In an org file, is it possible to customize the task sequence by category? For instance, if I have a meeting, I would like to have it evolving through the states TODO and DONE, while if I'm tracking my progress on a MOOC, I may want to have TODO, STARTED, SUSPENDED, COMPLETE. Any hint?

2 Answers 2


stsquad's answer is the way to go if you have one file where you want to use a different sequence. If the keywords are all different, it's also possible to make both sequences available in the same file.

(setq org-todo-keywords
      '((sequence "TODO" "|" "DONE")
        (sequence "MOOC" "STARTED" "|" "COMPLETE" "SUSPENDED")))

See (info "(org) TODO extensions") for more information.

(As pointed out in the comments, this question was about choosing a TODO sequence based on categories.)

Here's one (not thoroughly tested) approach.

You can set up multiple sequences using the standard approach.

(setq org-todo-keywords
      '((sequence "TODO" "|" "DONE")
        (sequence "MOOC" "STARTED" "|" "COMPLETE" "SUSPENDED")))

Then create a custom function that starts the TODO in the desired state based on the current category. After that, let the interactive org-todo take over, because it will stay in that sequence.

(defun km/org-todo ()
  "Change TODO state of item, considering current category.

Run `org-todo', but choose the initial state based on the
category. If the the heading does not already have a TODO state
and the current category is in `km/org-category-todo-starts',
change the heading to that state.

Otherwise, run `org-todo' interactively."
  (let ((current-todo (org-get-todo-state))
        (category-todo (km/org-select-todo-by-category)))
    (if (and (not current-todo)
        (org-todo category-todo)
      (call-interactively 'org-todo))))

(defun km/org-select-todo-by-category ()
  "Choose starting TODO keyword based on the category.
If no value is found for the category, return the value for
  (or (cdr (assoc (org-no-properties (org-get-category))
      (cdr (assoc 'default km/org-category-todo-starts))))

(defvar km/org-category-todo-starts '((default . "TODO")
                                      ("mooc" . "MOOC"))
  "List of properties and first TODO keyword to start with.
The TODO keyword should be present in `org-todo-keywords'.")

This can be remapped so that C-c C-t will call this function instead.

(define-key org-mode-map [remap org-todo] 'km/org-todo)

(Note that if you use speed commands, t will still call org-todo, so you'd have to override that separately.)

  • Thanks for the reply. I have something like this already set up and it could work. But I'd like to have something more, getting the right sequence for the proper category. So, if I add a new task which is a MOOC and press C-c C-t I should only see the second sequence.
    – petrux
    Oct 29, 2014 at 16:00
  • Sorry, I should've read your question more carefully. I don't know of any built-in mechanism where the todo sequence is aware of the category context.
    – Kyle Meyer
    Oct 29, 2014 at 16:34

You can split your tasks across files and then at the top of each file add:


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