I would like to quickly use one of the already used tags when taking notes quickly using org-capture.

There is one inbuilt way of using M-TAB after : but there are 2 issues with that:

  • It does not work in the narrowed down Capture buffer.. I need to widen it first.
  • I would like to have a "list" completion interface so that I can pick one of the existing tags from the minibuffer.. think of imenu/ido/ivy.

Here is a typical use case (using my bindings for the example workflow):

  1. C-c c j to make a quick org-capture entry in my journal.org
  2. Type heading
  3. Hit C-c C-q to enter a tag
  4. Start typing the tag (and at this point I would like the minibuffer to show a list of tags that match with what I already typed in the minibuffer).
    • Pick one from the list by hitting RET if I want to reuse a tag, OR
    • If that exact tag doesn't already exist, create it when I hit RET

Currently, in step 4, if I want to use one of the already used tags, there is no way for me to ensure if I am doing so or creating a new tag with slight variation of that old tag.

For example: I might already have had a heading with a tag PRJ_v1 in the past and I intend to make a new heading with the same tag. But by mistake I end up creating a new tag called PRJ_r1 (because I did not remember if the original tag was PRJ_v1 or PRJ_r1). I would like to prevent such tag duplication.

2 Answers 2


Would it work to use the %^g element in your template to prompt for a tag at a specific position within the template? In one of mine, I use:

(add-to-list 'org-capture-templates
         `("j" "Journal" entry
           (file+datetree "journal.org" "Journal")
           "* %^{Plan} %^g\n%?\n"
           :kill-buffer t))

which prompts for a tag after prompting for a headline, then lets me type in the rest of the entry in the capture buffer. As far as I can tell, it picks up the tags from the journal.org file appropriately for completion.

The doc in http://orgmode.org/manual/Template-expansion.html describes %^g as "Prompt for tags, with completion on tags in target file." There is also %^G to prompt for tags from all agenda files.

  • Thanks for sharing that. I was not aware of the %^g and %^G fields earlier. Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 19:16

Since I posted that question, I have switched to using the ivy/counsel family of packages for this purpose (instead of ido).

After installing the counsel package from Melpa, and below piece of code in my emacs init, auto-completing org tags has become a breeze all-over org: In the Capture buffer, in regular org buffers and even in org-agenda.

(require 'counsel)
(with-eval-after-load 'org
  (define-key org-mode-map (kbd "C-c C-q") #'counsel-org-tag))
(with-eval-after-load 'org-agenda
  (define-key org-agenda-mode-map (kbd "C-c C-q") #'counsel-org-tag-agenda))

Here is what I get in my tag completion after hitting C-c C-q in the Capture buffer and then searching for tags beginning with the letter b (^b):

enter image description here

counsel basically uses the ivy package for backend (which is like ido-vertical-mode broadly speaking). You can learn more about Counsel completion from the package author's blog post.

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