Suppose I have a function like my-make-invisible, where my-re is some regexp:

(defun my-make-invisible ()
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward my-re nil t)
      (add-text-properties (match-beginning 0)
                           (match-end 0)
                           '(invisible t)))))

This function just makes each portion of buffer content that matches my-re invisible: it works in all major modes I've tried, but not in org-mode.

Is there an easy way to achieve the same in org-mode?

(Note: adding other properties, like faces or displays, with a function like the one above does work in org-mode. It seems that the problem is only adding invisibility)

I have the same problem if I try to make things invisible by adding them to buffer-invisibility-spec. Except for when the buffer is in org-mode, the following makes the first three characters in the buffer invisible:

(progn (add-text-properties 1 3 '(invisible hide-this-stuff))
       (add-to-invisibility-spec '(hide-this-stuff)))

If I do it in org-mode, hide-this-stuff will show up in the value of buffer-invisibility-spec but this has no effect whatsoever as far as the visibility of those first three characters.

  • 1
    AFAIK, the text property conflicts with what font-lock-mode does and since the latter runs in the background, it wins. You can see that that is the case by toggling it off: M-x font-lock-mode. I would guess that you need to do search-based fontification in this case, instead of search based text-property setting. See the Font lock section in the Emacs manual and references therein, particularly the reference to Search-based fontification in the Elisp manual. You can start with C-h i g(emacs)Font lock and go from there.
    – NickD
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 11:23
  • Perhaps this question will help, although in my limited experiments I couldn't make it work.
    – NickD
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 11:31
  • Thanks @NickD ! This put me on the right track.
    – efl
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


You might try using overlay properties instead of text properties to avoid conflicts. You can specify a priority to override any exiting overlays.

Modifying your example to this will make make invisible all instances of my-re regexp:

(defun my-make-invisible (my-re)
  (interactive "sRE Search Term: ")
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward my-re nil t)
      (setq invisible-overlay (make-overlay (match-beginning 0) (match-end 0)))
      (overlay-put invisible-overlay 'invisible t))))

There are a few differences when using overlay properties vs text properties, which may or may not work for your use case. Overlays will not transfer when copy/pasting, for example.


You can achieve the same in Org mode even using text properties by adding your own folding specification (see the docstring of variable org-fold-core--specs for details) and then call org-fold-core-region:

(defvar my-re "my regex pattern")

(org-fold-core-add-folding-spec 'my-invisible nil)

(defun my-make-invisible (&optional unfold)
  "Make all matches in buffer for regex `my-re' invisible.
When UNFOLD is non-nil make them visible instead."
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward my-re nil t)
      (org-fold-core-region (match-beginning 0)
                            (match-end 0)
                            (if unfold nil t)


The commentary section of the built-in Emacs package org-fold-core.el provides a good explanation of how this works. Note that org-fold-core--specs is buffer-local, so you need to call org-fold-core-add-folding-spec in each buffer where you want to use it, for example by adding the call to org-mode-hook.

Also note that it is indeed font-lock-mode that prevents this from working by just adding text properties, as can be confirmed by turning off font-lock-mode.

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