Is there in Emacs such a function to search within all headings of all Org mode files within a folder or group of folders?

  • See the following similar question: emacs.stackexchange.com/questions/74802/… - as I said there, I don't know of a way to do a search across a set of Org mode files (unless they are part of your agenda files, or you create a temporary org-agenda-files list with just those files). I describe a method to search for headlines in a single file in there. If you combine those two ideas, you might be able to do what you want.
    – NickD
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 13:25
  • Thanks, indeed it searches and lists all headings. I want to be able to search for a specific heading, not list them.
    – Adelita
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Adapted from the answer given here. The following function will list all org mode headings in the directories passed to the function (more info in the docstring):

(require 'xref)

(setq my-search-dirs '("~/.emacs.d" "dir-2"))

(defun my-search-heading-across-directories ()
  "Lists all org-mode headings in DIRECTORIES.
Takes any number of directories (separate by `SPC').

When called interactively then prompts for a directory after
which it lists all org mode headings in files of that directory."
  (let ((files (seq-filter (lambda (b) (string-match "org$" b))
                           (mapcan (lambda (d)
                                     (mapcar (lambda (f)
                                               (concat (file-name-as-directory d) f))
                                             (directory-files d)))
     (apply-partially #'xref-matches-in-files "^*\+"
                      (mapcar #'expand-file-name files))

Functionality to subsequently easily search/narrow down over the headings is provided by packages like helm-xref and ivy-xref.

To search in multiple directories do

M-: (my-search-heading-across-projects "~/dir-1" "dir-2")

To call it with a list of folders, call it using apply.

There exists xref-matches-in-directory also, but it requires some 'trickery' to make it work with xref--show-xrefs while searching in multiple directories.

  • 1
    Apparently, the function xref-show-xrefs, which calls xref--show-xrefs was only added in Emacs 29. In Emacs < 29 one should call xref--show-xrefs directly. I have updated the answer, where I have also fixed some other details. Please search the web for the meaning/usage of apply (and its difference from funcall) in elisp/Emacs. Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 13:57
  • 1
    If you use some completion framework like vertico/ivy/helm, then you can further narrow down to some specific heading (as mentioned in the linked answer). If you are not using any of these, then you can use 'isearch' (C-s) to further search for some specific heading. Alternatively, you could modify the function and filter the results returned by xref-matches-in-files directly, but I would recommend you install one of the aforementioned completion frameworks (for simplicity I would recommend Ivy, which is what I use, but all of them are good). Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 10:19
  • 1
    I've updated the answer, please try again to see what I mean, there is no extra typing compared to the other answer (when called via M-x, i.e. it prompts directly to find the heading). Before the update, there was the extra step of selecting directories, but I mentioned the option of using apply to pass the directories as a list. Anyway, now you can just configure the list like in the other answer. Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 9:59
  • 1
    Okay, I have found that it requires the package helm-xref. I assumed this was simply configured by helm. I will again update the answer. Sorry, for the misunderstanding, and thanks for keep trying/and the feedback. B.t.w. I do think that this answer, i.c.w. helm-xref, does provide the nicer solution. Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 10:34
  • 1
    Did you see my latest comment (and the updated answer)? Because it mentions, that this functionality requires the package helm-xref to be installed. Then, you can narrow down, with helm (as usual in helm). Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 11:56

There is. You can search with grep. For example, M-x rgrep * todo should list your TODOs. There's also a grep-find command you try.

Personally, I like a combination of helm and ripgrep, so to search all headings in the current directory I use M-x helm-do-grep-ag ^\*+ foobar.

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