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How to integrate YASnippet and Yankpad with Org-Capture

Too long; didn't read

In this post I show how to combine the org-capture templating system and YASnippet and Yankpad in order to make you even more productive. See the screen-cast.

The problem

I recently decided to invest some of my vacations in improving my tools for the job. Something high in my priority is templating: what if I could provide myself with a structure for my writings? Well in the Emacs world the answer is YASnippet or for the org-mode enthusiasts Yankpad. So I came up with a template and I soon discovered that I could NOT run it from my org-capture snippets!

So if you try to expand a YASnippet from an elisp snippet (i.e, the %(yas/insert-snippet) syntax in the capture template below) in your org-capture template, you just fail because the org-capture template expects any elisp to create a string. So do not do the following:

(setq org-capture-templates
          `(("i" "some yasnippet capture template" entry (file "/tmp/test.org") "* TODO %^{Some title} \n%(yas/insert-snippet)" :empty-lines 2)))

It is a problem indeed

This is bad because it makes it impossible to have the beautiful step-by-step completion that YASnippet and Yankpad provide (look how cool are this and this example). You can achieve things using the feature-full org-capture templating system as well, but why not mixing both worlds for amazing results?

And there is a solution

Since I had some time, I went for the challenge.

My first idea was to ask the user to complete the snippet first and then embed that into the org-capture template. However that first attempt failed, because the completion of YASnippet and Yankpad is asynchronous, I mean does not block the program flow. In short that was not viable (just get in touch with me if you want details about this).

My second successful attempt is here: https://github.com/ag91/ya-org-capture.

It is a two step approach:

  1. you create the template with a "tagged" snippet keyword
  2. as soon as you fill in your org-capture template, we strip the tag and expand the snippet keyword

So you will need to load the library like this:

(use-package ya-org-capture
  :after yankpad
  :load-path "~/.emacs.d/lisp"

And define your org-capture template with the special function I made up:

(setq org-capture-templates
          `(("i" "some yasnippet capture template" entry (file "/tmp/test.org") "* TODO %^{Some title} \n%(ya-org-capture/make-snippet \"img_\")" :empty-lines 2)
            ("s" "some yankpad capture template" entry (file "/tmp/test.org") "* TODO %^{Some title} \n%(ya-org-capture/make-snippet \"st\")" :empty-lines 2)))

It is a minimal first attempt, and I was so excited I may have not tested all the way this can go wrong (I suspect it may not work if you do not put the elisp snippet last in your template).


So if you have wonderful Yankpad/YASnippet templates you want to use when capturing a org-mode task/note, just grab my file, load it and edit your templates as described above and here.

Also feel free to get report issues and get in touch with me if you have a better way to solve this: for example do you think would be worth investing some more time into transforming snippets to string?

Enjoy your Emacs time!