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FWIW (setq nlinum-format " %d") works with nlinum-mode (available from your nearest GNU ELPA repository) and still right-aligns the numbers.


You could customize the variable linum-format to be a format string that begins with a space. The simplest would be (setq linum-format " %d") which sticks one space in front of the formatted digit. I tried it out and it looks slightly weird: The other thing is that if you're on Emacs 26, there is a new line number mode display-line-numbers-mode which is "...


Turns out, nlinum-mode doesn't suffer the same gap issue as described in the question. Emacsclient won't work, workaround at the link.

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