Some people find it noisy and distracting that the Org headlines start with a potentially large number of stars, and that text below the headlines is not indented. While this is no problem when writing a book-like document where the outline headings are really section headings, in a more list-oriented outline, indented structure is a lot cleaner:
* Top level headline | * Top level headline ** Second level | * Second level *** 3rd level | * 3rd level some text | some text *** 3rd level | * 3rd level more text | more text * Another top level headline | * Another top level headline
If you are using at least Emacs 23.21 and version 6.29 of Org, this kind of view can
be achieved dynamically at display time using
this minor mode, all lines are prefixed for display with the necessary amount
of space2. Also headlines are prefixed with additional stars, so that the amount of
indentation shifts by two3 spaces per level. All headline
stars but the last one are made invisible using the
face4; see below under ‘2.’ for more information on how this
works. You can turn on
org-indent-mode for all files by customizing
org-startup-indented, or you can turn it on for
individual files using
If you want a similar effect in an earlier version of Emacs and/or Org, or if you want the indentation to be hard space characters so that the plain text file looks as similar as possible to the Emacs display, Org supports you in the following way:
*** 3rd level more text, now indented
Org supports this with paragraph filling, line wrapping, and structure editing5, preserving or adapting the indentation as appropriate.
org-hide-leading-starsor change this on a per-file basis with
#+STARTUP: hidestars #+STARTUP: showstars
With hidden stars, the tree becomes:
* Top level headline * Second level * 3rd level ...
The leading stars are not truly replaced by whitespace, they are only
fontified with the face
org-hide that uses the background color as
font color. If you are not using either white or black background, you may
have to customize this face to get the wanted effect. Another possibility is
to set this font such that the extra stars are almost invisible, for
example using the color
grey90 on a white background.
org-odd-levels-only, or set this on a per-file basis with one of the following lines:
#+STARTUP: odd #+STARTUP: oddeven
You can convert an Org file from single-star-per-level to the double-star-per-level convention with M-x org-convert-to-odd-levels RET in that file. The reverse operation is M-x org-convert-to-oddeven-levels.
 Emacs 23.1 can actually crash
org-indent-mode also sets the
property, such that
visual-line-mode (or purely setting
word-wrap) wraps long lines (including headlines) correctly indented.
 See the variable
 Turning on
 See also the variable
 When you need to specify a level for a property search or refile targets, ‘LEVEL=2’ will correspond to 3 stars, etc.