Compiling Emacs 25 - X11 woes and toolkit issues

I was prompted by the requirements of this very important package to recompile my Emacs from source. I thought that’d be easy. Oh boy, was I in for a surprise.

First try

Everything went smoothly in the beginning. I would just run git fetch && git pull, ./, ./configure && make, cd src/ && ./emacs, and I would be looking at the Spacemacs window in no time. “This is so easy, I can’t believe it won’t fail”.

I was correct in my suspicion.

First, Emacs complained about (void-function define-inline). After reading INSTALL, I learned that I should use the make bootstrap command.

After that, it did compile, but with none of the libraries I intended to use. The graphics were weird, too - probably because I wasn’t using GTK, but the Lucid X toolkit.

“Just configure it with your desired toolkit!”

When I ran ./configure --with-x-toolkit=gtk3 --with-modules && make bootstrap, my problems just started:

configure: error: Package 'xproto', required by 'xau', not found

OK, where is ‘xproto’? After running locate xproto, I found out that there was a .pc file in a system directory. If you look at the documentation for pkg-config, you’ll see the following:

DESCRIPTION The pkg-config program is used to retrieve information about installed libraries in the system. It is typically used to compile and link against one or more libraries. Here is a typical usage scenario in a Makefile:

   program: program.c
        cc program.c $(pkg-config --cflags --libs gnomeui)

   pkg-config retrieves information about packages from special metadata files. These files  are  named  after
   the  package,  and  has  a  .pc  extension.   On  most  systems,  pkg-config  looks  in /usr/lib/pkgconfig,
   /usr/share/pkgconfig, /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig and /usr/local/share/pkgconfig for  these  files.   It  will
   additionally look in the colon-separated (on Windows, semicolon-separated) list of directories specified by
   the PKG_CONFIG_PATH environment variable.

So, basically this program ensures we’re compiling with all the right flags. I’m running a 64-bit Linux, and this means that libraries might not be in their standard places (that, and the fact that I also run a symlink-hodge-podge between 3 different partitions. More on that later, if I’m not too ashamed of talking about that in public).

List of commands for installation

X11_PATH=`dirname $(locate x11 | grep pkgconfig | head -1)`
XPROTO_PATH=`dirname $(locate xproto | grep pkgconfig | head -1)`
./configure --with-x-toolkit=gtk3 --with-modules
make bootstrap

Other issues

After that I faced this known bug on Spacemacs. Thankfully, the devs already found a workaround:

  (python :variables python-test-runner '(nose pytest))
  ;; other layers here

After that, I had a problem with the background color - it always defaulted to white. Thanks to this SO answer, I traced the root of the problem to a “Customize” option in my .spacemacs. Deleting it solved the problem:

 ;; custom-set-faces was added by Custom.
 ;; If you edit it by hand, you could mess it up, so be careful.
 ;; Your init file should contain only one such instance.
 ;; If there is more than one, they won't work right.
 ;; '(default
 ;; a bunch of color definitions here that weren't helpful
 ;; )

XWidgets (optional)

After that, I figured “hey, why don’t I compile with xwidgets support? Looks cool, and it’ll help while I don’t get a second monitor”. For that, I needed to install this dependency:

sudo apt-get install libwebkitgtk-3.0-dev

And the command for compiling Emacs with this optional module became:

./configure --with-x-toolkit=gtk3 --with-modules --with-xwidgets


Now I can meme inside Spacemacs to my heart’s content. Hopefully, this blog post might help someone who’s going through the same problems as I did.