I like the variable font size feature that emacs has under xwindows.

But, I dislike the menus under xwindows. They are generated by GTK or something and they stick out like a sore thumb.

Comparison of Text-mode menus with GTK menus

Can I use emacs's rendering engine instead of GTK to draw the menus when I'm running under xwindows? Would that allow me to customize their appearance the same way I'd customize the appearance of the modeline?

If I build emacs with configure --with-x --with-x-toolkit=no, I get an emacs which looks like this: emacs compiled --with-x and --with-x-toolkit=no

Unfortunately, these menus are worse and now my emacs no longer supports the xwidgets stuff (not that I've played with it anyway).

  • This seems unlikely. I believe that the menus in the tty are handled by a member of the curses family of libraries. It seems unlikely that your graphical frame will be able to leverage curses. Also, it seems that the variable font sizes that you like in xwindows are precisely the thing that would make it hard to implement such a feature, even as an extension.
    – nispio
    Dec 20, 2016 at 20:00
  • Hm, it hadn't occurred to me that emacs might be using the curses library for menus. Thanks for the insight.
    – daveloyall
    Dec 20, 2016 at 22:27

1 Answer 1


You could disable the menu-bar completely with (menu-bar-mode -1) and use tmm-menubar whenever you want to access something in the menus. tmm-menubar is a text-only, key-binding driven menu-bar alternative which I like very much.

Screenshot of tmm-menubar from ergoemacs

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