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I'm a new Emacs user and am unable to successfully change the color scheme.

I have followed numerous guides, YouTube videos but have not been able to load any color scheme, some error always pops up. Many of the guides are quite old so may not pertain to the version I'm using, which is version 27.1 running on FreeBSD.

Could someone point me to a simple color scheme which I can download. tell me the correct location and provide a simple init.el to load it?

I tried using http://www.nongnu.org/color-theme/ but this is over 10 years old and maybe no longer relevant

Whatever I do, whenever I run M-x color-theme-<TAB> RET I always get NOT FOUND which suggests I am unable to get a color theme package in the correct format in the correct location - I have tried many many times without success so far.

Just to stress I'm a NEWBIE and prone to make lots of mistakes.

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  • To test switching themes you shouldn't need to download a theme. Emacs already provides a set of color schemes. Typing M-x invokes the command execute-extended-command which prompts you for a command to run. Probably you get a Not Found because there is no command color-theme...". What happens when you try M-x load-theme? – Aquaactress Mar 25 at 22:15
  • Thanks for the tip. It seems that I have at least adwaita and deeper-blue and to load it I need to run M-x lo-t RET which I do but nothing gets loaded. – balanga Mar 25 at 23:01
  • Try starting emacs without your initialization file: emacs -q and then asking it to load the theme: M-x load-theme RET deeper-blue RET. If that works, then something is wonly with your init file. – NickD Mar 25 at 23:57
  • Looks like my copy of emacs works fine in X (under FreeBSD) but in text mode it will not load a theme. I was only using text mode up to this point. Is that the same case with Linux? – balanga Mar 26 at 8:38
  • Just found my answer here:- stackoverflow.com/questions/63950/… – balanga Mar 26 at 10:44
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Library color-theme.el is still available and still works fine. You can get a version last updated in 2019 from Emacs Wiki, here.

See Color Themes for info about color themes, including how to install and use them.

You can get existing color themes (in a themes folder) from https://www.nongnu.org/color-theme/. But if you use a recent Emacs version then use the version of library color-theme.el from Emacs Wiki, not from the nongnu URL. (IOW, see that URL for info and to get existing themes, but use the code from Emacs Wiki.)


Color themes are different from standard Emacs custom themes. The color-theme library is older, and the themes work differently from custom themes. Both provide support for different color schemes. (Yeah, the words theme and scheme are close.)

See Custom Themes for info about custom themes.

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