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Binder is global minor mode to facilitate working on a writing project in multiple files. It is heavily inspired by the binder feature in the macOS writing app Scrivener.

The rationale behind working this way is to split a large writing project into smaller pieces.


Primarily, Binder provides a global minor mode binder-mode. This allows working with files in the current binder-project-directory. Data concerning these files is saved in a .binder.el file in the project directory.

A project can be thought of an ordered list of files with associated notes and tags.

At the most basic level, you can navigate back and forth through the files in a project:

  • binder-next (C-c ]) visits the next file in the project
  • binder-previous (C-c [) visits the previous

Calling these commands activates a transient map so that each command can be repeated without the prefix key.

You’ll mostly interact with the project structure via the sidebar.

  • binder-toggle-sidebar (C-c ') toggles the visibility of the binder sidebar
  • binder-reveal-in-sidebar (C-c ;) finds the current file in the sidebar

Each project item is a file reference relative to the project directory.

Project items are displayed in a linear ordered list. Calling binder-sidebar-find-file (RET) or binder-sidebar-find-file-other-window (o) will visit the corresponding file.

Each item in the sidebar displays the following information:

  1. * denotes that this item has some notes (see Notes below), or…
  2. ? denotes that the item’s corresponding file cannot be found
  3. either the file relative to the project directory, or an arbitrary display name
  4. #tag1 #tag2 ... arbitrary item tags (see Tags below)

An item’s display name can be changed with binder-sidebar-rename (r). If a file cannot be found, relocate with binder-sidebar-relocate (R).

Calling binder-sidebar-find-file (RET) will visit the corresponding file.

To add an existing file, call binder-sidebar-add-file (a) or add all files in directory with binder-sidebar-add-all-files (A).

Add a new file with binder-sidebar-new-file (M-RET). This prompts for a file-name and adds this (possibly non-existent) file to the project after the current file’s index. If no file-name extension is provided, use binder-default-file-extension.

Hint: you can use an alternate default file extension for different projects by setting a directory local variable.

Files can also be added to a project from outside the sidebar with binder-add-file (C-c :).

Items can be reordered with binder-sidebar-shift-up (M-p | M-up) and binder-sidebar-shift-down (M-n | M-down).

Remove items with binder-sidebar-remove (d) – this does not delete the files, only removes them from the project, but it does delete the corresponding notes and tags.

Hide item file extensions by setting the binder-sidebar-hide-file-extensions option. This can be toggled with binder-sidebar-toggle-file-extensions (E).

The sidebar can be resized with binder-sidebar-shrink-window ({) and binder-sidebar-enlarge-window (}). The window size is changed by the number of columns specified in option binder-sidebar-resize-window-step.

You can customize how the sidebar window is displayed by setting binder-sidebar-display-alist option.


To open the notes buffer from the sidebar, call either binder-sidebar-open-notes (z) to open and select the notes window, or binder-sidebar-toggle-notes (i) to toggle the window.

To open a project file’s notes from outside the sidebar, call binder-toggle-notes (C-c ").

You need to call either binder-notes-save (C-x C-s) or binder-notes-save-and-quit-window (C-c C-c) to save notes to the project file.

Calling quit-window (C-c C-q | C-c C-k) or binder-toggle-sidebar does not save notes.

You can embiggen the notes window, to pop it out from the sidebar and edit like a regular buffer window, with binder-notes-expand-window (C-c C-l).

You can customize how the notes window is displayed by setting binder-notes-display-alist option.


Tags can help organize a project. An item can have any number of tags.

Add a tag to an item with binder-sidebar-add-tag (t). Remove a tag from an item with binder-sidebar-remove-tag (T). You can tag/untag multiple items at once by using marks (see Marking below).

Items in the sidebar can be narrowed to only show items with a certain tag with binder-sidebar-narrow-by-tag (/) and/or only show items without a certain tag with binder-sidebar-exclude-by-tag (\). Each of these commands can be called multiple times with additional tags.

Clear the sidebar filters with binder-sidebar-clear-filters (|).


Multiple items can be marked to add tags, toggle include state or delete. Call binder-sidebar-mark (m) to mark an item or binder-sidebar-unmark (u) to unmark an item.

To unmark all sidebar items, call binder-sidebar-unmark-all (U).


  • Emacs 24.4
  • seq 2.20 (part of Emacs 25 and later)


The latest stable release of Binder is available via MELPA-stable. First, add MELPA-stable to your package archives:

M-x customize-option RET package-archives RET

Insert an entry named melpa-stable with URL: https://stable.melpa.org/packages/

You can then find the latest stable version of binder in the list returned by:

M-x list-packages RET

If you prefer the latest but perhaps unstable version, do the above using MELPA.

Advanced Installation

Download the latest tagged release, move this file into your load-path and add to your init.el file:

(require 'binder)
(require 'binder-tutorial)  ;; optional

If you wish to contribute to or alter Binder’s code, clone the repository into your load-path and require as above:

git clone https://github.com/rnkn/binder.git

Bugs and Feature Requests

Send me an email (address in the package header). For bugs, please ensure you can reproduce with:

$ emacs -Q -l binder.el

Known issues are tracked with FIXME comments in the source.


Binder comes with a tutorial. Calling M-x binder-tutorial will prompt for an empty directory in which to generate the tutorial files.