Emacs: Font Setup

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page shows you how to set font for emacs.

How to change font size

Alt+x text-scale-adjust, then press 【+】 to increase, 【-】 to decrease. You can press them repeatedly. Press【0】 to set it back to default size. Press any key to exit.

Or, Alt+x text-scale-increase.

(text-scale-increase 2)  ; 2 steps larger
(text-scale-normal-size) ; default size
(text-scale-decrease 2)  ; 2 steps smaller

You can make mouse wheel with Ctrl key to increase/descrease font size. See: Emacs: How to Set Mouse Buttons.

To set font size globally in init file, just put the point size in the font name:

(add-to-list 'default-frame-alist '(font . "DejaVu Sans Mono-10"))

[see Elisp: Determine OS, Emacs Version, Machine Host Name]

How to find the current font used

Alt+x describe-char, then look at the line in “display:”. It shows the font used for the character under cursor.

emacs describe-char
emacs Alt+x describe-char

How to set default font in emacs init file

Use set-frame-font to set font and size for all windows. Like this:

(when (member "Menlo" (font-family-list)) (set-frame-font "Menlo-14" t t))


;; set a default font
(when (member "DejaVu Sans Mono" (font-family-list))
  (set-face-attribute 'default nil :font "DejaVu Sans Mono"))


;; set default font in initial window and for any new window
 ((string-equal system-type "windows-nt") ; Microsoft Windows
  (when (member "DejaVu Sans Mono" (font-family-list))
    (add-to-list 'initial-frame-alist '(font . "DejaVu Sans Mono-10"))
    (add-to-list 'default-frame-alist '(font . "DejaVu Sans Mono-10"))))
 ((string-equal system-type "darwin") ; macOS
  (when (member "Menlo" (font-family-list))
    (add-to-list 'initial-frame-alist '(font . "Menlo"))
    (add-to-list 'default-frame-alist '(font . "Menlo"))))
 ((string-equal system-type "gnu/linux") ; linux
  (when (member "DejaVu Sans Mono" (font-family-list))
    (add-to-list 'initial-frame-alist '(font . "DejaVu Sans Mono-10"))
    (add-to-list 'default-frame-alist '(font . "DejaVu Sans Mono-10")))))

How to change font

Chose the menu 〖Options ▸ Set Default Font…〗, then 〖Options ▸ Save Options〗.

Here's the elisp code:

(set-frame-font "DejaVu Sans Mono-10")  ; set font for current window
;; set font for all windows. keep window size fixed
(set-frame-font "DejaVu Sans Mono-10" t t)

;; set font for all windows. don't keep window size fixed
(set-frame-font "DejaVu Sans Mono-10" nil t)

How to list fonts

(print (font-family-list))

Select the elisp code, then Alt+x eval-region. [see Evaluate Emacs Lisp Code]

You can see the result in “*Messages*” buffer. view-echo-area-messagesCtrl+h e】.

(info "(elisp) Face Attributes")

To list fonts in Linux, in terminal, type fc-list.

For linux, see Standard Fonts on Linuxes

How to check if a font exist

;; returns true if Symbola exists
(member "Symbola" (font-family-list))

How to install font

For Microsoft Windows and MacOS, just install to the OS normally. Restart emacs. Emacs should see it.

[see Linux: How to Install Font]

How to set font for a range of Unicode characters

;; specify font for all unicode characters
(when (member "Symbola" (font-family-list))
  (set-fontset-font t 'unicode "Symbola" nil 'prepend))

Alt+x describe-function on set-fontset-font for detail. (info "(elisp) Fontsets")

[see Unicode Emoji 😄 😱 😸 👸 👽 🙋]

[see Download Free Unicode Fonts]

(info "(emacs) Fonts")

How to Display Emoji on MacOS

emacs on macOS unicode 2017 09 22 44951
Emacs on macOS does not do unicode by default, 2017-09-22

FSF GNU emacs disabled displaying color emoji on Mac, so that Mac won't work better than linux



download font “symbola” at Download Free Unicode Fonts

Put this in your emacs init file:

;; specify font for all unicode characters
(when (member "Symbola" (font-family-list))
  (set-fontset-font t 'unicode "Symbola" nil 'prepend))
emacs on macOS unicode fixed 2017 09 22 25437
Emacs on MacOS, displaying unicode using font Symbola, 2017-09-22

Font Topic

  1. Font Setup
  2. Proportional Font
  3. Cycle Fonts by Command
  4. Set Line Spacing

Emacs Customization

  1. Emacs init file
  2. Install Packages
  3. Install Package Manually
  4. Define Keys
  5. M-x customize
  6. What's Major Mode?
  7. What's Minor Mode?
  8. Set File to Open in a Major Mode
  9. Organize Init File
  10. Byte Compile Elisp
  11. What's Hook?
  12. Environment Variables in Emacs
  13. Set Default Window Size
  14. Font Setup
  15. Set Color Theme
  16. Turn Off Auto Backup
  17. Check OS, Version, Host Name
  18. Check Defined/Loaded

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