Org Element API

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org-element.el implements a parser according to Org's syntax specification.

The library contains tools to generate an abstract syntax tree (AST) from an Org buffer, to analyze the syntactical object at point. Parsing functions are detailed in the first part of the document, along with their relative accessors and setters.

Upon parsing, each token in an Org document gets a type and some properties attached to it. This information can be extracted and modified with provided accessors and setters. An exhaustive list of all tyes and attributes is given in section Types and Attributes.

Eventually, the library is packed with a few useful functions, described in the last section of the document.

Parsing functions

There are two ways to parse a buffer using this library: either locally or globally.

Local parsing gives information about the structure at point. Depending on the level of detail required, org-element-at-point and org-element-context fullfill that role.

Global parsing is done with org-element-parse-buffer, which returns the AST representing the document.

Analyzing the structure at point

org-element-at-point offers a glimpse into the local structure of the document. However, it stops at the element level. It doesn't, for example, analyze the contents of a paragraph. While this is sufficient for many use cases, org-element-context allows to go deeper, down to the object level. The following example illustrates the difference between the two functions.

*Lorem ipsum dolor* sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do
eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Indeed, calling org-element-at-point at the beginning of the paragraph returns a paragraph structure, whereas calling org-element-context returns a bold object.

Unless point is on a headline, both functions indirectly return all parents of the value within the current section1, through :parent property. For example, when point is at (X)

* Headline

  #+BEGIN_CENTER
  Paragraph(X)
  #+END_CENTER

org-element-at-point returns a paragraph element, whose :parent property contains a center-block element, which, in turn, has no :parent since the next ancestor is the section itself.

Creating a snapshot of the document

org-element-parse-buffer completely parses a (possibly narrowed) buffer into an AST. The virtual root node has type org-data and no properties attached to it.

Unlike to local parsing functions, data obtained through org-element-parse-buffer can be altered to your heart's content. See Setters for a list of related tools.

Accessors

Type and properties of a given element or object are obtained with, respectively, org-element-type and org-element-property.

org-element-contents returns an ordered (by buffer position) list of all elements or objects within a given element or object. Since local parsing ignores contents, it only makes sense to use this function on a part of an AST.

Eventually, org-element-map operates on an AST, a part of it, or any list of elements or objects. It is a versatile function.

For example, it can be used to collect data from an AST. Hence the following snippet returns all paragraphs beginning a section in the current document. Note that equality between elements is tested with eq.

(org-element-map (org-element-parse-buffer) 'paragraph
  (lambda (paragraph)
    (let ((parent (org-element-property :parent paragraph)))
      (and (eq (org-element-type parent) 'section)
           (let ((first-child (car (org-element-contents parent))))
             (eq first-child paragraph))
           ;; Return value.
           paragraph))))

It can also be used as a predicate. Thus, the following snippet returns a non-nil value when the document contains a checked item.

(org-element-map (org-element-parse-buffer) 'item
  (lambda (item) (eq (org-element-property :checkbox item) 'on))
  nil t)

See org-element-map's docstring for more examples.

Setters

org-element-put-property modifies any property of a given element or object.

Note that, even though structures obtained with local parsers are mutable, it is good practice to consider them immutable. In particular, destructively changing properties relative to buffer positions is likely to break the caching mechanism running in the background. If, for example, you need to slightly alter an element obtained using these functions, first copy it, using org-element-copy, before modifying it by side effect. There is no such restriction for elements grabbed from a complete AST.

The library also provides tools to manipulate the parse tree. Thus, org-element-extract-element removes an element or object from an AST, org-element-set-element replaces one with another, whereas org-element-insert-before and org-element-adopt-element insert elements within the tree, respectively before a precise location or after all children.

Types and Attributes

Each greater element, element and object has a variable set of properties attached to it. Among them, four are shared by all types: :begin and :end, which refer to the beginning and ending buffer positions of the considered element or object, :post-blank, which holds the number of blank lines, or white spaces, at its end2 and :parent, which refers to the element or object containing it.

Greater elements containing objects on the one hand, and elements or objects containing objects on the other hand also have :contents-begin and :contents-end properties to delimit contents.

In addition to these properties, each element can optionally get some more from affiliated keywords, namely: :caption, :header, :name, :plot, :results or :attr_NAME where NAME stands for the name of an export back-end.

Also, :post-affiliated property is attached to all elements. It refers to the buffer position after any affiliated keyword, when applicable, or to the beginning of the element otherwise.

The following example illustrates the relationship between position properties.

1: #+NAME: dont-do-this-at-home
2: #+BEGIN_SRC emacs-lisp
3: (/ 1 0)
4: #+END_SRC
5: 
6: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do
7: eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

The first element's type is src-block. Its :begin property (respectively :end property) is the buffer position at the beginning of line 1 (respectively line 6). :post-affiliated is the buffer position at the beginning of line 2. Since source blocks cannot contain other elements or objects, both :contents-begin and :contents-end are nil. :post-blank is 1.

Other properties, specific to each element or object type, are listed below.

Babel Call

Element.

:call
Name of code block being called (string).
:inside-header
Header arguments applied to the named code block (string or nil).
:arguments
Arguments passed to the code block (string or nil).
:end-header
Header arguments applied to the calling instance (string or nil).
:value
Raw call, as Org syntax (string).

Bold

Recursive object.

No specific property.

Center Block

Greater element.

No specific property.

Clock

Element.

:duration
Clock duration for a closed clock, or nil (string or nil).
:status
Status of current clock (symbol: closed or running).
:value
Timestamp associated to clock keyword (timestamp object).

Code

Object.

:value
Contents (string).

Comment

Element.

:value
Comments, with pound signs (string).

Comment Block

Element.

:value
Comments, without block's boundaries (string).

Diary Sexp

Element.

:value
Full Sexp (string).

Drawer

Greater element.

:drawer-name
Drawer's name (string).

Dynamic Block

Greater element.

:arguments
Block's parameters (string).
:block-name
Block's name (string).
:drawer-name
Drawer's name (string).

Entity

Object.

:ascii
Entity's ASCII representation (string).
:html
Entity's HTML representation (string).
:latex
Entity's LaTeX representation (string).
:latex-math-p
Non-nil if entity's LaTeX representation should be in math mode (boolean).
:latin1
Entity's Latin-1 encoding representation (string).
:name
Entity's name, without backslash nor brackets (string).
:use-brackets-p
Non-nil if entity is written with optional brackets in original buffer (boolean).
:utf-8
Entity's UTF-8 encoding representation (string).

Example Block

Element.

:label-fmt
Format string used to write labels in current block, if different from org-coderef-label-format (string or nil).
:language
Language of the code in the block, if specified (string or nil).
:number-lines
Non-nil if code lines should be numbered. A new value starts numbering from 1 wheareas continued resume numbering from previous numbered block (symbol: new, continued or nil).
:options
Block's options located on the block's opening line (string).
:parameters
Optional header arguments (string or nil).
:preserve-indent
Non-nil when indentation within the block mustn't be modified upon export (boolean).
:retain-labels
Non-nil if labels should be kept visible upon export (boolean).
:switches
Optional switches for code block export (string or nil).
:use-labels
Non-nil if links to labels contained in the block should display the label instead of the line number (boolean).
:value
Contents (string).

Export Block

Element.

:type
Related back-end's name (string).
:value
Contents (string).

Export Snippet

Object.

:back-end
Relative back-end's name (string).
:value
Export code (string).

Fixed Width

Element.

:value
Contents, with colons (string).

Footnote Definition

Greater element.

:label
Label used for references (string).

Footnote Reference

Recursive object.

:label
Footnote's label, if any (string or nil).
:type
Determine whether reference has its definition inline, or not (symbol: inline, standard).

Headline

Greater element.

In addition to the following list, any property specified in a property drawer attached to the headline will be accessible as an attribute (with an uppercase name, e.g. :CUSTOM_ID).

:archivedp
Non-nil if the headline has an archive tag (boolean).
:closed
Headline's CLOSED reference, if any (timestamp object or nil)
:commentedp
Non-nil if the headline has a comment keyword (boolean).
:deadline
Headline's DEADLINE reference, if any (timestamp object or nil).
:footnote-section-p
Non-nil if the headline is a footnote section (boolean).
:level
Reduced level of the headline (integer).
:pre-blank
Number of blank lines between the headline and the first non-blank line of its contents (integer).
:priority
Headline's priority, as a character (integer).
:quotedp
Non-nil if the headline contains a quote keyword (boolean).
:raw-value
Raw headline's text, without the stars and the tags (string).
:scheduled
Headline's SCHEDULED reference, if any (timestamp object or nil).
:tags
Headline's tags, if any, without the archive tag. (list of strings).
:title
Parsed headline's text, without the stars and the tags (secondary string).
:todo-keyword
Headline's TODO keyword without quote and comment strings, if any (string or nil).
:todo-type
Type of headline's TODO keyword, if any (symbol: done, todo).

Horizontal Rule

Element.

No specific property.

Inline Babel Call

Object.

:call
Name of code block being called (string).
:inside-header
Header arguments applied to the named code block (string or nil).
:arguments
Arguments passed to the code block (string or nil).
:end-header
Header arguments applied to the calling instance (string or nil).
:value
Raw call, as Org syntax (string).

Inline Src Block

Object.

:language
Language of the code in the block (string).
:parameters
Optional header arguments (string or nil).
:value
Source code (string).

Inlinetask

Greater element.

In addition to the following list, any property specified in a property drawer attached to the headline will be accessible as an attribute (with an uppercase name, e.g. :CUSTOM_ID).

:closed
Inlinetask's CLOSED reference, if any (timestamp object or nil)
:deadline
Inlinetask's DEADLINE reference, if any (timestamp object or nil).
:level
Reduced level of the inlinetask (integer).
:priority
Headline's priority, as a character (integer).
:raw-value
Raw inlinetask's text, without the stars and the tags (string).
:scheduled
Inlinetask's SCHEDULED reference, if any (timestamp object or nil).
:tags
Inlinetask's tags, if any (list of strings).
:title
Parsed inlinetask's text, without the stars and the tags (secondary string).
:todo-keyword
Inlinetask's TODO keyword, if any (string or nil).
:todo-type
Type of inlinetask's TODO keyword, if any (symbol: done, todo).

Italic

Recursive object.

No specific property.

Item

Greater element.

:bullet
Item's bullet (string).
:checkbox
Item's check-box, if any (symbol: on, off, trans, nil).
:counter
Item's counter, if any. Literal counters become ordinals (integer).
:raw-tag
Uninterpreted item's tag, if any (string or nil).
:tag
Parsed item's tag, if any (secondary string or nil).
:structure
Full list's structure, as returned by org-list-struct (alist).

Keyword

Element.

:key
Keyword's name (string).
:value
Keyword's value (string).

LaTeX Environment

Element.

:begin
Buffer position at first affiliated keyword or at the beginning of the first line of environment (integer).
:end
Buffer position at the first non-blank line after last line of the environment, or buffer's end (integer).
:post-blank
Number of blank lines between last environment's line and next non-blank line or buffer's end (integer).
:value
LaTeX code (string).

LaTeX Fragment

Object.

:value
LaTeX code (string).

Line Break

Element.

No specific property.

Link

Recursive object.

:application
Name of application requested to open the link in Emacs (string or nil). It only applies to "file" type links.
:path
Identifier for link's destination. It is usually the link part with type, if specified, removed (string).
:raw-link
Uninterpreted link part (string).
:search-option
Additional information for file location (string or nil). It only applies to "file" type links.
:type

Link's type. Possible types (string) are:

coderef
Line in some source code,
custom-id
Specific headline's custom-id,
file
External file,
fuzzy
Target, referring to a target object, a named element or a headline in the current parse tree,
id
Specific headline's id,
radio
Radio-target.

It can also be any type defined in org-link-types.

Macro

Object.

:args
Arguments passed to the macro (list of strings).
:key
Macro's name (string).
:value
Replacement text (string).

Paragraph

Element containing objects.

No specific property.

Plain List

Greater element.

:structure
Full list's structure, as returned by org-list-struct (alist).
:type
List's type (symbol: descriptive, ordered, unordered).

Planning

Element.

:closed
Timestamp associated to closed keyword, if any (timestamp object or nil).
:deadline
Timestamp associated to deadline keyword, if any (timestamp object or nil).
:scheduled
Timestamp associated to scheduled keyword, if any (timestamp object or nil).

Property Drawer

Element.

:properties
Properties defined in the drawer (alist).

Quote Block

Greater element.

Radio Target

Recursive object.

:raw-value
Uninterpreted contents (string).

Section

Greater element.

No specific property.

Special Block

Greater element.

:type
Block's name (string).
:raw-value
Raw contents in block (string).

Src Block

Element.

:label-fmt
Format string used to write labels in current block, if different from org-coderef-label-format (string or nil).
:language
Language of the code in the block, if specified (string or nil).
:number-lines
Non-nil if code lines should be numbered. A new value starts numbering from 1 wheareas continued resume numbering from previous numbered block (symbol: new, continued or nil).
:parameters
Optional header arguments (string or nil).
:preserve-indent
Non-nil when indentation within the block mustn't be modified upon export (boolean).
:retain-labels
Non-nil if labels should be kept visible upon export (boolean).
:switches
Optional switches for code block export (string or nil).
:use-labels
Non-nil if links to labels contained in the block should display the label instead of the line number (boolean).
:value
Source code (string).

Statistics Cookie

Object.

:value
Full cookie (string).

Strike Through

Recursive object.

No specific property.

Subscript

Recursive object.

:use-brackets-p
Non-nil if contents are enclosed in curly brackets (t, nil).

Superscript

Recursive object.

:use-brackets-p
Non-nil if contents are enclosed in curly brackets (t, nil).

Table

Greater element.

:tblfm
Formulas associated to the table, if any (string or nil).
:type
Table's origin (symbol: table.el, org).
:value
Raw table.el table or nil (string or nil).

Table Cell

Recursive object.

No specific property.

Table Row

Element containing objects.

:type
Row's type (symbol: standard, rule).

Target

Object.

:value
Target's ID (string).

Timestamp

Object.

:day-end
Day part from timestamp end. If no ending date is defined, it defaults to start day part (integer).
:day-start
Day part from timestamp start (integer).
:hour-start
Hour part from timestamp end. If no ending date is defined, it defaults to start hour part, if any (integer or nil).
:hour-start
Hour part from timestamp start, if specified (integer or nil).
:minute-start
Minute part from timestamp end. If no ending date is defined, it defaults to start minute part, if any (integer or nil).
:minute-start
Minute part from timestamp start, if specified (integer or nil).
:month-end
Month part from timestamp end. If no ending date is defined, it defaults to start month part (integer).
:month-start
Month part from timestamp start (integer).
:raw-value
Raw timestamp (string).
:repeater-type
Type of repeater, if any (symbol: catch-up, restart, cumulate or nil)
:repeater-unit
Unit of shift, if a repeater is defined (symbol: year, month, week, day, hour or nil).
:repeater-value
Value of shift, if a repeater is defined (integer or nil).
:type
Type of timestamp (symbol: active, active-range, diary, inactive, inactive-range).
:warning-type
Type of warning, if any (symbol: all, first or nil)
:warning-unit
Unit of delay, if one is defined (symbol: year, month, week, day, hour or nil).
:warning-value
Value of delay, if one is defined (integer or nil).
:year-end
Year part from timestamp end. If no ending date is defined, it defaults to start year part (integer).
:year-start
Year part from timestamp start (integer).

Underline

Recursive object.

No specific property.

Verbatim

Object.

:value
Contents (string).

Verse Block

Element containing objects.

No specific property.

Other Tools

Turning an AST into an Org document

org-element-interpret-data is the reciprocal operation of org-element-parse-buffer. When provided an element, object, or even a full parse tree, it generates an equivalent string in Org syntax.

More precisely, output is a normalized document: it preserves structure and blank spaces but it removes indentation and capitalize keywords. As a consequence it is equivalent, but not equal, to the original document the AST comes from.

When called on an element or object obtained through org-element-at-point or org-element-context, its contents will not appear, since this information is not available.

Examining genealogy of an element or object

org-element-lineage produces a list of all ancestors of a given element or object. However, when these come from a local parsing function, lineage is limited to the section containing them.

With optional arguments, it is also possible to check for a particular type of ancestor. See function's docstring for more information.

Footnotes:

1

Thus, org-element-at-point cannot return the parent of a headline. Nevertheless, headlines are context free elements: it is efficient to move to parent headline (e.g., with org-up-heading-safe) before analyzing it.

2

As a consequence whitespaces or newlines after an element or object still belong to it. To put it differently, :end property of an element matches :begin property of the following one at the same level, if any.

Documentation from the http://orgmode.org/worg/ website (either in its HTML format or in its Org format) is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License version 1.3 or later. The code examples and css stylesheets are licensed under the GNU General Public License v3 or later.