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Change Log of the Standard Themes

This document contains the release notes for each tagged commit on the project's main git repository: https://git.sr.ht/~protesilaos/standard-themes.

The newest release is at the top. For further details, please consult the manual: https://protesilaos.com/emacs/standard-themes.

Version 2.0.0 on 2023-11-27

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.

Version 1.2.0 on 2023-02-16

Support for palette overrides

It is now possible to override the palette of each Standard theme. This is the same feature that I implemented for the modus-themes, except it is a bit more limited in scope (the Modus themes are maximalist due to their accessibility target).

Overrides allow the user to tweak the presentation of either or both themes, such as to change the colour value of individual entries and/or remap how named colours are applied to semantic code constructs.

For example, the user can change what the exact value of blue-warmer is and then, say, make comments use a shade of green instead of red.

There are three user options to this end:

  • standard-themes-common-palette-overrides which covers both themes.
  • standard-dark-palette-overrides which concerns the dark theme.
  • standard-light-palette-overrides which is for the light theme.

The theme-specific overrides take precedence over the "common" ones.

The theme's palette with named colors can be previewed with the commands standard-themes-preview-colors and standard-themes-preview-colors-current. When called with a universal prefix argument (C-u with default key bindings) these commands produce a preview of the semantic colour mappings (e.g. what colour applies to level 2 headings).

Use the preview as a reference to find entries to override. And consult the manual for the technicalities.

Thanks to Clemens Radermacher for fixing a mistake I made in the code that produces the palette previews.

Added the function standard-themes-get-color-value

It returns the colour value of named COLOR for the current Standard theme.

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

If the value is the name of another colour entry in the palette (so a mapping), recur until you find the underlying colour value.

With optional OVERRIDES as a non-nil value, account for palette overrides. Else use the default palette.

With optional THEME as a symbol among standard-themes-items, use the palette of that item. Else use the current Standard theme.

If COLOR is not present in the palette, return the unspecified symbol, which is safe when used as a face attribute's value.

The manual provides this information and also links to relevant entries. The example it uses, with the standard-light as current:

;; 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 standard-themes-common-palette-overrides
      '((cursor red)
        (prompt cursor)
        (variable prompt)))

;; Ignore the overrides and get the original value.
(standard-themes-get-color-value 'variable)
;; => "#a0522d"

;; Read from the overrides and deal with any recursion to find the
;; underlying value.
(standard-themes-get-color-value 'variable :overrides)
;; => "#b3303a"

New user option standard-themes-disable-other-themes

This user option is set to t by default. This means that loading a Standard theme with the command standard-themes-toggle or the functions standard-theme-load-dark, standard-theme-load-light will disable all custom-enabled-themes.

When the value of this user option is nil, themes are loaded without disabling other entries outside their family. This retains the original (and in my opinion bad for most users) behaviour of Emacs where it blithely blends multiple enabled themes.

I consider the blending a bad default because it undoes the work of the designer and often leads to highly inaccessible and unpredictable combinations. Sure, experts can blend themes which is an argument in favour of making that behaviour opt-in.

Other changes


Thanks to Fritz Grabo who provided feedback via a private channel. With it, I was able to better understand the underlying patterns of the out-of-the-box Emacs faces and thus design the standard-themes accordingly. This information is shared with permission.

As a reminder, the Standard themes are an interpretation of the default Emacs faces (which technically are not a "theme"). I have expanded the effective palette with harmonious entries, made mappings that are consistent with the patterns found in some base faces, and extended support for lots of packages. At first sight, the Standard themes look like what you get with an unconfigured Emacs. Though make no mistake: they are far more detail-oriented.

Version 1.1.0 on 2022-12-06

The standard-themes-headings now covers the Org agenda

The user option standard-themes-headings lets the user control the height, weight, and use of proportionately spaced fonts (variable-pitch) on a per-heading basis. Different combinations are possible, as explained in the option's doc string on the corresponding entry in the manual.

I have now made it possible to specify the agenda-date and agenda-structure keys. Both pertain to the Org agenda. The former applies to date headings, while the latter styles the headings of each "block" of content. In a generic agenda buffer, that block heading is the first line which reads Week-agenda (W49): or something like that, though we find such headings in more places as well.

Here is a sample with various stylistic variants per heading:

(setq standard-themes-headings ; read the manual's entry or the doc string
      '((0 . (variable-pitch light 1.9))
        (1 . (variable-pitch light 1.8))
        (2 . (semilight 1.7))
        (3 . (semilight 1.6))
        (4 . (1.5)) ; absence of weight means "regular"
        (5 . (1.4))
        (6 . (bold 1.3))
        (7 . (bold 1.2))
        (agenda-date . (semilight 1.5))
        (agenda-structure . (variable-pitch light 1.9))
        (t . (variable-pitch 1.1))))

Note that Org re-uses heading levels past 8. This means that level 9 will look the same as level 1. This is not the theme's doing. Check the user options org-level-faces, org-n-level-faces for ways to change this.

M-x theme-choose-variant works as expected

Users of Emacs 29 have access to the command theme-choose-variant: it toggles between two themes of the same family. If the family has more members, it uses minibuffer completion instead.

I registered the appropriate theme properties to make this work as intended. However, it is still possible to use the command standard-themes-toggle.

Stylistic refinements

  • Simplified the Magit blame faces to avoid exaggerations.
  • Revised the colours of day headings in the M-x calendar buffer. Weekends stand out, as is the case with physical calendars and many established apps.
  • Made the edmacro-label face stand out in its context. Otherwise it was difficult to spot. This is for Emacs 29 and applies to headings in the keyboard macro editing buffer (e.g. with C-x C-k C-e (kmacro-edit-macro-repeat)).
  • Added support for the powerline package.