Emacs is like the nerdy kid at school – capable of doing anything but crippled in life by a critical flaw: the complete neglect of its appearance.

Emacs has one of the ugliest default looks I’ve seen in any software I’ve ever used. Beware, reader; you view at your own risk:

Dear God. Dear God.

It gets worse. Here’s my favorite screenshot of Ugly Emacs, which I got from here:

What IS that thing?! What IS that thing?!

Fixing the problem of Emacs Ugliness with custom themes is hard because almost every custom theme I’ve seen looks totally and utterly unappealing. Here’s a screenshot of Zenburn, the most popular third-party theme:

Is this a text editor or cement? Is this a text editor or cement?

If you think that looks acceptable, I seriously question your aesthetic taste. Now take a look at the two gifs on this page. The first thing that came to my mind is that someone took a gif screencast of vomit. Only upon closer inspection did I realize that it’s a gif of Emacs.

How is this acceptable?

Here’s a compendium of custom themes for Emacs – I challenge you to find one that doesn’t seer your eyeballs off.

The theme you pick for your editor is more important than you may think, especially if you spend many hours a day looking at it. I’m convinced that a theme like Zenburn would, over the course of a lifetime, make you a significantly more dull person.

Luckily, I’ve managed to find a theme that’s actually pretty solid, though it’s oddly absent from the Emacs Themes site linked above. It’s called Nimbus Theme, and it carries the official Monty Flatts seal of approval.


Well, that’s about all I have to say on this topic. I’m a bit sorry to criticize Emacs as it’s the best software I’ve ever used, but it’s hard to defend from a visual standpoint. This should be changed. Emacs on my Mac sticks out like a sore thumb, where every other application is more appealing by light-years. Of course, on Linux, Emacs fits right in, though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.