This manual is for Remember Mode, as distributed with Emacs 29.2.

Copyright © 2001, 2004–2005, 2007–2024 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with the Front-Cover Texts being “A GNU Manual”, and with the Back-Cover Texts as in (a) below. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License”.

(a) The FSF’s Back-Cover Text is: “You have the freedom to copy and modify this GNU manual.”

Table of Contents

1 Preface

This document describes remember.el, which was written by John Wiegley, was once maintained by Sacha Chua, and is now maintained by the Emacs developers.

This document is a work in progress, and your contribution will be greatly appreciated.

2 Introduction

Todo lists, schedules, phone databases... everything we use databases for is really just a way to extend the power of our memory, to be able to remember what our conscious mind may not currently have access to.

There are many different databases out there—and good ones—which this mode is not trying to replace. Rather, it’s how that data gets there that’s the question. Most of the time, we just want to say “Remember so-and-so’s phone number, or that I have to buy dinner for the cats tonight.” That’s the FACT. How it’s stored is really the computer’s problem. But at this point in time, it’s most definitely also the user’s problem, and sometimes so laboriously so that people just let data slip, rather than expend the effort to record it.

“Remember” is a mode for remembering data. It uses whatever back-end is appropriate to record and correlate the data, but its main intention is to allow you to express as little structure as possible up front. If you later want to express more powerful relationships between your data, or state assumptions that were at first too implicit to be recognized, you can “study” the data later and rearrange it. But the initial “just remember this” impulse should be as close to simply throwing the data at Emacs as possible.

Have you ever noticed that having a laptop to write on doesn’t actually increase the amount of quality material that you turn out, in the long run? Perhaps it’s because the time we save electronically in one way, we’re losing electronically in another; the tool should never dominate one’s focus. As the mystic Farīd ud-Dīn ʿAṭṭār wrote: “Be occupied as little as possible with things of the outer world but much with things of the inner world; then right action will overcome inaction.”

If Emacs could become a more intelligent data store, where brainstorming would focus on the ideas involved—rather than the structuring and format of those ideas, or having to stop your current flow of work in order to record them—it would map much more closely to how the mind (well, at least mine) works, and hence would eliminate that very manual-ness which computers from the very beginning have been championed as being able to reduce.

3 Implementation

Hyperbole, as a data presentation tool, always struck me as being very powerful, but it seemed to require a lot of “front-end” work before that data was really available. The problem with BBDB, or keeping up a Bibl-mode file, is that you have to use different functions to record the data, and it always takes time to stop what you’re doing, format the data in the manner expected by that particular data interface, and then resume your work.

With “remember”, you just hit M-x remember (you’d probably want to bind this to an easily accessible keystroke, like C-x M-r), slam in your text however you like, and then hit C-c C-c. It will file the data away for later retrieval, and possibly indexing.

Indexing is to data what “studying” is in the real world. What you do when you study (or lucubrate, for some of us) is to realize certain relationships implicit in the data, so that you can make use of those relationships. Expressing that a certain quote you remembered was a literary quote, and that you want the ability to pull up all quotes of a literary nature, is what studying does. This is a more labor intensive task than the original remembering of the data, and it’s typical in real life to set aside a special period of time for doing this work.

“Remember” works in the same way. When you enter data, either by typing it into a buffer, or using the contents of the selected region, it will store that data—unindexed, uninterpreted—in a data pool. It will also try to remember as much context information as possible (any text properties that were set, where you copied it from, when, how, etc.). Later, you can walk through your accumulated set of data (both organized, and unorganized) and easily begin moving things around, and making annotations that will express the full meaning of that data, as far as you know it.

Obviously this latter stage is more user-interface intensive, and it would be nice if “remember” could do it as elegantly as possible, rather than requiring a billion keystrokes to reorganize your hierarchy. Well, as the future arrives, hopefully experience and user feedback will help to make this as intuitive a tool as possible.

4 Quick Start

By default, remember-finalize saves the note in ~/emacs.d/notes. You can edit it now to see the remembered and timestamped note. You can edit this file however you want. New entries will always be added to the end.

To remember a region of text, use the universal prefix. C-u M-x remember displays a *Remember* buffer with the region as the initial contents.

As a simple beginning, you can start by using the Text File backend, keeping your ~/.emacs.d/notes file in outline-mode format, with a final entry called ‘* Raw data’. Remembered data will be added to the end of the file. Every so often, you can move the data that gets appended there into other files, or reorganize your document.

You can also store remembered data in other backends. See Backends.

Here is one way to map the remember functions in your init file (see The Emacs Initialization File in GNU Emacs Manual) to very accessible keystrokes facilities using the mode:

(define-key global-map (kbd "<f9> r") 'remember)
(define-key global-map (kbd "<f9> R") 'remember-region)

By default, remember uses the first annotation returned by remember-annotation-functions. To include all of the annotations, set remember-run-all-annotation-functions-flag to a non-nil value.

User Option: remember-run-all-annotation-functions-flag

Non-nil means use all annotations returned by remember-annotation-functions.

You can write custom functions that use a different set of remember-annotation-functions. For example:

(defun my/remember-with-filename ()
 "Always use the filename."
 (let ((remember-annotation-functions '(buffer-file-name)))
  (call-interactively 'remember)))

The remember-notes command creates a notes buffer that visits the file specified by the option remember-data-file. The option remember-notes-buffer-name specifies the name of the buffer. The buffer uses remember-notes-initial-major-mode and remember-notes-mode minor mode. Use C-c C-c to save and bury the buffer. The command save-some-buffers saves this buffer without asking. This function is a suitable setting for initial-buffer-choice.

5 Function Reference

remember.el defines the following interactive functions:

Function: remember &optional initial

Remember an arbitrary piece of data. With a prefix, it will use the region as initial.

Function: remember-other-frame &optional initial

Like remember, but uses a new frame.

Function: remember-region &optional beg end

If called from within the remember buffer, beg and end are ignored, and the entire buffer will be remembered. If called from any other buffer, that region, plus any context information specific to that region, will be remembered.

Function: remember-clipboard

Remember the contents of the current clipboard. This is most useful for remembering things from a web browser or other X Windows applications.

Function: remember-finalize

Remember the contents of the current buffer.

Function: remember-destroy

Destroy the current remember buffer.

Function: remember-mode

This enters the major mode (see Major Modes in GNU Emacs Manual) for output from remember. This buffer is used to collect data that you want remember. Just hit C-c C-c when you’re done entering, and it will go ahead and file the data for latter retrieval, and possible indexing.

Function: remember-notes &optional switch-to

This returns the notes buffer, creating it if needed, and switches to it if called interactively (or if switch-to is non-nil). The notes buffer visits remember-data-file, and is named remember-notes-buffer-name. It uses remember-notes-initial-major-mode and remember-notes-mode minor mode.

Function: remember-notes-mode &optional arg

This is a minor mode for the notes buffer. It sets buffer-save-without-query so that save-some-buffers will save the notes buffer without asking. Use C-c C-c to run the command remember-notes-save-and-bury-buffer.

Function: remember-notes-save-and-bury-buffer

Save (if it is modified) and bury the current buffer.

6 Keystroke Reference

remember.el defines the following key bindings by default:

C-c C-c
C-x C-s

Remember the contents of the current buffer (remember-finalize).

C-c C-k

Destroy the current *Remember* buffer (remember-destroy).

7 Backends

You can save remembered notes to a variety of backends.

7.1 Saving to a Text File


(setq remember-handler-functions '(remember-append-to-file))


User Option: remember-data-file

The file in which to store unprocessed data.

User Option: remember-leader-text

The text used to begin each remember item.

7.2 Saving to Separate Text Files


(setq remember-handler-functions '(remember-store-in-files))


User Option: remember-data-directory

The directory in which to store remember data as files.

User Option: remember-directory-file-name-format

A format string to use for naming files in the remember directory. File names are formed by calling format-time-string at the time of saving, using this format string.

7.3 Saving to a Diary file


(add-to-list 'remember-handler-functions 'remember-diary-extract-entries)


User Option: remember-diary-file

File for extracted diary entries. If this is nil, then diary-file will be used instead.

7.4 Saving to a Mailbox


(add-to-list 'remember-handler-functions 'remember-store-in-mailbox)


User Option: remember-mailbox

The file in which to store remember data as mail.

User Option: remember-default-priority

The default priority for remembered mail messages.

7.5 Saving to an Org Mode file

For instructions on how to integrate Remember with Org Mode, consult (org)Capture.

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