Pandoc   a universal document converter

Org-mode features and differences

Pandoc’s handling of org files is similar to that of Emacs org-mode. This document aims to highlight the cases where this is not possible or just not the case yet.

Export options

The following export keywords are supported:

  • AUTHOR: comma-separated list of author(s); fully supported.

  • CREATOR: output generator; passed as metadata entry, but ignored by most output formats.

  • DATE: creation or publication date; well supported by pandoc.

  • EMAIL: author email address; passed as metadata entry, but not included in most output formats.

  • LANGUAGE: currently unsupported; use #+LANG: instead.

  • SELECT_TAGS: tags which select a tree for export. Currently unsupported.

  • EXCLUDE_TAGS: tags which prevent a subtree from being exported. Fully supported.

  • TITLE: document title; fully supported.

  • EXPORT_FILE_NAME: target filename; unsupported, the output defaults to stdout unless a target has to be given as a command line option.


Emacs org-mode lacks an official citation syntax, leading to multiple syntaxes coexisting. Pandoc recognizes four different syntaxes for citations.

Citation support for org-mode is enabled by default. Support can be toggled off by disabling the citation extension; e.g. pandoc --from=org-citations.

Berkeley-style citations

The semi-offical Org-mode citation syntax was designed by Richard Lawrence with additions by contributors on the emacs-orgmode mailing list. It is based on John MacFarlane’s pandoc Markdown syntax. It’s dubbed Berkeley syntax due the place of activity of its creators, both philosophers at UC Berkeley.

Simple in-text citation

This is the simplest form of citation. It consists of the citation ID prefixed by ‘@’.


@WatsonCrick1953 showed that DNA forms a double-helix.

In-text citation list

Citations presented in the text unparenthesized are called in-text citations. The syntax for these citations is


where the initial PREFIX and final SUFFIX are optional. At least one INDIVIDUAL-REFERENCE must be present. The colon and semicolons here are literal and indicate the end of the TAG and the end of a PREFIX or INDIVIDUAL-REFERENCE respectively.



The KEY is obligatory, and the prefix and suffix are optional.

A PREFIX or SUFFIX is arbitrary text (except ;, ], and citation keys).


[cite: See; @Mandelkern1981; and @Watson1953]

Parenthetical citation

Citations surrounded by parantheses. The syntax is identical to in-text citations, except for the addtional parentheses enclosing the initial cite tag.

[(cite): See; @Mandelkern1981; and @Watson1953]

org-ref citations

The org-ref package by John Kitchen is in wide use to handle citations and has excellent tooling support in Emacs. Its citation syntax is geared towards users in the natural sciences but still very flexible regardless.

[[citep:Dominik201408][See page 20 of::, for example]]

Pandoc-Markdown-like syntax

Historically, Markdown-style citations syntax was the first that was added to pandoc’s org reader. It is close to Markdown’s citation syntax.

Citations go inside square brackets and are separated by semicolons. Each citation must have a key, composed of ‘@’ plus the citation identifier from the database, and may optionally have a prefix, a locator, and a suffix. The citation key must begin with a letter, digit, or _, and may contain alphanumerics, _, and internal punctuation characters (:.#$%&-+?<>~/). Here are some examples:

Simple citation

The simplest method to insert a citation is to write the citation ID prefixed by ‘@’.


[prefix @citekey suffix]
[see @doe2000 pp. 23-42]
[@doe2000 p. 5; to a lesser extend @doe2005]


Use normal latex citation commands like \cite{x} or \citet{y}.

Emphasis rules

Org-mode uses complex rules to decide whether a string represents emphasized text. In Emacs, this can be customized via the variable org-emphasis-regexp-components. A variable like this doesn’t fit well with pandoc’s model. Instead, it is possible to use special lines to change these values:

#+pandoc-emphasis-pre: "-\t ('\"{"
#+pandoc-emphasis-post: "-\t\n .,:!?;'\")}["

The above describes the default values of these variables. The arguments must be valid (Haskell) strings. If interpretation of the argument as string fails, the default is restored.

Changing emphasis rules only affect the part of the document following the special lines. They must be some of the first lines to alter parsing behavior for the whole document. It is also possible to change the values temporarily for selected sections only. The string test in the following snippet will be read as emphasized text, while the rest of the document will be parsed using default emphasis rules:

#+pandoc-emphasis-pre: "["
#+pandoc-emphasis-post: "]"

Currently unsupported features

Library of babel

The library of babel translates between various programming languages. This is out-of-scope for pandoc. Use Emacs to run code, then feed the resulting org file to pandoc.