Org Mode Syntax Cheat Sheet


I’m a keen user of Emacs and Org mode for a variety of tasks, including

  • note taking,
  • generating documents for exporting to LaTeX, Word, or html.
  • creating blog posts (notably for this blog, using Org2blog).

Although Org mode is usually associated with Emacs, it is a markup language in its own right, and one that is far more powerful and more standardized than the Markdown language.

I recently came across the excellent blog post Org-Mode Is One of the Most Reasonable Markup Language to Use for Text by Org enthusiast Karl Voit. In the post he includes a simple example displaying some of the most important aspects of Org syntax. I was struck by how much information can be conveyed in a short piece of Org code. I have adapted Karl’s example into this longer version:

#+TITLE: Org Mode Syntax Cheat Sheet
#+OPTIONS: toc:nil 
# Adapted from

* Top Level Heading
** Second Level Heading
*** Third Level Heading

# A comment line.  This line will not be exported.

Paragraphs are separated by at least one empty line.

*bold* /italic/ _underlined_ +strikethrough+ =monospaced=

[[][Link description]] A link without a description.

A DOI (digital object identifier) link: 
[[doi:10.1093/comnet/cnv016][Matching Exponential-Based and Resolvent-Based Centrality Measures]]

A horizontal line, fill-width across the page:

- First item in a list.
- Second item.
  - Sub-item
    1. Numbered item.
    2. Another item.
- [ ] Item yet to be done.
- [X] Item that has been done.  

LaTeX macros can be included: $x_2 = \alpha + \beta^2 - \gamma$.

**** TODO A todo item.
**** DONE A todo item that has been done.

This text will be indented on both the left margin and the right margin.

: Text to be displayed verbatim (as-is), without markup 
: (*bold* does not change font), e.g., for source code. 
: Line breaks are respected. 

Some MATLAB source code:
#+BEGIN_SRC matlab
>> rand(1,3)
ans =
   5.5856e-01   7.5663e-01   9.9548e-01

Some arbitrary text to be typeset verbatim in monospace font:
#+BEGIN_SRC text
Apples, oranges,
cucumbers, tomatoes

# Table and spreadsheet.  The column headed "Ratio" is automatically
# calculated by hitting C-c C-c in Emacs on the #+TBLFM line.

| Country        | Abstracts | Downloads | Ratio |
| United States  |         7 |       497 |  71.0 |
| Unknown        |         4 |        83 |  20.8 |
| United Kingdom |         3 |        41 |  13.7 |
| Germany        |         3 |        29 |   9.7 |
| Netherlands    |         2 |        21 |  10.5 |
| Japan          |         1 |        18 |  18.0 |
#+TBLFM: $4=$3/$2;%.1f

Include an image:

I have put the source on GitHub along with the results of exporting the file to txt, LaTeX, PDF (direct link), and html. I include conversions done two ways:

  • With Emacs: the recommended way.
  • With Pandoc. This is useful if you do not use Emacs or want an easy way to automate the conversions. However, Pandoc does not support all Org syntax and has different defaults, so the conversions are not identical.

For more about Org see my previous writings and videos such as Using Emacs 2 – org and Getting Started With Org Mode.

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