I posted this question on stackoverflow earlier, but perhaps this is a better place for it?

I am looking for a way to left-align text in Org-mode so that the paragraphs line up like in FoldingText. Here is an example:

  * Headline number 1
 ** Headline number 2 [0/2]

    Here is some text
    before our first unordered list:

  - List item 1
  - List item 2

    And here is a checklist:

  - [ ] Do this first
  - [ ] Do this next

 ** Headline number 4

I've tried using align-regexp but I am having trouble figuring the correct regex string... any ideas?

Here's an update

I got this working with the following code:

(defun align-ft (p1 p2)
  "Align outlines like FoldingText"
  (interactive "r")
  (align-regexp p1 p2 "\\(^\\*+\\s-\\|^-\\s-\\|^\\)." -1 0 nil)

The only problem is that it aligns text by adding spaces, and I don't want spaces hard-coded into the document. I just want it to display, as if the spaces were there (like in org-indent-mode). Also, this code requires the region to be highlighted and ultimately, I just want it to auto-align the entire document, as I type.

Any ideas?

  • Looks like an xy problem.. may be you need to just enable org-indent-mode? Or are you aware of that, and that's not what you need? On top on that, may be (setq org-hide-leading-stars t)? Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 20:57
  • Thanks. I'm using org-indent-mode now. But this gives me more of an outline view. What I would like to find is a way to shift all the markup characters (stars and hyphens) into the margin area, so that the text stays nicely aligned.
    – Adam
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 21:13
  • I don't think this exists. It will probably be non-trivial and will require rewriting the org indent functions.
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 2:25
  • I'm pretty sure that this can be done with align-regexp. What I'm looking for is the regular expression to identify the delimiters.
    – Adam
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 10:17
  • 2
    The alignment could be done with align-regexp, but this will almost certainly break those parts of org that expect headlines stars (*) to start at the left margin, not at a variable number of spaces in from the margin. Given how fundamental headlines are, that's probably most of org mode.
    – Tyler
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


org-indent-mode adds the line-prefix and wrap-prefix special text properties. I'm not sure it's worth the hassle, but if you want to align your org buffer the desired way once, this may be for you:

  (goto-char (point-min))
  (while (not (eobp))
    (let ((ind (make-string
                (- 4 (if (org-at-heading-p)
      (add-text-properties (point-at-bol) (point-at-eol)
                           `(line-prefix ,ind wrap-prefix ,ind)))

Obviously you should deactivate org-indent-mode before.

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