I am trying to make graphical tooltips appear over some words in Emacs. Here is the code I have developed:

(defun image-tooltip (window object position)
    (goto-char position)
    (let* ((img-file (format "%s.png" (thing-at-point 'word)))
       (s (propertize "Look in the minbuffer"
              'display (create-image (expand-file-name img-file)))))
      (message "%s" s))))

 '(("\\<kiwi\\>\\|\\<grapes\\>\\|strawberry" 0 '(face font-lock-keyword-face
                              help-echo image-tooltip))))

The kiwi.png and other images are stored on disk, and they work fine (you can see it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX_hAPb9NOc) It works fine to put an image in the minibuffer, but the tooltip itself just says Look in minibuffer, and I thought it would instead show the image. Am I missing something in here?

1 Answer 1


You should return the propertized string in your image-tooltip code:

(defun image-tooltip (window object position)
    (goto-char position)
    (let ((img-file (format "%s.png" (thing-at-point 'word))))
       (propertize "Look in the minbuffer"
              'display (create-image (expand-file-name img-file))))))

The code works fine in my Emacs(version 24.5, Arch Linux).

  • hm. I tried that with Emacs 24.1 and 25.1 on MacOSX, and it doesn't work , although in the minibuffer it does work with the image. Interestingly enough, it works on Windows with Emacs 24.5. I guess it is a Mac thing then. Thanks! Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 22:06
  • This does look like a platform specific problem. In Linux, image tooltip is only shown when disabling the system tooltip by (setq x-gtk-use-system-tooltips nil), though I believe in OSX it should be something different. BTW, dired+ can show image tooltips when the mouse moves over an image name, which looks like something similar to what you want to achieve.
    – cutejumper
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 3:33
  • I was looking at dired+ when I wrote this example ;) unfortunately it also doesn't show tooltips in OSX. I guess this has to do with gtk support on osx. Thanks for the tip though. Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 12:12
  • It turns out if I rebuild Emacs with gtk3 support, the image tooltips work! I had previously used a cocoa option to brew to install it. Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 20:02
  • Great! Good to hear your problem is solved!
    – cutejumper
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 2:19

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