I'm trying to use org-drill with cards made up of one-line headings, which the documentation considers an "empty card" (that is, one without a body).

The recommended way to make them show up in drill sessions is to add an empty comment to the body, like a line with only #. It works, but I'm trying to fix this in a way cleaner than mass-editing my org file.

I found the variable org-drill-card-type-alist, whose default value is

      '((nil org-drill-present-simple-card)
        ("simple" org-drill-present-simple-card)
        ("twosided" org-drill-present-two-sided-card nil t)

The t at the end of the twosided sexp means drill-empty-p, which means:

When supplied, DRILL-EMPTY-P is a boolean value, default nil. When non-nil, cards of this type will be presented during tests even if their bodies are empty.

This seems to be exactly what I want, so I set the nil (default) and simple (for good measure) card types like this, using customize-set-variable:

      '((nil org-drill-present-simple-card nil t)
        ("simple" org-drill-present-simple-card nil t)
        ("twosided" org-drill-present-two-sided-card nil t)

I eval the sexp / restart org-mode / restart Emacs, and still M-x org-drill ignores the empty cards.

Am I doing something wrong? Is this a bug? Are there any workarounds?

2 Answers 2


The DRILL-EMPTY-P parameter in entries of org-drill-card-type-alist is only considered for cards with an explicit DRILL_CARD_TYPE in function org-drill-entry-status.

As a workaround treat drill-cards with nil card type as non-empty if the DRILL-EMPTY-P parameter of that type is set:

(defun org-drill-entry-status-workaround (oldfun &rest args)
  "Call adviced `org-drill-entry-status' as OLDFUN with ARGS.
Temporarily let `org-entry-empty-p' return nil for empty drill cards
with DRILL_CARD_TYPE nil."
  (let ((oldfun-entry-empty-p (symbol-function 'org-entry-empty-p)))
    (cl-letf (((symbol-function 'org-entry-empty-p)
               (lambda ()
                 (and (funcall oldfun-entry-empty-p) ;; in principle the old fun
                      ;; with the exception:
                      (null (and
                             (null (org-entry-get (point) "DRILL_CARD_TYPE"))
                             (nth 3 (assoc nil org-drill-card-type-alist)))))))) ;; DRILL-EMPTY-P
      (apply oldfun args))))

(advice-add 'org-drill-entry-status :around #'org-drill-entry-status-workaround)

With this workaround org-drill works as you expect it in the following test org buffer with emacs-version 25.3.1 and org-drill 2.6.1.

* first                                                               :drill:
  :ID:       97a78aeb-8e62-4243-b49b-faccb12dd31c
* second                                                              :drill:
  :ID:       c0acc9c5-bdca-4414-96bb-61ea2aeb85e1

* Local Variables                                                     :noexport:
# Local Variables:
# org-drill-card-type-alist: ((nil org-drill-present-simple-card nil t))
# end:

I've just installed org-drill and this behavior seems a bit unsafe to me. It's documented, but I still spent quite a bit of time figuring out why the verb card from the spanish.org example never shows up. Turns out it's empty.

I'm paranoid that I would occasionally make such mistakes and lose cards forever if it ignores empty ones. So I just redefined the org-drill-entry-empty-p function to always say it's non-empty.

(use-package org-drill
  (defun org-drill-entry-empty-p () nil)

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