The only response I got is this: Weird behavior: GUI won't start, but terminal emacs will

But he doesn't clarify on the solution. I have the same problem, my .Xdefaults and/or .Xresources causes the error

This is my .Xresources

*.color0: #1d2021
*.color1: #cc241d
*.color2: #98971a
*.color3: #d79921
*.color4: #458588
*.color5: #b16286
*.color6: #689d6a
*.color7: #a89984
*.color8: #928374
*.color9: #fb4934
*.color10: #b8bb26
*.color11: #fabd2f
*.color12: #83a598
*.color13: #d3869b
*.color14: #8ec07c
*.color15: #ebdbb2
!! Transparency (0-255):
*.alpha: 230

If I remove .Xresources emacs starts with no issue at all, but that meeses up with my i3blocks and i3 config

  • 1
    Did you follow the advice about using --debug-init?
    – tarsius
    Dec 4, 2018 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


Apparently Emacs expects the value of alpha to be within [0, 100], as I can reproduce this issue with alpha set to a value outside of that exact range.

Poking around in its codebase, you can find the x_set_alpha function in src/frame.c signaling an "Args out of range" error on the same condition.

As an immediate fix you can specify an Emacs-specific alpha resource setting to be within that range

Emacs.alpha: 90

or alternatively add (setq inhibit-x-resources t) to your init file to prevent Emacs from loading X resources.

Moreover I'm not sure if this would be regarded as an actual bug upstream. Any application taking an X resource as input is free in the interpretation of its value. Adding custom settings per nonconforming application should be sufficient.

The sudden exit on an unexpected out-of-range value in the given X resources could definitely be regarded as a UX bug, though.

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