I use org-mode, and have huge text files with headings (as well as subheadings at different depths). Instead of clicking open each headline to check for its content, I would like a "follow" functionality, made such that when moving the cursor down or up the collapsed headlines in one window (commands C-n or C-p, respectively), the content under the current headline is shown in a second window, splitting the frame vertically or horizontally.

How can I make or invoke such a following mode for showing headline content?

  • 1
    You can use occur to search for ^* (i.e. all headings) and navigate with M-g M-n and M-g M-p.
    – Juancho
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 14:50
  • Thanks @Juancho, when I do this I get an Occur window where I can navigate up and down, but the original headings in the first window does not open by this navigating. How can I make the original headings open?
    – myotis
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 14:55
  • 1
    This sounds a little like a customized agenda for the current file with follow mode turned on. Unfortunately C-c a < m RET F, though it will give you all the headings will not preserve the tree structure/order. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 7:50

1 Answer 1


@Juancho correctly suggested to use occur to provide the functionality you desire.

Use add-hook on the occur-mode-find-occurrence-hook.

  • To see how occur-mode-find-occurrence-hook works, try this:

    1. Add the code blocks below into your large org-mode file.

      This code block adds the functionality to occur.

      #+BEGIN_SRC elisp :results none :exports none 
      (defun my/occur-org-cycle ()
        (outline-hide-sublevels 1)
        (org-switch-to-buffer-other-window "*Occur*")
      (add-hook 'occur-mode-find-occurrence-hook 'my/occur-org-cycle)

      This code block removes the functionality from occur

      #+BEGIN_SRC elisp :results none :exports none 
       (remove-hook 'occur-mode-find-occurrence-hook 'my/occur-org-cycle)
    2. Click inside the first code block and press C-c C-c to add a hook to occur. Answer yes if prompted.

    3. Call occur using M-s o ^*

    4. Navigate your headlines from the new *Occur* buffer and they should expand and collapse as you described.

    5. To revert back to the default behavior, click inside the second code block and execute by pressing C-c C-c. Answer yes if prompted.

To add this functionality permanently, you will need modify and add the code into your emacs configuration file. Unfortunately, I'm still working that step out.

Thanks for asking a great question!

This code was tested using
GNU Emacs 25.2.1 (x86_64-unknown-cygwin, GTK+ Version 3.22.10)
Org mode version 9.0.9

  • Thanks for your work! I will test your code as soon as possible.
    – myotis
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 22:31
  • @myotis my pleasure! Please let me know if you have any problems. I'm going to add the code to my init file because it's a nice feature when you have long org files.
    – Melioratus
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 0:06
  • Hi @Melioratus. Now I have tested your code and I am not able to make it work. I have turned your code on, turned on occur, and got a second window with the occur buffer. But when navigating the headlines in the new buffer, down (C-n) or up (C-p), nothing happens, no headlines are opened, none are collapsed. What have I done wrong? I am using Emacs and Org mode version 9.0.1
    – myotis
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 23:08
  • @myotis - My guess is you did everything perfectly! Try this: after executing first code block and opening occur, use arrow keys and return key to navigate in occur instead of C-n and C-p. If this works than our key bindings may be different. If it doesn't then please remove the :results none header from block so any execution errors will be displayed and execute the first code block again. Does this help?
    – Melioratus
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 1:13
  • a) the arrow key approach does not help. The return key moves point from a heading in the occur window, to the corresponding heading ing the file. b) the removing of :results none does not help either, it writes out a lot of stuff under a #+RESULTS: heading, but navigating the occur file with arrow keys/return key or C-n/C-p does not automatically open the header i the file, when the corresponding header in the occur buffer is navigatet to.
    – myotis
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 21:30

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