Bookmark with Org-capture

4 minute read

I was reading, and watching, Mike Zamansky’s blog post series about org-capture and how he manages his bookmarks. His blog and video series are a big recommendation from me, he is teaching me tons every time I watch his videos. His inspirational videos were what made me dig down on how I could do what he’s doing but… my way…

I stumbled across this blog post that describes the process of using org-cliplink to insert the title of the post into an org-mode link. Basically, what I wanted to do is provide a link and get an org-mode link. Sounds simple enough. Let’s dig in.

Org Capture Templates

I will assume that you went through Mike’s part 1 and part 2 posts to understand what org-capture-templates are and how they work. I essentially learned it from him and I do not think I can do a better job than a teacher.

Now that we understand where we need to start from, let’s explain the situation. We need to find a way to call org-capture and provide it with a template. This template will need to take a url and add an org-mode url in our bookmarks. It will look something like the following.

(setq org-capture-templates
      '(("b" "Bookmark (Clipboard)" entry (file+headline "~/path/to/" "Bookmarks")
         "** %(some-function-here-to-call)\n:PROPERTIES:\n:TIMESTAMP: %t\n:END:%?\n" :empty-lines 1 :prepend t)))

I formatted it a bit so it would have some properties. I simply used the %t to put the timestamp of when I took the bookmark. I used the %? to drop me at the end for editing. Then some-function-here-to-call a function to call to generate our bookmark section with a title.

The blog post I eluded to earlier solved it by using org-cliplink. While org-cliplink is great for getting titles and manipulating them, I don’t really need that functionality. I can do it manually. Sometimes, though, I would like to copy a page… Maybe if there is a project that could attempt to do someth… Got it… org-web-tools.

Configuring org-capture with org-web-tools

You would assume that you would be able to just pop (org-web-tools-insert-link-for-url) in the previous block and you’re all done. But uhhh….

Wrong number of arguments: (1 . 1), 0

No dice. What would seem to be the problem ?

We look at the definition and we find this.

(defun org-web-tools-insert-link-for-url (url)
  "Insert Org link to URL using title of HTML page at URL.
If URL is not given, look for first URL in `kill-ring'."
  (interactive (list (org-web-tools--get-first-url)))
  (insert (org-web-tools--org-link-for-url url)))

I don’t know why, exactly, it doesn’t work by calling it straight away because I do not know emacs-lisp at all. If you do, let me know. I suspect it has something to do with (interactive) and the list provided to it as arguments.

Anyway, I can see it is using org-web-tools--org-link-for-url, which the documentation suggests does the same thing as org-web-tools-insert-link-for-url, but is not exposed with (interactive). Okay, we have bits and pieces of the puzzle. Let’s put it together.

First, we create the function.

(defun org-web-tools-insert-link-for-clipboard-url ()
  "Extend =org-web-tools-inster-link-for-url= to take URL from clipboard or kill-ring"
  (org-web-tools--org-link-for-url (org-web-tools--get-first-url)))

Then, we set our org-capture-templates variable to the list of our only item.

(setq org-capture-templates
      '(("b" "Bookmark (Clipboard)" entry (file+headline "~/path/to/" "Bookmarks")
         "** %(org-web-tools-insert-link-for-clipboard-url)\n:PROPERTIES:\n:TIMESTAMP: %t\n:END:%?\n" :empty-lines 1 :prepend t)))

Now if we copy a link into the clipboard and then call org-capture with the option b, we get prompted to edit the following before adding it to our bookmarks.

 ** [[][Using Emacs Series - C'est la Z]]
 :TIMESTAMP: <2020-09-17 do>

Works like a charm.

Custom URL

What if we need to modify the url in some way before providing it. I have that use case. All I needed to do is create a function that takes input from the user and provide it to org-web-tools--org-link-for-url. How hard can that be ?! uhoh! I said the curse phrase didn’t I ?

(defun org-web-tools-insert-link-for-given-url ()
  "Extend =org-web-tools-inster-link-for-url= to take a user given URL"
  (let ((url (read-string "Link: ")))
    (org-web-tools--org-link-for-url url)))

We can, then, hook the whole thing up to our org-capture-templates and we get.

(setq org-capture-templates
      '(("b" "Bookmark (Clipboard)" entry (file+headline "~/path/to/" "Bookmarks")
         "** %(org-web-tools-insert-link-for-clipboard-url)\n:PROPERTIES:\n:TIMESTAMP: %t\n:END:%?\n" :empty-lines 1 :prepend t)
        ("B" "Bookmark (Paste)" entry (file+headline "~/path/to/" "Bookmarks")
         "** %(org-web-tools-insert-link-for-given-url)\n:PROPERTIES:\n:TIMESTAMP: %t\n:END:%?\n" :empty-lines 1 :prepend t)))

if we use the B, this time, it will prompt us for input.

Recently, this setup has started to fail and I got contacted by a friend pointing me to my own blog post. So I decided to fix it. My old setup used to use org-cliplink but I moved away from it for some reason. I cannot remember why. It is time to move back to it.

In this setup, I got rid of the custom function to get the link manually. I believe that is why I moved but I cannot be certain. Anyway, nothing worked so why keep something not working right ?

All this means is that we only need to setup our org-capture-templates. We can do so as follows.

(setq org-capture-templates
      '(("b" "Bookmark (Clipboard)" entry (file+headline "~/path/to/" "Bookmarks")
         "** %(org-cliplink)\n:PROPERTIES:\n:TIMESTAMP: %t\n:END:%?\n" :empty-lines 1 :prepend t)

Now, you should have a working setup… org-cliplink willing !


I thought this was going to be harder to pull off but, alas, it was simple, even for someone who doesn’t know emacs-lisp, to figure out. I hope I’d get more familiar with emacs-lisp with time and be able to do more. Until next time, I recommend you hook org-capture into your workflow. Make sure it fits your work style, otherwise you will not use it, and make your path a more productive one.