System Info

  • Windows 10
  • emacs 27.1 64-bit


Basically, when I open a new org file, it appears to be a plain text document. However, I can clearly see that org-mode is activated, and this is confirmed by M-x describe-variable major-mode.

enter image description here

As you can see in the picture above, I don't see any coloring of my example headlines despite clearly being in Org-Mode. However, once I M-x org-mode, the colors are rendered. How do I go about debugging?

Another weird thing I noticed in my message buffer was the following line: (Shell command succeeded with no output). I've never seen this before, so I don't know if it's related. Google searches don't yield anything helpful.

  • Try C-u C-x = with your cursor on a character in the headline and see what the resulting output says about text properties. E.g. does it say that the face is org-level-1? It may be that the faces are not set, or it may be that the faces are set but the fontification fails. This might help to narrow things down a bit. Also, what happens if you do M-x org-mode by hand? Does it look better? Does it fail? Does anything happen?
    – NickD
    Feb 6, 2021 at 2:27
  • I have the exact same issue. When I do M-x org-mode then the colors are then applied. Feb 6, 2021 at 16:59
  • @NickD yes- as my post explains. M-X org-mode produces the colors and everything works fine. It's just that I'd like to have the colors render when I open my file
    – treefiddy
    Feb 7, 2021 at 2:16
  • So do you have an entry for Org mode files in your auto-mode-alist?
    – NickD
    Feb 7, 2021 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


I have same issue, I found that ol-docview try to find some non existing executables, remove ol-docview from org-modules solved my problem.

  • This has been bugging me for a long time. And, indeed, it solved the issue!
    – Whil
    Dec 2, 2023 at 20:40

I have a simple work-around that runs org-mode when an *.org is opened. It uses the information found in https://emacs.stackexchange.com/a/12401

Though I don't believe this is a good fix as there must be something not right that the colors are not being applied. Anyhow, I added this to my init.el:

(add-hook 'find-file-hook 'my-org-mode-file-hook)
(defun my-org-mode-file-hook ()
  (when (string= (file-name-extension buffer-file-name) "org")
  • 1
    As the details in my post explains, I am indeed in "org-mode" when I open my files. it's just that the colors are not rendering. Also, there is a much more elegant way to reproduce what you're trying to do via: (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.org\\'" . org-mode))
    – treefiddy
    Feb 7, 2021 at 2:13
  • Yeah, I have the exact same problem as you do, down to the message "Shell command succeeded with no output". Too, I am in "org-mode" when the file opens, but without any colors. This was my simple solution to not having to do M-x org-mode each time I open an org file. I'll probably monitor this question for a legit solution and will edit my answer pointing to the real solution once it appears. Feb 7, 2021 at 8:13
  • @treefiddy I am also getting a "File exists but cannot be read" message when opening files from a network drive. But then it opens after about 5 seconds(!) Feb 7, 2021 at 8:32

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