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Emacs: ef-themes version 0.9.0

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).

Below are the release notes.


Introduced the ‘ef-cherie’ and ‘ef-cyprus’ themes

ef-cherie is a dark theme with mostly pink, magenta, and gold colours. ef-cyprus is a light theme characterised by green, yellow, teal, and red colours.

Read the announcements, which also include screen shots:

These themes bring the total number of the collection to 20, split into an equal number of light and dark themes.

Note that some themes in the collection are designed as pairs. Those have -light or -dark in their name. The others are standalone. Regardless, the user can specify any two themes in the value of the user option ef-themes-to-toggle and then switch between them with the command ef-themes-toggle. Or just use the other available commands: ef-themes-select for minibuffer completion and the ef-themes-load-random to load one from the collection (with a C-u prefix argument to limit the set to light or dark themes). The official manual explains more.

Will there be more themes? Time will tell. Though I think that between those and the modus-themes, I have covered a very broad range of preferences and requirements for accessibility.

The ‘ef-themes-select’ optionally limits to light or dark

The command ef-themes-select can now accept a prefix argument (C-u with the default key bindings). It prompts for a selection between light or dark themes and then uses minibuffer completion that only includes the items of the given set.

Inspect the value of the variables ef-themes-dark-themes, ef-themes-light-themes for what is included in each set.

[ Note that the command ef-themes-load-random has the same behaviour of limiting to a set when it reads a prefix argument. ]

The ‘ef-themes-load-random’ reports the theme it loaded

The command ef-themes-load-random has received a quality-of-life improvement to its functionality. It now prints a message in the echo area that includes the name of the theme it loaded. The user can review echo area messages by invoking the view-echo-area-messages command, which is bound to C-h e by default.

This change makes it easier for the user to remember a theme they liked.

Thanks to Federico Stilman for sharing with me the idea of reporting the name of the randomly loaded theme. This information is shared with permission, as it was done via a private channel.

Stylistic refinements

  • All themes have palette entries for colour-coded underlines. Those are used by packages like flymake and flyspell to highlight errors and warnings. All dark Ef themes had a bit too intense colours applied to those constructs. These have now been toned down in order to avoid potential distractions. They still perform their intended function, without drawing too much attention to themselves.

  • Almost all themes have a slightly more pronounced border colour. This is used to underline links and to draw the vertical line that separates Emacs windows (among others). It still is a subtle grey, though it works better than before.

  • The warning mapping of many themes has been revised to be a more neutral yellow (I define hues as triplets of neutral, warmer, colder). The previous style was a warmer shade of yellow, which brought it closer to red. This, in turn, had the unintended effect of making the Org agenda potentially confusing.

  • The mail-3 mapping of some themes has been tweaked to better stand out in its context, without prejudice to the overall character of its theme. This colour is used by email clients that leverage the built-in message.el library (such as Gnus, Mu4e, Notmuch). In short, if you edit messages with deeply nested quotes, you will have an easier time telling apart those inner levels.

Support for packages, face groups, or faces

  • auto-dim-other-buffers: Added support for this package. It applies a grey background to inactive windows.
  • consult-separator: This is the border that divides previews of registers when the user evaluates the following form and then invokes C-x r i: (advice-add #'register-preview :override #'consult-register-window)
  • embark-collect-zebra-highlight: The default value of this face is technically okay, though it is a neutral grey which does not look right with some of the Ef themes.
  • flycheck: Added support for this package and covered all its faces. It looks like flymake as it leverages the same set of colour-coding that the themes define.
  • flymake: Expanded support to its fringe indicators. Those are bitmaps that bring attention to in-buffer colour-coded underlines. They use an appropriate colour coding, like errors being red (depending on the theme—see the deuteranopia and tritanopia implementations).
  • help-key-binding: This face is now rendered in fixed-pitch (monospaced font) when the user option ef-themes-mixed-fonts is non-nil. This user option basically makes spacing-sensitive constructs retain their mono spacing, while all the rest can use a proportionately spaced font (e.g. enable variable-pitch-mode in Org buffers to see the effect—changes to theme user options require a theme reload).
  • ibuffer: Added support for this built-in package. Its marks look the same as those of Dired.
  • image-dired: Expanded support to two new faces it has for the header-line. Those are part of Emacs 29.
  • mm-command-output: This is a built-in face we encounter on occasion in Gnus buffers.
  • olivetti: Made its olivetti-fringe face invisible. We do not want to see the fringes when we enter olivetti-mode (it centres the contents of the buffer). Note that the Ef themes do not have visible fringes, anyway, though a user may tweak the fringe face in their local setup.
  • org-agenda-current-time: Made this face use the main foreground colour. It applies to the line that shows the current time in today’s Org agend time grid. The previous mapping to variable was giving us decent results, though this was a matter of serendipity: there is a chance that a theme maps an inappropriate colour to variable (e.g. red, which will interfere with deadlines). This new design is just as legible, while it has the upside of reducing colouration where it is not needed, letting other elements get the attention they deserve.
  • trashed: Added support for this package. It marks lines like Dired and follows the same stylistic patterns. Unlike Dired, it has an extra “mark” type (select, delete, restore), which uses appropriate colouration.
  • tty-menu: This is the set of faces that are used in a text terminal when the menu-bar-mode is enabled and the user interacts with it via the command menu-bar-open. Note, however, that the Ef themes are meant to be used either in a graphical Emacs frame or in a text terminal with very good support for colour reproduction. The themes do not look good in a generic terminal.
  • writegood-mode: Added support for this package. Its style is consistent with flyspell as it uses the same colour-coding scheme.

Faces defined by the Ef themes

The themes define some faces to make it possible to achieve consistency between various groups of faces. For example, all “marks for selection” use the ef-themes-mark-select face. If, say, the user wants to edit this face to include an underline, the change will apply to lots of packages, like Dired, Trashed, Ibuffer.

All the faces defined by the themes:

  • ef-themes-fixed-pitch
  • ef-themes-heading-0
  • ef-themes-heading-1
  • ef-themes-heading-2
  • ef-themes-heading-3
  • ef-themes-heading-4
  • ef-themes-heading-5
  • ef-themes-heading-6
  • ef-themes-heading-7
  • ef-themes-heading-8
  • ef-themes-key-binding
  • ef-themes-mark-delete
  • ef-themes-mark-other
  • ef-themes-mark-select
  • ef-themes-ui-variable-pitch
  • ef-themes-underline-error
  • ef-themes-underline-info
  • ef-themes-underline-warning