Why is Emacs X11's display such bad quality, and how do I fix it?

When I use Emacs Cocoa locally, I get a good visuals. But when I use the X11 forwarding on my department's server, the quality is horrendous. How do I fix the X11 version?

I'm doing this all on Mac OSX (El Capitan). Here are some screenshots of the difference between the local, cocoa version and the X11 version:

Emacs Cocoa locally: cocoa

Emacs X11 server version: X11

1 Answer 1


It seems that X defaults to a font that looks bad, or at least just has bad size. Try customizing fonts to make them look good (Options > Set Default font... from menu bar.)

You add something like this in your config file to change fonts only when you're using X:

(when (eq window-system 'x)
  ;; your custom font settings here
  • Is there a way to find out what the default for my cocoa browser is, so that I can just copy those settings? Jul 5, 2016 at 18:29
  • You can just take a look at what the font is set to in Cocoa, but I don't think that X will come with the same fonts. You're better off with just looking for something that looks similar.
    – user12563
    Jul 5, 2016 at 18:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.