I have emacs version 23.3.1, the default color has dark purple text against a grey background which hurts my eyes.

I have read documentation* to try and look through the list of default preloaded emacs themes and pick a new color theme.

*where can I find emacs documentation specific to an older version?

I have tried M-x and the following commands, however all of them return with "[No Match]"

M-x color-theme-select

M-x customize-themes

When I try "customize-themes" on my local terminal I can see a list of themes and can pick between them (v24.5.1).

Is there anyway to achieve this on the older version of emacs?

1 Answer 1


Custom themes are not really available for Emacs releases prior to Emacs 24. (They are available in a rudimentary form, which does not correspond to what you think of as a theme.)

But color themes are available for pretty much any Emacs release. You need library color-theme.el to use color themes.

Here are two libraries that you can use (either of them) to choose among available themes, seeing the effect of each or any before choosing. Each library lets you cycle among either color themes or custom themes.

  • Do Re Mi - commands doremi-color-themes+ and doremi-custom-themes+
  • Icicles - (multi-)commands icicle-color-theme and icicle-custom-theme.

For Icicles, you have these user options:

  • icicle-color-themes is a list of color themes to cycle through when you use command icicle-color-theme.

  • Option icicle-custom-themes is a list of Emacs custom themes to cycle through when you use command icicle-custom-theme.

  • Option icicle-custom-themes-accumulate-flag determines whether such cycling keeps the effects of previously applied themes or replaces each theme with the next one.

  • Option icicle-custom-themes-update-flag determines whether the command automatically saves changes made. A prefix argument flips this option value for the invocation of the command.

  • Thanks for the answer, but I still find this very confusing. We have libraries and packages dont fully understand what either of these things are. I clicked on the link for color-theme.el but I couldn't actually find the color-theme.el file or link for download anywhere. Even if I could download the file I wouldn't know where to put it or what to do with it. It all seems an inordinate amount of effort just to change the color scheme of my editor.
    – par
    Dec 28, 2016 at 14:44
  • color-theme is here: download.savannah.gnu.org/releases/color-theme/… - uncompress it to color-theme.el. (That's from the Download link from the link I gave above.) Put a library in your load-path, then require it in your init file. This is all explained in the Emacs manual, node Lisp Libraries. Too many questions - ask each separately, to get more helpful help.
    – Drew
    Dec 28, 2016 at 16:22

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