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I know :ARCHIVE: does this, but I use that tag to mean the subtree is essentially useless now. I want sth like :FOLD:.

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You can set the initial visibility for a single subtree with the visibility property:

* My Folded Heading
:PROPERTIES:
:VISIBILITY: folded
:END:

You can set initial visibility options for the entire file by including a STARTUP directive:

#+STARTUP: overview

Finally, you can set this globally via the customizable variable org-startup-folded

For details, see the manual (org) Initial visibility

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