I just installed Emacs 25.1 for windows. I want to modify the TODO keyword list, and I use this code:

 (setq org-todo-keywords
  '((sequence "TODO"

However, the TODO items keep cycling between the standard keywords. Strangely enough, if I check the variable 'org-todo-keywords from within the customization buffer, I do see all the keywords I've defined.

Any hints on why the do not appear when cycling?

  • Have you reverted (/re-opened) the buffer since setting org-todo-keywords?
    – ebpa
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 16:39
  • I have put the code above directly in the buffer I'm visiting and evaluated the region M-: eval-region. Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 16:46
  • 2
    Try saving and re-opening the file.
    – ebpa
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 16:51
  • Yes - that worked! Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


Org-mode caches various things on load. In this case org-todo relies on todo keyword state cached in org-todo-kwd-alist which is generated by org-set-regexps-and-options which is run when setting the mode to org-mode for the buffer.

If some org-mode customization doesn't seem to be taking effect it's usually a good idea to refresh things by reloading the buffer. Either by saving, closing, and re-opening the file or reverting the file by C-x C-v [return] (find-alternate-file).

I would personally consider this a bug. When emacs gets watchpoints (in v26.1 hopefully) minor caching issues like this should be easily addressed.

  • Any solution without reloading the buffer? I am using emacs 26.3 on a macbook pro.
    – ablian
    Commented Dec 10, 2021 at 2:52
  • Another way to apply these changes: (revert-buffer :ignore-auto :noconfirm) Commented Jun 1, 2023 at 10:45

As others have mentioned, org-mode caches things like the todo keywords when it starts. You can close and reopen the files, but org-mode provides a function org-mode-restart you can use. If some setting doesn't seem to be taking effect, try M-x org-mode-restart.

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