What is the best way to go about asking another user a question that is relevant to Emacs, but perhaps tangential to any given question?

For example, what if a user posts screenshots and I want to know what theme they are using? Or what font they are using? Or what package they are using to get their mode-line to look like that? Or what they are using to record gifs?

I often find myself wanting to ask other users about these things. However, I have seen long conversations like this one, and understand that there isn't really a way to send a private message to another user - I also understand, and agree with the reasoning behind this. However, I also don't know how the community feels about off-topic comments on questions. Maybe the question is "How do I do X in Emacs?". It is probably not the most productive/helpful thing to start a conversion in the comments along the lines of:

What theme are you using in those screenshots?

It's zenburn.

How do I get it?

You can get it from MELPA

I see multiple themes with zenburn in their names, which one specifically are you using?


Of course, this is a particularly annoying example, and it would probably stop at the second comment in most cases. So, would this kind of exchange in the comments be frowned upon/discouraged by the community, or is it OK? Would it be better to take a screenshot of their screenshot and ask another question? Ask in comments and then delete comments later to remove noise? Other possibilities? I have been wondering about this recently, and I was curious if there is an established/suggested way to ask these kinds of questions.

2 Answers 2


Comments like that are fine, as long as they don't get in the way of a second (more on-topic) conversation in the comments. My experience with other SE sites is that even (completely irrelevant) silly jokes are fair-ground for comments, so a request for unrelated information should be perfectly fine.


Does it need to be "relevant to emacs"? I'm under the impression that as long as it doesn't disrupt any conversation more relevant to the question, this kind of comments are tolerated. You can also delete the exchange once you get your answer if you want.

An example of this would be "what font is it?" or "why are you writing XXX in your .yyy source code?"... Not quite related to emacs.

On the other hand, if the question is related to emacs enough to be on-topic here (for example "what package gives you this modeline?" probably is), asking a real question is probably the best course of action. You don't need to take a screenshot of the original question, simply link it back, and use the same image if you want an illustration.

Regarding "what's the skin in this screenshot", I will leave it to others to decide whether it would be on-topic here. ;)

About long comment conversations, the comment system automatically suggests to continue in chat, and there you will be entirely free. You can always try to ping the user in chat before you post your comment, but I think it will only work if the user is connected to the chat (not sure about that).

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