Org-roam User Manual

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Org-roam User Manual

This manual is for Org-roam version 1.2.3.

Copyright (C) 2020-2020 Jethro Kuan <>

You can redistribute this document and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This document is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

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1 Introduction

Org-roam is a tool for network thought. It reproduces some of Roam Research’s 1 features within the all-powerful Org-mode.

Org-roam is a solution for effortless non-hierarchical note-taking with Org-mode. With Org-roam, notes flow naturally, making note-taking fun and easy. Org-roam keeps closely to Org syntax, and will work for anyone already using Org-mode for their personal wiki.

Org-roam gains its superpowers by leveraging the mature ecosystem around Org-mode. For example, it has first-class support for org-ref for citation management.

Org-roam aims to implement the core features of Roam, leveraging the mature ecosystem around Org-mode where possible. Eventually, we hope to further introduce features enabled by the Emacs ecosystem.

Org-roam provides several benefits over other tooling:

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2 Target Audience

Org-roam is a tool that will appear unfriendly to anyone unfamiliar with Emacs and Org-mode, but is also extremely powerful to those willing to put effort in mastering the intricacies of the tools. Org-roam stands on the shoulders on giants. Emacs was first created in 1976, and remains a top tier tool for editing text and designing textual interfaces. The malleability of Emacs allowed the creation of Org-mode, an all-purpose plain-text system for maintaining TODO lists, planning projects, and authoring documents. Both of these tools are incredibly vast and require significant time investment to master.

Org-roam assumes basic familiarity with these tools. It is not difficult to get up and running with basic text-editing functionality, but one will only fully appreciate the power of building Roam functionality into Emacs and Org-mode when the usage of these tools become more advanced.

One key advantage to Org-roam is that building on top of Emacs gives it malleability. This is especially important for note-taking workflows. It is our belief that note-taking workflows are extremely personal, and there is no one tool that’s perfect for you. Org-mode and Org-roam allows you to discover what works for you, and build that perfect tool for yourself.

If you are new to the software, and choose to take this leap of faith, I hope you find yourself equally entranced as Neal Stephenson was.

Emacs outshines all other editing software in approximately the same way that the noonday sun does the stars. It is not just bigger and brighter; it simply makes everything else vanish. – Neal Stephenson, In the Beginning was the Command Line (1998)

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3 A Brief Introduction to the Zettelkasten Method

Org-roam provides utilities for maintaining a digital slip-box. This section aims to provide a brief introduction to the “slip-box”, or “Zettelkasten” method. By providing some background on the method, we hope that the design decisions of Org-roam will become clear, and that will aid in using Org-roam appropriately. In this section we will introduce terms commonly used within the Zettelkasten community and the Org-roam forums.

The Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing. It places heavy emphasis on connecting ideas, building up a web of thought. Hence, it is well suited for knowledge workers and intellectual tasks, such as conducting research. The Zettelkasten can act as a research partner, where conversations with it may produce new and surprising lines of thought.

This method is attributed to German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, who using the method had produced volumes of written works. Luhmann’s slip-box was simply a box of cards. These cards are small – often only large enough to fit a single concept. The size limitation encourages ideas to be broken down into individual concepts. These ideas are explicitly linked together. The breakdown of ideas encourages tangential exploration of ideas, increasing the surface for thought. Making linking explicit between notes also encourages one to think about the connections between concepts.

At the corner of each note, Luhmann ascribed each note with an ordered ID, allowing him to link and jump between notes. In Org-roam, we simply use hyperlinks.

Org-roam is the slip-box, digitalized in Org-mode. Every zettel (card) is a plain-text, Org-mode file. In the same way one would maintain a paper slip-box, Org-roam makes it easy to create new zettels, pre-filling boilerplate content using a powerful templating system.

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3.1 Fleeting notes

A slip-box requires a method for quickly capturing ideas. These are called fleeting notes: they are simple reminders of information or ideas that will need to be processed later on, or trashed. This is typically accomplished using org-capture (see (org)capture), or using Org-roam’s daily notes functionality (see Daily-notes). This provides a central inbox for collecting thoughts, to be processed later into permanent notes.

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3.2 Permanent notes

Permanent notes are further split into two categories: literature notes and concept notes. Literature notes can be brief annotations on a particular source (e.g. book, website or paper), that you’d like to access later on. Concept notes require much more care in authoring: they need to be self-explanatory and detailed. Org-roam’s templating system supports the addition of different templates to facilitate the creation of these notes.

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4 Installation

Org-roam can be installed using Emacs’ package manager or manually from its development repository.

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4.1 Installing from MELPA

Org-roam is available from Melpa and Melpa-Stable. If you haven’t used Emacs’ package manager before, you may familiarize yourself with it by reading the documentation in the Emacs manual, see (emacs)Packages. Then, add one of the archives to ‘package-archives’:

(require 'package)
(add-to-list 'package-archives
             '("melpa" . "") t)
(require 'package)
(add-to-list 'package-archives
             '("melpa-stable" . "") t)

Org-roam also depends on a recent version of Org, which can be obtained in Org’s package repository (see (org)Installation). To use Org’s ELPA archive:

(add-to-list 'package-archives '("org" . "") t)

Once you have added your preferred archive, you need to update the local package list using:

M-x package-refresh-contents RET

Once you have done that, you can install Org-roam and its dependencies using:

M-x package-install RET org-roam RET

Now see Post-Installation Tasks.

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4.2 Installing from Apt

Users of Debian 11 or later or Ubuntu 20.10 or later can simply install Org-roam using Apt:

apt-get install elpa-org-roam

Org-roam will then be autoloaded into Emacs.

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4.3 Installing from the Git Repository

You may install Org-roam directly from the repository on GitHub if you like. This will give you access to the latest version hours or days before it appears on MELPA, and months (or more) before it is added to the Debian or Ubuntu repositories. This will also give you access to various developmental branches that may be available.

Note, however, that development version, and especially any feature branches, may not always be in working order. You’ll need to be prepared to do some debugging, or to manually roll-back to working versions, if you install from GitHub.

Installing from GitHub requires that you clone the repository:

git clone /path/to/org/roam

where ./path/to/org/roam is the location you will store your copy of the code.

Next, you need to add this location to your load path, and require the Org-roam library. Add the following code to your .emacs:

(add-to-list 'load-path "/path/to/org/roam")
(require 'org-roam)

You now have Org-roam installed. However, you don’t necessarily have the dependencies that it requires. These include:

You can install this manually as well, or get the latest version from MELPA. You may wish to use use-package, straight.el to help manage this.

If you would like to install the manual for access from Emacs’ built-in Info system, you’ll need to compile the .texi source file, and install it in an appropriate location.

To compile the .texi source file, from a terminal navigate to the /doc subdirectory of the Org-roam repository, and run the following:

make infodir=/path/to/my/info/files install-info

Where /path/to/my/info/files is the location where you keep info files. This target directory needs to be stored in the variable ‘Info-default-directory-list‘. If you aren’t using one of the default info locations, you can configure this with the following in your .emacs file:

(require 'info)
(add-to-list 'Info-default-directory-list

You can also use one of the default locations, such as:

If you do this, you’ll need to make sure you have write-access to that location, or run the above make command as root.

Now that the info file is ready, you need to add it to the corresponding dir file:

install-info /path/to/my/info/files/ /path/to/my/info/files/dir

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4.4 Post-Installation Tasks

Org-roam uses emacsql-sqlite3, which requires sqlite3 to be located on exec-path. Please ensure that sqlite3 is installed appropriately on your operating system. You can verify that this is the case by executing:

(executable-find "sqlite3")

If you have sqlite3 installed, and executable-find still reports nil, then it is likely that the path to the executable is not a member of the Emacs variable exec-path. You may rectify this by manually adding the path within your Emacs configuration:

(add-to-list 'exec-path "path/to/sqlite3")

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5 Getting Started

This short tutorial describes the essential commands used in Org-roam, to help you get started.

First, it is important to understand how Org-roam was designed. Org-roam was built to support a workflow that was not possible with vanilla Org-mode. This flow is modelled after the Zettelkasten Method, and many of Roam Research’s workflows. Org-roam does not magically make note-taking better – this often requires a radical change in your current note-taking workflow. To understand more about the methods and madness, see Note-taking Workflows.

To first start using Org-roam, one needs to pick a location to store the Org-roam files. The directory that will contain your notes is specified by the variable org-roam-directory. This variable needs to be set before any calls to Org-roam functions, including enabling org-roam-mode. For this tutorial, create an empty directory, and set org-roam-directory:

(make-directory "~/org-roam")
(setq org-roam-directory "~/org-roam")

We encourage using a flat hierarchy for storing notes, but some prefer using folders for storing specific kinds of notes (e.g. websites, papers). This is fine; Org-roam searches recursively within org-roam-directory for notes. Instead of relying on the file hierarchy for any form of categorization, one should use links between files to establish connections between notes.

Next, we need to enable the global minor mode org-roam-mode. This sets up Emacs with several hooks, building a cache that is kept consistent as your slip-box grows. We recommend starting org-roam-mode on startup:

(add-hook 'after-init-hook 'org-roam-mode)

To build the cache manually, one can run M-x org-roam-db-build-cache. Cache builds may take a while the first time, but is often instantaneous in subsequent runs because it only reprocesses modified files.

Let us now create our first note. Call M-x org-roam-find-file. This shows a list of titles for notes that reside in org-roam-directory. It should show nothing right now, since there are no notes in the directory. Entering the title of the note you wish to create, and pressing RET should begin the note creation process. This process uses org-capture’s templating system, and can be customized (see The Templating System). Using the default template, pressing C-c C-c finishes the note capture. Running M-x org-roam-find-file again should show the note you have created, and selecting that entry will bring you to that note.

Org-roam makes it easy to create notes, and link them together. To link notes together, we call M-x org-roam-insert. This brings up a prompt with a list of title for existing notes. Selecting an existing entry will create and insert a link to the current file. Entering a non-existent title will create a new note with that title. Good usage of Org-roam requires liberally linking files: this facilitates building up a dense graph of inter-connected notes.

Org-roam provides an interface to view backlinks. It shows backlinks for the currently active Org-roam note, along with some surrounding context. To toggle the visibility of this buffer, call M-x org-roam.

For a visual representation of the notes and their connections, Org-roam also provides graphing capabilities, using Graphviz. It generates graphs with notes as nodes, and links between them as edges. The generated graph can be used to navigate to the files, but this requires some additional setup (see Roam Protocol).

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6 Files

In Org-roam, notes typically consist of multiple files, where each file is a zettel.

While the bulk of Org-roam’s functionality is built on top of vanilla Org-mode, Org-roam adds several Org-roam-specific keywords to support additional functionality.

This section explains the important components of a file, and the extensions to Org-mode.

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6.1 File Titles

To easily find a note, a title needs to be prescribed to a note.

A note can have many titles: this allows a note to be referred to by different names, which is especially useful for topics or concepts with acronyms. For example, for a note like “World War 2”, it may be desirable to also refer to it using the acronym “WWII”.

Org-roam calls org-roam--extract-titles to extract titles. It uses the variable org-roam-title-sources, to control how the titles are extracted. The title extraction methods supported are:

Take for example the following org file:

#+title: World War 2
#+roam_alias: "WWII" "World War II"

* Headline
'title’(“World War 2”)
'alias’(“WWII” “World War II”)

If no title is provided, Org-roam defaults to using the file-path.

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6.1.1 Customizing Title Extraction

To control how Org-roam extracts titles, customize org-roam-title-sources. If all methods of title extraction return no results, the file-name is used as the note’s title.

User Option: org-roam-title-sources

The list of sources from which to retrieve a note title. Each element in the list is either:

Adding your own title extraction method requires two steps. First, define a method (defun org-roam--extract-titles-foo () ...), where foo a self-prescribed name for the title extraction method. This method takes no arguments, and returns a list of strings (titles). Finally, push the symbol foo into org-roam-title-sources. You may need to rebuild the cache from scratch to re-process all files to pick up the new titles.

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6.2 File Tags

Tags are used as meta-data for files: they facilitate interactions with notes where titles are insufficient. For example, tags allow for categorization of notes: differentiating between bibliographical and structure notes during interactive commands.

By default, tags are extracted from the #+roam_tags property. To add additional extraction methods, see Customizing Tag Extraction.

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6.2.1 Customizing Tag Extraction

Org-roam calls org-roam--extract-tags to extract tags from files. The variable org-roam-tag-sources, to control how tags are extracted.

User Option: org-roam-tag-sources

Sources to obtain tags from.

It should be a list of symbols representing any of the following extraction methods:

'prop Extract tags from the #+roam_tags property. Tags are space delimited. Tags may contain spaces if they are double-quoted. e.g. #+roam_tags: TAG "tag with spaces"

'vanilla Extract vanilla org-mode tags, including #+FILETAGS and inherited tags.

'all-directories Extract sub-directories relative to org-roam-directory. That is, if a file is located at relative path foo/bar/, the file will have tags “foo” and “bar”.

'last-directory Extract the last directory relative to ‘org-roam-directory’. That is, if a file is located at relative path foo/bar/, the file will have tag \“bar\”.

'first-directory Extract the first directory relative to org-roam-directory. That is, if a file is located at relative path foo/bar/, the file will have tag “foo”

By default, only the 'prop extraction method is enabled. To enable the other extraction methods, you may modify org-roam-tag-sources, for example:

(setq org-roam-tag-sources '(prop last-directory))

Adding your own tag extraction method requires two steps. First, define a method (defun org-roam--extract-tags-foo (file) ...), where foo a self-prescribed name for the tag extraction method. This method takes the file path as an argument, and returns a list of strings (titles). Finally, push the symbol foo into org-roam-tag-sources. You may need to rebuild the cache from scratch to re-process all files to pick up the new tags.

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6.3 File Refs

Refs are unique identifiers for files. For example, a note for a website may contain a ref:

#+title: Google

These keys allow references to the key to show up in the backlinks buffer. For instance, with the example above, if another file then links to, that will show up as a “Ref Backlink”.

These keys also come in useful for when taking website notes, using the roam-ref protocol (see Roam Protocol).

org-ref citation keys can also be used as refs:

#+title: Neural Ordinary Differential Equations
#+roam_key: cite:chen18_neural_ordin_differ_equat

Figure: org-ref-citelink

You may assign multiple refs to a single file, for example when you want multiple papers in a series to share the same note, or an article has a citation key and a URL at the same time.

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7 The Templating System

Rather than creating blank files on org-roam-insert and org-roam-find-file, it may be desirable to prefill the file with templated content. This may include:

This requires a complex template insertion system. Fortunately, Org ships with a powerful one: org-capture (see (org)capture). However, org-capture was not designed for such use. Org-roam abuses org-capture, extending its syntax and capabilities. To first understand how org-roam’s templating system works, it may be useful to look into basic usage of org-capture.

For these reasons, Org-roam capture templates are not compatible with regular org-capture. Hence, Org-roam’s templates can be customized by instead modifying the variable org-roam-capture-templates. Just like org-capture-templates, org-roam-capture-templates can contain multiple templates. If org-roam-capture-templates only contains one template, there will be no prompt for template selection.

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7.1 Template Walkthrough

To demonstrate the additions made to org-capture templates. Here, we walkthrough the default template, reproduced below.

("d" "default" plain (function org-roam--capture-get-point)
     :file-name "%<%Y%m%d%H%M%S>-${slug}"
     :head "#+title: ${title}\n"
     :unnarrowed t)

Other options you may want to learn about include :immediate-finish.

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7.2 Org-roam Template Expansion

Org-roam’s template definitions also extend org-capture’s template syntax, to allow prefilling of strings. We have seen a glimpse of this in Template Walkthrough.

In org-roam templates, the ${var} syntax allows for the expansion of variables, stored in org-roam-capture--info. For example, during org-roam-insert, the user is prompted for a title. Upon entering a non-existent title, the title key in org-roam-capture--info is set to the provided title. ${title} is then expanded into the provided title during the org-capture process. Any variables that do not contain strings, are prompted for values using completing-read.

After doing this expansion, the org-capture’s template expansion system is used to fill up the rest of the template. You may read up more on this on org-capture’s documentation page.

To illustrate this dual expansion process, take for example the template string: "%<%Y%m%d%H%M%S>-${title}", with the title "Foo". The template is first expanded into %<%Y%m%d%H%M%S>-Foo. Then org-capture expands %<%Y%m%d%H%M%S> with timestamp: e.g. 20200213032037-Foo.

All of the flexibility afforded by Emacs and Org-mode are available. For example, if you want to encode a UTC timestamp in the filename, you can take advantage of org-mode’s %(EXP) template expansion to call format-time-string directly to provide its third argument to specify UTC.

("d" "default" plain (function org-roam--capture-get-point)
     :file-name "%(format-time-string \"%Y-%m-%d--%H-%M-%SZ--${slug}\" (current-time) t)"
     :head "#+title: ${title}\n"
     :unnarrowed t)

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8 Concepts and Configuration

The number of configuration options is deliberately kept small, to keep the Org-roam codebase manageable. However, we attempt to accommodate as many usage styles as possible.

All of Org-roam’s customization options can be viewed via M-x customize-group org-roam.

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8.1 Directories and Files

This section concerns the placement and creation of files.

Variable: org-roam-directory

This is the default path to Org-roam files. All Org files, at any level of nesting, are considered part of the Org-roam.

Variable: org-roam-db-location

Location of the Org-roam database. If this is non-nil, the Org-roam sqlite database is saved here.

It is the user’s responsibility to set this correctly, especially when used with multiple Org-roam instances.

Variable: org-roam-file-exclude-regexp

Files matching this regular expression are excluded from the Org-roam.

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8.2 The Org-roam Buffer

The Org-roam buffer displays backlinks for the currently active Org-roam note.

User Option: org-roam-buffer

The name of the org-roam buffer. Defaults to *org-roam*.

User Option: org-roam-buffer-position

The position of the Org-roam buffer side window. Valid values are 'left, 'right, 'top, 'bottom.

User Option: org-roam-buffer-width

Width of org-roam-buffer. Has an effect only if org-roam-buffer-position is 'left or 'right.

User Option: org-roam-buffer-height

Height of org-roam-buffer. Has an effect only if org-roam-buffer-position is 'top or 'bottom.

User Option: org-roam-buffer-window-parameters

Additional window parameters for the org-roam-buffer side window.

For example one can prevent the window from being deleted when calling delete-other-windows, by setting it with the following:

(setq org-roam-buffer-window-parameters '((no-delete-other-windows . t)))

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8.3 Org-roam Files

Org-roam files are created and prefilled using Org-roam’s templating system. The templating system is customizable (see The Templating System).

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8.4 Org-roam Faces

Org-roam introduces several faces to distinguish links within the same buffer. These faces are enabled by default in Org-roam notes.

User Option: org-roam-link-use-custom-faces

When t, use custom faces only inside Org-roam notes. When everywhere, the custom face is applied additionally to non Org-roam notes. When nil, do not use Org-roam’s custom faces.

The org-roam-link face is the face applied to links to other Org-roam files. This distinguishes internal links from external links (e.g. external web links).

The org-roam-link-current face corresponds to links to the same file it is in.

The org-roam-link-invalid face is applied to links that are broken. These are links to files or IDs that cannot be found.

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8.5 TODO The Database

Org-roam is backed by a Sqlite database.

User Option: org-roam-db-update-method

Method to update the Org-roam database.

'immediate: Update the database immediately upon file changes.

'idle-timer: Updates the database if dirty, if Emacs idles for org-roam-db-update-idle-seconds.

User Option: org-roam-db-update-idle-seconds

Number of idle seconds before triggering an Org-roam database update. This is only valid if org-roam-db-update-method is 'idle-timer.

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9 Inserting Links

The preferred mode of linking is via file links to files, and id links for headlines. This maintains the strongest compatibility with Org-mode, ensuring that the links still function without Org-roam, and work well exporting to other backends.

file links can be inserted via org-roam-insert. Links to headlines can be inserted by navigating to the desired headline and calling org-store-link. This will create an ID for the headline if it does not already exist, and populate the Org-roam database. The link can then be inserted via org-insert-link.

An alternative mode of insertion is using Org-roam’s roam links. Org-roam registers this link type, and interprets the path as follows:

User Option: org-roam-link-title-format

To distinguish between org-roam links and regular links, one may choose to use special indicators for Org-roam links. Defaults to "%s".

If your version of Org is at least 9.2, consider styling the link differently, by customizing the org-roam-link, and org-roam-link-current faces.

User Option: org-roam-link-auto-replace

When non-nil, roam links will be replaced with file or id links when they are navigated to, and on file save, when a match is found. This is desirable to maintain compatibility with vanilla Org, but resolved links are harder to edit. Defaults to t.

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10 Completions

Completions for Org-roam are provided via completion-at-point. Completion suggestions are implemented as separate functions. Org-roam installs all functions in org-roam-completion-functions to completion-at-point-functions.

Variable: org-roam-completion-functions

The list of functions to be used with completion-at-point.

User Option: org-roam-completion-ignore-case

When non-nil, the roam link completions are ignore case. For example, calling completion-at-point within [[roam:fo]] will present a completion for a file with title “Foo”. Defaults to t.

To use the completions from Org-roam with company-mode, prepend company-capf to variable company-backends.

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10.1 Link Completion

roam links support auto-completion via completion-at-point: simply call M-x completion-at-point within a roam link. That is, where the | character represents the cursor:

Completions account for the current input. For example, for [[f|]], the completions (by default) only show for files with titles that start with “f”.

Function: org-roam-link-complete-at-point

Do appropriate completion for the link at point.

Up: Link Completion   [Index]

10.1.1 Link Completions Everywhere

Org-roam is able to provide completions from the current word at point, enabling as-you-type link completions. However, this is disabled by default: the author believes that linking should be a deliberate action and linking should be performed with great care.

Setting org-roam-completion-everywhere to t will enable word-at-point completions.

User Option: org-roam-completion-everywhere

If non-nil, provide completions from the current word at point. That is, in the scenario this is a sent|, calling completion-at-point will show completions for titles that begin with “sent”.

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10.2 Tag Completion

Org-roam facilitates the insertion of existing tags via completion-at-point.

That is, suppose you have notes with tags “foo”, and “bar”. Now, in a note, if you’re on a line beginning with #+roam_tags:, completions for these will appear as-you-type if they match.

This functionality is implemented in org-roam-complete-tags-at-point.

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11 Navigating Around

Up: Navigating Around   [Index]

11.1 Index File

As your collection grows, you might want to create an index where you keep links to your main files.

In Org-roam, you can define the path to your index file by setting org-roam-index-file.

Variable: org-roam-index-file

Path to the Org-roam index file.

The path can be a string or a function. If it is a string, it should be the path (absolute or relative to org-roam-directory) to the index file. If it is is a function, the function should return the path to the index file. Otherwise, the index is assumed to be a note in org-roam-index whose title is "Index".

Function: org-roam-find-index

Opens the Index file in the current org-roam-directory.

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12 Encryption

One may wish to keep private, encrypted files. Org-roam supports encryption (via GPG), which can be enabled for all new files by setting org-roam-encrypt-files to t. When enabled, new files are created with the .org.gpg extension and decryption are handled automatically by EasyPG.

Note that Emacs will prompt for a password for encrypted files during cache updates if it requires reading the encrypted file. To reduce the number of password prompts, you may wish to cache the password.

User Option: org-roam-encrypt-files

Whether to encrypt new files. If true, create files with .org.gpg extension.

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13 Graphing

Org-roam provides graphing capabilities to explore interconnections between notes. This is done by performing SQL queries and generating images using Graphviz. The graph can also be navigated: see Roam Protocol.

The entry point to graph creation is org-roam-graph.

Function: org-roam-graph & optional arg file node-query

Build and possibly display a graph for FILE from NODE-QUERY. If FILE is nil, default to current buffer’s file name. ARG may be any of the following values:

User Option: org-roam-graph-executable

Path to the graphing executable (in this case, Graphviz). Set this if Org-roam is unable to find the Graphviz executable on your system.

You may also choose to use neato in place of dot, which generates a more compact graph layout.

User Option: org-roam-graph-viewer

Org-roam defaults to using Firefox (located on PATH) to view the SVG, but you may choose to set it to:

nil uses view-file to view the graph.

If you are using WSL2 and would like to open the graph in Windows, you can use the second option to set the browser and network file path:

(setq org-roam-graph-viewer
    (lambda (file)
      (let ((org-roam-graph-viewer "/mnt/c/Program Files/Mozilla Firefox/firefox.exe"))
        (org-roam-graph--open (concat "file://///wsl$/Ubuntu" file)))))

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13.1 Graph Options

Graphviz provides many options for customizing the graph output, and Org-roam supports some of them. See for customizable options.

User Option: org-roam-graph-extra-config

Extra options passed to graphviz for the digraph (The “G” attributes). Example: '~(("rankdir" . "LR"))

User Option: org-roam-graph-node-extra-config

Extra options for nodes in the graphviz output (The “N” attributes). Example: '(("color" . "skyblue"))

User Option: org-roam-graph-edge-extra-config

Extra options for edges in the graphviz output (The “E” attributes). Example: '(("dir" . "back"))

User Option: org-roam-graph-edge-cites-extra-config

Extra options for citation edges in the graphviz output. Example: '(("color" . "red"))

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13.2 Excluding Nodes and Edges

One may want to exclude certain files to declutter the graph.

User Option: org-roam-graph-exclude-matcher

Matcher for excluding nodes from the generated graph. Any nodes and links for file paths matching this string is excluded from the graph.

If value is a string, the string is the only matcher.

If value is a list, all file paths matching any of the strings are excluded.

(setq org-roam-graph-exclude-matcher '("private" "dailies"))

This setting excludes all files whose path contain “private” or “dailies”.

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14 Minibuffer Completion

Org-roam allows customization of which minibuffer completion system to use for its interactive commands. The default setting uses Emacs’ standard completing-read mechanism.

(setq org-roam-completion-system 'default)

If you have installed Helm or Ivy, and have their modes enabled, under the 'default setting they will be used.

In the rare scenario where you use Ivy globally, but prefer Helm for org-roam commands, set:

(setq org-roam-completion-system 'helm)

Other options include 'ido, and 'ivy.

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15 Roam Protocol

Org-roam extends org-protocol with 2 protocols: the roam-file and roam-ref protocols.

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15.1 Installation

To enable Org-roam’s protocol extensions, you have to add the following to your init file:

(require 'org-roam-protocol)

The instructions for setting up org-protocol are reproduced below.

We will also need to create a desktop application for emacsclient. The instructions for various platforms are shown below.

For Linux users, create a desktop application in ~/.local/share/applications/org-protocol.desktop:

[Desktop Entry]
Exec=emacsclient %u

Associate org-protocol:// links with the desktop application by running in your shell:

xdg-mime default org-protocol.desktop x-scheme-handler/org-protocol

To disable the “confirm” prompt in Chrome, you can also make Chrome show a checkbox to tick, so that the Org-Protocol Client app will be used without confirmation. To do this, run in a shell:

sudo mkdir -p /etc/opt/chrome/policies/managed/
sudo tee /etc/opt/chrome/policies/managed/external_protocol_dialog.json >/dev/null <<'EOF'
  "ExternalProtocolDialogShowAlwaysOpenCheckbox": true
sudo chmod 644 /etc/opt/chrome/policies/managed/external_protocol_dialog.json

and then restart Chrome (for example, by navigating to <chrome://restart>) to make the new policy take effect.

See here for more info on the /etc/opt/chrome/policies/managed directory and here for information on the ExternalProtocolDialogShowAlwaysOpenCheckbox policy.

For MacOS, one solution is to use Platypus. Here are the instructions for setting up with Platypus and Chrome:

brew cask install platypus
#!/usr/bin/env bash
/usr/local/bin/emacsclient --no-wait $1
App Name“OrgProtocol”
Script Type“env” · “/usr/bin/env”
Script Path“path/to/”
Accept dropped itemstrue
Remain running after executionfalse

Inside Settings:

Accept dropped filestrue
Register as URI scheme handlertrue

To disable the “confirm” prompt in Chrome, you can also make Chrome show a checkbox to tick, so that the OrgProtocol app will be used without confirmation. To do this, run in a shell:

defaults write ExternalProtocolDialogShowAlwaysOpenCheckbox -bool true

If you’re using Emacs Mac Port, it registered its ‘‘ as the default handler for the URL scheme ‘org-protocol‘. To make the default handler instead, run:

defaults write LSHandlers -array-add \
'{"LSHandlerPreferredVersions" = { "LSHandlerRoleAll" = "-"; }; LSHandlerRoleAll = "org.yourusername.OrgProtocol"; LSHandlerURLScheme = "org-protocol";}'

Then restart your computer.

For Windows, create a temporary org-protocol.reg file:


@="URL:Org Protocol"
"URL Protocol"=""
@="\"C:\\Windows\\System32\\wsl.exe\" emacsclient \"%1\""

The above will forward the protocol to WSL. If you run Emacs natively on Windows, replace the last line with:

@="\"c:\\path\\to\\emacs\\bin\\emacsclientw.exe\"  \"%1\""

After executing the .reg file, the protocol is registered and you can delete the file.

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15.2 The roam-file protocol

This is a simple protocol that opens the path specified by the file key (e.g. org-protocol://roam-file?file=/tmp/ This is used in the generated graph.

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15.3 The roam-ref protocol

This protocol finds or creates a new note with a given roam_key (see Files):


To use this, create the following bookmarklet in your browser:

javascript:location.href =
    + encodeURIComponent(location.href)
    + '&title='
    + encodeURIComponent(document.title)
    + '&body='
    + encodeURIComponent(window.getSelection())

or as a keybinding in qutebrowser in , using the file (see Configuring qutebrowser):

config.bind("<Ctrl-r>", "open javascript:location.href='org-protocol://roam-ref?template=r&ref='+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+'&title='+encodeURIComponent(document.title)")

where template is the template key for a template in org-roam-capture-ref-templates (see The Templating System). These templates should contain a #+roam_key: ${ref} in it.

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16 Daily-notes

Org-roam provides journaling capabilities akin to Org-journal with org-roam-dailies.

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16.1 Configuration

For org-roam-dailies to work, you need to define two variables:

Variable: org-roam-dailies-directory

Path to daily-notes.

Variable: org-roam-dailies-capture-templates

Capture templates for daily-notes in Org-roam.

Here is a sane default configuration:

(setq org-roam-dailies-directory "daily/")

(setq org-roam-dailies-capture-templates
      '(("d" "default" entry
         "* %?"
         :file-name "daily/%<%Y-%m-%d>"
         :head "#+title: %<%Y-%m-%d>\n\n")))

Make sure that org-roam-dailies-directory appears in :file-name for your notes to be recognized as daily-notes. You can have different templates placing their notes in different directories, but the one in org-roam-dailies-directory will be considered as the main one in commands.

See The Templating System for creating new templates. org-roam-dailies provides an extra :olp option which allows specifying the outline-path to a heading:

(setq org-roam-dailies-capture-templates
      '(("l" "lab" entry
         "* %?"
         :file-name "daily/%<%Y-%m-%d>"
         :head "#+title: %<%Y-%m-%d>\n"
         :olp ("Lab notes"))

        ("j" "journal" entry
         "* %?"
         :file-name "daily/%<%Y-%m-%d>"
         :head "#+title: %<%Y-%m-%d>\n"
         :olp ("Journal"))))

The template l will put its notes under the heading ‘Lab notes’, and the template j will put its notes under the heading ‘Journal’.

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16.2 Capturing and finding daily-notes

Function: org-roam-dailies-capture-today &optional goto

Create an entry in the daily note for today.

When goto is non-nil, go the note without creating an entry.

Function: org-roam-dailies-find-today

Find the daily note for today, creating it if necessary.

There are variants of those commands for -yesterday and -tomorrow:

Function: org-roam-dailies-capture-yesterday n &optional goto

Create an entry in the daily note for yesteday.

With numeric argument n, use the daily note n days in the past.

Function: org-roam-dailies-find-yesterday

With numeric argument N, use the daily-note N days in the future.

There are also commands which allow you to use Emacs’s calendar to find the date

Function: org-roam-dailies-capture-date

Create an entry in the daily note for a date using the calendar.

Prefer past dates, unless prefer-future is non-nil.

With a ’C-u’ prefix or when goto is non-nil, go the note without creating an entry.

Function: org-roam-dailies-find-date

Find the daily note for a date using the calendar, creating it if necessary.

Prefer past dates, unless prefer-future is non-nil.

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16.3 Navigation

You can navigate between daily-notes:

Function: org-roam-dailies-find-directory

Find and open org-roam-dailies-directory.

Function: org-roam-dailies-find-previous-note

When in an daily-note, find the previous one.

Function: org-roam-dailies-find-next-note

When in an daily-note, find the next one.

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17 Diagnosing and Repairing Files

Org-roam provides a utility for diagnosing and repairing problematic files via org-roam-doctor. By default, org-roam-doctor runs the check on the current Org-roam file. To run the check only for the current file, run C-u M-x org-roam-doctor, but note that this may take some time.

Function: org-roam-doctor &optional this-buffer

Perform a check on Org-roam files to ensure cleanliness. If THIS-BUFFER, run the check only for the current buffer.

The checks run are defined in org-roam-doctor--checkers. By default, there are checkers for broken links and invalid ‘#+roam_*’ properties.

Each checker is an instance of org-roam-doctor-checker. To define a checker, use make-org-roam-doctor-checker. Here is a sample definition:

    :name 'org-roam-doctor-broken-links
    :description "Fix broken links."
    :actions '(("d" . ("Unlink" . org-roam-doctor--remove-link))
               ("r" . ("Replace link" . org-roam-doctor--replace-link))
               ("R" . ("Replace link (keep label)" . org-roam-doctor--replace-link-keep-label))))

The :name property is the name of the function run. The function takes in the Org parse tree, and returns a list of (point error-message). :description is a short description of what the checker does. :actions is an alist containing elements of the form (char . (prompt . function)). These actions are defined per checker, to perform autofixes for the errors. For each error detected, org-roam-doctor will move the point to the current error, and pop-up a help window displaying the error message, as well as the list of actions that can be taken provided in :actions.

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18 Finding Unlinked References

Unlinked references are occurrences of strings of text that exactly match the title or alias of an existing note in the Org-roam database. Org-roam provides facilities for discovering these unlinked references, so one may decide whether to convert them into links.

To use this feature, simply call M-x org-roam-unlinked-references from within an Org-roam note. Internally, Org-roam uses ripgrep and a clever PCRE regex to find occurrences of the title or aliases of the currently open note in all Org-roam files. Hence, this requires a version of ripgrep that is compiled with PCRE support.

NOTE: Since ripgrep cannot read encrypted files, this function cannot find unlinked references within encrypted files.

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19 Performance Optimization

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19.1 TODO Profiling Key Operations

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19.2 Garbage Collection

During the cache-build process, Org-roam generates a lot of in-memory data-structures (such as the Org file’s AST), which are discarded after use. These structures are garbage collected at regular intervals (see (elisp)info:elisp#Garbage Collection).

Org-roam provides the option org-roam-db-gc-threshold to temporarily change the threshold value for GC to be triggered during these memory-intensive operations. To reduce the number of garbage collection processes, one may set org-roam-db-gc-threshold to a high value (such as most-positive-fixnum):

(setq org-roam-db-gc-threshold most-positive-fixnum)

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20 Appendix

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20.1 Note-taking Workflows

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20.2 Ecosystem

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20.2.1 Browsing History with winner-mode

winner-mode is a global minor mode that allows one to undo and redo changes in the window configuration. It is included with GNU Emacs since version 20.

winner-mode can be used as a simple version of browser history for Org-roam. Each click through org-roam links (from both Org files and the backlinks buffer) causes changes in window configuration, which can be undone and redone using winner-mode. To use winner-mode, simply enable it, and bind the appropriate interactive functions:

(winner-mode +1)
(define-key winner-mode-map (kbd "<M-left>") #'winner-undo)
(define-key winner-mode-map (kbd "<M-right>") #'winner-redo)

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20.2.2 Versioning Notes

Since Org-roam notes are just plain text, it is trivial to track changes in your notes database using version control systems such as Git. Simply initialize org-roam-directory as a Git repository, and commit your files at regular or appropriate intervals. Magit is a great interface to Git within Emacs.

In addition, it may be useful to observe how a particular note has evolved, by looking at the file history. Git-timemachine allows you to visit historic versions of a tracked Org-roam note.

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20.2.3 Full-text search interface with Deft

Deft provides a nice interface for browsing and filtering org-roam notes.

(use-package deft
  :after org
  ("C-c n d" . deft)
  (deft-recursive t)
  (deft-use-filter-string-for-filename t)
  (deft-default-extension "org")
  (deft-directory "/path/to/org-roam-files/"))

If the title of the Org file is not the first line, you might not get nice titles. You may choose to patch this to use org-roam’s functionality. Here I’m using el-patch:

(use-package el-patch
  :straight (:host github
             :repo "raxod502/el-patch"
             :branch "develop"))

  (require 'el-patch))

(use-package deft
  ;; same as above...
  (defun deft-parse-title (file contents)
    "Parse the given FILE and CONTENTS and determine the title.
If `deft-use-filename-as-title' is nil, the title is taken to
be the first non-empty line of the FILE.  Else the base name of the FILE is
used as title."
    (el-patch-swap (if deft-use-filename-as-title
                       (deft-base-filename file)
                     (let ((begin (string-match "^.+$" contents)))
                       (if begin
                           (funcall deft-parse-title-function
                                    (substring contents begin (match-end 0))))))
                   (org-roam-db--get-title file))))

The Deft interface can slow down quickly when the number of files get huge. Notdeft is a fork of Deft that uses an external search engine and indexer.

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20.2.4 Org-journal

Org-journal provides journaling capabilities to Org-mode. A lot of its functionalities have been incorporated into Org-roam under the name org-roam-dailies. It remains a good tool if you want to isolate your verbose journal entries from the ideas you would write on a scratchpad.

(use-package org-journal
  ("C-c n j" . org-journal-new-entry)
  (org-journal-date-prefix "#+title: ")
  (org-journal-file-format "")
  (org-journal-dir "/path/to/journal/files/")
  (org-journal-date-format "%A, %d %B %Y"))

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20.2.5 Note-taking Add-ons

These are some plugins that make note-taking in Org-mode more enjoyable.

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Org-download lets you screenshot and yank images from the web into your notes:


Figure: org-download

(use-package org-download
  :after org
  (:map org-mode-map
        (("s-Y" . org-download-screenshot)
         ("s-y" . org-download-yank))))

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mathpix.el uses Mathpix’s API to convert clips into latex equations:


Figure: mathpix

(use-package mathpix.el
  :straight (:host github :repo "jethrokuan/mathpix.el")
  :custom ((mathpix-app-id "app-id")
           (mathpix-app-key "app-key"))
  ("C-x m" . mathpix-screenshot))

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Org-noter / Interleave

Org-noter and Interleave are both projects that allow synchronised annotation of documents (PDF, EPUB etc.) within Org-mode.

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org-roam-bibtex offers tight integration between org-ref, helm-bibtex and org-roam. This helps you manage your bibliographic notes under org-roam.

For example, though helm-bibtex provides the ability to visit notes for bibliographic entries, org-roam-bibtex extends it with the ability to visit the file with the right ‘#+roam_key’.

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Spaced Repetition

Org-fc is a spaced repetition system that scales well with a large number of files. Other alternatives include org-drill, and pamparam.

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21 FAQ

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21.1 How do I have more than one Org-roam directory?

Emacs supports directory-local variables, allowing the value of org-roam-directory to be different in different directories. It does this by checking for a file named .dir-locals.el.

To add support for multiple directories, override the org-roam-directory variable using directory-local variables. This is what .dir-locals.el may contain:

((nil . ((org-roam-directory . ".")
         (org-roam-db-location . "./org-roam.db"))))

All files within that directory will be treated as their own separate set of Org-roam files. Remember to run org-roam-db-build-cache from a file within that directory, at least once.

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21.2 How do I migrate from Roam Research?

Fabio has produced a command-line tool that converts markdown files exported from Roam Research into Org-roam compatible markdown. More instructions are provided in the repository.

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21.3 How do I create a note whose title already matches one of the candidates?

This situation arises when, for example, one would like to create a note titled “bar” when “barricade” already exists.

The solution is dependent on the mini-buffer completion framework in use. Here are the solutions:

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Appendix A Keystroke Index

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Appendix B Command Index

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Appendix C Function Index

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Index Entry  Section

org-roam-dailies-capture-date: Capturing and finding daily-notes
org-roam-dailies-capture-today: Capturing and finding daily-notes
org-roam-dailies-capture-yesterday: Capturing and finding daily-notes
org-roam-dailies-find-date: Capturing and finding daily-notes
org-roam-dailies-find-directory: Navigation
org-roam-dailies-find-next-note: Navigation
org-roam-dailies-find-previous-note: Navigation
org-roam-dailies-find-today: Capturing and finding daily-notes
org-roam-dailies-find-yesterday: Capturing and finding daily-notes
org-roam-doctor: Diagnosing and Repairing Files
org-roam-find-index: Index File
org-roam-graph: Graphing
org-roam-link-complete-at-point: Link Completion

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Appendix D Variable Index

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Index Entry  Section

org-roam-buffer: The Org-roam Buffer
org-roam-buffer-height: The Org-roam Buffer
org-roam-buffer-position: The Org-roam Buffer
org-roam-buffer-width: The Org-roam Buffer
org-roam-buffer-window-parameters: The Org-roam Buffer
org-roam-completion-everywhere: Link Completions Everywhere
org-roam-completion-functions: Completions
org-roam-completion-ignore-case: Completions
org-roam-dailies-capture-templates: Configuration
org-roam-dailies-directory: Configuration
org-roam-db-location: Directories and Files
org-roam-db-update-idle-seconds: The Database
org-roam-db-update-method: The Database
org-roam-directory: Directories and Files
org-roam-encrypt-files: Encryption
org-roam-file-exclude-regexp: Directories and Files
org-roam-graph-edge-cites-extra-config: Graph Options
org-roam-graph-edge-extra-config: Graph Options
org-roam-graph-exclude-matcher: Excluding Nodes and Edges
org-roam-graph-executable: Graphing
org-roam-graph-extra-config: Graph Options
org-roam-graph-node-extra-config: Graph Options
org-roam-graph-viewer: Graphing
org-roam-index-file: Index File
org-roam-link-auto-replace: Inserting Links
org-roam-link-title-format: Inserting Links
org-roam-link-use-custom-faces: Org-roam Faces
org-roam-tag-sources: Customizing Tag Extraction
org-roam-title-sources: Customizing Title Extraction

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Emacs 28.0.50 (Org mode 9.4)



To understand more about Roam, a collection of links are available in Note-taking Workflows.