Light is right, alright?

For a long, long while I was a happy Solarized Light user. Then, somehow, I switched to Steve Purcell’s version of Tomorrow Night, and no other theme has been able to take me away from that colour scheme. There were times where I found myself looking for a new light theme, but the lack of a pleasant one1 left me in the comfortable palettes of Tomorrow Night. I even put on MELPA what at first looked like the light I needed, but the dark side still kept me within its reach.

Why didn’t I go back to Solarized Light if the experience had been so joyful? I guess getting older distanced me somehow from the pleasures of a yellowish background. Don’t get fooled by my grumpiness, though. It’s still one of the best Emacs themes out there, so be sure to check it out if you are after a light theme.

As for me, I’ve recently seen the light again. Protesilaos Stavrou open sourced a couple of beautiful themes, modus-vivendi and modus-operandi, both available at modus-themes, on ELPA, and on MELPA. I am sure the apt readers remember that modus-vivendi first appeared on these pages right at the end of Ripgrepping with Helm: the mode-line, but since then modus-operandi has become the default.

What I found intriguing in Protesilaos’ work is the reasoning behind the themes. I have never cared about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which is a shame considering how poor my eyesight has been since I was a kid. The Modus Themes are built with those guidelines in mind and it shows immediately. The text is always readable, it doesn’t matter what face is applied over it. It’s not only a matter of being able to read, but to always distinguish specific contexts. For instance, comments are clearly separated from the rest of the code without sacrificing legibility. I know this sounds reasonable and it may already be the case for the theme you are currently using, but for my eyes it has never been so easy. And yes, I did tend to prefer beauty over accessibility.

Another remarkable thing about the Modus Themes is that both variants cover a wide range of Emacs packages, something not so axiomatic in the Emacs theme world. Admittedly, I bothered Protesilaos with some issues about Helm and few other packages, but he quickly tamed my wild sensibility. “If a compromise is ever necessary between aesthetics and accessibility, it shall always be made in the interest of latter”, the README points out. So far no complaints from the aesthetics department, though.

Protesilaos explained his ideas in My accessible Emacs themes, a valuable presentation which you should watch before My Modus Themes are in ELPA. Considering that I came from years with a dark background, the switch to a light one has been less traumatic than it may seem. It could be due to the fact that Solarized Light was there way before the dark age, why not? Nevertheless, the new colour scheme is as simple and beautiful as it is effective. See you around, Sith Lord.


  1. An obvious matter of personal taste.