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hpr2449 :: Org-mode mobile solution

My search for taking org mode on the road

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Hosted by Brian in Ohio on 2017-12-21 is flagged as Clean and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.
emacs, org-mode, mobile, mobile-org app, pi-top, pocketchip, Android. 2.
The show is available on the Internet Archive at:

Listen in ogg, spx, or mp3 format. Play now:

Duration: 00:09:38


brief introduction


Hi, I'm Brian in Ohio

inspiration for show

I wanted to tell a little about my trials and tribulations of finding a solution to taking org mode on the road. What's org mode? Listen to my last episode or do a duckduckgo to find out.


After switching from using a bullet journal to using emacs-org-mode as my organizing device I immediately saw that lugging a laptop everywhere was not going to work for me. I wanted to be able to access org-mode, especially the agenda view, anywhere I might be. Laptops with limited battery life and a large physical presence were not going to work for me.

mobile-org app

The first solution I tried, and the most obvious, was the mobile-org app. Its available for android or ios. I can only attest to the android version. Its an easy from the play store. This solution didn't work for me for a number of reasons. First, the documentation for the setup is terrible, and I became frustrated by the workflow and could not get useful results using the app. Mobile-org seems to be built around using dropox. In order to get around that I tried various methods of syncing my org files using onboard storage. Seeing this wasn't going to work I bit the bullet setup a dropbox account installed the clients, one on my slackware laptop and the other on my phone only to find dropbox doesn't support this application anymore. A little digging around and it seems the API used by mobile-org isn't up to snuff any more so, fail. I cut my loses and moved on to another possible solution.


My next crack at solving the portable org mode problem was getting a pitop laptop Pitop is a laptop based on a raspberrypi. I won't go into the details of the device here but I'll say my idea for using this device was its advertised 8+ hour battery life. My old linux laptops rarely give me 2 hours of life So even though the pitop was physically larger than I wanted I gave it a whirl. Lets just say the battery does last 8+ hours, it just can't survive many recharges. 2 battery packs later I gave up on the pitop and went looking for something else.


I heard klaatu mention a device called a pocketchip on his gnuworld order podcast I looked into it and here I thought might be a device that could work. Pocketchip is a handheld linux computer. After ordering the device I began setting it up for my use case. There are plenty of tutorials on the pocketchip website on how to extend the usefulness of this product. The size of the device was good and the battery life was ok. Some people complain about the chicklet keyboard but I actually did not mind it to much. It took some fiddling to get the emacs keybindings I use to work on the odd keyboard layout, but its a linux computer so there's plenty of information out there. I used a thumb drive as a repository for my org files, wrote a couple of scripts to sync up the files with whatever device the drive was plugged into and wala a mobile org solution! Alas, the pocketchips demise was its build quality. The heart of the pocketchip, the system board's usb mini plug fell off, and then one system tweak later I bricked the device. I'll recover it eventually, you can program it through the gpio pins, but this was a quest for portable-org-mode, not fixing pocketchips, so onward.

raspberry pi tablet

I saw a build of a raspberry pi tablet that looked very nice Always up for a challenge, I cobbled together a prototype and tried it out. The reason I eventually dropped this solution because the virtual keyboard didn't work well and I couldn't get the official raspberrypi lcd to rotate from portrait to landscape dynamically. Still a fun project and I'll get some use out of it sometime.

android phone

Well here's the solution I came up with. I was searching around on the internet and found a link telling about running emacs on an android phone. It involves installing the termux app, the hackers keyboard, both available in the google play store and apt-get installing emacs on the phone. After that I had full emacs running, all be it in a terminal so its slightly different then running on the desktop, and with emacs you get, drum roll please, org-mode. With this i have the device I always take with running org-mode. I sink my org files between my laptop and phone using the afore mentioned drop box account. The hackers keyboard works flawlessly and can digest any emacs keybinding I need. I also have a logitech bluetoothkeyboard that I can use if I have a lot of typing to do in org-mode on my phone, such as these shownotes!


I find org-mode so useful that I want it available any where I go. And over the course of the last 8 months I went on a journey trying to find a solution to that desire. In the end, the solution was pretty obvious, these portable computers we carry around are amazing and thanks to the developers of termux and the hackers keyboard my phone is now infinitely more useful to me. Thanks for listening.


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Comment #1 posted on 2018-01-10 14:56:40 by folky


I also had problems with MobileOrg, but found another solution. I have an owncloud instance where my orgmode directory is mirrored. On the android device I have installed the owncloud client-app and orgzly. Orgzly is syncing to the local owncloud org directory and the owncloud client is then syncing with the server. It sound harder than it is in RL.

Comment #2 posted on 2022-09-06 01:59:39 by Sinza


I'll preface this by saying that I am responding to this five years later, and I'm not 100% sure if this would have been desired (or possible, for that matter) back then. I'm just sharing how I got around this problem in 2022. :-)

What I do for my mobile org-mode needs is a Pinephone with a keyboard case running PostmarketOS with the SXMO environment and Emacs installed on it. It's a full, no-compromises X11-based Emacs setup.

It's actually quite comparable to an Atari Portfolio in form factor, as opposed to a more typical smartphone. Because my cell phone provider doesn't support the Pinephone, I don't use it as an actual phone, however.

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