After I upgraded to Org Mode 9.4.5, I learned about the startup option hideblocks, but it won't work as advertised for me.

OK, when I start emacs with the flag -Q, it did, so I went hunting for culprits in my .emacs. All suspicious-looking settings and packages have been removed, but hideblocks still doesn't work.

Oddly enough, when I visit a test file with #+STARTUP: hideblocks, the variable org-hide-block-startup do indeed change from nil, which is default, to t. Despite this, the block remains unfolded!

I can make all blocks fold on start-up, if I set org-hide-block-startup with a local variables section at the end of the file, but I consider that to be an ugly, last resort solution.

Is there a smart way of tracking down when and where the hideblock setting is reversed, intercepted, toggled, or whatever happens?

Addendum April 4:

Since writing the above, I stumbled upon one additional interesting symptom. When I was led astray with the theory that my Org Mode installation was somehow faulty, I took a look at the installation instructions in the info documentation. Among other things, it says the following about an org mode installation with elpa:

Important: You need to do this in a session where no ‘.org’ file has been visited, i.e., where no Org built-in function have been loaded. Otherwise autoload Org functions will mess up the installation.

So I did M-x list-packages, threw out org mode, restarted Emacs, installed org mode anew, and visited my test file.

Lo and behold, my block was folded at start-up.

However, the effect was short-lasting, and trying to open the same file later did not work as expected.

  • 2
    "All suspicious-looking settings and packages have been removed". Clearly "suspicious-looking" isn't enough. If you see no problem with emacs -Q the bisect your init file till you've narrowed it down to just what's causing the problem. You can use comment-region to bisect it.
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 18:13
  • How do you set org-hide-block-startup in the first place? Did you customize the variable?
    – NickD
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 21:44
  • @Drew: I suppose there is no way around that kind of elbow grease in the end. @NickD: Before I upgraded Org Mode I did nothing. I didn't even know I could control this behaviour at all. This time, I have tried to obtain per file control, with the help of #+STARTUP hideblocks. (As I wrote above, setting org-hide-block-startup in a local variables section at the end of the file, the blocks start folded. I do not like this workaround, however.) Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 14:55
  • 1
    Elbow grease? Bisecting is a binary search - very quick. Use comment-region to comment out 1/2, then 3/4, 7/8, 15/16, 31/32,... till you find exactly what, in your init file, is the culprit. Plain C-u with comment-region uncomments.
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 15:19
  • Right now, I have started wondering if the fact that my Org Mode is "shadowing a built-in package" could have something to do with my problems. I am the kind of lazy guy who has installed Emacs with a Debian package, including an older version of Org Mode. On top of (?) this, I have slapped a newer version of Org Mode with the help of elpa. Before I write another word on this, I will do my bisection homework... Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


The solution is much simpler than suggested by my own theories (see above). It turns out that the intended effect of #+STARTUP: hideblocks is overruled by the initial visibility setting #+STARTUP: showeverything, which is now default.

So, by combining #+STARTUP: hideblocks with #+STARTUP: showall or (equivalently) #+STARTUP: nohide, the desired effect can be obtained.

N.B. "nohide" is hiding pretty well in the info documentation, but can be found if one looks at the documentation for the variable org-startup-folded.

  • Here's a recent discussion of exactly this question on the Org mode ML.
    – NickD
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 15:52
  • Should I have #+STARTUP: folded showall then?
    – alper
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 11:24

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