I am running emacs (24.5.1) on Mac osx and using the solarized theme. For the gui version, the theme works well. If I run the application with the -nw flag:

/Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/Emacs -nw

the colors for the theme get all wonky. I assume this is because:


What would I need to put in my .emacs to give the following conditional behavior:

if (gui)
if (-nw)


  • I was tempted to tell you to write something like: (if (window-system) ...) Then, I read the documentation: > window-system is a variable defined in `C source code'. > Its value is nil It is a terminal-local variable; global value is the > same. > > Documentation: Name of window system through which the selected frame > is displayed. The value is a symbol: > - nil for a termcap frame (a > character-only terminal), > - 'x' for an Emacs frame that is really an X > window, > - 'w32' for an Emacs frame that is a window on MS-Windows > display, > - 'ns' for an Emacs frame on a GNUstep or Macintosh
    – Nsukami _
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 23:18
  • 1
    If you only need to know how to check if emacs is running in a gui or terminal then I believe this is a duplicate or this: emacs.stackexchange.com/questions/7151/… If you also need to know how to enable themes from elisp then I think it stands as it's own question nicely. If you need to know how to programmatically enable themes from elisp I would add that specifically to the body of your question. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 23:33
  • 2
    There are themes out there that look nice in both graphical and non-graphical environments. A alternative solution would be to use one such theme. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 23:34

1 Answer 1


Use display-graphic-p to determine if Emacs is in a GUI or not.

Assuming solarized is installed and loaded:

(if (display-graphic-p) 
    (enable-theme 'solarized) 
  (enable-theme 'wheatgrass))

See also: Is there a way to detect that emacs is running in a terminal?

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