Emacs: 'standard-themes' version 2.0.0

The standard-themes are a pair of light and dark themes for GNU Emacs. They emulate the out-of-the-box looks of Emacs (which technically do NOT constitute a theme) while bringing to them thematic consistency, customizability, and extensibility. In practice, the Standard themes take the default style of the font-lock and Org faces, complement it with a wider and harmonious colour palette, address many inconsistencies, and apply established semantic patterns across all interfaces by supporting a large number of packages.

Below are the release notes.

Deprecated several user options that changed colours

The following user options are deprecated in favour of palette overrides (more in the following section):

  • standard-themes-mode-line-accented
  • standard-themes-links
  • standard-themes-region
  • standard-themes-fringes

In the same spirit, the user option standard-themes-prompts no longer affects colours.

All colour-related tweaks are done via palette overrides

In previous versions of the themes, we provided certain hardcoded colour variations, such as for an “accented” mode line and more “intense” fringes. We no longer do so, in favour of a more flexible approach that empowers the user to pick the exact colour they like.

The Standard themes provide the means to override every entry in their palette. Each palette defines named faces (such as what is the exact hexademical Red-Green-Blue value of blue-warmer) as well as semantic colour mappings (like bg-mode-line-active). Users can configure either the standard-themes-common-palette-overrides or the theme-specific ones, standard-dark-palette-overrides, standard-light-palette-overrides.

Refer to the manual for how this can be done: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/standard-themes#h:34fe0582-960b-45dc-af5d-23c8f3e9d724. And/or use the commands to preview the palette: standard-themes-preview-colors, standard-themes-preview-colors-current. Below is a sample:

(setq standard-themes-common-palette-overrides
      '((cursor red-warmer)
        (bg-mode-line-active bg-blue-subtle)))

[ This is the same functionality found in my modus-themes and ef-themes. Modus has the most palette entries and widest package support due to its maximalist scope. ]

The standard-themes-prompts accept any typographic weight

This user option applies to prompt texts of all sorts, such as the minibuffer and command-line shells. It now accepts any supported typographic weight as part of its value. The list of weights are recorded in the documentation of the variable standard-themes-weights as well as the manual.

Headings have more semantic colour mappings associated with them

Apart from the foreground, each heading level from 0 to 8 now has a background and an overline. These new palette entries are set to the unspecified value, meaning that they do not have any visual effect. Users can set them to a colour via palette overrides to have headings with a background and/or an overline (per heading level).

Building on the previous sample code with the overrides:

(setq standard-themes-common-palette-overrides
      '((cursor red-warmer)
        (bg-mode-line-active bg-blue-subtle)

        ;; Extra space for didactic purposes

        (fg-heading-1 rainbow-1)
        (fg-heading-2 rainbow-2)

        (bg-heading-1 bg-blue-nuanced)
        (bg-heading-2 bg-yellow-nuanced)

        (overline-heading-1 blue-faint)
        (overline-heading-2 yellow-faint)


Always remember to reload the theme for changes to take effect.

Contact me if you need any help.

Space-related semantic colour mappings are available

The whitespace-mode and related faces now use new palette entries that are specific to them. This means that users can easily make space characters more intense/subtle. As part of this redesign, the background that was enabled by default is now removed to accommodate uses of whitespace-mode in spacing-sensitive programming modes: an intensely coloured background on every space makes it hard to edit the text.

The display-line-numbers-mode benefits from semantic colour mappings

A new subset of palette entries applies to line numbers. It covers foreground and background values for the current/other line numbers. Users can style them as they see fit by using palette overrides. For example, this makes line numbers have a subtle grey backgrounds to not be mistaken for the contents of the buffer:

(setq standard-themes-common-palette-overrides
      '((cursor red-warmer)
        (bg-mode-line-active bg-blue-subtle)

        ;; Extra space for didactic purposes

        (fg-heading-1 rainbow-1)
        (fg-heading-2 rainbow-2)

        (bg-heading-1 bg-blue-nuanced)
        (bg-heading-2 bg-yellow-nuanced)

        (overline-heading-1 blue-faint)
        (overline-heading-2 yellow-faint)

        (bg-line-number-active bg-active)
        (bg-line-number-inactive bg-dim)


More semantic colour mappings for dates

The palette of each theme now defines an expanded subset of entries for dates. These include, among others, what we find in the Org agenda and the M-x calendar, such as date-weekday, date-scheduled, and more. Use palette overrides to tweak them accordingly.

More packages are supported

Support for more packages means that the theme looks consistent across a variety of interfaces (this is, after all, the original idea behind the standard-themes otherwise an unthemed Emacs looks too inconsistent—sorry!). For this version, we include the following in an already long list:

  • breadcrumb
  • centaur-tabs
  • corfu-candidate-overlay
  • jit-spell
  • nerd-icons
  • nerd-icons-dired
  • nerd-icons-ibuffer
  • vundo
  • which-key

Ediff faces do not implicitly depend on diff-mode

The Ediff faces used to inherit from the built-in diff-mode. This introduced a dependency and so using something like M-x ediff-files before loading diff-mode would result in an error. Ediff faces are thus designed to stand on their own.

“Flagged” and “trashed” emails are now distinct

They used to have the same colour, but this is no more. The change covers the mu4e and notmuch packages.


  • Revised the colour value of the standard-dark bg-region palette entry. The previous one was the same as the original colour used by the region face against a dark background: an intense blue. The new value is still blue, though it is toned down to do what it needs to do without exaggerations. (Remember that the point of the standard-themes is to be faithful to the defaults, but I still apply judgement where I think improvements can be made without changing the character of the themes).

  • Added support for the appt-notification face (which I introduced in Emacs 30).

  • Extended support for the various flymake “echo” and “end of line” faces (e.g. flymake-error-echo, flymake-end-of-line-diagnostics-face).

  • Removed the deprecated consult-preview-cursor face. This was done in commit 267b0c9 on the Consult Git repository. Discussed here: https://github.com/minad/consult/issues/764#issuecomment-1537491625.

  • Revised colours used in the all-the-icons faces. They now look more consistent.

  • Deleted the underline from the org-ellipsis face. Org files are already too busy and we do not need more of that.

  • Made the eglot-diagnostic-tag-unnecessary-face look like 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 a 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.

  • Rewrote most of the manual to remove the deprecated user options, expand the documentation where necessary, and tweak the sample configuration.

  • Expanded the deftheme definition of each theme’s metadata. This is to support new features in Emacs where themes can specify the set they belong to, as well as whether they are light or dark. The built-in command is theme-choose-variant. This is in response to Emacs bug#65468: https://debbugs.gnu.org/cgi/bugreport.cgi?bug=65468. Thanks to Mauro Aranda for bringing this matter to my attention.

  • Replaced function calls that depended on cl-lib.el with equivalent ones from seq.el. The latter is loaded by default and we did not need the CL features, anyway.