Jack Baty / Scribbles
March 26th, 2024

Hyperbole, howm, and 0000-00-00-000000.txt

Yesterday I tried using the howm package for Emacs as a way to take quick notes. It's weird, and I assumed the experiment had ended. But then today I added a couple of notes to howm, almost accidentally. This means something.

The combination of plain .txt files, howm, Hyperbole, and automatically-named files is new for me and I find it interesting.

I use Denote for my notes. Denote's flagship concept is a strict, consistent file naming system. While it can work with plain text, Markdown, or Org-mode files, I've always just used .org files. Prot (Denote's author), has said that he uses .txt files most of the time, and only uses .org files if he needs the extra functionality. I always thought that having to decide for each file wasn't worth it.

But using howm with its default .txt files has been refreshing. The notes I took with howm while testing were mostly short snippets of text that needed no further embellishment. Using howm has allowed me to throw away all my rules around taking notes.

My howm files are plain text, not .org or .md, both of which I've used for everything for years. Howm can be configured to use .org or .md, so why not just do that? Fair question.

Markdown is meant as a simple way to markup files that are destined to be converted to something else (probably HTML) later. My howm notes have no such plans, so why do I need Markdown?

Org-mode allows for an entire new set of functionality on top of what's basically plain text. Again, my howm notes are just little jottings and snippets to remember later. Org-mode is overkill.

Enter Hyperbole. Hyperbole adds a few smarts to text in any Emacs buffer. For example, file paths and URLs are automatically "buttons" that do what you'd expect when activated. This allows for some of the conveniences of Org-mode and Markdown but in plain old .txt files.

And as for file names, they are automatic and mostly irrelevant (e.g. 2024-03-26-093550.txt) in howm. Any new note created in howm is automatically added to a /YYYY/MM/DD/ folder. This is what makes me the most twitchy about howm. I'm coming from Denote, where this would be unheard of. 

Throwing away all of my assumptions around taking notes has been illuminating and a little frustrating. I didn't expect to, but I'm planning to continue this little experiment for a while.