I want to use the syntax highlighting that you get when running emacs -Q. If I run emacs -q, or run Emacs with no ~/.emacs file existent, or not load any custom theme, I get a dark-backgrounded color theme. I also tried altering my init file, but to no avail. Disabling a custom theme also leads to the dark theme aforementioned.

How can I get the font-lock colors default in emacs -Q?

  • 2
    The difference between -q and -Q is that site-start files are loaded. Start by checking if there is something in the system setup that cause your problems. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


C-hig (emacs)Initial Options tells us:

     Start emacs with minimum customizations.  This is similar to using
     ‘-q’, ‘--no-site-file’, ‘--no-site-lisp’, and ‘--no-splash’
     together.  This also stops Emacs from processing X resources by
     setting ‘inhibit-x-resources’ to ‘t’ (*note Resources::).

Hence the difference you're seeing between using -q and -Q is going to be on account of one (or more) of:

  • --no-site-file
  • --no-site-lisp
  • setting inhibit-x-resources to t

You can check the first two by running: emacs -q --no-site-file --no-site-lisp

     Do not load ‘site-start.el’ (*note Init File::).  The ‘-Q’ option
     does this too, but other options like ‘-q’ do not.

     Do not include the ‘site-lisp’ directories in ‘load-path’ (*note
     Init File::).  The ‘-Q’ option does this too.

I would be more suspicious of the X resources, though. If it's that, you may just be able to add (setq inhibit-x-resources t) in your init file, but my tests for that were not successful, so YMMV.

See also:

  • This is it. I checked '--no-site-file' and '--no-site-lisp' options separately, but I never really suspected Xresources because setting the variable didn't work, so I thought Xresources wasn't really relevant. Also some of the colors were different from those set in Xresources.Thanks.
    – reza
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 14:41

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