Q:  How can org-mode be configured so that (org-entry-get nil "title") returns the headline title?

I have seen three variations of org-entry-get where the string argument title is in all lowercase, all uppercase, or initial caps. The default org-mode configuration does not return anything in all three cases:

** Active [#A] 0 @ index. :lawlist:
  DEADLINE: <2016-12-31 Sat>
  :Hash: 8ae546845cebbc4d25ccdcf23eade44e
  :ToodledoFolder: TASKS
  :ToodledoID: 394554265

(setq org-todo-keywords '((sequence
  "Next Action(n)"

Here is a function I found that uses org-get-heading if org-entry-get fails:

(let ((title (if (org-entry-get nil "title")
                 (org-entry-get nil "title")
                 (org-get-heading t t))))
  (substring-no-properties title))

And, here is yet another method: (org-element-property :title (org-element-at-point))

2 Answers 2


First to fix terminology, I think you are asking for the "heading" of the entry. "Title" usually refers to the document title in org-mode.

With org-mode version 9.0.3 there is a function to retrieve elements of the heading, `org-heading-components', which returns a list whose 5th element is the title. Thus the title my be retrieved by

(nth 4 (org-heading-components))

However, org-mode also maps the heading to a property. Its name is not quite logical, but running org-entry-properties reveals that it is stored under ITEM. Thus you are looking for

(org-entry-get nil "ITEM")
  • When the org-todo-keywords is defined, (nth 4 (org-heading-components)) will return "0 @ index.". However, (org-entry-get nil "ITEM") still returns nil.
    – lawlist
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 18:23
  • "0 @ index." is correct. What were you hoping for? Also, you must be doing something wrong. (org-entry-get nil "ITEM") also returns "0 @ index." for me. Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 21:40
  • 1
    @John Kitchin -- thank you for confirming the expected behavior. It turns out that the version of org-mode that ships with Emacs 25.1.1 is 8.2.10 and it does not support extracting "ITEM" with org-entry-get. The most recent version of org-mode that can be installed separately is 9.0.3 and it does indeed support this feature. I have posted an alternative answer explaining the issue, but will accept the answer by @Andrew Swann because most people will opt to simply upgrade to the latest version of org-mode.
    – lawlist
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 2:43

The current stable version of Emacs as of 01/08/2017 is 25.1.1, which was released on or about 09/20/2016. The version of org-mode that ships with the aforementioned version of Emacs is 8.2.10. The current stable of release of org-mode as of 01/08/2017 is 9.0.3.

As to org-mode version 8.2.10, "ITEM" is not a member of org-special-properties by default. As to org-mode version 8.2.10, the function org-entry-properties does not have a subsection specifically allocated to extracting the "ITEM". Here is what the missing snippet would look like if someone wanted to add this feature -- the logical place to plug this snippet in would be between the section dealing with "PRIORITY" and the section dealing with "FILE":

(when (or (not specific) (string= specific "ITEM"))
  (let ((case-fold-search nil))
    (when (looking-at org-complex-heading-regexp)
      (push (cons "ITEM"
                  (let ((title (match-string-no-properties 4)))
                    (if (org-string-nw-p title)
                      (org-remove-tabs title)

As to org-mode version 9.0.3, "ITEM" is a member of org-special-properties by default. As to org-mode version 9.0.3, the function org-entry-properties already has a dedication section to deal with "ITEM" -- said function has also evolved in other aspects since 8.2.10 (e.g., catch 'exit and throw exit ...).

Since most people will likely upgrade to the most recent version of org-mode, @lawlist will accept the answer of @Andrew Swann.

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