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Modus themes: packaging changes for GNU ELPA and MELPA

Update 2021-03-28: We got feedback from MELPA: the modus-themes will stay there after all! The newer parts of the discussion start from here: https://github.com/melpa/melpa/issues/7245#issuecomment-808810507.

As you may know, the Modus themes are part of Emacs28 for a few months now. Their latest version was synced upstream recently (read the release notes of version 1.2.0). The upgrade took longer than usual because there was a major refactoring between versions 0.13.0 and 1.0.0: in short, the themes are no longer standalone files but are instead derived from a common source, share customisation options and functions/commands, and are easier to maintain.

This update sets in motion a series of events that I wish to be transparent about. Users updating from older versions to >= 1.0.0, are advised to read the announcement on the emacs-devel mailing list. The web page of the change log is also available.

Changes for GNU ELPA

  • GNU ELPA, the official package archive that comes preconfigured with Emacs, is instructed to build the new modus-themes package directly from upstream Emacs. It is considered a :core package, meaning that whenever we update the themes in emacs.git we will automatically get a new version on GNU ELPA. This is meant as a convenience for users who are running a stable version of Emacs, such as Emacs27.

  • GNU ELPA also serves as a point of reference and credible source provider for other package archives such as Guix (see issue 111 on the Modus themes’ issue tracker).

  • The old GNU ELPA packages modus-operandi-theme, modus-vivendi-theme (at version 0.12.0) will soon be replaced with code that automatically pulls in the new modus-themes package. Then, after a grace period of, say, 6 months, the old packages will be deleted and only modus-themes will remain. This has been discussed in Emacs bug#46964. I still have not had the time to study how those in-place substitutes will be implemented, but rest assured that it will be done.

  • The modus-themes in emacs.git and, by extension, in elpa.git are updated whenever I tag a new release. This happens every month or so. The next version is 1.3.0, which will be published some time in mid-April.

Removal from MELPA

Update 2021-03-28: We got feedback from MELPA: the modus-themes will stay there after all! The newer parts of the discussion start from here: https://github.com/melpa/melpa/issues/7245#issuecomment-808810507.

  • MELPA maintainers, who have become aware of the status of the themes as described above, have asked me to delete the modus-themes package from their archive (see issues #7245 and #7246). The idea is that too many package variants can be confusing to users.

  • I will comply with the MELPA maintainers’ request to delete the modus-themes package from their archive. This will be done with a pull request against melpa.git either before the end of this week or the beginning of the next.

  • Existing users should be able to switch to the package provided by GNU ELPA. I honestly do not know whether the transition will be seamless (e.g. if you have (use-package modus-themes ...) or whether it will require manual intervention. My apologies for whatever inconvenience.


All of the above combined mean that there will no longer be a package archive that contains a version of the themes corresponding to the latest commit on modus-themes.git. To run the bleeding edge, you must either use something like quelpa or straight.el, or manually clone and maintain a local copy of modus-themes.git.

This is all for now. Please contact me if you have any questions. I am also posting this announcement on the Modus themes’ issue tracker, in case you want to comment there: https://gitlab.com/protesilaos/modus-themes/-/issues/167.