To aid minuting staff meetings in a small organisation, I considered creating a property called :Attendees: and defining the allowed values for that property, e.g.:

* Meetings
       :Attendees_ALL: Amy Bob Joe Max Sam Zoe

and then using them like this:

** Meeting 2017-05-17
       :Attendees: Amy Joe Zoe

However, I then spotted that "a property can only have one entry per Drawer." So, Org-mode properties might not be a suitable tool for this after all.

I could use a simple list, I suppose, but I want to easily be able to create sparse trees matching who was at a meeting.

Using tags is also an option, but would be quite intrusive: potentially quite a long list of tags for each meeting. And not easily extendable to "Apologies", i.e. people who could not attend.

What might be a better solution?

  • I haven't tried this, but it seems to me that if only one entry is allowed (and I'm taking your word for it), then one entry might be a list: '(Amy Bob Joe Max Sam Zoe)? I have no idea if we need double-quotes around each name, but I suspect it will be sufficient to use things like (format "%s") to convert when extracting to avoid things like a void variable, etc. ... It may be fairly easy to treat everything in the property drawer as one entry, but I haven't looked at the applicable code.
    – lawlist
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


You can use exactly what you are trying to do like this.

Use regular expressions like this in your match expressions: Attendees={Joe\|Bob} to see meetings attended by Joe or Bob, or Attendees={Joe}-Attendees={Max} to see meetings attended by Joe and not Max.

Assuming you put an id like this in your heading with all the attendees (so you can retrieve them all later):

* Meetings
       :CUSTOM_ID: main
       :Attendees_ALL: Amy Bob Joe Max Sam Zoe

You can use a function like this:

#+BEGIN_SRC emacs-lisp
(require 'dash)
(defun absent ()
  "Determine who was absent from the meeting."
  (message "%s"
          (org-open-link-from-string "[[#main]]")
          (org-entry-get-multivalued-property nil "Attendees_ALL"))
        (org-entry-get-multivalued-property nil "Attendees"))))

to find who is absent.

  • Thanks :) Unfortunately, in Spacemacs, M-x org-sparse-tree RET r Attendees={Joe\|Bob} RET yields 0 match(es) for regexp Attendees={Joe\|Bob}, even if the file contains entries with property drawers containing, e.g. Attendees: Amy Joe Bob. Was org-sparse-tree the command you had in mind for use with the match expressions you described?
    – user8341
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 21:42
  • You want =M-x org-sparse-tree RET m Attendees={Joe\|Bob} RET=. The key is to do a "match" on the tags/properties. I think r probably does a regex match on the headings. Commented May 24, 2017 at 11:10

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