IkiWiki and Org-mode

Date: 25 March 2012

I love emacs. I practically live in emacs at work. One of my favorite features is org-mode. At its simplest, org-mode is simply a markup language similar to wiki-text or markdown. When you get into it more, the real power of scheduling and task management comes out. In my case, it’s the only system that’s I’ve been able to use to stay organized. I’ve been so happy with org-mode that I start to looking into using for this blog.

I looked at several options from using org-mode’s publish feature to publish HTML that I could paste into Drupal or using the native publish feature on its own. In the end IkiWiki won out.

IkiWiki has several useful features for me; mainly, the RSS/Atom feeds and a tag cloud. Most important, the formatting language is pluggable and there’s a plugin to use org-mode instead of the native markdown. Getting it setup was pretty straight forward but had a couple of hang-ups because of my personal setup and there are a couple of things to look out for when actually using it.


The first step (after installing IkiWiki) was to get Chris Gray’s excellent new_org plugin. This is what does the translation of the org files to HTML. Actually, it doesn’t do the translation. Instead if feeds the file to emacs to spit out the HTML. That’s were my first problem hit.

As I said, I already use emacs and one of the things I did on my server was start emacs in server mode. Once in server mode, I use emacsclient as my editor which really fast. The problem is that new_org also uses emacs server to keep from starting emacs for every change which speed up the translations. Unfortunately, the two servers conflicted. I think there was an issue with the two trying to use the same unix socket or something. I eventually switched emacs to use tcp sockets by putting (setq server-use-tcp t) in $HOME/.emacs.

There are also a few changes in new_org.pm needed to support tcp sockets. First emacsclient -s org-ikiwiki-compiler needs to be changed to emacsclient --server-file=org-ikiwiki-compiler. Second emacs --daemon needs to be changed to emacs --daemon=org-ikiwiki-compiler. There are a couple of places where those changes needed to be made. Once those were in place, I was almost able to publish files.

I ran into a problem with emacs hanging when I tried to publish with ikiwiki --refresh. It turns out that I was still using the ancient version of org-mode that came with emacs on Ubuntu Lucid. My problems went away after upgrading org-mode to the latest version.

Those items done, I was able to publish new posts all day long.


Blog System Files

The first thing to keep in mind is that the index, sidebar and tag files all need to remain in markdown with .mdwn extensions. When I tried to change them to org-mode, IkiWiki would not process them correctly. That’s a little annoying but no big deal, really, since I hardly ever need to touch them. I mostly use org-mode for the blog posts.

IkiWiki Directives

This is where things got a little weird. IkiWiki directives use the same syntax as org-mode does for links. For the most part, the two play well together. For example, the tag directive does, in fact, add tags to the post. I did run into an issue with images, however. It’s possible to use the basic org-mode link syntax to add an image but it doesn’t properly deal with paths. IkiWiki’s img directive takes care of that but emacs would see the HTML that the directive wrote and happily escape the HTML.

The solution is to wrap the img directive in #+BEGIN_HTML and #+END_HTML blocks and everything is happy.

I haven’t used any of the other directives yet so I can’t tell you how well they work. Though that may be why the index and tag pages where giving me grief.


With those little snags out of the way, everything is full steam ahead. I’ll keep y’all informed of anything else I run into but it’s been smooth sailing so far.