I use org-mode for planning projects and tasks, etc. Say I am reading a book and I want to track my progress chapter by chapter. I want to create a list of repetitive elements with an incremented number like:

- [ ] chapter 1
- [ ] chapter 2
- [ ] chapter 3

Now, instead of typing out the incremented numbers each time, is there a way to just type the first entry, like - [ ] chapter 1 and then have org-mode complete n additional entries. So if a book has 10 chapters, then orgmode would increment the entry 10 times?

So I was just wondering if there is a way to do this in orgmode or a different package to use, etc? Note that I use Spacemacs.

  • Not that I know of: the text in a list item is arbitrary and I don't think that org mode makes any special effort to decipher it (e.g. the way that it does with table entries in org-table-copy-down). But it's easy enough to write a function that does that and it doesn't have to know anything about org: just insert the text in a counted loop.
    – NickD
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 22:54

2 Answers 2


This simple function will do that:

(defun insert-chapters-todo (count)
  (interactive "nChapters count: ")
  (dolist (n (number-sequence 1 count))
    (insert (format "- [ ] chapter %d\n" n))))

I think the traditional way would be to use macros. I'm not a Spacemacs user, but I used to use Vim years ago and remember it has a way of incrementing the number at point (maybe it was C-a to increment and C-x to decrement, but I'm not sure). I'm sure Spacemacs either has the same functionality or there is an existing package that adds it. I would do something like this in Vim:

  • Type the first line - [ ] Chapter 1.
  • Record a macro that yanks and pastes the line and then increments the number: qayyp$<C-a>q (The <C-a> means control-a, I think that's the syntax Vim uses for keys, I don't if Spacemacs uses it or prefers Emacs syntax).
  • Run it as many times as you like.

In Emacs keyboard macros have a counter so this is easy. In vanilla Emacs keybindings you can use C-1 <f3> - [ ] Chapter <f3> <ret> C-5 <f4> to get five chapters. (The C-1 is to start the counter at one, it usually starts at 0.)

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