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Emacs: ef-themes version 0.11.0

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.

New options to override the colour palette

It is now possible to tweak the colour values of each theme’s palette and to change how named colours are mapped to semantic constructs. Concretely, each theme’s palette consists of two subsets: (i) named colours that associate an arbitrary symbol, like blue-warmer to a colour value such as #5250ef, and (ii) semantic colour mappings that assign a named colour to constructs like date-weekend.

[ For a video demo of the same idea that I implemented in the modus-themes, check mutatis mutandis: https://protesilaos.com/codelog/2022-12-17-modus-themes-v4-demo/. ]

The feature is not as fully fledged as in my modus-themes because the latter have a broader scope than the ef-themes. Still, it is comprehensive and will likely cover the needs of users who want to tinker with colours.

The “preview palette” commands have new aliases

The command ef-themes-preview-colors can now also be called with ef-themes-list-colors. Same for ef-themes-preview-colors-current which is also known as ef-themes-list-colors-current.

These new names make it easier to “preview” or “list” the given palette entries.

Palette preview commands can show semantic colour mappings

When called with a prefix argument (C-u with default key bindings), the commands ef-themes-preview-colors, ef-themes-preview-colors-current will produce a buffer with the mappings specified in the given palette and in user-defined overrides. Whereas their normal behaviour without the prefix argument is to list all the named colours.

In this context, “named colours” are associations between a symbol and a colour value like (blue-warmer "#5250ef"), whereas “semantic colour mappings” describe associations between an abstract construct of the interface and a named colour, such as (variable blue-warmer).

Automatically disable other themes when loading an Ef theme

The user option ef-themes-disable-other-themes makes the commands that load an Ef theme run disable-theme on anything that is not part of the collection. These commands are ef-themes-select, ef-themes-toggle, ef-themes-load-random.

The user option is enabled by default. The reason is that Emacs will blithely blend multiple themes that a user loads, leading to a design that ranges from mildly annoying to outright unusable. It is a bad default behaviour that hinders accessibility.

Expert users who know what they are doing when blending themes can simply disable this user option (or not use the Ef commands for loading a theme).

Stylistic changes

Refined deuteranopia warning colours

[ “Deuteranopia” is the technical term for red-green colour deficiency. ]

This concerns the themes ef-deuteranopia-dark and ef-deuteranopia-light. The slightly adjusted colours help further differentiate certain constructs in various contexts, such as the Org agenda buffer where SCHEDULED and DEADLINE items need to be told apart.

Implemented appropriate colour-coded foregrounds in Magit/diff-mode

diff-mode and Magit diff buffers now affect the text colour of the added/removed/changed lines to improve their usability. Before, the combination was of a colour-coded background with the main foreground, which could make it a bit harder to track lines.

Removed the bold weight from Magit diff hunk headings

Inactive diff hunk headings do not need to be bold, as they are already easy to tell apart from their context. The added bold is useful for the currently selected diff hunk, as it draws attention to it.

Revised all mail-related semantic colour mappings

Buffers such as those of viewing messages with Notmuch, Mu4e, Gnus have more appropriate colour combinations in the interest of avoiding exaggerations. Same for the message composition buffers (e.g. what we get with the compose-mail command and its email-client-specific counterparts).

The background of Notmuch message headers is more noticeable

The notmuch email client for Emacs has a thread-based view of messages where each email starts with its own header. The slightly more noticeable background makes it easier to discern where a new message starts.

Added support for the powerline package

I added support for this package because other packages depend on it. Note though that I have encountered visual glitches with powerline. Those occur while switching themes and require a re-run of the Powerline setup with M-x powerline-reset.

Removed the background colour from consult lines

The default value of consult-line-number-prefix inherits from the line-number face. The Ef themes make the latter inherit from default in order to have the lines increase/decrease in font size when the user calls the text-scale-adjust command. This arrangement meant that Consult was implicitly getting the main background which caused commands like consult-line to not be highlighted from their absolute beginning but only after the line number.

Thanks to Daniel Mendler for bringing this matter to my attention: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/ef-themes/%3Cb03413a6-cb77-615d-145d-db4eb710bfca%40daniel-mendler.de%3E.

Defined consult-file to look the same as file names in Grep buffers

This face is used when the user option vertico-group-format is set to nil. With this change, we keep things consistent in the common workflow of using consult-grep and exporting to a grep buffer via embark-export. The packages involved are vertico, consult, embark.

Thanks to Daniel Mendler for bringing this matter to my attention: https://lists.sr.ht/~protesilaos/ef-themes/%3Cb03413a6-cb77-615d-145d-db4eb710bfca%40daniel-mendler.de%3E#%3C37f01118-1102-d0a9-ce8d-5101f3d44679@daniel-mendler.de%3E.

Made eglot-diagnostic-tag-unnecessary-face a warning

By default it inherits the shadow face, which makes it counter-intuitive as it dims the text instead of bringing it to our attention. The intent of eglot-diagnostic-tag-unnecessary-face is to highlight unused symbols, so this is better presented as an informational warning.

Thanks to Augusto Stoffel for bringing this matter to my attention. This was done via a private channel and the information is shared with permission.

Configured dashboard icons to retain their underlying colour

The default value of the dashboard-items-face made all icons use the same colour, detracting from their distinctiveness. Thanks to Thanos Apollo for bringing this matter to my attention. It was done via a private channel and the information is shared with permission.

Removed the bold weight from Org agenda deadline/scheduled

This makes agenda buffers less noisy. The original intent was to differentiate current/imminent from past/future items, though I feel that was the wrong design. We first want to deal with current tasks and do not want to feel overwhelmed by the design.

Removed the bold weight from regular expression constructs

This was used for escaped parentheses and the like. It was making certain strings harder to read, such as:


Retrieve any colour value from the palette

[ This is for do-it-yourself users who need to apply colours in custom code they maintain. As such, it is a bit technical. Skip to the next heading if you are not such a user. ]

The fuction ef-themes-get-color-value can be called from Lisp to return the value of a color from the active Ef theme palette. It takea a COLOR argument and an optional OVERRIDES.

COLOR is a symbol that represents a named color entry in the palette.


If the value is the name of another color entry in the palette (so a mapping), this function recurs until it finds the underlying color value.

With an optional OVERRIDES argument as a non-nil value, it accounts for palette overrides. Else it reads only the default palette.


With optional THEME as a symbol among ef-themes-collection, use the palette of that item. Else use the current Ef theme.

If COLOR is not present in the palette, this function returns the unspecified symbol, which is safe when used as a face attribute’s value.

An example with ef-summer to show how this function behaves with/without overrides and when recursive mappings are introduced.

;; Here we show the recursion of palette mappings.  In general, it is
;; better for the user to specify named colors to avoid possible
;; confusion with their configuration, though those still work as
;; expected.
(setq ef-themes-common-palette-overrides
      '((cursor red)
        (prompt cursor)
        (variable prompt)))

;; Ignore the overrides and get the original value.
(ef-themes-get-color-value 'variable)
;; => "#5250ef"

;; Read from the overrides and deal with any recursion to find the
;; underlying value.
(ef-themes-get-color-value 'variable :overrides)
;; => "#d3303a"


  • Recalibrated the mouse hover background of the ef-frost theme to stand out a bit more than before. This is a minor usability enhancement.

  • Revised the keycast-key face for easier use and thematic consistency. It has a faint border around it but is otherwise consistent with what was present before.

  • Improved how the palette preview is rendered.

  • Made several internal tweaks that keep the code clean and reusable.

  • Clarified the wording of various statements in the manual.

  • Expanded the outline headings of all theme files.