I'm trying to export an org file into a file that contains only the visible entries (and parents) of a sparse tree (matching a specific tag).

For example, applying this to the following tree

* A
  Some content at level 0
** A1 :matchthis:
   Some content at level 1
** A2
* B
  Some content at level 0

matching the tag matchthis should produce the same result as exporting the tree:

* A
  Some content at level 0
** A1 :matchthis:
   Some content at level 1

If I export everything (in PDF, or txt), then the top level headlines (B) are also visible and therefore always included.

I don't see a way to export an org-file to an org-file with only the matched entries, which could be an acceptable intermediate step.

1 Answer 1


As the built-int sparse tree has some limitations I've made a custom sparse tree function. I think with this function you can do what you want.

First it makes the sparse tree, then it hides everything (this is needed as the sparse tree function calls org-overview which reveals all level 1 headings) to reveal only the matches and the parents. You can optionally also show the body of the matches and/or the parents.

For your example

  • call it with (my-org-custom-sparse-tree nil "matchthis" t t) to create the sparse tree
  • and then use (org-org-export-as-org nil nil t t) to export the visible part to an org buffer.

Note: This only works if org-highlight-sparse-tree-matches is set to t (it's the default) as the functions relies on the org-occur-highlights.

(defun my-org-custom-sparse-tree (todo-only match &optional
                                            match-body parents-body)
  "Create a custom sparse tree that only shows matched headings and parents.
For TODO-ONLY and MATCH see `org-match-sparse-tree'.
If MATCH-BODY is non-nil the bodies of the matches are shown.
If PARENTS-BODY is non-nil the bodies of the parents are shown."
  ;; Create the sparse tree.
  (org-match-sparse-tree todo-only match)
  (let ((pt-first (save-excursion
        (hls org-occur-highlights))
    ;; Hide everything.
    (outline-flag-region pt-first (point-max) t)
    ;; For each occur highlight overlay (the matches).
    (dolist (hl hls)
        (goto-char (overlay-start hl))
        ;; Unhide match.
        (when match-body (outline-show-entry))
        ;; Unhide parents.
        (while (org-up-heading-safe)
          (when parents-body (outline-show-entry))))))
  ;; Hide all archived subtrees again.
  (org-hide-archived-subtrees (point-min) (point-max)))
  • I need this feature, but this function is not work fine for me.thx
    – driftcrow
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 15:39
  • @driftcrow Can you let me know, what is not working fine so I can adapt the function if needed? How are you calling the function (parameters)? The function from my answer has been working for me so far.
    – Hubisan
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 18:02
  • @Hubsian I trace to function, after eval (org-match-sparse-tree todo-only match) ,the value of org-occur-highlights is nil, so after eval this function , all nodes has be hided.
    – driftcrow
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 4:02
  • @driftcrow hmm, does calling the built-in org-match-sparse-tree with your match work? what are u using as match? see org-manual
    – Hubisan
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 16:13
  • It is work fine now ,thanks @Hubisan . cause I use doom-config as my base config, for void org-indent-mode conflict , doom add a sentence (setq org-highlight-sparse-tree-matches nil) in hook ,so org-occur-highlights is nil
    – driftcrow
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 13:58

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