Insert Emacs text snippets from org-mode

Edit: I’ve written another post, covering some new functionality.

Text expansion in Emacs can be done in several different ways1. I’m most familiar with YASnippet, but one thing I missed from it was having different sets of text snippets for different situations. YASnippet organizes snippets by major-mode; you have one set for Python programming, another for org-mode etc.

In my work as as a teacher I work with different courses, and I thought it would be nice to have a different set of active snippets depending on which course I’m working on2. The same is true for other purposes, like different programming projects. Another thing I never quite got the hang of in YASnippet was that each snippet lives in its own file. I really like the overview you get when using different levels of headings in org-mode, and thought that would be an easier way of organizing snippets. Said and done; I started developing Yankpad.

Yankpad is an Emacs package for text expansion, where an org-mode file (the yankpad) contains all of the snippets. This yankpad organizes snippets in categories, where by default each level one heading is a category and each level two sub-heading is a snippet within that category. The yankpad might look something like this:

* Introduction to Game Design and Prototyping

** Assignment description

   Please read the assignment description, where additional information is

** Clarification

   You need to clarify $1. At the moment I can not understand what you mean.$0

** Grade mail

   Hi `(work-student-name-from-heading)`,

   Here's your grade and feedback from the written assignment in Introduction to
   Game Design and Prototyping. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

* blog
** Section
** Article

* python-mode
** for                                      :f:
   for $1 in $2:
** main                                     :m:
   if __name__ == '__main__':

In the file above we have three categories. The first one — Introduction to Game Design and Prototyping — contains three snippets3. In order to activate snippets from this category you would use M-x yankpad-set-category. If you’re familiar with YASnippet you may notice that the syntax of $n for tab stops and `(backticks)` for executing elisp is the same as in YASnippet. That’s because Yankpad uses YASnippet when expanding snippets, if YASnippet installed (otherwise the text will be inserted as is). YASnippet is very powerful, so why reinvent the wheel?

The second blog category is an example of naming the category after a certain project; in this case this blog! If you’re using Projectile and have defined your project there, this category will automatically be activated when switching to the blog project4. Projectile isn’t a requirement for Yankpad to work, it is just an extra feature.

The third category is named python-mode, and will be activated when python-mode is the major-mode of a buffer. Another interesting thing is the tags which I’ve applied to the snippets. You can have several tags, but the last tag will be interpreted as a key binding and will be inserted into yankpad-map; a prefix map5. I have this map bound to F7, so by pressing <f7> f while the python-mode category is active, the for loop snippet is inserted.

Yankpad is on Melpa and I would really like your feedback on it. You can also checkout the GitHub repository. The yankpad file will by default be named yankpad.org inside your org-directory, but that could be changed by setting the yankpad-file variable. In order to insert a snippet, use M-x yankpad-insert or bind it to a key. The yankpad-map has no key-binding by default, so you have to set it yourself:

(define-key 'global-map (kbd "<f7>") #'yankpad-map)

I’m hoping you’ll enjoy Yankpad!



I’m usually using org-mode when grading assignments, but I do not want YASnippet grading templates when working in other org-mode files. Really I do not actually want them at all except when grading that specific course.


“Assignment description”, “Clarification”, and “Grade mail”.


This will only change the category for these buffers though, the global category for other buffers will still be the one specified with the last yankpad-set-category call.


Edit: Since writing this, yankpad-map is no longer a prefix-map, but a regular function. It is still used the same way though.