Dig My Grave: Leveraging the Triple Back-tick in Org Mode

Repurposing Muscle Memory at Your Fingertips

Every time you call my name
I hear the angels say
Dig my grave
, Dig My Grave

, I was watching one of Gavin Freeborn’s many Emacs videos. I mentally noted his Org-Mode 📖 code block prompting. It was different from what I had.

, I dug a bit into his Emacs configuration; and experimented with org-tempo. But it wasn’t quite what I wanted.

So, I started cleaning up my my Emacs configuration, moving some functions I no longer use into a “graveyard” file.

During this process, I was looking at a function I had commented out. It overloaded the tilde (e.g. ~) key in Org-Mode.

When I typed three consecutive tilde it would would replace those three tilde with a source block, position the cursor inside the block and then call org-edit-special to perhaps create a special editing buffer.

Enter the Overload of Back-tick/Grave

After typing the third consecutive back-tick, the following function:

  • Deletes the three back-ticks.
  • Prompts for the content to insert.
  • Positions into the newly inserted content.
  • Attempts to edit the content in Org-Mode’s special editing buffer.
(defun dig-my-grave ()
  "Three consecutive graves (e.g. “`”) at the start of the line prompts for
 inserting content.  See `dig-my-grave/templates-alist/org-mode'."
  (if (or (and (> (point) 3)
            (string= (buffer-substring-no-properties
                       (- (point) 3) (point)) "\n``"))
        ;; Account for starting on the first line
        (and (= (point) 3)
          (string= (buffer-substring-no-properties
                     (- (point) 2) (point)) "``")))
    ;; We have just hit our third back-tick at the beginning of the line.
      (delete-char -2)
      ;; I use the alist-get pattern a lot...perhaps a function?
      (let ((value (alist-get (completing-read "Special Content: "
                                  dig-my-grave/templates-alist/org-mode nil t)
                     dig-my-grave/templates-alist/org-mode nil nil #'string=)))
          ;; Let's assume that we're dealing with registered org blocks.
          ((stringp value)
            (insert value) (forward-line -1) (org-edit-special))
          ;; Trust the function
          ((commandp value) (call-interactively value))
          ((functionp value) (funcall value))
          ((ad-lambda-p) (funcall value))
          ;; Time for a pull request
          (t (error "Unprocessable value %s for #'dig-my-grave" value)))))
    (setq last-command-event ?`)
    (call-interactively #'org-self-insert-command)))

For the above dig-my-grave function to work, I need map ` to the function. Near complete control over the environment.

(require 'org)
(define-key org-mode-map (kbd "`") #'dig-my-grave)

And below is the list of templates; They represent the vast majority of the blocks I use in Emacs 📖:

(defvar dig-my-grave/templates-alist/org-mode
  '(("Bash" . "#+begin_src bash :results scalar replace :exports both :tangle yes\n#+end_src")
    ("Blockquote" . tempel-insert-blockquote_block)
    ("Details and Summary" . "#+begin_details\n#+begin_summary\n\n#+end_summary\n#+end_details")
    ("Emacs Lisp" . "#+begin_src emacs-lisp\n#+end_src")
    ("Org Structure" . org-insert-structure-template)
    ("Plant UML" . "#+begin_src plantuml\n@startuml\n!theme amiga\n\n@enduml\n#+end_src")
    ("Ruby" . "#+begin_src ruby\n#+end_src")
    ("Update" . tempel-insert-update_block))
  "A list of `cons' cells with `car' as the label and `cdr' as
 the value that we'll insert.  Used as the collection for the
 `dig-my-grave' `completing-read'.")

There are three functions:

A Tempel template to insert a blockquote block that I export to my blog post.
A Tempel template to insert an update block that I export to my blog post.
The build-in Org-Mode function to prompt for registered templates.

You can find the above code in the .emacs.d/dig-my-grave.el file of my Emacs configuration.


Now I can repurpose the ingrained Markdown keystrokes for code-blocks into something useful for my Org-Mode writing that I find easy to remember.

Which has me thinking, what are other ways that I might leverage the above function. The progn function hints at generalization. I suppose I’ll hold this and let my mind wander.

In almost all settings other than Markdown, I don’t type ```; how might I bring this to those other modes. Also, I suspect that I want to add the above to a minor-mode, so that I can disable it; in those few cases where I want to type ```.