The calendar (‘M-x calendar’) can show you diary entries for a particular day when you press ‘d’ (for more on calendar stuff, see CalendarMode). You might also be interested in AppointmentMode to get reminders for events a few minutes before they happen.

The diary entries are added manually to the ~/diary file. ‘M-x diary’ does not create the file.

Fancy display

Here is some code to make your calendar and diary display fancier:

 (setq view-diary-entries-initially t
       mark-diary-entries-in-calendar t
       number-of-diary-entries 7)
 (add-hook 'diary-display-hook 'fancy-diary-display)
 (add-hook 'today-visible-calendar-hook 'calendar-mark-today)

Here is some code to get rid of the ugly equal signs under the date:

 (add-hook 'fancy-diary-display-mode-hook
	   '(lambda ()
 (defun alt-clean-equal-signs ()
   "This function makes lines of = signs invisible."
   (goto-char (point-min))
   (let ((state buffer-read-only))
     (when state (setq buffer-read-only nil))
     (while (not (eobp))
       (search-forward-regexp "^=+$" nil 'move)
       (add-text-properties (match-beginning 0) 
	                    (match-end 0) 
			    '(invisible t)))
     (when state (setq buffer-read-only t))))

Note that the hook used exists only on recent version of emacs; so, you’ll probably need the following:

 (define-derived-mode fancy-diary-display-mode  fundamental-mode
   "Major mode used while displaying diary entries using Fancy Display."
   (set (make-local-variable 'font-lock-defaults)
        '(fancy-diary-font-lock-keywords t))
   (define-key (current-local-map) "q" 'quit-window)
   (define-key (current-local-map) "h" 'calendar))
 (defadvice fancy-diary-display (after set-mode activate)
   "Set the mode of the buffer *Fancy Diary Entries* to
     (set-buffer fancy-diary-buffer)

Then play with the font-lock keywords!

If your version of diary doesn’t have font-locking for the fancy display (such as the current XEmacs diary package), you can use generic.el to whip up something suitable. For example:

    (require 'generic)
    (define-generic-mode 'fancy-diary-display-mode
      (list "Exception" "Location" "Desc")
        ("\\(.*\\)\n\\(=+\\)"            ;; Day title / separator lines
         (1 'font-lock-keyword-face) (2 'font-lock-preprocessor-face))
        ("^\\(todo [^:]*:\\)\\(.*\\)$"   ;; To do entries
         (1 'font-lock-string-face) (2 'font-lock-reference-face))
        ("\\(\\[.*\\]\\)"                ;; Category labels
         1 'font-lock-constant-face)
         1 'font-lock-type-face))        ;; Time intervals at start of lines.
          (lambda ()
      "Mode for fancy diary display.")


See CalendarLocalization.

Diary Entries

If you call the function `(european-calendar)’ it sets the variable ‘european-calendar-style’ to t; your date specifications should have the order day, month, year. If it is nil, use month, day, year. There are many different ways to specify dates and date patterns, some of which are compatible with the calendar(1) command. Check the EmacsManual node “Date Formats” for more information.

The following examples assume european calendar style!

Here’s an entry for a particular day:

 6 Nov 2000 cinema

Multi line entries are also allowed:

 6 Nov 2000 cinema
               - watch movie
               - party all night

If you want the entry to show as a diary entry, but not to mark your calendar, prefix with an ampersand (”&”):

 &7 Nov 2000 drink water watch TV

Here’s an example for an anniversary. Note that the diary entry will display my dad’s age as well.

 %%(diary-anniversary 14 2 1940) Dad turns %d

Here’s an example for an entire block of days.

 %%(diary-block 14 2 2000 18 2 2000) Software Test

Here’s an example for every 60 days starting at 15 July 2003:

 %%(diary-cyclic 60 15 7 2003) Renew medication

Here’s for certain days of the week. Note how the leading “&” prevents the entry from standing out in my calendar.

 &%%(= 4 (calendar-day-of-week date)) Salsa

And here are some complex list expressions. This one first determines wether we are on a friday (day number 5), and then it checks wether the date falls in a certain block.

 %%(and (= 5 (calendar-day-of-week date))
        (diary-block 20 10 2000 20 2 2001)) Luzern

Here’s an even fancier entry for every first working day of the month: Either we are talking about monday to friday (day number 1 to 5) and it’s the first day of the month, or it is a monday and its the second day of the month, or it is a monday and the third day of the month.

 %%(let ((d (calendar-day-of-week date)))
     (or (and (> d 0)
              (< d 6)
              (diary-date 1 t t))
         (and (= d 1)
              (or (diary-date 2 t t)
                  (diary-date 3 t t))))) Check reports

If you want to see reminders of upcoming events, use diary-remind. The first argument is a diary-sexp like the ones used in the preceding examples (it took some time to find out quoting is needed…), the second arg is the number of days (or a list of numbers) before the event that the reminders should occur on. The optional third arg turns on marking of the reminders in the calendar.

 %%(diary-remind '(diary-date 1 8 2004) '(1 2 3) t) really-important-event-i-have-to-prepare-days-in-advance

If you want to insert separators, try the following:

 %%(progn " ")


 %%(progn t) ----

New Diary Sexps

You can do a lot of things with diary sexp but if you often to do very complex things, it might be easier to define a new sexp…


If you want to write a schedule for school or university, you need to define a block (it’s derived from diary-block) between two dates and a weekday. The following function also recognizes holidays and won’t send you to school on those days… ☺

    (defun diary-schedule (m1 d1 y1 m2 d2 y2 dayname)
      "Entry applies if date is between dates on DAYNAME.  
    Order of the parameters is M1, D1, Y1, M2, D2, Y2 if
    `european-calendar-style' is nil, and D1, M1, Y1, D2, M2, Y2 if
    `european-calendar-style' is t. Entry does not apply on a history."
      (let ((date1 (calendar-absolute-from-gregorian
                    (if european-calendar-style
                        (list d1 m1 y1)
                      (list m1 d1 y1))))
            (date2 (calendar-absolute-from-gregorian
                    (if european-calendar-style
                        (list d2 m2 y2)
                      (list m2 d2 y2))))
            (d (calendar-absolute-from-gregorian date)))
        (if (and 
             (<= date1 d) 
             (<= d date2)
             (= (calendar-day-of-week date) dayname)
             (not (check-calendar-holidays date))

Then: "&%%(diary-schedule 22 4 2003 1 8 2003 2) 18:00 History"


This uses diary-schedule (defined above) and diary-remind to produce a daily countdown to a deadline:

 (defun diary-countdown (m1 d1 y1 n)
   "Reminder during the previous n days to the date.
    Order of parameters is M1, D1, Y1, N if
    `european-calendar-style' is nil, and D1, M1, Y1, N otherwise."
   (diary-remind '(diary-date m1 d1 y1) (let (value) (dotimes (number n value) (setq value (cons number value))))))

Then: "&%%(diary-countdown 22 4 2003 15) Conference deadline" shows the reminder during the last 15 days before 22 4 2003.

Diary Mode Keymap

m  mark diary entries
d  view diary entries
s  show all diary entries
id insert diary entry
iw insert weekly diary entry
im insert monthly diary entry

Third-party Offerings


There is an alternative calendar mode called MHC which has some

interesting features. It has a web site at http://www.quickhack.net/mhc/ (caution: Japanese reading skills are probably useful).

It has hooks for adding entries to the task list / calendar from incoming mail messages (provides hook functions for Gnus, Mew, and Wanderlust) and there are facilities for merging calendars with Pilots and other popular handheld devices. Appointments are stored in standard MH folders, so they can be accessed and modified by external utilities as well. There is also experimental LDAP calendar support.

iCalendar import/export

UlfJasper has written a package for handling icalendar events in Emacs diary. The announcement in news:gnu.emacs.sources read

 Here's a package for importing simple icalendar events into Emacs
 Please note that this is a pre-alpha snapshot trial demo test
 version. It should work correctly on ordinary, i.e. non-recurring,
 events. But it will fail on most recurring events. Anyhow, I am
 posting it here because I think that there may be someone who could
 find it useful.

The latest version of icalendar.el also allows for exporting an Emacs diary file in icalendar format.

icalendar.el is now (2004-11-10) part of GNU Emacs.

I’m hacking icalendar.el to improve it. My patches are available at http://luca.pca.it/projects/elisp/. The latest one is the following – LucaCapello (2005-09-15)

Great to ear that. I’d like to be able to include webcal URIs into my diary file. What I’d like to see is support for multiple calendars so then I could export them atomically or all or part of them… What me lack for is a Unified way to access DiaryCalendar… data from Emacs. This would be great to have such a unified interface for all that sort of things plus bidirectionnal syncs with portable devices such as Palms.

+ 20050915-15:30 
      add var icalendar-default-diary-file 
      add var icalendar-use-default-diary-file 
      add var icalendar-kill-buffer-exported 
      mod (icalendar-export-file) 
      mod (icalendar-export-region) 

Any update available such as full import/export ? webcal support ?

I’ve a functional import/export patch, I need to prepare the changelog and then submit to UlfJasper, so stay tuned. And, BTW, webcal support is on my todo list… – LucaCapello (2005-09-20)

Oh and I have a problem with imported data. Events imported are shown on every diary page not taking into account the date field…

Send me a bug report – UlfJasper (2005-09-19)

I’ve created a simple-and-probably-broken script that uses a conf file to download urls to destination directories and automatically creates a “calendars.el” file (at a path you specify) that will use the icalendar-import functionality that seems to have made it into mainline sometime between 2005 and 2009. It’s available at my svn repo. Bugs, rants, and features welcome.

Importing from CSV files

You can import diary data from CSV (comma separated value) files with lookout.el. This package allows for importing calendar and address data from CSV files. (Note that you also need csv.el which can be found at the same place.) See also BbdbImporters.

Mail upcoming diary entries

Pop something like the following code in a shell script, and run it from cron, to get a 7-day itinerary mailed to you each morning:

    emacs --batch --eval "(setq diary-mail-days 7 european-calendar-style t
                                diary-file \"~/.diary\" diary-mail-addr \"diary@example.com\")"
                         -l diary-lib -f diary-mail-entries 

Remember to change the email address before running this.

In the actual (2003/04/25) CVS this code doesn’t work because of a bug (wrong number of arguments). This patch makes it work again:

    Index: lisp/calendar/diary-lib.el
    RCS file: /cvsroot/emacs/emacs/lisp/calendar/diary-lib.el,v
    retrieving revision 1.62
    diff -r1.62 diary-lib.el
    <     (funcall (get mail-user-agent 'sendfunc))))
    >     (funcall (get mail-user-agent 'sendfunc) nil))) 

According to RMS it’ll be fixed in sendmail.el but until then this should do it. You can also add a “mail-user-agent ‘gnus-user-agent” into the --eval if you have a properly configured gnus.

Getting diary entries printed on the shell

The standard unix old-time program calendar(1) uses similar syntax as Emacs’s DiaryMode, so simply running it in one’s shell loginscript is enough to see what’s scheduled for the today and tomorrow, as explained on calendar’s man-page. By default calendar uses the file .calendar or .calendar/calendar, so one must either use the -f switch, a filesystem link or set diary-file appropriately to use the same file.

Note that localization will be a bit of a hassle, as Emacs doesn’t support a LANG=locale in the diary-file, like modern versions of calendar do.

If the calendar syntax is too limited, but you still want to get upcoming diary entries printed on the shell, adapt the options in

http://netzwurm.de/download/programming/diary-batch.el ⇒ 404 Not Found. Any other URL to get this one ?

for your needs, put the file in your .elisp directory and call:

  emacs -batch --no-site-file -l .elisp/diary-batch.el -e diary-batch 2>&1 | tail +3

If you put the above line into your .profile or .bash_profile your upcoming diary entries will be printed whenever you login.

NOTE: This is obsolete for users with init=/usr/bin/emacs in their kernel commandline. ;)

I can’t find diary-batch.el, so I made my own. It’s simple, but it gets the job done. It’s invoked in the same way as above:

(require 'calendar)
(defun diary-batch (&optional ndays)
  (interactive "P")
  (let ((diary-print-entries-hook (lambda () (princ (buffer-string))))
	(diary-display-function 'diary-fancy-display))
    (diary-list-entries (calendar-current-date) (or ndays diary-mail-days))


I’d like to have the diary/calendar display and recognize dates in -true- ISO format, i.e. 2006-03-01, not 2006-3-1. Any ideas on how to accomplish this? //Nate, using emacs 21.4

I want anniversary entries in my diary to be marked in the M-x calendar in the same way that normal diary entries can be marked (with some face). Is this possible? //Daniel Lublin, using emacs 21.2

Is there any simply way to set different faces (marks/colors) for different sexp (anniversaries, block etc)? Or can I easily set the face (mark/color) for each diary item? – poppyer

Is it possible to “invert” the meaning of the ampersand (Emacs 21.2)? That is, the ampersand would ENABLE marking in the calendar instead of disabling it (as is currently)? Thanks! --ttn

Thanks to BruceDurlingDotEmacs, I found the answer to my own question: Why aren’t my diary entries sorted when they are displayed? – ats

    (add-hook 'list-diary-entries-hook 'sort-diary-entries t)

CategoryPersonalInformationManager CategoryCalendar