I often have a list like this:

* Main heading
** TODO [#A] Make world better
** TODO [#B] Make Emacs better 
** TODO [#B] Customize emacs 
** DONE [#C] some task
** TODO [#A] Launch rocket to mars

I would like to sort it according to the 'TODO' taskword first. Then the items inside the sorted TODO I would like to sort by priority. (it would then be nice to further sort by "Effort").

And I mean currently I can click on the main heading and sort the children already by either priority or by todo keyword, but not both.

Is sorting by both possible like sort-strategy?

Currently I have two headings

* Tasks
** TODO [#A] meh
** TODO [#B] meh2
* Completed.
** DONE [#B] meh3.

But the problem with this approach is that I have to constantly shuffle tasks around when I complete them.

This is kinda similar to this except that I couldn't make sense of his answer to transfer it to my needs?

  • 1
    The function org-sort-entries will either act on a main heading for all subheadings, or it can sort what is in a selected region. There are interactive options for you to choose from. You can programmatically use it also, and several sorts are possible -- I often use a, o, p, t (one after the next to accomplish 4 levels of sorting criteria). For example, you can sort everything first by alphabetic, then by todo keywords, then by priority, and then by time.
    – lawlist
    Feb 25, 2015 at 22:14
  • Hello, I'm aware of the org-sort-entries option to sort child tasks. I have updated the question so as to better reflect that. Thank you for your comment. Feb 25, 2015 at 22:16
  • Here is a link to a detailed approach for sorting an org-mode buffer programmatically: stackoverflow.com/a/22232709/2112489
    – lawlist
    Feb 25, 2015 at 22:27
  • I have this link in my question already. The above is kinda tailored to someone's specific needs. Is there a more general purpose/easier approach? Feb 25, 2015 at 22:29
  • 1
    @LeoUfimtsev Try setting org-refile-targets to something like (setq org-refile-targets '((nil . (:maxlevel . 6)))). That will make org-mode show headings up to a depth of 6 when refiling. You can check the documentation for org-refile-targets for more information.
    – itsjeyd
    Feb 25, 2015 at 23:16

4 Answers 4


It would be great if there was something like org-agenda-sorting-stratagy that worked with org-sort-entries, but there doesn't seem to be. We can fake it since org-sort-entries can take an argument specifying a function assigning a (string or number) key to each heading, which will be used to sort the entries when the ?f sorting type is given. All we have to do is get a string for the TODO and PRIORITY properties. The trick is that we want to sort the TODO property by its position in org-todo-keywords, not alphabetically.

(require 'dash)

(defun todo-to-int (todo)
    (cl-first (-non-nil
            (mapcar (lambda (keywords)
                      (let ((todo-seq
                             (-map (lambda (x) (cl-first (split-string  x "(")))
                                   (cl-rest keywords)))) 
                        (cl-position-if (lambda (x) (string= x todo)) todo-seq)))

(defun my/org-sort-key ()
  (let* ((todo-max (apply #'max (mapcar #'length org-todo-keywords)))
         (todo (org-entry-get (point) "TODO"))
         (todo-int (if todo (todo-to-int todo) todo-max))
         (priority (org-entry-get (point) "PRIORITY"))
         (priority-int (if priority (string-to-char priority) org-default-priority)))
    (format "%03d %03d" todo-int priority-int)

(defun my/org-sort-entries ()
  (org-sort-entries nil ?f #'my/org-sort-key))

M-x my/org-sort-entries will sort by the TODO keyword and break ties with PRIORITY (using org-default-priority when no priority is given). This will break if you have more than 1000 TODO keywords, which is a good reason not to do that.

  • Omg, thank you for script. An issue: I installed dash. Then tried the script, but I'm getting an error: Symbol definition is void: todo-to-int. I'm gonna guess you have that function somewhere in your .emacs file but forgot include in the above? or maybe some typo? Feb 26, 2015 at 2:02
  • I changed the function that converts a keyword to an int to todo-to-int after I had pasted into my answer. It's fixed now.
    – erikstokes
    Feb 26, 2015 at 2:06
  • 1
    Now all works. Dude, thank you for all your effort, very highly appreciated :-D. Feb 26, 2015 at 2:08
  • 1
    NB: It is no longer recommended to use cl according to docs.
    – cammil
    Jan 2, 2017 at 11:09

Add the following to your file:

#+ARCHIVE: :: * Completed.

And shuffling becomes archiving

Rather than sort the entries, how about a sorted view?

(setq org-agenda-custom-commands
      '(("cx" "TODOs sorted by state, priority, effort"
         todo "*"
         ((org-agenda-overriding-header "\nTODOs sorted by state, priority, effort")
          (org-agenda-sorting-strategy '(todo-state-down priority-down effort-up))))))

Restrict it to the current file with <. You can mark DONE and archive from the sorted view.


You can also define a org-agenda-cmp-user-defined function and add it to org-agenda-sorting-strategy. This is the one I created as an example.

(setq org-todo-sort-order '("WAIT" "TODO" "DOING" "CANCELED" "DONE"))

(defun my:user-todo-sort (a b)
  "Sort todo based on which I want to see first"
  (when-let ((state-a (get-text-property 14 'todo-state a))
             (state-b (get-text-property 14 'todo-state b))
             (cmp (--map (cl-position-if (lambda (x)
                                           (equal x it))
                         (list state-a state-b))))
    (cond ((apply '> cmp) 1)
          ((apply '< cmp) -1)
          (t nil))))
(setq org-agenda-cmp-user-defined 'my:user-todo-sort)

You can use this library made by me: https://github.com/felipelalli/org-sort-tasks

It uses Merge Sort algo by asking the user if a task A is more important than B, and then builds a sorted list.

  • Can you add some description of what this does, and in particular how it differs from the other answers. May 10, 2019 at 6:01
  • It uses Merge Sort algo by asking the user if a task A is more important than B, and then build a sorted list.
    – Felipe
    May 10, 2019 at 23:27

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