2017-11-27 Org-mode radio targets

One of the interesting features of Org-mode is hyperlinks. For some documents, having many internal links makes a lot of sense. One of these types is mathematical papers: you often want to refer to “Theorem 2.1” or “Definition 3” or “equation (5)”. LaTeX has that pretty much solved (even core LaTeX, and then there are packages to help, like cleveref). Org-mode does not improve a lot on that, but it’s usually enough anyway.

But it’s not the topic of my post today. There are other kinds of documents where rich structure of internal links may be beneficial: game rulebooks. As a boardgamer, I tend to read quite a few of those, and sometimes they are a real PITA. Especially with American-style games, whose rulebooks are often one or two dozen pages long, and introduce a lot of concepts, even understanding (not to speak about memorizing!) the rules tends to be a daunting task. And one of the reasons is the fact that it is sometimes difficult to find the exact place where some concept is defined (even if the rulebook has an index, which is not always the case).

Some time ago it occured to me that if I rewrite a rulebook in Org-mode (probably shortening or reformulating it), that might both help me understand and memorize the rules and remind myself about them later, when I get back to the game after a long break. A lot of links to places where various concepts are introduced might help with that, too.

And then I recalled something I only vaguely remembered from my reading of the Org-mode manual a few years ago: radio targets. The idea is quite cool: you mark some word (or a combination of words) in your Org-mode file, and then every occurrence of this particular word or combination of words becomes a link to the marked one. Go to the relevant node in the Org manual for the details; let me just note here that radio targets are case-insensitive (this is implied but not mentioned explicitly by the manual). And it is especially cool that exporting (to HTML or LaTeX) preserves these links.

I am pretty sure that radio targets may be useful in many contexts other than boardgame rulebooks. The only downside I can see is that there is a possibility of having too many links, which is usually not desirable, so you have to consider each case separately. But this is obvious with many things anyway.

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