The function org-toggle-heading is quite handy to convert existing text into an org heading.


pay rent


* pay rent

The function org-insert-heading has an analogous org-insert-todo-heading, but I don't see the function org-toggle-todo-heading as a counterpart to org-toggle-heading.

Desired output:

* TODO pay rent

Is there a function to convert existing text into org todo heading?

  • On a side note, you can easily convert abc or a list element - abc to * abc using the default binding C-c *. C-c - will convert to a list element instead of heading. Jul 9 '15 at 20:24

My preferred implementation

This alternative solution will not act as a toggle, but it will directly convert Heading to * TODO Heading on hitting C-c C-t (The Shift bindings will not work here).

The advantage of this approach is that you do not need to remember a new function or binding just for this special plain text to TODO conversion; the C-c C-t default binding for org-todo will work in DWIM fashion.

For instance, both of the below conversions happen when using the same C-c C-t binding:

Heading▮   -- (C-c C-t)--> * TODO Heading▮
* Heading▮ -- (C-c C-t)--> * TODO Heading▮


(defun modi/org-first-convert-to-heading (orig-fun &rest args)
  (let ((is-heading))
      (forward-line 0)
      (when (looking-at "^\\*")
        (setq is-heading t)))
    (unless is-heading
    (apply orig-fun args)))
(advice-add 'org-todo :around #'modi/org-first-convert-to-heading)

You need to be using emacs 24.4+ for the above advice system to work.

Toggle current line between a non-heading and TODO heading

Below function will work on a non-empty line as follows:

If the line contains


M-x my/org-toggle-heading-and-todo will convert that to,

* TODO Heading▮

Calling that function again will convert it back to,


Defining my/org-toggle-heading-and-todo

(defun my/org-toggle-heading-and-todo ()
  "Toggles the current line between a non-heading and TODO heading."
  (let ((is-heading))
      (forward-line 0)
      (when (looking-at "^\\*") 
        (setq is-heading t)))
    (if is-heading 
          (org-todo 'none) ; remove TODO
          (org-toggle-heading)) ; remove heading
        (org-toggle-heading) ; convert to heading
        (org-todo 'nextset))))) ; add TODO

Cycle only the TODO states

While the point is anywhere on the heading, S-right/S-left will cycle through all the TODO states. This works even if shift-select-mode is t. The key is to have the point/cursor on the heading. I also noticed that the org-treat-S-cursor-todo-selection-as-state-change is t by default (and that's why the shift bindings for changing TODO states work).


Below, the point is on the heading

* Heading▮

After pressing S-right, I get,

* TODO Heading▮

After pressing S-left, I once again get,

* Heading▮


My org version as of writing this is 8.2.10.

  • Well of course. Or you can just type in * TODO manually. I'm asking for a function that will do it for me automatically, since I do it many times a day. Jul 9 '15 at 20:53
  • 1
    Maybe the answer could be expanded to include an example of how to use (org-todo "TODO") following the function that the original poster is calling to insert the asterisk? See the doc-string of org-todo for all the available options . . .
    – lawlist
    Jul 9 '15 at 21:18
  • @incandescentman To allow me to help better, can you please answer the following? (1) Are you looking for an interactive solution or elisp solution? I am wondering because you are referring to function names rather than the more convenient bindings. (2) How is navigating and then typing/deleting TODO better than a quick S-right or S-left? (3) How many todo states do you plan to use? By default, you need to cycle, not toggle the todo states: nothing -> TODO -> DONE -> nothing. Jul 10 '15 at 1:31
  • S-right and S-left require org-support-shift-select to be turned off. Surely there's a universal solution that doesn't require me to turn that setting off and on. And org-todo cycling only works on headings, not plain text. Jul 10 '15 at 1:33
  • 1
    @incandescentman Improved the solution even more; try using the solution with advice and the use of C-c C-t bindings. Jul 10 '15 at 14:08

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