I am using Emacs 25.3.2 on Linux Ubuntu 16.04.

The problem is that several of the menu bar items produce empty drop-downs. A grey box appears, but with nothing inside. It looks like this:

enter image description here

I originally noticed this happening for the YASnippet, Python and Virtual Envs and after playing around a lot with various modes, saving, closing, restarting Emacs and so on, I believe it is always specific to the current mode. The File, Edit, Options and Buffers tabs never seem to have a problem.

Pressing F10 seems to reset something and then everything works again, but after some time (I haven't been able to determine when/why exactly), the mode-relevant menu bar tabs seems to once again be empty.

Any clues as to what might be causing this?

I have seen this problem, but it appears to have been version specific and also a different issue to mine.

  • Does this also happen when you run Emacs without any user settings, so by running emacs -Q and manually loading YASnippet or any one of the other modes in which you've encountered this?
    – Arnot
    Nov 10, 2017 at 9:28
  • No. I am unable to reproduce it by starting with emacs - Q and then loading in elpy or yasnippet. Although I haven't been able to pinpoint when it happens with my configuration. I'm stumped!
    – n1k31t4
    Nov 10, 2017 at 9:47

2 Answers 2


I have a similar problem. This works for me.

ref: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/appmenu-gtk/+bug/673302

In ~/.bashrc export the UBUNTU_MENU_PROXY variable

export UBUNTU_MENU_PROXY=emacs

Source you .bashrc file

source ~/.bashrc

Open a terminal and launch emacs

  • this seems to work, but how can it be applied so that starting emacs from the launcher also picks up on the env var? I suppose setting all windows to have their dropdown settings on the frame, system-wide, should do it - even without exporting that env var.
    – n1k31t4
    Jul 19, 2018 at 15:48
  • There's a transcription mistake or misunderstanding here - the command from the original was UBUNTU_MENU_PROXY= emacs - ie run the command emacs with the overridden environment variable set to the empty string
    – Greg
    Dec 8, 2018 at 5:01

Robert Birkelbach, in "Dealing with empty menus in GNU Emacs", gave a simple fix that seems to work, namely add the following to your .emacs:

(menu-bar-mode -1)
(menu-bar-mode 1)

Why turning menus off and then back on would do the trick is not so clear... :-)

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