table stuff).

* source blocks

Org's source block functionality could be spun off into its own library. In theory it could work just like outline (where a major mode defines its own heading regexp). A major mode would define its own source block delimiter regexpes.

Ideally any major mode writing for a plain text markup format would just:
 (require 'source-blocks)
then have all the same functionality of Org source blocks. Any improvements would then benefit everyone.

* org-toggle-time-stamp-overlays / org-toggle-link-display

This functionality, although small within Org, could be very nice as their own minor modes. Displaying dates/times with custom format is easy enough... URLs a bit harder.

I went so far as to try this with varying degrees of success:

* org-link

I see a lot of interest for that Zettelkasten method, with many different implementations. What's stopping Org's cross-linking being implemented as its own global minor mode, independent of .org files?

* electric-pair-mode

Org currently uses org-emphasize for its emphasis pairs, but could it just use electric-pair-mode? Would this prompt some improvements to electric-pair-mode? This would benefit everyone.

I don't mean to suggest that the above ideas are things I'm particularly hanging out for, I'm just trying to sketch an ideas of beneficial ways Org could be broken apart.

Finally, I'm pretty sure breaking apart Org will mean it will be much easier to maintain -- it will be far easier to find one or two people passionate about maintaining perhaps a source-blocks library than the entirety of Org. If Org's development takes this more modular direction, where libraries are designed to work independently of the rest of the code, then it won't need an elite few people who understand the whole codebase.

I hope some of these ideas were either valuable or provide valuable discussion.

William Rankin

~ The single best thing you can do for the world is to delete your social media accounts.

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