In org mode, I'll have a file pertaining to some topic, and a few top level headings pertaining to instances of that topic, which may contain TODOs (also potentially nested). In the global TODO list, TODOs show up like this:

<file-name>:     <state> <name>

Would it be possible to instead display them like this (potentially with a custom format string):

<header> (<file-name>):      <state> <name>


  • 1
    See also :PROPERTIES: :CATEGORY: Foo :END: under any given heading to have that show up in the Agenda...
    – mankoff
    Aug 11, 2021 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


Customize the todo part of org-agenda-prefix-format and add the breadcrumbs placeholder %b. For example, by default org-agenda-prefix-format has the value

((agenda . " %i %-12:c%?-12t% s")
 (todo . " %i %-12:c")
 (tags . " %i %-12:c")
 (search . " %i %-12:c"))

and a TODO entry for a second-level Home headline under a top-level Tasks headline, looks like this:

Home: TODO Work on music DB

If you change the todo entry in org-agenda-prefix-format from " %i %-12:c" to " %b %i %-12:c", the same entry is shown as

Tasks-> Home: TODO Work on music DB

Breadcrumbs include all the higher level headlines.

In order to do the above change, first do C-h v org-agenda-prefix-format, and click on the customize link. In the resulting display, the values can be edited directly: find the todo entry and its format and change it as above. Then click Apply to try it out or Apply and Save to save it for future sessions as well.

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