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Add some color to Visual Studio 2012

Usability studies have shown that both shape and color help to distinguis visual elements in a UI. The upcoming/current beta release of Visual Studio 2011 has removed color from the toolbars and from icons in e.g. the Solution Explorer.

Please make this optional so those of us that want a more accessible and user friendly IDE can have their cake and eat it too.

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Michiel shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

Updated Status: 7/2/2013

Thanks to everyone who voted and commented on this issue. Visual Studio 2013 has increased color and contrast use within the user interface while continuing to focus on giving the content you are creating and editing visual prominence. We’ve utilized the feedback you gave us to help refine our approach to color and contrast within three main areas: 1) we added color to icons and reduced line weights to improve icon scan-ability and to better communicate icon meaning and categorization; 2) we added line work and raised contrast levels to increase visual separation between screen regions; 3) we included a built-in “Blue” theme option at product first launch to better support user choice.

In keeping with these three areas we have made many changes to the Visual Studio 2013 built-in themes. In high utilization and icon intensive areas of the product, such as common toolbar actions and code hierarchy elements, we refined the color and/or line weight of over 1,000 commonly used icons resulting in color being applied to ~80% of standard and debug toolbar icons, ~75% of code hierarchy icons, and 100% of active notifications. In both the Light and Dark themes we increased contrast levels and introduced more border line work to better highlight the edges of content areas such as input fields, tool window borders, active selection states, etc. We also introduced the ability to choose the theme that best meets your preferences and work environment needs as a part of the product first launch experience.

Many of the changes we’ve made are subtle in nature but broad reaching in their application. As Visual Studio 2013 Preview has now shipped, we’re closing this item to give your votes back for you to use on emerging topics. We encourage you to try out the changes we’ve made and then share additional feedback you might have.

Visual Studio UX Team

Hi folks,

Take a look at the VS 2012 Color Theme Editor – it is an option for creating and editing your own Visual Studio themes.


Doug Turnure – Visual Studio PM


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  • Mark Hurd commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    As a commenter to this, I have been offered a Microsoft survey of icons. It didn't provide for feedback after choosing a range of menus with icons. I just wanted to add: I've chosen colourful non-bold icons in general, but I do prefer the filled in spanner (wrench?) to the outlined one, (for the Properties Window) even though I've chosen the menu with the outline because I preferred that menu for the majority of icons.

  • Pat commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    There is, indeed, still an appalling lack of colour in VS2013 - especially with the Workflow designer - which, no matter what theme is applied appears to always show arrows as white on a white background (unless selected) and the activities in the same, incomprehensible, style.

  • Thang Dang commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    VS 2013 still has too much black and white color. It's very hard to distinguish file icons in my solution view and many other things in the IDE that confuse my eyes. The good thing with VS2012 and 2013 is it loads projects faster. You should have an option for user to choose theme they like. Metro theme should not be set as default. Metro theme is not beautiful at all. Look at Apple's products, they are so elegant.

  • blase commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I feel the design of vs2012 has gone backwards too, I miss the COLORS of the Toolbox icons.
    The gray is new, but not better, please give 'us' back the colored toolbox icons.

  • chris commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I feel the design of vs2012 has gone backwards. Please make an update that allows users to adopt previous styles from previous releases. Just because there is s new release with updated functionality doesn't mean the front end has to look so tacky (personal opinion not meant to offend). Now if I had the option to retain the look of vs2010 I would be perfectly happy. Plus I would have the added bonus of NOT having to learn where everything is all over a gain. Which I feel is another leap backwards.

  • chris commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I feel the design of vs2012 has gone backwards. Please make anpudate that allows users to adopt previous styles from previous releases. Just because there is s new release with updated functionality doesn't mean the front end has to look so tacky (personal opinion not meant to offend). Now if I had the option to retain the look of vs2010 I would be perfectly happy. Plus I would have the added bonus of learning were everything is all over a gain. Which I feel is another leap backwards.

  • HHM commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Hi Guys at Microsoft!

    WAKE UP!!!

    Still, why don't you listen to the recommendations your user make? They addressed a very sincere issue. And what where you doing? Almost nothing!!! The VS 2013 UI is still unusable, even with the blue theme and all of your default editor color themes.

    Would it been so hard to you to include a theme that the UI is similar to VS 2010???

    Very often in the last few years, it happend that Microsoft made its products not better, but worser (e.g. menus in ms office, windows more complicated, windows vista/8, banning the proven ui from VS 2005/2008, stop using colors and distinguished icons...).

    Are you wondering why other companies or products get more success than MS (apple, android...)? Then maybe you should think about dismissing/firing some of your designers and strategists. Why were MSDOS, Win 3.11 or Win-NT/2000/XP so successfull? Yes, because these products has been SIMPLE and RELIABLE and ENHANCESMENTS OF PROVEN Versions. And not some crazy idea of one of your escapist designers, incapable strategists or some much-too-young engineers who are allowed to create (better: misshape) the UI (yes, there are people outside in the real world, who dislike these xxsmall fonts).

    So please... WAKE UP!!!

  • Edward commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Our company supports the government so we are always lagging the latest inovations. So I just installed VS 2012 two weeks ago. When i openned it my first reaction was "EWWWW!". Later on in the day it was "Where are my design tools like commenting, and indenting?". I eventually found out that after 20 years of using the same icons for those purposes, MS decided out of the blue to change them for apparently no reason. (Sort of like the Office Ribbon). Since I was working with already existing web apps I did not see the default web page template until today when I created a new web forms project. When I ran it I was even more shocked and horrified. I know that MS has been preaching the separation of Web page design from web page programming for many years. However I did not think that meant dispensing with web page design completely. This is really horrifying. One hopes that the VS proposed VS 2013 makes better use of color and restores our long loved icons.

  • Keith Miller commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I just "upgraded" to VS2012 after working happily with VS2008 for such a long time. I thought that maybe (after Win8) I'm just one of those people who don't like change again, but I do like change when it works and I am also prepared to give things time, but a quick google search reveals that I am not in the minority here. It's great to see that it's not just me.

    The "Blue" theme in VS2012 now seems to be better than that butt ugly blob of gray, but still I don't understand why M$ insists on imposing dumb mass ideals on technical professionals and at the same time violating just about every known UI design rule of thumb. :/

    I hardly used VS2010, but for me the UI in VS2008 was very usable. Right now I'm going cross-eyed just thinking about the next x years chained to VS2012. Eeeek.

  • thepriz commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I don't understand why Microsoft would put out a tool like this. This looks like ****. I will not upgrade to it. I will not use any new tools that won't work with 2010. Until they decide to come back to a visual windows environment, I won't use this ****. Windows 8 is a joke and there tools are just as bad. I switched to Vista when it came out, and I switched to Windows 7 when it came out. I will not even look at Windows 8 without puking. Microsoft is just going down hill.

  • Mark D commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    OMG - why is the file menu SHOUTING at me? In honor of your new design, my next design document will be all caps. Not! Fire someone.

  • Mark D commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    My concern is how this happened in the first place. Such an obvious snafu, on a major product. Some of us out in the real world would get fired if we produced a black and white app or web page. Again, I question the judgement and leadership? Common sense is apparently uncommon at MS.

  • Doug Turnure - msft commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    @brian - I was not directly involved with the changes, but I believe there was quite a bit of rewriting that went into the colors, icons, and palettes, and that's why it's not something where you can just "snap" the 2010 colors into the IDE. It's much more involved than just a setting, and that's why you haven't seen something happen sooner.

    I like the look of the 2013 preview, but I realize people have a lot of different views about it. I liked the 2012 dark theme as well. I was not a fan of the light theme.

    For VS2012, the color themes editor provides some color augmentation. It's not a full blown 2010 theme, but it does have more color in it.

    Doug Turnure - (Former) VS PM - NOTE: I've taken a new role outside the product team. Deon Hebert (introduced in the header of the site) has taken over this site.

  • Sune Rievers commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Why is this closed when the issue has not been fixed for VS2012? Who cares about VS2013 at this early stage?

  • GUI commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Here is the next item to vote on, if the Visual Studio team in its infinite wisdom doesn't decide to close it as well for bogus reasons: http://visualstudio.uservoice.com/forums/121579-visual-studio/suggestions/3086061-bring-back-the-visual-in-visual-studio

    I love this approach to "listening to feedback", it's much like democracy: let people bark but happily ignore them; and when an entity becomes too vocal (like this uservoice item), shut it down.

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