When reading manuals in *info* mode, I found rivers somewhat distracting. For example, the left image is what I see on the screen, whereas the right one have some rivers annotated out. (see also Tex.SE, and DSP.SE)

enter image description here

Is there anyway to avoid them? I have did a lot of searching, but haven't found a relevant package yet. The Emacs community doesn't seem to care too much about this issue...

  • When you come across a paragraph that bothers you this way, you can try this: C-x C-q then M-q. (Don't try to save your changes.) For the paragraph you show that works for me, apparently because it was not filled with a larger fill-column than what I use by default (70). IOW, you can refill the text, trying a different fill-column. The result might just result in different rivers, however. As @Stefan has said, Emacs development does not deal with this level of typography for online viewing - for one thing for lack of volunteers. On the other hand, try hardcopy versions of the manuals.
    – Drew
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 23:03

2 Answers 2


I think this is basically a matter of reading text with fixed-width fonts, yes?

I suspect your best option is to enable M-x variable-pitch-mode for info buffers:

(add-hook 'Info-mode-hook 'variable-pitch-mode)

Note that you'll end up with a greater variability in visual line widths than before, as the manual text is filled / hard-wrapped (and I don't believe there's enough information to safely re-wrap them at render time, so I'm pretty sure that's a trade-off you'll be stuck with).

Otherwise (or in addition): try different fonts and see if you can find one which distracts you less than your current font.

  • Maybe? I am running Emacs within a terminal, so variable-pitch-mode doesn't seem to make any difference. I'll install the native version of Emacs later and try again.
    – nalzok
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 4:14
  • In a terminal Emacs has no control over the font which is being used -- it's the terminal that determines the font, not Emacs. You could tell your terminal emulator to use a variable-width font, but then all Emacs buffers will use that, so I wouldn't recommend doing that unless this issue is a major problem for you. Otherwise I think your options are (a) find a fixed-width font which you like better (which I think is unlikely to make a big difference); (b) use GUI Emacs; or (c) forget about it.
    – phils
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 5:24

I'm not sure if the Emacs community cares or not, but I can assure you that the manpower needed to fix this is definitely missing. Just refilling the text to a different width (or to take advantage of variable-pitch fonts) is already a problem in *info* buffers (because the underlying data doesn't clearly indicate the boundaries of paragraphs and doesn't clearly distinguish text from sample code, ...), so fine typography like avoiding those "rivers" is a fairly distant problem.

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