I probably hit the wrong keys at some point but now when I'm calling an org-agenda command (i.e. C-a a), I'm receiving an error message: Invalid duration format: "shell", with an empty window. I re-installed org-mode with no success.

org-mode 9.1.2

emacs 25.3

Ubuntu 17.04

  • Not enough information to go on. It's probably something malformed in whatever file(s) you have as your agenda files. Go to those files and search for "shell." If that doesn't yield anything, recursively bisect the agenda files (comment out half, then half of half, etc.) until you identify the malformed line(s). – Dan Oct 12 '17 at 14:08
  • Thanks @Dan! Indeed, there was a property in one of the agenda item which had the word "shell" inadvertently inserted. Removing it solved the issue. – Denis Oct 12 '17 at 14:41
  • Great! Could you write up a description of what you did to resolve the issue, post it as an answer (it's fine to answer your own questions!), and then accept it once the system lets you do so? – Dan Oct 12 '17 at 14:42

The word "shell" was inadvertently inserted into a PROPERTIES drawer in one of the entry of an org agenda file. Removing it solved the issue.


I got a similar error Invalid duration format: "-" when I was opened my agenda. Let me complete @Denis answer by explaining how this malformed input can be "inadvertently" inserted. In my case, the reason behind is I have mistakenly input "-" in the effort buffer activated on the agenda (e in the agenda). At the time, I've received the same error Invalid duration format: "-" but - has still been written in my agenda file. It was more painful to find "-" than "shell" since it appears everywhere in an agenda file. I will report this behavior.

Sidenote: Org-mode 9.1.9.

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