Although it is convenient how org-mode shows hyperlinks, there are times when I want to see the underlying plain text, e.g. [[./file.org][Title]]. How can I do this?

I know about org-insert-link, but it is not what I want:

C-c C-l runs the command org-insert-link, which is an interactive compiled Lisp function in `org.el'.


If there is already a link at point, this command will allow you to edit link and description parts.


I just found a nice function in the org source code: M-x org-toggle-link-display.

Here is the source code, just for fun:

(defun org-toggle-link-display ()
  "Toggle the literal or descriptive display of links."
  (if org-descriptive-links
      (progn (org-remove-from-invisibility-spec '(org-link))
         (setq org-descriptive-links nil))
    (progn (add-to-invisibility-spec '(org-link))
       (setq org-descriptive-links t))))
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  • 3
    This. Also, if you want to keep this behavior permanently, simply add (setq org-descriptive-links nil) to your init file. – undostres Dec 15 '14 at 2:01
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    Note this variable is accessible from the "Org > Hyperlinks" menu – Andrew Swann Dec 15 '14 at 8:22

A useful way to do this is

M-x font-lock-mode

which toggles font locking. When font locking is off, the hyperlink is visible in its undecorated form [[./file.org][Title]]. This can be a useful approach for seeing other pieces of mark-up in the buffer.

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I've been using this function. It will toggle between fundamental-mode and the original mode (org-mode in this case). It's a bit weird, but I like it:

(defun illiterate ()
  (let ((coding-system-for-read 'utf-8))
    (if (eq major-mode 'fundamental-mode)
        (revert-buffer nil t)
      (let ((pt (1+ (length
                      (buffer-substring-no-properties (point-min) (point))
            (file-name (buffer-file-name)))
        (kill-buffer (current-buffer))
        (find-file-literally file-name)
        (goto-char pt)))))
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  • 2
    Why can't you just call fundamental-mode? – Malabarba Dec 15 '14 at 0:42
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    Plain fundamental-mode won't work, since org-mode messes too much with text properties and they don't get reset. It needs to be the way it is. – abo-abo Dec 15 '14 at 8:47

A low-tech way is to move point to the beginning of the link text and type C-d (i.e., invoke org-delete-char). That removes the first "[" character, so that you no longer have a properly formatted hyperlink, and you can see the remainder of it as raw text. Then when you're done, just invoke undo to restore it to what you had previously.

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    This did not work for me in Emacs 24.4 (9.0) on Mac OS X with the default org installation. – David J. Dec 15 '14 at 15:56
  • (This is a comment to user98761's answer. Since I am not allowed to comment, I'll just write an answer here.) I like user98761's answer. Simple and straightforward. However, C-d does not work on the evil-mode EMACS on MY Mac, while the evil command 'x' works like a charm. More explicitly, move point to the beginning of the link text and type 'x'. – Jordan He Jan 13 at 22:14
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    I'm no evil-mode expert. But surely 'x' as a Vi command does the same thing as C-d in regular Emacs. So it's really equivalent, I suspect. – user98761 Jan 15 at 0:10

Org mode achieves the link effect using the following code:

(if org-descriptive-links (add-to-invisibility-spec '(org-link)))

This adds org-link to the variable buffer-invisibility-spec which means that text which has its invisible property set to org-link will be hidden.

Using M-x visible-mode RET you can reset buffer-invisibility-spec temporary to nil, which means the hidden text will be shown from there on.

Using M-x visible-mode RET again you can reset buffer-invisibility-spec to its previous value, which will hide the relevant text parts again.

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  • @Drew Better now? I don't know what else do add – clemera Dec 2 '18 at 10:09
  • @Drew Updated the answer – clemera Dec 2 '18 at 16:20

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