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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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  • Jesse McGrew commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    This week the Xbox team surprised a lot of people by walking back the controversial Xbox One policies that sparked so much backlash. The Visual Studio team could learn a few things from them.

  • brian commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Not sure why anyone see this as a problem. The visual Studio we use is just about perfect.
    Should add we are using VS2008 !

    Microsoft get off your high horse and fix 2012 your take on Modern doesn't work.
    Then you might just see some Windows 8 apps - Till then we are sticking with a usable version
    despite having purchased VS 2012 for each developer - not one wants to use it!

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I was happy with VS2008, it was perfect, UI wise. Then came VS2010: no borders and messed up colors. I tried the classic theme, but it's buggy: active files drop down, close cross and scroll arrow in document well is invisible until hoovered. And it had no way of fixing the missing borders. Also customization was messed up: drag and drop no longer works for customizing menus and toolbars. Several steps backward and loss of functionality, to satisfy your perverse need for UI change. Then came VS2012: no colors in menus and toolbars, and where you have colors, they are without shadows or gradients. Tree view is messed up, no lines and non standard icons. No support for XP. IntelliSense is messed up, don't work if file has a compilation error. I could go on.
    Remember the reason you exist today is because of developers.

  • les baker commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I am a Development Manager with a small but effective team. I feel it is important to say i have worked for various teams and used every version of Visual Studio from version 4 and up.

    However this new interface, quite literally, gives me migraines. I've tried the theme editor, but after several attempts of it crashing my install I broke through and found it made no difference as the icons are still confusing and cause me eye strain to the point that I still suffer from Migraines after using the program for more than 10 minutes. I even tried a hack from one of my fellow develoeprs to replace the icons with those exported from 2010. This kept crashing and still I found the eye strain coming back.

    I am REFUSING to upgrade my developers and our projects to 2012. As a result I am also refusing to start new projects using any technology incompatible with Visual Studio 2010.

    Why? Because firstly i value my own health and secondly because EVERY MEMBER OF MY DEVELOPMENT TEAM FEEL THE SAME WAY. Come ON Microsoft, how many developers does it take before you will admit you got it WRONG?

    Until Microsoft reverts the interface to something more akin to a development environment I am refusing to upgrade and if it goes on much longer i will have to follow my development team's idea of switching to Sharp Develop. At least that won't lose me my sanity.... or my team.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I see where VS 2013 will have an option to expand the pending changes window so I'm going to have to give them a pass on the "fiddly and small interface" remark - provided it works.

    I do hope there's some attention being given to the icon coloring. It's amazing how much it helps.

  • Mark S commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    The theme editor does not fix the indistinguishable icons and the complete lack of borders/etc between UI elements. Every time I see VS 2010 again it reinforces how godawful the 2012 UI is. The only reason I use 2012 is because of async/await.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I thought there was going to be a new focus on CSS in VS 2012. You have completely removed all of the color cues from the Manage Styles window. The fonts are "larger than they have to be" and all we get now are green check marks to indicate use of a style. I seriously, and I mean SERIOUSLY keep trying to give you guys a chance but every time I do, another feature is missing or has been re-worked to where it's difficult to use.

    For example:

    The lack of color in the solution and team explorers. It's tough enough to get a visual cue with everything mono-chromatic, then you try to check changes into TFS and find yourself having to drag and drop the ID's of your tasks into a fiddly and small interface. Pending changes is now just a hyperlink to the source control explorer full of more mono-chromatic icons and text. We used to have a docked window that took up no space what-so-ever when auto-hidden and was easy to look at and understand. It grouped your query and source control functions into one window with enough screen space to read the descriptions.

    Sorry, but this is not progress.

  • brrrdog commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    A couple of years ago I sat thru a Microsoft sponsored metro development intensive and I remember them talking about guidelines for a clean and crisp UI replacing rules and separators with spacing instead. There is justification in such guidelines in order to bring uniformity to applications and a seamless user experience from OS to app (we all watch how Apple sells iphones on its "features" otherwise known as apps).

    But here comes a news flash - Visual Studio is not another messaging, calendar, or mp3 application that some bubble gum chewing brat uses on a 4" screen. It's a massive collection of hundreds if not thousands of features and points of functionality that working professionals use for 50+ hours a week and we NEED color and dividers as more dimensions that helps us slice thru it all. I get that apps for the masses is what makes money and tech companies are no longer catering to the geeks of the world. However, this is one of the few cases where you stop the rant of your new hot shot Jonny Rocket "UX" developer cold in his tracks and say "Sit down son, this is a **** of a lot more than the wooppie cushion app you just pooped out."

    I've used ever version of Visual Studio since it's original release and it has been the gold standard of IDEs (I laugh when the poor Sql Developer guys show me a feature I got back in 2002). This is the first one that left me with a look on my face that should belong to somebody that just watched a mother peel the **** off a toddler's face after a good sneeze.

  • Ashley commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    MS is simply pretending we are all resistant to change. Its not something they can possibly know. Its insulting and bullying. We simply don't exist to them in a real way.

    The scientific world justifies actions with research into what works best for us. MS just has a ridiculous agenda and is prepared to talk nonsense.

  • exalting commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Maybe cause of all this f****try with monochrome indistinguishable icons is - that ms developers unlearned how to correctly show images? In WPF when image scaled or just shifted on non-integer quantity of pixels, it looks blurry (try scroll horizontally some VS toolwindows with wpf trees, and you'll see this effect). Maybe monochrome icons "invented" because of incapability to show crisp images? (With monochrome it is not such noticeable).

  • brian commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    This is so like the 'New Coke' disaster - the only difference is that Coca-Cola was listening and fixed it!

    As for Doug Tunure Visual Studio PM - try taking the cotton wool out of your ears - your customer are complaining, and they don't want to try and fix your 'New coke' they want the classic coke back

    Is that really so hard for you to understand? Or maybe you need to follow in the footsteps of the person responsible for the disaster that is Windows 8?

  • Ryan Johnson commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    The color theme editor help a bit, but a huge part of this issue is missing the borders/boundaries of controls in the IDE, and changing colors doesn't bring those back. For example, changing colors does not help me see the camouflage scroll box in the scroll bar, changing colors does not delineate the text across my document well (there are actually tabs there, but it just looks like one long string of text), and changing colors does not keep my empty project space from bleeding into embedded window borders. It's like someone erased all my lines that organized my tools into boxes, much like when my little kids dump all their toys out of boxes onto the floor, and there's utter disorganization.

    As others have mentioned, the font colors are also missing, and the color theme editor does not bring those back. Are they trying to make it hard to recognize the tools? I have to hand it to the designer of the icons, because it sounds like a difficult task to make a whole new set of icons using just one color, however it was a task that should have never been assigned. Let's take advantage of the color palette, and make it easier to use the IDE.

  • ganimet commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    the mere number of votes - compared to those given to other topics - tells me that the vast majority of people using visual studio seems to be deeply disgusted by how some color-blind untalented designer f*****ed up the almost perfect userinterfacedesign of visual studio, and the only solution coming from MS is that each single customer should repair that disaster manually on his own ?? must be kidding right....

  • Marcel commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I work on win8 with .net 2012, not really happy but after installing the bluetheme I was satisfied, I thought I could work again like before...
    Like I said : I thought...
    Until this weekend : I had to take over from a co-worker who's using win7 and 2010. Damned, did forget those colors (and the not-metrostyle) make such a difference in working-speed.
    Now I'm sitting back on my own desk, feeling f**-up working on metro and 2012 again, thinking how to explain my boss I do have to get win7 AND .net 2010 back...

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