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A fixed width smart mode line for Emacs.

smart-mode-line Donate

Smart Mode Line is a sexy mode-line for Emacs. It aims to be easy to read from small to large monitors by using colors, a prefix feature, and smart truncation.

New in v2.5

  • Emacs 24.4 compatible.
  • Integration with Projectile!
  • Display current-directory in Shell and eshell.
  • New value for sml/theme: automatic (highly recommended).
  • sml/apply-theme is interactive and has completion.
  • Smart-mode-line themes are now regular themes.

Further News


Dark Theme
Dark Theme Screenshot

Light Theme
Light Theme Screenshot


smart-mode-line is available on Melpa, and that's the recommended way of installing it. If you do that, you can simply activate it with:


To install it manually, you need emacs-version >= 24.3. First make sure you install dash.el (which is a dependency), then make sure "smart-mode-line.el" is in your load path, and finally place this code in your .emacs file:

(require 'smart-mode-line)

To change the color theme, do one of the following:

(sml/apply-theme 'dark)
(sml/apply-theme 'light)
(sml/apply-theme 'respectful)
(sml/apply-theme 'automatic)

Instalation Issues (FAQ)

  • Problem: If emacs keeps warning you that "Loading themes can run lisp code" and asking "Would you like to mark this theme as safe for future sessions?". That is probably an issue with your init.el or .emacs file.
  • Solution: Make sure the (custom-set-variables ...) sexp is at the very top of your .emacs file. That is the right place for it.


Its main features include:

  1. Color coded:
    Highlights the most important information for you (buffer name, modified state, line number). Don't like the colors? See item 5.!

  2. Fixed width (if you want):
    Lets you set a maxium width for the path name and mode names, and truncates them intelligently (truncates the directory, not the buffer name). Also let's you right indent strings in the mode-line (see sml/mode-width).

  3. Directory as Prefixes:
    Prefix feature saves a LOT of space. e.g. "~/.emacs.d/" is translated to ":ED:" in the path (open a file inside this folder to see it in action). Long path names you are commmonly working on are displayed as short abbreviations. Set your own prefixes to make best use of it (by configuring sml/replacer-regexp-list). Mousing over the abbreviated path will show you the full path. See below for examples.

  4. Hide minor-modes:
    Hidden-modes feature saves even more space. Select which minor modes you don't want to see listed by customizing the sml/hidden-modes variable. This will filter out the modes you don't care about and unclutter the modes list (mousing over the modes list still shows the full list).

  5. Very easy to configure:
    All colors and variables are customizable. You can change the whole theme with sml/apply-theme, or just customize anything manually with sml/customize and sml/customize-faces. There are DOZENS of variables to customize your mode-line, just pop over there and have a look!

  6. Compatible with absolutely anything:
    I'm serious. Versions 2.0 and above should be compatible with any other packages that display information in the mode-line (evil, nyan-mode, elscreen, display-battery-mode, etc). If you find ANYTHING that does not appear as it should, file a bug report and I'll get to it.

Important Variables:

All variables can be edited by running sml/customize, and the documentations are mostly self explanatory, I list here only the most important ones.

  1. sml/theme
    Choose what theme you want to use for the mode-line colors. For now there are 3 different themes: dark, light, and respectful.

  2. sml/shorten-directory and sml/shorten-modes
    Setting both of these to t garantees a fixed width mode-line (directory name and minor-modes list will be truncated to fit). To actually define the width, see below.

  3. sml/name-width and sml/mode-width
    Customize these according to the width of your emacs frame. I set them to 40 and full respectively, and the mode-line fits perfectly when the frame is split in two even on my laptop's small 17" monitor. full means everything after the minor-modes will be right-indented.

  4. sml/replacer-regexp-list
    This variable is a list of (REGEXP REPLACEMENT) that is used to parse the path. The replacements are applied sequentially. This allows you to greatly abbreviate the path that's shown in the mode-line. If this abbreviation is of the form ":SOMETHING:", it is considered a prefix and get's a different color (you can change what's considered a prefix by customizing sml/prefix-regexp).
    For example, if you do a lot of work on a folder called "~/Dropbox/Projects/In-Development/" almost half the mode-line would be occupied just by the folder name, which is much less important than the buffer name. But, you can't just hide the folder name, since editting a file in "~/Dropbox/Projects/In-Development/Source" is VERY different from editting a file in "~/Dropbox/Projects/Source". By setting up a prefix for your commonly used folders, you get all that information without wasting all that space. In this example you could set the replacement to ":ProjDev:" or just ":InDev:", so the path shown in the mode-line will be ":ProjDev:Source/" (saves a lot of space without hiding information).

Here go some more useful examples:

(add-to-list 'sml/replacer-regexp-list '("^~/Dropbox/Projects/In-Development/" ":ProjDev:") t)
(add-to-list 'sml/replacer-regexp-list '("^~/Documents/Work/" ":Work:") t)

;; Added in the right order, they even work sequentially:
(add-to-list 'sml/replacer-regexp-list '("^~/Dropbox/" ":DB:") t)
(add-to-list 'sml/replacer-regexp-list '("^:DB:Documents" ":DDocs:") t)
(add-to-list 'sml/replacer-regexp-list '("^~/Git-Projects/" ":Git:") t)
(add-to-list 'sml/replacer-regexp-list '("^:Git:\\(.*\\)/src/main/java/" ":G/\\1/SMJ:") t)
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