When I start Emacs with emacs -Q --eval '(set-face-attribute (quote default) nil :height 180), the font changes for a split-second, but then returns to its default. Same thing if I put the code in my init file.

If I deliberately cause an error with emacs -Q --eval '(progn (set-face-attribute (quote default) nil :height 180) (bing)), the change sticks. But this doesn't work if I put the code in my init file—I guess that whatever mechanism Emacs uses to recover from init-file errors doesn't prevent the font-size-revert code from running.

How do I get Emacs to accept my default font size?

I'm running Emacs 25.1.2 (from kelleyk's PPA) on Ubuntu 16.10.

  • Is there a font that you can use in your default-frame-alist or initial-frame-alist that will serve to set the default to your liking such that you can forego using set-face-attribute? For example, on OSX --with-x my applicable frame parameter is (font . "-Adobe-Courier-normal-normal-normal-*-20-*-*-*-m-110-iso10646-1").
    – lawlist
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:18
  • @lawlist I want to be able to set the default size conditionally (specifically, one size for when I'm using an external monitor and another for when I'm using my laptop's screen). I was able to do this by manually setting face attributes in Emacs 24. Will I still be able to do this with default-frame-alist or initial-frame-alist? Dec 14, 2016 at 19:22
  • What you are experiencing is likely a bug worthy of a bug report to the Emacs team. My idea is meant to be a potential workaround until your bug gets fixed. When I make frames during my Emacs session after startup, I rely upon the default-frame-alist and I also pass along additional frame parameters programmatically based on a situation -- e.g., (make-frame (list '(name . "ZTREE"))) You can have a function that determines your situation and passes the appropriate parameter based thereon. See also modify-frame-parameters and set-frame-parameter.
    – lawlist
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:34
  • This works fine for me on Emacs Maybe one of the patches applied by kelleyk has interacted with something?
    – Tyler
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:37
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of something changes the default face in my .emacs
    – Tyler
    Apr 18, 2018 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


One option is to add your own command-line switch, and deal with it in your init file, like this:

(setq big-font-p (member "--big-font" command-line-args))
(setq command-line-args (delete "--big-font" command-line-args))
(add-to-list 'default-frame-alist
             (if big-font-p
                 '(font . "DejaVu Sans Mono-18") ;; Big font
               '(font . "DejaVu Sans Mono-12"))) ;; Default font

In this case, if the option --big-font is not specified on the command-line, then your default font will be used.

  • Setting default-frame-alist, as originally suggested by lawlist, seems to work fine. Thanks, everyone. Dec 14, 2016 at 21:54

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