This is the official manual for the latest Org-mode release.

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7.5.1.2 Column attributes

A column definition sets the attributes of a column. The general definition looks like this:

      %[width]property[(title)][{summary-type}]

Except for the percent sign and the property name, all items are optional. The individual parts have the following meaning:

     width           An integer specifying the width of the column in characters.
                     If omitted, the width will be determined automatically.
     property        The property that should be edited in this column.
                     Special properties representing meta data are allowed here
                     as well (see Special properties)
     title           The header text for the column.  If omitted, the property
                     name is used.
     {summary-type}  The summary type.  If specified, the column values for
                     parent nodes are computed from the children.
                     Supported summary types are:
                     {+}       Sum numbers in this column.
                     {+;%.1f}  Like ‘+’, but format result with ‘%.1f’.
                     {$}       Currency, short for ‘+;%.2f’.
                     {:}       Sum times, HH:MM, plain numbers are hours.
                     {X}       Checkbox status, ‘[X]’ if all children are ‘[X]’.
                     {X/}      Checkbox status, ‘[n/m]’.
                     {X%}      Checkbox status, ‘[n%]’.
                     {min}     Smallest number in column.
                     {max}     Largest number.
                     {mean}    Arithmetic mean of numbers.
                     {:min}    Smallest time value in column.
                     {:max}    Largest time value.
                     {:mean}   Arithmetic mean of time values.
                     {@min}    Minimum age (in days/hours/mins/seconds).
                     {@max}    Maximum age (in days/hours/mins/seconds).
                     {@mean}   Arithmetic mean of ages (in days/hours/mins/seconds).
                     {est+}    Add low-high estimates.

Be aware that you can only have one summary type for any property you include. Subsequent columns referencing the same property will all display the same summary information.

The est+ summary type requires further explanation. It is used for combining estimates, expressed as low-high ranges. For example, instead of estimating a particular task will take 5 days, you might estimate it as 5–6 days if you're fairly confident you know how much work is required, or 1–10 days if you don't really know what needs to be done. Both ranges average at 5.5 days, but the first represents a more predictable delivery.

When combining a set of such estimates, simply adding the lows and highs produces an unrealistically wide result. Instead, est+ adds the statistical mean and variance of the sub-tasks, generating a final estimate from the sum. For example, suppose you had ten tasks, each of which was estimated at 0.5 to 2 days of work. Straight addition produces an estimate of 5 to 20 days, representing what to expect if everything goes either extremely well or extremely poorly. In contrast, est+ estimates the full job more realistically, at 10–15 days.

Here is an example for a complete columns definition, along with allowed values.

     :COLUMNS:  %25ITEM %9Approved(Approved?){X} %Owner %11Status \1
                        %10Time_Estimate{:} %CLOCKSUM %CLOCKSUM_T
     :Owner_ALL:    Tammy Mark Karl Lisa Don
     :Status_ALL:   "In progress" "Not started yet" "Finished" ""
     :Approved_ALL: "[ ]" "[X]"

The first column, ‘%25ITEM’, means the first 25 characters of the item itself, i.e., of the headline. You probably always should start the column definition with the ‘ITEM’ specifier. The other specifiers create columns ‘Owner’ with a list of names as allowed values, for ‘Status’ with four different possible values, and for a checkbox field ‘Approved’. When no width is given after the ‘%’ character, the column will be exactly as wide as it needs to be in order to fully display all values. The ‘Approved’ column does have a modified title (‘Approved?’, with a question mark). Summaries will be created for the ‘Time_Estimate’ column by adding time duration expressions like HH:MM, and for the ‘Approved’ column, by providing an ‘[X]’ status if all children have been checked. The ‘CLOCKSUM’ and ‘CLOCKSUM_T’ columns are special, they lists the sums of CLOCK intervals in the subtree, either for all clocks or just for today.


Footnotes

[1] Please note that the COLUMNS definition must be on a single line—it is wrapped here only because of formatting constraints.