Template elements

Now lets look at the elements of a template definition. Each entry in org-capture-templates is a list with the following items:


The keys that selects the template, as a string, characters only, for example ‘"a"’, for a template to be selected with a single key, or ‘"bt"’ for selection with two keys. When using several keys, keys using the same prefix key must be sequential in the list and preceded by a 2-element entry explaining the prefix key, for example:

("b" "Templates for marking stuff to buy")

If you do not define a template for the C key, this key opens the Customize buffer for this complex variable.


A short string describing the template, shown during selection.


The type of entry, a symbol. Valid values are:


An Org mode node, with a headline. Will be filed as the child of the target entry or as a top-level entry. The target file should be an Org file.


A plain list item, placed in the first plain list at the target location. Again the target file should be an Org file.


A checkbox item. This only differs from the plain list item by the default template.


A new line in the first table at the target location. Where exactly the line will be inserted depends on the properties :prepend and :table-line-pos (see below).


Text to be inserted as it is.


Specification of where the captured item should be placed. In Org files, targets usually define a node. Entries will become children of this node. Other types will be added to the table or list in the body of this node. Most target specifications contain a file name. If that file name is the empty string, it defaults to org-default-notes-file. A file can also be given as a variable or as a function called with no argument. When an absolute path is not specified for a target, it is taken as relative to org-directory.

Valid values are:

(file "path/to/file")

Text will be placed at the beginning or end of that file.

(id "id of existing org entry")

Filing as child of this entry, or in the body of the entry.

(file+headline "filename" "node headline")

Fast configuration if the target heading is unique in the file.

(file+olp "filename" "Level 1 heading" "Level 2" ...)

For non-unique headings, the full path is safer.

(file+regexp "filename" "regexp to find location")

Use a regular expression to position point.

(file+olp+datetree "filename" [ "Level 1 heading" ...])

This target83 creates a heading in a date tree84 for today’s date. If the optional outline path is given, the tree will be built under the node it is pointing to, instead of at top level. Check out the :time-prompt and :tree-type properties below for additional options.

(file+function "filename" function-finding-location)

A function to find the right location in the file.


File to the entry that is currently being clocked.

(function function-finding-location)

Most general way: write your own function which both visits the file and moves point to the right location.


The template for creating the capture item. If you leave this empty, an appropriate default template will be used. Otherwise this is a string with escape codes, which will be replaced depending on time and context of the capture call. You may also get this template string from a file85, or dynamically, from a function using either syntax:

(file "/path/to/template-file")

The rest of the entry is a property list of additional options. Recognized properties are:


Normally new captured information will be appended at the target location (last child, last table line, last list item, …). Setting this property changes that.


When set, do not offer to edit the information, just file it away immediately. This makes sense if the template only needs information that can be added automatically.


When set, jump to the captured entry when finished.


Set this to the number of lines to insert before and after the new item. Default 0, and the only other common value is 1.


Set this to the number of lines that should be inserted after the new item. Overrides :empty-lines for the number of lines inserted after.


Set this to the number of lines that should be inserted before the new item. Overrides :empty-lines for the number lines inserted before.


Start the clock in this item.


Keep the clock running when filing the captured entry.


If starting the capture interrupted a clock, restart that clock when finished with the capture. Note that :clock-keep has precedence over :clock-resume. When setting both to non-nil, the current clock will run and the previous one will not be resumed.


Prompt for a date/time to be used for date/week trees and when filling the template. Without this property, capture uses the current date and time. Even if this property has not been set, you can force the same behavior by calling org-capture with a C-1 prefix argument.


Use week to make a week tree instead of the month-day tree, i.e., place the headings for each day under a heading with the current ISO week. Use month to group entries by month only. Default is to group entries by day.


Do not narrow the target buffer, simply show the full buffer. Default is to narrow it so that you only see the new material.


Specification of the location in the table where the new line should be inserted. It should be a string like ‘II-3’ meaning that the new line should become the third line before the second horizontal separator line.


If the target file was not yet visited when capture was invoked, kill the buffer again after capture is completed.


Do not save the target file after finishing the capture.


Temporarily set org-refile-targets to the value of this property.


A nullary function or list of nullary functions run before org-capture-mode-hook when the template is selected.


A nullary function or list of nullary functions run before org-capture-prepare-finalize-hook when the template is selected.


A nullary function or list of nullary functions run before org-capture-before-finalize-hook when the template is selected.


A nullary function or list of nullary functions run before org-capture-after-finalize-hook when the template is selected.



Org used to offer four different targets for date/week tree capture. Now, Org automatically translates these to use file+olp+datetree, applying the :time-prompt and :tree-type properties. Please rewrite your date/week-tree targets using file+olp+datetree since the older targets are now deprecated.


A date tree is an outline structure with years on the highest level, months or ISO weeks as sublevels and then dates on the lowest level.

* 2022
** 2022-10 October
*** 2022-10-07 Friday
*** 2022-10-08 Saturday

Tags are allowed in the tree structure.


When the file name is not absolute, Org assumes it is relative to org-directory.