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Ef themes 0.5.0 for GNU Emacs

The ef-themes is a collection of light and dark themes for GNU Emacs whose goal is to provide colourful (“pretty”) yet legible options for users who want something with a bit more flair than the modus-themes (also designed by me). Watch the presentation of the original version, which demonstrates the first eight themes in the collection and explains a few technical points: https://protesilaos.com/codelog/2022-08-18-ef-themes-demo/.


New duo-chrome themes

The collection now includes two items which apply shades of blue and yellow in most interfaces. The themes are named ef-duo-dark and ef-duo-light.

Read the announcement: https://protesilaos.com/codelog/2022-09-06-ef-themes-duo/.

View all image samples: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/ef-themes-pictures.

The choice of blue and yellow is largely stylistic: it is not done to accommodate users with red-green colour deficiency. For that case, the Ef themes provide ef-deuteranopia-dark and ef-deuteranopia-light.

Bespoke accent colours for the mode line

Each theme now includes a subset of foreground values optimised for use against the active mode line’s background. The active mode line’s background is accented, meaning that we cannot use colours that are otherwise decent against the main background.

These new entries are meant to style warnings, errors, and other notifications that appear on the mode line. They empower us to extend support for packages that make use of such colour-coding (more further below).

“Subtle” accented backgrounds

Each theme’s palette now contains six accented backgrounds that are not very intense. These are used by packages that need to (i) highlight a line or region, (ii) preserve a modicum of legibility without overriding existing foreground values (more below about new packages).

Refined the colour of prompts, where necessary

Each theme’s palette now includes a dedicated prompt mapping. This gives us full control over what colour we use for prompts. In some themes the prompt will look the same as before, though I made a few changes to have stylistic consistency in each theme. Specifically:

| Theme                 | Old prompt   | New prompt     |
|-----------------------+--------------+----------------|
| ef-deuteranopia-dark  | cyan-warmer  | yellow         |
| ef-deuteranopia-light | cyan         | blue           |
| ef-duo-dark           | green-cooler | yellow         |
| ef-duo-light          | green-cooler | blue           |
| ef-spring             | blue         | green          |
| ef-summer             | cyan-cooler  | magenta-warmer |
| ef-winter             | green-cooler | magenta-warmer |

In short: we don’t want prompts to look blue/green all the time. Some themes have a different character.

Newly supported packages

In general, if a package does not look right, it is not supported by the Ef themes. What we have for this release:

  • auctex: Thanks to Philip Kaludercic for providing the sample file that let me view the relevant faces, as well as for helping me correct some mistakes of mine: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/ef-themes/%3C87h71t97hl.fsf%40posteo.net%3E.

  • company: Thanks to Alan Schmitt for reminding me about it: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/ef-themes/%3C87pmgjw3j9.fsf%40m4x.org%3E.

  • dirvish: Thanks to Alex Lu (dirvish developer) for the contribution. This was done in pull request 14 at the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/ef-themes/pull/14. The change is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

  • doom-modeline: Expanded support for almost all the faces it provides. The only exception is some debugging-related indicators that I do not know how to trigger (contact me, if you encounter them). This support is made possible by the new accented foregrounds that are designed specifically for the mode line.

  • gnus: Expanded support for all the faces it defines. I had used Gnus for several months before and am familiar with its interfaces. Though I never made use of its scoring system. I think the relevant faces look okay, though please let me know if we can refine them further.

  • image-dired: This is made possible by the new “subtle” coloured backgrounds that I added to each theme.

  • lin (my package): Made possible by the new subtle backgrounds.

  • pulsar (my package): Same as above.

  • pulse: Same.

  • recursion-indicator: Same

  • selectrum: Made it look like the already supported vertico.

  • tempel: Same as lin and friends.

Refinements to existing faces

  • Lots of small tweaks affect mode line indicators, per the new foreground colours I introduced. Expect to see a bit more colour in the mode line when using magit, compilation buffers, appointment reminders, keyboard macros, Org agenda filters, and more.

  • All the rcirc faces have been revised in the interest of thematic consistency.

    • Rcirc uses the new foregrounds for the mode line, where relevant.

    • Indicators that track/highlight the user’s nick use the same paradigm.

    • IRC server messages look like comments in code buffers.

    Thanks to Philip Kaludercic for telling me about the downsides of using the italic in the rcirc-nick-in-message-full-line face: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/ef-themes/%3C87edwphahl.fsf%40posteo.net%3E.

    Please note that I am not a regular/experienced IRC user. If there are improvements to be made, I am happy to implement them but will likely need your help (I will ask the relevant questions).

New fallback behaviour for ef-themes-toggle

The command ef-themes-toggle will switch between two themes specified in the user option ef-themes-to-toggle. For example:

;; Toggle between `ef-summer' and `ef-winter' using `ef-themes-toggle'.
(setq ef-themes-to-toggle '(ef-summer ef-winter))

By default, ef-themes-to-toggle is nil. In the past, this meant that ef-themes-toggle would do nothing out-of-the-box. To improve the initial user experience, the command will now fall back to minibuffer completion to load a theme if ef-themes-to-toggle does not have the expected value. The completion candidates are the items of the Ef themes collection. This fallback behaviour is essentially the same as what the user gets by invoking the ef-themes-select command.

When ef-themes-to-toggle is set properly, the corresponding command will perform the switch, as intended.

This is based on the discussion with Philip Kaludercic about revising the ef-themes-toggle command to have a more Do-What-I-Mean behaviour: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/ef-themes/%3C878rmwfs0e.fsf%40posteo.net%3E.

Improved how ef-themes-load-random picks subsets

The ef-themes-load-random command accepts a prefix argument (C-u, by default): it prompts the user for a dark or light subset out of the collection. Once that is selected, the command loads a theme at random.

Before, the prompt was using minibuffer completion, but this has now changed to a read-multiple-choice function, meaning that d selects dark and l selects light. Basically, we skip possible extra key presses.

Thanks to Philip Kaludercic for the patch: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/ef-themes/patches/35089.

Internal changes

  • Fixed the initial colors’ list in the ~ef-themes-with-colors~ macro. Thanks to Steve Molitor for telling me that the previous design would not work if ~ef-light~ was not loaded. This was done in issue 11 at the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/ef-themes/issues/11.

  • Simplified the helper function ef-themes--current-theme. Thanks to Jonas Collberg for the feedback in issue 12 over at the GitHub mirror: https://github.com/protesilaos/ef-themes/issues/12. Also thanks to Jonas for the subsequent patch in pull request 13: https://github.com/protesilaos/ef-themes/pull/13. The change is below the ~15 line threshold and thus does not require copyright assignment to the Free Software Foundation.

  • Refined the colour mapping of some themes to improve overall aesthetics and/or usability, without deviating from the theme’s established character. For example, in the ef-dark I adjusted the mappings for dates, links, and names. This helps distinguish all elements, while retaining the overall looks of the design. Some contexts where that is relevant:

    • Notmuch search buffers
    • Magit commit log
    • Org clocktables
    • Org documents with links, to-do, etc.

    I will not cover all such technicalities. Please consult the Git commit log. If, however, some new combination of colours feels awkward, you are welcome to tell me about it.

  • Made improvements to the manual and implemented other internal changes.