Org mode is super amazing, as I am sure you are aware. I use it throughout the day, every day.

As I try to extend it, there are a few concepts that have confused me, which I want to cover here, because I am sure they have confused other people, too: keywords, properties, and plain old variables. Each of these essentially are used to set keys to values.


Keywords look like this:

 #+KEYWORD: value

Keywords are predefined and used for specific things. They don’t seem to be explicity explained anywhere in the manual, but they are referenced throughout.

Keywords might be conceptualized as global to the entire file.

More information:


Properties look like this:

 * header1
 :STYLE:    scoot
 * header2

Properties are used to provide settings that are specific to the structure. Above, header1 has properties set for location and style, whereas header2 does not have any values for these properties.

Default property values may be set with the property keyword, like so:

 #+PROPERTY: property-name property-value

More Information:

  3. (search for “property”)


Finally, we come to variables. The org mode documentation refers to variables that control settings on a regular basis, and I have never been sure what the right solution is.

Now, I’m familiar with Emacs lisp. I know what is meant by variables in a general sense, but it always seemed like there should be a syntax to set any variable. I was going to write in this article that I haven’t found it, but I have since found it. Setting arbitrary variables looks like this:

 #+BIND: variable-name variable-value

However, since it took me some time to find it, I have used file variables to achieve the same thing. I’ll include a link to the documentation below about it.

More Information:

  1. (search for “BIND”)