I have an org file which looks like this:

* Chores
#:VISIBILTY: showall
# STARTUP: showeverything # no + so this does nothing right now
** NEXT Brush Teeth in Day
   SCHEDULED: <2020-10-22 Thu +1d>
** NEXT Brush & Floss Teeth at Night
   SCHEDULED: <2020-10-21 Wed +1d>
* Math...
* English...
* Geology...

What I want is open up my file, and immediately see "Chores" ' direct children expanded (everything underneath Chores is also fine I guess).

Right now when I open up the org file, I get everything collapsed. How can I see just some headings immediately expanded? I looked at some other questions on this StackExchange community but I didn't find my answer.

In the manual, I found something close to what I'm looking for: Initial Visibility. This mentions one of the STARTUP options that you can have, where you have these possible options:

#+STARTUP: overview
#+STARTUP: content
#+STARTUP: showall
#+STARTUP: showeverything

I tried to set this option underneath the "Chores" heading to set it locally, but that expanded all the headings instead of just "Chores". I tried also to set the VISIBILITY property mentioned in the manual entry, but that does not seem to have any effect at all.

Is there a way that I can achieve this behaviour?

1 Answer 1


Try with the following file:

#+STARTUP: overview

* Chores
** NEXT Brush Teeth in Day
   SCHEDULED: <2020-10-22 Thu +1d>
** NEXT Brush & Floss Teeth at Night
   SCHEDULED: <2020-10-21 Wed +1d>
* Math
* English
* Geology

Save the file, close it and reopen it: I believe that will do what you want.

Note that:

  • the PROPERTIES drawer must NOT be commented out (as it was in your example).
  • VISIBILITY was spelled incorrectly.
  • VISIBILITY values are: folded, children, content, and all - in particular, they are NOT the same as the values required in the #+STARTUP: keyword line. See Initial Visibility.
  • the #+STARTUP: keyword setting is global for the file - it is good practice to put it at the top of the file. And note how it is spelled: the #+ prefix for keywords is essential.

EDIT: The manual has a lot of information, including what the #+STARTUP: values mean. Even though I provide a link to the appropriate section here, the best way to navigate the manual (not only the Org mode manual, but also the Emacs manual and eventually the Emacs Lisp manual and all the other manuals that come with Emacs and any other manuals in Info format that you might add), is to do it in Emacs itself. Say C-h i m Org M<TAB> RET and search the index for #+STARTUP (i startup RET). It says there are 23 places in the manual where that term occurs and you can see the current one and move to the next one with , (and the previous one with l). The third one shows this:

     Startup options Org uses when first visiting a file.

     The first set of options deals with the initial visibility of the
     outline tree.  The corresponding variable for global default
     settings is ‘org-startup-folded’ with a default value of

     ‘overview’         Top-level headlines only.
     ‘content’          All headlines.
     ‘showall’          No folding on any entry.
     ‘showeverything’   Show even drawer contents.

which is what I linked to above. That takes care of one of your questions. The VISIBILITY values basically mean the same thing, but they modify the global setting for the subtree with that property (as I showed in the main answer).

In general, the manual is the best source of information, but you have to spend a little time to learn how to navigate in it - btw, to do that, the best way is to read the Info manual! Kill the buffer with the Org mode manual and say C-h i m info RET and spend some time with it. You should also familiarize yourself with the help system: Emacs is self documenting, so you can ask it a whole lot of questions about things - start with C-h ?.

  • Hi Nick, thanks for the answer! Do you know of any resources that explain what the different options for VISIBILITY mean? Do you know what #+STARTUP: overview #+STARTUP: content #+STARTUP: showall #+STARTUP: showeverything options each show? I was wondering since this does not seem to be well documented in the manual.
    – herophant
    Oct 21, 2020 at 22:01
  • Added some comments, pointers and tips.
    – NickD
    Oct 21, 2020 at 23:25
  • Ah, thank you for this! I did do the info "getting started" but never bothered to look at the other ones, I'll figure out the advanced stuff as well this time around! I come from vim so everything is conveniently just a :h thing_name away but good to know Emacs is just as good!
    – herophant
    Oct 22, 2020 at 1:06
  • 1
    Blasphemy: it's better :-)
    – NickD
    Oct 22, 2020 at 1:18

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