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Publishing Org-mode files to HTML


This Tutorial describes one of many ways to publishing Org-mode files to XHTML. We use the publishing mechanism to keep the *.html files separated from our *.org files and to access them via web browser. Simply exporting the Org-mode files to HTML would leave them in ~/org/.

The XHTML files we create will work every where, on any host, with or without network access, and even when accessed through the file:/// protocol. To achieve this goal, we use

  • no absolute paths in HTML,
  • no server side scripting to navigate our output directories,
  • no base element (which is optional as of XHTML 1.0 strict) and
  • no software, but emacs, Org-mode and a web browser.

All this means, we are able to check and use the result of work immediately, everywhere.


Throughout this tutorial, let's assume that all our Org-mode files live beneath ~/org/ and we publish them to ~/public_html/.

Let's further assume you're already familiar with the note taking basics in org and able to add a little content to the Org-mode files we add to our project during this tutorial. Please add at least one headline to each of the files.

The first thing to do is to create the folder ~/org. This is where our notes files live. Inside ~/org/ we have a folder css/ for stylesheets and scripts, and a folder called img/ (guess what's in there).

The first file we add to that folder (and to subdirectories later on) is called index.org. This name was choosen, since Org will publish the files to those with the basename of the source file plus the extension .html 1. Thus ~/org/index.org will once be ~/public_html/index.html – the startpage.

Let's add another file and call it ~/org/remember.org. After adding a stylesheet, ~/org/ looks like this:

   |- css/
   |  `- stylesheet.css
   |- img/
   |- index.org
   `- remember.org

When ever you want to add link to a file, do it the usual way. To link from index.org to remember.org, just write


Org will convert those links to HTML links for you on export:

<a href="./remember.html">remember</a>

Same is true for images. To add an image, put it in ~/org/img/test.jpg and refer to it by


You may test your links by clicking on them. To test image links you may also try to turn on iimage-mode 2 which works without problems here.

Optionally, set up the stylesheet as shown in section Special comment section. The recommended way is to use a real stylesheet though.

Publishing the org project

To publish the ~/org/ project to HTML, we'll have to setup the variable org-publish-project-alist 3. I tend to split each project in three basic components as described in the manual. We need these different components, since we want org to use two different functions to publish dynamic content (org => html) and static content like scripts, images, stylesheets or even .htaccess files (org => copy). The third component is just for convenience and tells org to execute the former ones.

org-publish-project-alist may be adjusted using customize (M-x customize-variable RET org-publish-project-alist RET), but I prefere to use an extra file to setup my projects, since there are quite a few. To follow this tutorial use the *scratch* buffer and put all the Lisp in this section in there.

First of all, enter this into the *scratch* buffer:

(require 'ox-publish)
(setq org-publish-project-alist

       ;; ... add all the components here (see below)...


Be sure to put all the components below right there where the comment line is now.

The notes component

The notes component publishes all the Org-mode files to HTML. Hence the publishing-function is set to org-publish-org-to-html. Here is an example of the notes component:

 :base-directory "~/org/"
 :base-extension "org"
 :publishing-directory "~/public_html/"
 :recursive t
 :publishing-function org-html-publish-to-html
 :headline-levels 4             ; Just the default for this project.
 :auto-preamble t

Note, that headline-levels may be adjusted on a per file basis to overwrite the default.

The most important settings here are:

base-directory The components root directory.
base-extension Filename suffix without the dot.
publishing-directory The base directory where all our files will be published.
recursive If t, include subdirectories - we want that. Subdirectories in :publishing-directory are created if they don't yet exist.
publishing-function If and how org should process the files in this component. In this case: convert the Org-mode files to HTML.

The static component

The static component just copies files (and their folders) from :base-directory to :publishing-directory without changing them. Thus let's tell Org-mode to use the function org-publish-attachment:

 :base-directory "~/org/"
 :base-extension "css\\|js\\|png\\|jpg\\|gif\\|pdf\\|mp3\\|ogg\\|swf"
 :publishing-directory "~/public_html/"
 :recursive t
 :publishing-function org-publish-attachment

Note that :publishing-function is set to org-publish-attachment.

The publish component

To publish all with one command, we add the publish component. For this component I usually drop the suffix and just use the basename of the project.

("org" :components ("org-notes" "org-static"))

Now M-x org-publish-project RET org RET publishes everything recursively to ~/public_html/. Target directories are created, if they don't yet exist.

Pooh - can we publish now?

The good message is yes, we can. Just one little hump. Since we've put the definition for our publishing components in the *scratch* buffer, again, make sure all the components are enclosed by the lines

(require 'ox-publish)
(setq org-publish-project-alist

       ;; ... all the components ...


Move to the end of the first line and press C-x C-e to load org-publish. Now go to the end of the last line and press C-x C-e again. Repeat the last step after every change to your org-publish-project-alist.

To publish your Org-mode files just type M-x org-publish-project RET org RET or use one of the shortcuts listed in the manual. If nothing went wrong, you should now be able to point your browser to http://localhost/~user/, if mod_userdir is set up. If not, simply navigate to file:///home/user/public_html (you might use file -> open from the file menu of your browser.

Adding directories

As we add more and more files to ~/org/, we will soon end up with filenames like 'networking-ssh-sshd-config.org' or longer. What we need is a directory structure:

  |- css/
  |  `- stylesheet.css
  |- Emacs
  |  |- index.org
  |  |- gnus.org
  |  |- org.org
  |  `- snippets.org
  |- img/
  |- index.org
  `- remember.org

If we hadn't added

:recursive t

in the notes and static components already, we would have to do it now at the latest to export the subdirectories too.

Overwrite the defaults

The defaults set by org-publish-project-alist may be overwritten. You might want to justify the export properties for single files. Be it the level of headlines, include extry scripts or different stylesheets. Org offers ways to adjust the settings for a single file.

The export options template

The first choice is the export options template on top of the file. When in an Org-mode file, you may insert basic information using C-c C-e # (org-export-dispatch) plus "template". You will be prompted for a template choice. "default" will provide a template for common options, and "html" will provide a template for HTML-specific options.

WARNING: Do not copy lines from the sample output below into your files. The template might change from release to release. Instead, insert a template as above and delete any entries that are not applicable.

The default option inserts the following lines:

#+TITLE: filename with the extension omitted
#+DATE: <2013-06-04 Tue>
#+AUTHOR: Your name
#+EMAIL: Your email address
#+OPTIONS: ':t *:t -:t ::t <:t H:3 \n:nil ^:t arch:headline author:t c:nil
#+OPTIONS: creator:comment d:(not LOGBOOK) date:t e:t email:nil f:t inline:t
#+OPTIONS: num:t p:nil pri:nil stat:t tags:t tasks:t tex:t timestamp:t toc:t
#+OPTIONS: todo:t |:t
#+CREATOR: Emacs (Org mode 8.0.3)
#+EXCLUDE_TAGS: noexport
#+SELECT_TAGS: export

and the html option will add the following:

#+OPTIONS: html-postamble:auto html-preamble:t tex:t
#+CREATOR: <a href="http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/">Emacs</a> (<a href="https://orgmode.org">Org</a> mode 8.0.3)
#+HTML_DOCTYPE: xhtml-strict

All we have to do now is to alter the options to match our needs. All the options are listed in the wonderful Org-mode manual. Note though, that these options are only parsed on startup (i.e., when you first open the file). To explicitly apply your new options move on any of those lines and press C-c twice.

Special comment section

Also, CSS style variables may be using a special section may be #insert/appended to Org-mode files:

* COMMENT html style specifications

# Local Variables:
# org-html-head: "<link rel=\"stylesheet\" type=\"text/css\" href=\"css/stylesheet.css\" />"
# End:

css/stylesheet.css suits the needs for a file in the root folder. Use
../css/stylesheet.css in a subfolder (first level),
../../css/stylesheet.css for a file in a sub-sub-folder.

Tired of export templates?

If you're like me, you will soon get tired of adding the same export options template to numerous files and adjust the title and paths in it. Luckily, Org-mode supports laziness and offers an additional way to set up files. All we need is a directory (e.g. ~/.emacs.d/org-templates/) and create the following files there:

  • level-0.org
    This file contains all export options lines. The special comment section will not work for files in subdirectories. Hence we always use the export options line :#+STYLE: <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="stylesheet.css" /> …suitable for each file in the projects root folder (~/org/ or ~/B/ in the examples). Just drop the #+TITLE since this will be different for every file and automatically set on export (based on the filename if omitted).
  • level-1.org
    This file contains all export options lines for the stylesheet suitable for each file in a subfolder of the projects root folder (e.g. ~/org/emacs/ or ~/org/networking/). Just drop the #+TITLE again. The options line for the stylesheet looks like this: :#+STYLE: <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="../stylesheet.css" />
  • Add more files for more levels.

Now remove the special comment section from the end of your Org-mode files in the project folders and change the export options template to

#+SETUPFILE: ~/.emacs.d/org-templates/level-N.org
#+TITLE: My Title

Replace N with distance to the root folder (0, 1 etc.) of your project and press C-c twice while still on this line to apply the changes. Subsequent lines still overwrite the settings for just this one file.

More level files

Also, these level-N files give us the chance to easily switch between different export setups. As an example, we could have a separate stylesheet and org-info.js setup for presentations, and put the appropriate options in a file named level-0-slides.org:

#+INFOJS_OPT: path:org-info.js
#+INFOJS_OPT: toc:nil view:slide
#+STYLE: <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="slides.css" />

Now it's as simple as typing '-slides' to change the appearance of any file in our project.

More Projects

As we get used to note taking in org, we might add an org directory to most of our projects. All those projects are published as well. Project '~/B/' is published to '~/public_html/B/', '~/C/' is published to '~/public_html/C/', and so on. This leads to the problem of common stylesheets and current JavaScripts — and to a new component.

The inherit component

Once we get tired of copying the static files from one project to another, the following configuration does the trick for us. We simply add the inherit component, that imports all the static files from our ~/org/ directory 4. From now on, it will be sufficient to edit stylesheets and scripts just there.

 :base-directory "~/org/"
 :recursive t
 :base-extension "css\\|js"
 :publishing-directory "~/public_html/B/"
 :publishing-function org-publish-attachment

:base-directory "~/B/"
:auto-index t
:index-filename "sitemap.org"
:index-title "Sitemap"
:recursive t
:base-extension "org"
:publishing-directory "~/public_html/B/"
:publishing-function org-publish-org-to-html
:headline-levels 3
:auto-preamble t
 :base-directory "~/B/"
 :recursive t
 :base-extension "css\\|js\\|png\\|jpg\\|gif\\|pdf\\|mp3\\|ogg\\|swf"
 :publishing-directory "~/public_html/B/"
 :publishing-function org-publish-attachment)

("B" :components ("B-inherit" "B-notes" "B-static"))

Note, that the inheritance trick works for non org directories. You might want to keep all your stylesheets and scripts in a single place, or even add more inheritance to your projects, to import sources from upstream.

Note also, that B-inherit exports directly to the web. If you want to track the changes to ~org/*.css directly in ~/B, you must ensure, that B-inherit is the first component in B since the components in B are executed in the sequence listed: first get the new stylesheet into B, then execute B-static.

One more Example

As I use org-info.js and track Worg git, I use "inherit-org-info-js" in all my org projects:

 :base-directory "~/develop/org/Worg/code/org-info-js/"
 :recursive t
 :base-extension "js"
 :publishing-directory "~/org/"
 :publishing-function org-publish-attachment)

;; ... all the rest ... ;;

("B" :components ("inherit-org-info-js" "B-inherit" "B-notes" "B-static"))
("C" :components ("inherit-org-info-js" "C-inherit" "C-notes" "C-static"))
("D" :components ("inherit-org-info-js" "D-inherit" "D-notes" "D-static"))
("E" :components ("inherit-org-info-js" "E-inherit" "E-notes" "E-static"))

…means, B C D and E use my local stylesheets and always the latest version of org-info.js.


Once there are lots of files and subdirectories, we're in the need of ways to easily navigate our notes in a browser. What we need now, is an index, an overview of all our note files.

The sitemap

Org-modes great publishing also generates a recursive sitemap. Its name defaults to sitemap.org, which get's in our way, since we have a real startpage as sitemap.html 5. Fortunately there is a configuration option to change the name of the generated sitemap. To generate the sitemap, add these lines to the notes component:

:auto-sitemap t                ; Generate sitemap.org automagically...
:sitemap-filename "sitemap.org"  ; ... call it sitemap.org (it's the default)...
:sitemap-title "Sitemap"         ; ... with title 'Sitemap'.

The sitemap will reflect the tree structure of the project. To access the sitemap easily, we could do two things:

  1. Setup the 'UP' link of the Startpage to link to sitemap.html (see next section),
  2. use the '#+INCLUDE: sitemap.org' directive. Most of my Org-mode files contain a chapter called "Links" at the end of the file, which contains a subsection Sitemap that in turn just consists of that diretive. For the index.org files in the root directory, I include the sitemap as the first section.

You can also change the position of folders with :sitemap-sort-folders, this can be set to last or first (default), to display folders last or first.


Another way to get additional links to navigate the structure is org-info.js. Let's set it up like this (either in every file, or in org-level-N.org, where N > 0):

#+HTML_LINK_UP: index.html

This makes the little UP link ('h') point to the index.html in the current directory.

The index.org in the root of the project has the index file as section 2 (which I may reach pressing 'n' then), and the same option set like this:

#+HTML_LINK_UP: sitemap.html

For an index.org in a subdirectory:

#+HTML_LINK_UP: ../index.html

The HTML_LINK_HOME always points to the same file:

#+HTML_LINK_HOME: http://localhost/~user/index.html

Please consider replacing the last one with a relative path (which will be different for every level of subdirectories).

No matter where we are, we may always press H n and we face the sitemap. No matter where we are, we may always press h to move up the tree.

Special symbols

This is a list of LaTeX symbols understood by Org-mode. You may use most of those LaTeX symbols to get the desired results (shown in the first column) when exporting to HTML. Note though, that not all symbols are translated to HTML. They are listed anyway, since they may be used for LaTeX export nonetheless. Some characters in the first column are invisible (spaces). To see them, mark the part of the table using the mouse.

You may produce special HTML characters for verbatim #+BEGIN\_HTML sections using http://www-atm.physics.ox.ac.uk/user/iwi/charmap.html (download link on the bottom of that page).

Symbol LaTeX
¡ \iexcl
¢ \cent
£ \pound
¤ \curren
¥ \yen
¦ \brvbar
| \vert
§ \sect
¨ \uml
© \copy
ª \ordf
« \laquo
¬ \not
­ \shy
® \reg
¯ \macr
° \deg
± \plusmn
¹ \sup1
² \sup2
³ \sup3
´ \acute
µ \micro
· \middot
o \odot
* \star
¸ \cedil
º \ordm
» \raquo
¼ \frac14
½ \frac12
¾ \frac34
¿ \iquest
À \Agrave
Á \Aacute
à \Atilde
Ä \Auml
Å \Aring \AA
Æ \AElig
Ç \Ccedil
È \Egrave
É \Eacute
Ê \Ecirc
Ë \Euml
Ì \Igrave
Í \Iacute
Î \Icirc
Ï \Iuml
Ñ \Ntilde
Ò \Ograve
Ó \Oacute
Ô \Ocirc
Õ \Otilde
Ö \Ouml
× \times
Ø \Oslash
Ù \Ugrave
Ú \Uacute
Û \Ucirc
Ü \Uuml
Ý \Yacute
ß \szlig
à \agrave
á \aacute
â \acirc
ã \atilde
ä \auml
å \aring
æ \aelig
ç \ccedil
è \egrave
é \eacute
ê \ecirc
ë \euml
ì \igrave
í \iacute
î \icirc
ï \iuml
ð \eth
ñ \ntilde
ò \ograve
ó \oacute
ô \ocirc
õ \otilde
ö \ouml
ø \oslash
ù \ugrave
ú \uacute
û \ucirc
ü \uuml
ý \yacute
þ \thorn
ÿ \yuml
ƒ \fnof
Α \Alpha
Β \Beta
Γ \Gamma
Δ \Delta
Ε \Epsilon
Ζ \Zeta
Η \Eta
Θ \Theta
Ι \Iota
Κ \Kappa
Λ \Lambda
Μ \Mu
Ν \Nu
Ξ \Xi
Ο \Omicron
Π \Pi
Ρ \Rho
Σ \Sigma
Τ \Tau
Υ \Upsilon
Φ \Phi
Χ \Chi
Ψ \Psi
Ω \Omega
α \alpha
β \beta
γ \gamma
δ \delta
ε \epsilon
ε \varepsilon
ζ \zeta
η \eta
θ \theta
ι \iota
κ \kappa
λ \lambda
μ \mu
ν \nu
ξ \xi
ο \omicron
π \pi
ρ \rho
ς \sigmaf \varsigma
σ \sigma
τ \tau
υ \upsilon
φ \phi
χ \chi
ψ \psi
ω \omega
ϑ \thetasym \vartheta
ϒ \upsih
ϖ \piv
\bull \bullet
\hellip \dots
\part \part
" \quot
& \amp
< \lt
> \gt
œ \oelig
Š \Scaron
š \scaron
Ÿ \Yuml
ˆ \circ
~ \tilde
arccos \arccos
arcsin \arcsin
arctan \arctan
arg \arg
cos \cos
cosh \cosh
cot \cot
coth \coth
csc \csc
° \deg
det \det
dim \dim
exp \exp
gcd \gcd
hom \hom
inf \inf
ker \ker
lg \lg
lim \lim
liminf \liminf
limsup \limsup
ln \ln
log \log
max \max
min \min
Pr \Pr
sec \sec
sin \sin
sinh \sinh
tan \tan
tanh \tanh

Further reading

For more information you might want to read the great Org-mode manual. One of the nicest mailing lists on this planet, BTW, is the Org-mode mailing list where you might as well find answers to your questions.

Have fun!



You may customize the file suffix for exported files like this: M-x customize RET org-html-extension.


…by typing M-x iimage-mode RET. iimage-mode even shows *.svg images, if librsvg was present on compile time. FIXME: is this true for emacs22 ?


All components of org-publish-projects-alist are documented in the Org Mode Manual.


Files may be copied from arbitrary src directories to any target directory desired.


This is primarily because of the behaviour of servers. When we navigate to https://orgmode.org/worg/ we will face the index.html if present.

Documentation from the 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.